Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How Did Our Founding Fathers Die?

Curious to know about the last days of each American Founding Father, I went on a three day search.  What I discovered was unpleasant and sometimes unimaginable.  Often the maladies people suffered from in the Eighteenth Century were not as painful as the cures.  This I expected to find.  In a few instances the death of a Founding Father was treated with indifference and even disrespect. This I did not anticipate, but I will name names of the villains involved. 
Thomas Jefferson was stricken with Prostate Cancer in the later years of his life.  A danger which developed as a result of the cancer was the inability to urinate.  Dr.Robley Dunglison discovered Jefferson had prostatic hypertrophy.  This was obstructing the flow of urine.  To treat his patient, Dunglison used flexible cylinders made of elastic gum which were pushed through the urethra and past the obstruction.  (I will pause here to allow men reading this to grimace with pain.)   Jefferson found immediate relief after this technique was used.   Unfortunately, this was a period in history when no one thought to ask, “Are those things clean?”   As a result bacteria traveled all over Jefferson’s lower extremities and set up a tent in his kidneys.  His last days were plagued with health problems including, kidney, nephropathy, uremia, diarrhea, and pneumonia. 
George Washington was said to have died from pneumonia at the age of 67.  If the witch doctors caring for him had said, “Let’s just let him rest,” he might have lived another twenty years.  As it was however, they killed him by draining nearly a half- gallon of blood from his ailing body.  This was referred to as “bloodletting” which historians feel possibly contributed to Washington’s death.  I am not a historian, but feel certain that in modern times these pricey doctors couldn’t get a job euthanizing cats in Istanbul.  So I am confident in saying the doctors attending Washington did kill the 1st President of the United States.
Johns Adams died the same day as Thomas Jefferson (July 4, 1826).  It was exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  At the age of 90 John Adams died from Congestive Heart Failure.  This was not only a sad day for Americans, but also for the doctors who were attending him as they were unable to torture Adams in the same manner as the rest of our founding fathers.
Samuel Adams died on Oct. 2, 1803 at the age of 81. Now, why he died is a mystery.   There is no record of the cause of death and no one offers any plausible explanation.  Was he sick at his tummy?  Was there a stabbing pain in his head?  Did someone whack him with a poker?  He had a severe tremor, but that won’t kill you unless someone shoots you while you’re doing it.  Accounts of Adam’s death is that he died from natural causes, which means it’s not important enough to find out why an elderly person died even if he did lead the revolution that established  a new free world country called America!  Nice people, real nice. 
Benjamin Franklin did not die from Syphilis, so get your heads out of the gutter.  Many misinformed American’s think Franklin died from an S.T.D.  News Flash: It was not a roll in the hay that brought down this great man.  He actually died from Empyema.  Empyema is an infection between the lungs and the chest wall.  It was excruciatingly painful.  After coughing up a sizable amount of pus from his lungs Franklin went quietly in his sleep.  Please feel free to pass on this information when in the presence of someone who is demoralizing the character of this remarkable man in exchange for a cheap laugh.
Thomas Paine died in Greenwich Village in New York City at the age of 72.  The exact reason for his death is not listed, but was no doubt the result of years of alcoholism.   Paine died in poverty.  He was refused proper burial by American churches and the British Government.  This is unbelievable!  A founding father dies in New York City, the biggest city in America, and no one can find a shovel to dig a hole.  Not a shining moment in New York City’s history, is it?
John Hancock died in Boston, Massachusetts on October 8, 1793.  He died at the age of 56 from a long battle with Gout.  Samuel Adams, acting as Governor of Massachusetts at the time, declared the day of John Hancock’s funeral to be a state holiday.  I’ll just leave it at that because I can’t think of a worse way to die.
Alexander Hamilton had one of the most famous deaths of our Founding Fathers.  On July 11, 1804, a gentleman’s duel with Aaron Burr ended Alexander Hamilton’s life.  Hamilton was mortally wounded by a bullet to the abdomen.  His liver, diaphragm, and spinal cord were badly damaged.  Hamilton bled to death at his home.  Though Hamilton lived in New York the duel took place in New Jersey, because it was it was illegal to duel in New York and they weren’t very reliable when it comes to burying founding fathers.
John Jay (First American Chief Justice) was stricken with palsy.  It was thought to be caused by a stroke he suffered in 1825. He lived for three days, dying in Bedford, New York, on May 17, 1829. Jay requested he be buried in Rye, New York.  This was a man who had carefully thought through his final resting place.  In 1807, he had the remains of his ancestors transferred from the family vault in the Bowery in Manhattan to Rye, establishing a private cemetery. Today, the Jay Cemetery is an integral part of the Boston Post Road Historic District, adjacent to the historic Jay Property. The Cemetery is maintained by the Jay descendants and closed to the public. It is the oldest active cemetery associated with a figure from the American Revolution.  John Jay was 83 when he died, and one of the last hero’s of the American Revolution.
James Monroe died exactly 5 years after Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, on July 4th 1831 in New York City while visiting his daughter.  He was helping a family member move and suffered a fatal heart attack.  Let that be a lesson to us all.  Monroe survived Malaria, a severe gun shot wound at the Battle of Trenton, and the ravages of Tuberculosis, but he could not survive moving furniture.
Patrick Henry who claimed, “Give me liberty or give me death,” died on June 6, 1799 from an overdose of mercury medicine.  He was suffering from stomach cancer, and could no longer bare the pain.  He died on his plantation in Red Hill, Virginia at the age of 63.  He died as he had lived, on his own terms.  Thankfully Virginia buries their American heroes without complaining.


  1. "But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist."
    - Lysander Spooner

    The founders weren't heroes, they were criminals. And the revolutionary war didn't establish a free country, it guaranteed a criminal government and denied states' rights.

    1. I think they were heros because first of all, without them, we may not have some of the freedoms we have today, and life would be very different. Think about that!

    2. Such is the thought of today's society.
      They were heroes in my book, and, as a high school teacher, I say the same to the kids in my history class.

  2. Some would have us continue to be ruled by a British Government. I think we're doing just fine as is, but thanks for the offer.

  3. I think some of the ways they died were very interesting. Example, James Monroe dying from moving furniture.

  4. i wish they was alive they went through and help us through alot

  5. they were human. period. with all the faults, we humans have. they loved, lived, mourned, married died, had children. etc etc. some owned slaves, some didnt. some were real christians. some just went through the motions of going to church. not any of us are perfect either. if we lived back then and didnt know the future, who's side would some of us be on ??????? tory or rebel. just food for thought. and no im not anti america.

  6. James Monroe did not die of a heart attack. Heart failure and heart attack are not the same thing. The heart attack did not exist until the 20th century and the introduction of vegetable oils to the human diet.

    1. Heart attacks were around before modern times. |:I

  7. Vegetable oil. Lol