One would assume that Washington was a kind and self-sacrificing man after hearing that he agreed to lead the continental army without pay. He claimed that his conscience would not allow him to profit from such an honorable profession. Well, it is true that he did not accept a salary, so to speak, but he did drum up quite a bit of debt that he did not exactly pay for himself. In fact, the first U.S. president filed personal expense claims on a huge scale. Between 1775 and 1783, he turned in bills that totaled a little under $450,000, which would be around $9.4 million in today's money. Whatever the first president wanted he got, so they say.
Apparently Washington was quite the big spender and very greedy. He would borrow money from friends and never pay them back and pocketed money that was given to him for the purpose of the army and its needs. While his army was starving and living in poor conditions, he was living it up while dining on meals such as veal, chicken, oysters and beef and washing those down with the finest wines. Supposedly the first president even married his wife, Martha, for her money and grand estate.
Washington was even said to have had a wandering eye. Rumor has it that he fathered the future treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Nothing ever came out to prove this, but it definitely went around the rumor mill at the time and was quite the hot topic. The first president was also rumored to have had a mistress by the name of Mary Gibbons. Supposedly he was quite fond of her, but she may not have been quite as fond of him considering the story going around about her having copied his important papers while he slept, only to turn them over to the British later. What goes around comes around I guess. Maybe his greedy behavior came back to bite him and his lover that he was so fond of betrayed him? Who knows?
2. James Monroe, Known to Avoid Conflict? Or Cause It?
The attack on Washington in 1814 left our country's capital in flames and the White House suffered. Just as Washington lined his pockets during a time of war, Monroe lined his after one. The goal at the time was to rebuild the White House. A "furniture fund" was set up and major campaigns were started to raise money for the rebuild. Monroe, in an effort to appear self-sacrificing, even sold his own personal furniture (for a huge profit) for the cause. After the fact, he certainly did not mind borrowing from the fund on a large scale. The lavish withdrawals were used for frivolous purchases, of course, and he left the fund $11,000 in the hole, which would total $183,000 today.
Monroe was a non-believer in slavery and favored it coming to an end. He led an extravagant lifestyle and had a big debt problem, which forced him to sell his plantation prior to his presidency. He did have other landholdings in the South and, due to his obligations once he became president, he was not the best landlord and left responsibility for his landholdings to the overseers. These overseers were said to have been brutal in the worse sense and the slaves paid big time. Sure he was anti-slavery, but did not exactly look out for his slaves' well-being and they suffered as a result of his poor money management.
History portrays Lincoln as a kind man and a devoted husband and father, but did he actually have another side to him? Lincoln was good friends with a man named Joshua Fry Speed and their friendship went back to Lincoln's days as a lawyer in Illinois. Nothing has been proven, but some scholars say that they were much more than friends. Supposedly, love letters had been found which proved the two men were indeed lovers. As I said, this has long been a rumor with nothing substantial to prove it, but reports say that some heard the two proclaim their love for one another.
Lincoln's relationship with another man at the time was said to have raised a few eyebrows as well. The gossip surrounding him involved a relationship between him and a man named Captain David Derickson, who served as bodyguard to Lincoln from 1862 to 1863. One stated that Derickson was "devoted" to his master and went far beyond the call of duty to protect him, even sleeping in his bed with him when Mrs. Lincoln was out of town. A man named Billy Greene even stated that he shared a bed with Lincoln when they were in their 20s. Greene described Lincoln as having "perfect thighs." The sleeping arrangements may have been platonic and, as none of us were actually there to witness these events, but this is what has been reported about our 16th president.
Coolidge may not have been a racist in the strictest sense, but one could say that he did nothing to put an end to racism either. He spouted nonsense about being color blind, but ultimately it seems as if he just talked the talk and walked the walk so as to not rock the boat.
He spoke up for the black population, but at the same time did everything he could not to antagonize Southern whites. He was a man who tried to appease people and was not what you could call a man of action, especially considering how he did nothing to stop the Ku Klux Klan. He even refused to take direct action against them.
The term "racist" came about in terms of Coolidge when he started expressing the point of view that races should not mix. His exact wording was that "Nordic Races would deteriorate when mixed with other races."
He got a lot of flak even at that time for this way of thinking and many believe that this attitude led to some of the horrors of WW2, particularly Hitler's ` "Final Solution." He may not have been a racist, at least by today's standards, but his unrealistic way of thinking and his overly laid-back attitude cost him the favor of many.
Presidential scandal is something that none of us are really surprised by nowadays, but in the 1920s affairs and secret children had the power to do some major damage. It's true that the politicians of today try their best to not air their dirty laundry in that it could tarnish their "good image," but the politicians of yesterday tried a whole lot harder, or at least most of them did.
Warren G. Harding was the exception of course. He was quite the scandalous president and did not really care who knew it, which was extremely odd considering the times.
To say that he had a few affairs would be the understatement of the century. The despicable part was that he was obsessed with having flings with his wife Florence's best friends. He even stated publicly that "It's a good thing I'm not a woman. I would always be pregnant. I just can't say no." His excuse was that he was weak and helpless and not just when it came to women, supposedly he could not resist seducing men either.
One of Harding's flings, with a woman named Nan Britton, resulted in a daughter named Elizabeth Ann, or at least that's what her tell-all book about the president said. Britton spoke of erotic encounters in The White House and was quite descriptive about a particular encounter in the closet of the Oval Office. Her book was a sensation of the time considering how no one had seen or read anything like it in the 1920s or before.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor had a happy marriage, or at least it appeared that way to the world. But rumor has it that their relationship was purely platonic. Eleanor was even quoted as saying that she wasn't crazy about sex and called it an "ordeal to be endured." She did bear him six children, so obviously she liked him at least a little and took her wifely duties somewhat seriously.
The story goes though that she was more of a companion for her husband and shared her intense emotions with her female friends. She was known to surround herself and make lasting friendships with lesbian couples including Marian Dickerman and Nancy Cook and Esther Lape and Elizabeth Read. Both couples were women's rights activists, which was a passion of Eleanor's.
FDR had a few affairs while married to Eleanor including ones with Lucy Mercer, Eleanor's social secretary, and Missy LeHand, his own secretary. His affairs were said to have hurt Eleanor deeply despite their lack of the physical in their relationship. His affairs supposedly pushed her into the arms of both men and women. She was rumored to have had an affair with Earl Miller, her bodyguard between 1929 and 1932. Earl's wife even blamed Eleanor for her divorce from Earl. Reports claim that Eleanor wrote Earl letters daily until her death in 1962. Conveniently, the letters were destroyed though.
Eleanor's relationship with reporter Lorena Hickok also sparked mass media attention. They were so inseparable that lesbian rumors were flying in Washington. It is said that letters between them were destroyed, but one of the surviving ones had Hickok telling Eleanor that she wanted to lie down beside her and take her in her arms. They claimed to have been "just good friends," but no one really knows.
Doing what it takes to get ahead and indulging in as many pleasures as possible seems to be the presidential way, at least for some, and Woodrow Wilson was no exception.
His first marriage was to Ellen Axson Wilson, who suffered from Bright's disease, which is chronic inflammation of the blood vessels in the kidneys. Her condition brought about major depression and her marriage suffered as a result. She died at the White House in 1914 and speculation was that Wilson may have killed his wife. There was no direct evidence to prove this and he never got in trouble over the rumors, but they were flying nonetheless. Many speculated that if he didn't kill Ellen than he had someone else do it.
To add fuel to the fire, he married Edith Galt, a descendant of Pocahontas, almost right away, and many wondered if he had been fooling around with Edith while married to Ellen. Wilson was said to have loved Edith deeply, but that did not stop him from straying. He carried on with a wealthy woman by the name of Mary Allan Hulbert. 200 intimate letters between them came to light but Hulbert kept her mouth shut. Wilson's Republican opponents even offered her a hefty sum of $300,000, which would be $8 million today, to fess up and hand over the letters, but she would not open up despite being down on her luck and somewhat poor. She had been wealthy but her divorce following the said affair left her with quite a bit less money than before.