George Washington looked through his leveling instrument when he heard the sound of hoofs. He looked up, and saw the rider approaching.
A small cloud of dust rose, tracing the path the rider was taken down the dirt road that worked its way through the plantation.
It was wonderful here. He appreciated the life he had now. Was it life? He wasn’t sure. He didn’t care. He simply enjoyed it.
The rider pulled up.
“Mr. President,” the rider said, tipping his hat.
“Mr. President,” Washington replied, returning the salute.
“Are you going to see the results of the election?” John Adams, the rider, asked.
“Is it December already?”
“No, this is the November election,” Adams replied. “The electors won’t actually meet for another month. But the November election is always fun to watch.”
“I don’t know,” Washington said. “We didn’t set up the presidency to be voted on by the masses. We set up a system of electors to handle that job. And with good reason. If you turn it over to the masses, you could end up with … Lord knows what.”
“Trust me, George, you’ll enjoy it,” Adams insisted.
“Let me get Nelson, and we’ll go.”
* * *
The two men entered the room and brushed the dust off of their clothes. They always tied up close at the end of the building, where the other horsemen tied. Or Adams did. Washington rarely came here.
It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the company of the other Presidents, but … Okay, maybe he didn’t enjoy the company of the other Presidents. But was that so wrong?
Washington looked around for the faces of men he knew. Really knew.
There was Jefferson, who had been his Secretary of State for a time. Good man. Didn’t agree with him always, but still, a good man.
He didn’t see Madison at first. Small man, easy to miss. But such a mind! The man knew how to write. And what to write. One of Jefferson’s best decisions was to put Madison as Secretary of State.
John Adam’s boy was also there. He had been Ambassador to the Netherlands and later, to Portugal.
And there was Monroe. Good warrior. Wounded at Trenton. College boy. He was a good President. And a good man.
Monroe, Adams (the elder), and Jefferson all died on July 4th. Adams and Jefferson, the same year; Monroe five years later. But all on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Not far away was Jackson. He didn’t know Andrew Jackson as well as Monroe or Madison, for instance. But he was a soldier, and he respected that. Jackson had even been a prisoner of war, as had Washington. Jackson understood. He may not have known Jackson all that well, but he liked him.
Harrison was there. Both the grandfather and the grandson. He didn’t know either very well, but the elder was named after Benjamin Harrison, who was there to sign the Declaration of Independence, and who served as Governor of Virginia. Benjamin’s boy turned out to be a decent soldier himself, though, Washington thought, never should have run for President. Too old.
The younger Harrison, he didn’t know. But, if he was anything like his namesake, he was a welcome addition to this elite club.
But the rest of these men? He hardly knew them.
The loud man over there? Washington knew who it was without looking. There was no mistaking Theodore Roosevelt’s voice. You could feel his presence in the room without seeing him, without even hearing him. Roosevelt was one of those kinds of men.
Some of the others, he thought could be good men. But he’d have to get to know them better. Maybe one day.
“Well, well, well. You here to watch the election?” Grant asked.
Washington turned around, nearly started.
“General,” he nodded.
“General,” returned Grant.
“I have decided to see how the populace handles things today,” Washington told Grant. “I’m not very comfortable with this. But we shall see.”
Grant chucked. “Let’s give it watch, shall we?”
* * *
It was a strange process, Washington decided.
Many people were upset with the current President, it seemed. Washington knew that feeling. He, himself, had called out the militia to put down protesters in 1794. But, sometimes, as President, you have to do what you have to do, regardless of whether it’s popular. The current man in the office knew that, he could tell.
But this anger with the current President was being directed at another man. A good man. A sailor, who, like Washington, had been a prisoner of war. A man who loved his country and had served it proudly. However, he seemed to have committed one unforgivable sin: he was a member of the same political party as the current unpopular President.
That’s one of the reasons I never did like political parties, Washington thought. It leads to …
Grant’s loud voice interrupted. “Anyone know anything about this guy that’s winning?”
Those assembled murmured, but really said nothing.
“Hey, Lincoln! This one of yours?” Grant yelled.
Abraham Lincoln glanced over at Grant. “Had nothing to do with this one. Nothing at all. Not descended from any of the slaves freed during the war. His father was not even from this country.”
Nixon watched the exchange. “I met that McCain fellow, once. Young man. Good man. But a little hot-headed at times. But that, I certainly understand.”
Eisenhower spoke up. “You can say that again.”
The conversation went back and forth for hours. It would continue for hours more, but Washington had seen enough.
“John, I think I’ll be going now,” he told his former Vice President.
Adams took a quick drink. “Wait up. I’m coming with you.”
* * *
The two men approached Washington’s place, riding slowly. Hardly a word had been said along the way.
Washington broke the silence.
“Did you see all of that? I was never a fan of taxing a man’s income. But giving money from taxes on income to those who don’t pay taxes on income?” Washington said.
“Yes,” Adams said.
“A man that called our Constitution ‘fundamentally flawed!’ The Constitution that you, I, Monroe, and others worked so hard to craft!”
“Yes,” Adams said again.
“A man whose friends fought against and preached hate towards our country!” Washington said. “Our country, that we fought so hard to establish.”
“George, it’s been heading that way for some time,” Adams replied.
“I know. I know. But it’s like a rock that’s slowly sliding towards a cliff. When it actually heads over the edge, it’s more dangerous than the slow slide to the edge,” Washington said.
“So, you think we’ve headed over the edge?” Adams asked.
“Perhaps,” Washington responded. “Perhaps.”