Today I spent a couple of hours at Montpelier, home of President James Madison, with my dear friends the Hmnahmnas. Nice place, but I picked up a few minor historical errors and one big one.
First, a timeline in the visitors center placed the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 17th, 1775, two days before the correct date.
Second, our tour guide claimed that Thomas Jefferson stood six feet six inches tall, which would make him two inches taller than Abraham Lincoln, our tallest president. He made the mistake while rushing through a short list of presidential heights, so he can be forgiven this one.
Third, he claimed that Madison, had always opposed nullification, i.e., the theoretical process of a state ignoring or rejecting a federal law deemed unconstitutional by that state. This would make sense– after all, Madison wrote the Virginia Plan, many of the Federalist Papers, and a good chunk of the Constitution itself. Surely he favored a strong central government superior to the states, right?
Well, yes, except when he believed that the central government behaved unconstitutionally, as when Congress and President Adams passed the Sedition Act. With no feasible recourse in Congress or a Supreme Court that was controlled by Adams’ party, Madison anonymously wrote the Virginia Resolution of 1798, which argued in favor of the states’ ability to reject unconstitutional federal laws. He may not have used the actual term “nullification”, but the idea was close enough.
Fourth, the HDTV in one of the upstairs bedrooms was way too small.
This is the first post I’ve made from my tablet. It took about 30 minutes longer than it should have.