Monday, September 19, 2011

Thoughts about the links among founding fathers

There is an interesting site on genealogical relationships among presidents of the United States.

At the time of the American Revolution, Virginia was by far the most populous state, followed by Massachusetts (which at the time included what are now Maine and Vermont), Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York and Connecticut in that order.

Presidents Washington (1), Jefferson (3), Madison (4) and  Monroe (5) were from Virginia and each served for two terms or eight years. Presidents John Adams (2) and John Quincy Adams (6) were from Massachusetts and served 8 years between them. Thus the presidency was held by people from the two most populated states at the time of the Revolution for the first 40 years after the Constitution went into effect.

Of course, the two Adams presidents were father and son.

James Madison was married to the sister of George Washington's nephew's wife.

William Henry Harrison, the 9th president was elected from Ohio but born in Virginia. He was the son of a Virginia signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Harrison's maternal uncle was married to Martha Washington's sister. Thomas Jefferson was his second cousin. His Grandson, Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president. He was a distant cousin of John Tyler (10) who was also from Virginia.

Zachary Taylor (12) was born in Virginia (although elected from Louisiana after a military career). He was a third cousin of George Washington, and related to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (and Robert E. Lee).

Martin Van Buren (8) was from New York. He was related to later presidents from New York Theodore Roosevelt (30) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32).

Washington is also related directly or indirectly to Zackary Tailor, William Howard Taft, Grover Cleveland and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George W. Buah, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The Adams family was related to Millard Filmore, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Not surprisingly, the most populous states have tended to produce presidents. We think of the United States as having democratic government rather than aristocratic one, but in the time of our founding fathers the stratum of potential presidents was very thin and very connected. Not only did many of the early presidents know each other well as colleagues and neighbors. but they also had family ties.

Of course in our time we have seen Franklin Delano Roosevelt married to Theodore Roosevelt's niece who was also a distant cousin, and the Bush father and son presidents. There are many more links between presidents and well known political leaders such as senators.

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