July 4th Fun: UT History Expert Shares Little-Known Facts about Founding Fathers

KNOXVILLE –- George Washington, the “father of our country,” never fathered children.
Some founding fathers once suspected Benjamin Franklin of being a spy.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two of the biggest proponents of America’s freedom, both died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

These are just a few of the quirky and little-known facts about America’s founding fathers, according to Lorri Glover, associate professor of history at the University of Tennessee.

“Washington did not father any children, although he had a loving match with Martha,” Glover said. Martha Washington had children from her first marriage and was still of childbearing age when she married George.

“This had led some scholars to conclude that Washington was incapable of literally being ‘the father of his country,'” Glover said.

Franklin found himself in the midst of some controversy on several occasions.

“He arrived back in Philadelphia just before the Second Continental Congress convened, after over a decade of living in England, and some delegates would not speak to him, fearing that he was a spy,” Glover said.

Controversy spilled over to Franklin’s private life, too.

“Franklin and his son disagreed over the validity of Independence and, in his will, Franklin remained highly critical of William and left everything to his daughter,” Glover said.

Eerie as it is, Jefferson and John Adams — two of the great proponents of America’s freedom — both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

“Adams died at his Massachusetts home in the afternoon and, supposedly, his last words were something to the order of ‘Thomas Jefferson survives.’ He did not know that Jefferson had died a few hours earlier in Virginia,” Glover said.

Glover teaches undergraduate courses in colonial America, the American Revolution, and the history of sexuality and family. She teaches graduate seminars in Early America. Her first book, “All Our Relations: Blood Ties and Emotional Bonds among the Early South Carolina Gentry,” explores the kinship patterns and cultural values of 18th-century southern elites. Her second book, due out in January, is “Southern Sons: Becoming Men in the New Nation,” a study of masculine identity in the early Republic South.

Glover will be among the featured speakers for this year’s Faculty Showcase held always two hours before kickoff at all UT home games.


Contacts:

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
Lorri Glover, (865) 974-9868, lglover@utk.edu


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