Founding Fictions

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By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, May 15, 2005

Book talk at Ladies Auxiliary Historical Society of Pokeweed County (transcript):

Thank you, Betty--Bobbi, excuse me--for that very generous introduction. It's a great honor to be here. I had a lovely drive out here and got to see so many trees and fields and, of course, your really remarkable strip mine. Now that is what I call a hole! In the best sense of the word. In any case, I'm thrilled to be here and to have this opportunity to speak to the four of you.

Now, you may ask, why did I title my book Unfounded Courage? Because it was time for the American people to read the unvarnished, unromanticized, unsubstantiated story of the men who established this nation, a tale that reveals not only their quirks, eccentricities and, dare one say, perversions, but also echoes the titles of books that have sold millions of copies already.

Countless biographies of the Founders are already out there, telling you about Washington's bravery, Jefferson's genius, Franklin's inventiveness and so on. But I can say with confidence that mine is the only book in which Jefferson is eaten by a shark.

Jefferson's horrific demise is a bloody chapter in American history, and I didn't really want to spend so many pages describing the way the ravenous animal cleanly severed the great man's body in two. But when the author of the Declaration of Independence is, according to my unique research, found washed up simultaneously on two different beaches, it strikes me as historically significant.

Why is this not covered by other authors? My assumption is that they were afraid to publish certain details that they knew would be upsetting to the general public, in addition to being false. I do not share that fear.

George Washington is, of course, the most indispensable figure in the founding of the nation, but I think we should also give credit to his young lover, Lafayette. It's remarkable to think that they not only managed to wrest the Colonies from the tyrannical grip of Mother England, but also found time to go clubbing up and down the East Coast.

Perhaps my favorite Founder is Alexander Hamilton, born virtually an orphan in the West Indies yet destined to establish the economic structure of the United States. Mine is the only book that reveals that Hamilton could not balance his checkbook, and indeed did not even know how to add and subtract. He was always saying to Washington, "What do you mean, carry the 2?"

Another great Founder is Aaron Burr, famous as the man who supposedly killed Hamilton on the banks of the Hudson in 1804. Only my book tells you of the many other people whom Burr killed. He was, quite simply, a serial killer. He drank the blood of his victims and was eventually immolated by enraged, torch-wielding villagers. The irony is that Hamilton actually faked his own death and lived another 30 years as a hermit in a mountain cave, living off scraps of food brought by hillbilly children who referred to him as "The Creature."

I yield to no person in my admiration of the Founders. The fact that James Madison could write much of the Constitution and go on to serve two terms as president despite having no arms or legs is an inspiration to us all. I have included illustrations of President Madison surveying the field of battle during the War of 1812 while being carried around in Mrs. Madison's oversized purse. The brave man at one point offered to be fired at the British from a cannon. Yet historians refuse to tell us these things, so fetishistic are they about "documentation."

I am not the kind of writer who would try to use sex to sell a book, and so the accounts of Abigail Adams and her rapacious nymphomania are confined to chapters 9 through 16. As you can see from these PowerPoint images, I have found a number of JPEGs of Mrs. Adams on the Internet. Some of these are a bit graphic, but we're all grown-ups here. As you can see, she was a woman of no discernible inhibitions. Check out this innovative technique--I reckon that's a sight you won't soon forget.

We all know about Jefferson and Sally Hemings. I discovered that there are almost no archival records showing Jefferson and Hemings in the same location. There's an obvious explanation: Thomas Jefferson and "Sally Hemings" were the same person. Are we not mature enough to admit that many, if not most, of the Founders were transvestites? All those wigs. Come on, get serious.Betty--sorry, Bobbi--I should probably wrap this up before any of you literally perish of boredom or simply old age. I hope you find my book inspiring and enlightening. God bless America! Now let's sell some books. I prefer cash.

Read Joel Achenbach weekdays at washingtonpost.com/achenblog.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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