Every Fourth of July, we celebrate the United States' independence and our Founding Fathers' dedication to our country.
But were they as dedicated to their marriages? Click through the slides below to learn about the marital histories of our founding fathers, from those that were upstanding husbands to others who were less principled in their married life.
We all know that Benjamin Franklin was an exemplary American, embodying the thrift, industriousness, and political equality we celebrate every Independence Day. He earned the title of "The First American" for his crusade to unite the original American colonies, but his loyalty to the U.S. may not have extended to his marriage. Despite his memorable paeans to the institution (Franklin famously <a href="http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bdorsey1/41docs/51-fra.html" target="_hplink">said</a>, "Marriage is the most natural state of man, and...the state in which you will find solid happiness") and his claim that "It is the man and woman united that make the complete human being," Franklin notoriously surrounded himself with female admirers. Though there are <a href="http://www.time.com/time/2003/franklin/bfwomen2.html" target="_hplink">no reports</a> of his consummating his relationships with these much younger, attractive women, Franklin <a href="http://www.time.com/time/2003/franklin/bfwomen.html" target="_hplink">was</a> "a master of amorous friendship...expressed in exchanges of teasing kisses, tender embraces, intimate conversations and rhapsodic love letters, but not necessarily sexual congress." Photo Courtesy of Flickr: mbell1975
Our first president, George Washington, is famous for his <a href="http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/gw/gwmoral.html" target="_hplink">inability to tell a lie</a>. The honest streak that made him famous certainly benefited his wife, Martha Dandridge Custis. Although there is some ambiguity surrounding his relationship with Sally Fairfax, to whom he wrote letters alluding to his affections for her, by all reports any flirtation between the two was <a href="http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/books/item_Rcd4C8DfaGj16So9zrbXBM" target="_hplink">never acted upon</a> after Washington married Martha. Photo Courtesy of Flickr: mbell1975
John Adams' marriage to his third cousin Abigail was one of collaboration, communication and codependence. <a href="http://www.thelizlibrary.org/suffrage/abigail.htm" target="_hplink">Correspondence</a> between the two illuminates their mutual devotion and intellectual respect; the pair always <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/adams/peopleevents/e_courtship.html" target="_hplink">referred to one another</a> as "My Dearest Friend." Abigail influenced John politically, <a href="http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/abigailadams.html" target="_hplink">urging him</a> to advocate for the abolition of slavery and against institutionalized sexism. By all accounts, our second president reportedly held his wife in high esteem and the pair shared a happy, faithful and loving marriage. Photo courtesy of Flickr: mbell1975
If there is any American president deserving of a Lothario title, it is certainly Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, who owned hundreds of slaves throughout his life, fathered six children by his "slave concubine" Sally Hemings during <a href="http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-sally-hemings-brief-account" target="_hplink">a relationship</a> that spanned at least 38 years. Although Jefferson <a href="http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-sally-hemings-brief-account" target="_hplink">freed</a> all of Sally Hemmings' children, he did not free their mother. Jefferson's wife, Martha, died while giving birth to their sixth child. Photo courtesy of Flickr: Tony the Misfit
John Jay, known as the father of New York and the first Chief Justice of the United States, reportedly shared a happy marriage with his wife, Sarah Livingston. Jay held a greater variety of posts than any of America's other founders, and Sarah acted as a political <a href="http://www.johnjayhomestead.org/images/The_Amiable_Children_Essay.pdf" target="_hplink">liaison and diplomat</a>, "astutely networking with the movers and shakers of the time." John relied on his wife considerably and the couple enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. Their marriage was a love match despite their ages -- he was 29, she was 18. Of their marriage, Sarah's brother <a href="http://johnjayhomestead.org/history/historicalessays.html" target="_hplink">wrote</a>, "Mr. & Mrs. Jay can be unhappy no where. They love each other too well..." Photo courtesy of Flickr: Jay Heritage Center
Our fourth president, the "Father of the Constitution" and author of the Bill of Rights, may have been a proponent of dividing power among the branches of government, but he did not believe in dividing his attention among women. James Madison married Dolley Payne Todd, a widow, and adopted her one surviving son. A <a href="http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/madi-dol.htm" target="_hplink">charming, vivacious woman</a>, Dolley sacrificed her place in the Quaker community to which her family belonged in order to marry Madison. Ostracized from the Friends Church for marrying outside her faith, Dolley <a href="http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=4" target="_hplink">assumed the role</a> of White House hostess, holding dinner parties, salons and helping Madison to win reelection in 1812. Photo courtesy of Flickr: lreed76
Alexander Hamilton suffered through one of the first public media scandals of America's history -- but with good reason. The first United States Secretary of Treasury was forced to resign from office out of sheer embarrassment when his three-year extramarital affair with Maria Reynolds became public. Reynolds' husband, a convicted swindler named James Reynolds, blackmailed Hamilton, demanding a fee for his silence. But when a political pamphlet <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/04/25/reviews/990425.25beschlt.html" target="_hplink">revealed</a> the Reynolds liaison, Hamilton admitted, "My crime is an amorous connection with [James Reynolds'] wife." Hamilton responded with his own pamphlet, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/04/25/reviews/990425.25beschlt.html" target="_hplink">publishing</a> an "appallingly thorough account of the affair." Despite Hamilton's partially self-inflicted public humiliation and irreparably damaged reputation, his wife Betsey stood by her man and remained his wife until his untimely death during an <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/duel/peopleevents/pande17.html" target="_hplink">infamous duel</a> at the hands of political opponent Aaron Burr. Photo courtesy of Flickr: Marion Doss Photo