The Presidential Odyssey

    • JUL 04

      The Declaration of Independence Is Signed

    • JUL 30

      The Presidential Odyssey

    • OCT 15

      The Adams National Historic Park

  • The Declaration of Independence Is Signed

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    By David Perlmutter
  • 5

    The Presidential Odyssey

    Mount Vernon, Virginia
    Billy and I have embarked on a long term project to go to sanctioned sites for each of the Presidents of the United States. On July 30, 2016, we had our inaugural visit. We went to Mt. Vernon, George Washington's home.

    We toured the house and grounds, and also took one of the specialty tours, which was all about the enslaved workers of Mt. Vernon.The guide was very knowledgeable and informative, and Billy and I learned a lot.

    Even though Washington's will freed his enslaved workers, it was not effective until the death of Martha. Furthermore, the slaves that Martha had prior to marrying George were "dower slaves" and were not liberated along with George's. These pre-emancipation visits in the slaveholding states are definitely going to be stomach-churning.

    The Washington's house itself, while nice, was not overwhelming, especially if you compare it to Buckingham Palace or Versailles, but the whole property is impressive, especially if you take into consideration the four other plantations Washington owned which we did not visit. The site along the Potomac River is incredible. Even though each building was rather small, the sheer number of them that it took to keep this plantation running was impressive.

    The slave quarters reminded me of the pictures I've seen of the bunkhouses in concentration camps, although smaller. Billy and I walked into the greenhouse building, and there was a woman dressed as a slave giving a talk to a small group of people. I found that too uncomfortable to stay and listen.

    In addition to visiting the sites, Billy and I both have to prepare a meme for each. Initially we thought we would write a short essay debunking the mythology surrounding that particular president. However, after a little bit of thought and given that we live in the social media age, we decided to go with memes instead. Furthermore, we're prepared to have them judged by available family members. Billy won this round (see the entries below). Unbeknownst to me, the younger generation is unfamiliar with the George Washington slept here cliche. I guess I have a lot to learn about pandering to my audience. The meme competition score is Billy 1, David 0. Feel free to cast your vote by "liking" the memes below.

    Although our plan is to do the sites in order of their presidency, it gets sticky almost from the start. John Adams (2) and John Quincy Adams (6) share a homestead. So, it is possible that a precedent will be set for expediency. That won't be an issue with the next three presidents after John Adams. Jefferson (3), Madison (4), and Monroe (5) are all in Virginia. Even though it would make sense to visit the five Ohio presidents in one trip, they are not all consecutive. There's Hayes (19) and Garfield (20) in order, but then, there's McKinley (25), Taft (27) and Harding (29). It may take a Supreme Court decision to sort this out.
    By David Perlmutter
    David Perlmutter
    This article just appeared in The Economist. It mirrors Billy and my experience of our visit to Mt. Vernon.

    Partisanship aside, it will be quite interesting to see what our impressions of each of the Presidents will be. Will the guides at each of the sites try to create a hagiography, or will it be more of a no scales on our eyes approach?
  • The Adams National Historic Park

    Quincy, Massachusetts
    Billy and I will be visiting the Adams National Historic Park today, accompanied by Gillon Gross.
    By David Perlmutter
    David Perlmutter
    Billy's John Adams meme. Better late than never. Who won this round?
    David Perlmutter
    John Adams was a helluva patriot and founding father. However, in the context of the current Presidential election, I'm glad that he was a one term President. Not having looked at the Alien and Sedition Acts that he signed into law in 1798 since I was in high school or college, my hackles were raised with parallels to Trump's xenophobia and press paranoia. My meme is a reference to this.
    David Perlmutter
    Lauren Zalaznick
    These are fabulous! Colonial, even.