Sex Lives Of The Presidents: From Washington To Clinton

Sex Lives Of The Presidents: From Washington To Clinton

by Nigel Cawthorne

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It didn't start with Clinton, or even Kennedy. Ever since the Father of our Country was sworn in over 200 years ago, the White House has seen its share of oversexed, adulterous, philandering presidents. From Washington's countless bed partners to Jefferson's illegitimate children, Kennedy's notorious womanizing to Clinton's unstoppable libido, find out the surprising and sometimes bizarre sexual practices of all the men in the Oval Office.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466860919
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 12/24/2013
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 292
Sales rank: 738,491
File size: 421 KB

About the Author

Nigel Cawthorne is the author of Sex Lives of the Presidents.

Nigel Cawthorne has a degree from University College, London. He has written, contributed to, and edited more than sixty books including, Fighting Them on the Beaches: D-Day, 6 June 1944; Turning the Tide: Decisive Battles of the Second World War; The Sex Lives of the Presidents, and The Encyclopedia of World Terrorism. His work has appeared in over one hundred and fifty newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic.

Read an Excerpt



'The love of my country will be the ruling influence of my conduct,' wrote George Washington. But his love of women was stronger and it is amazing that he found the time to fight the British or found a nation.

Washington's interest in sex began on a trip to survey the Shenandoah Valley when he was sixteen years old. He was already infatuated with Frances Alexander of Fredericksburg, to whom he addressed some rather embarrassing adolescent love poetry. He bemoaned his 'poor restless heart, wounded by Cupid's dart', but he could not bring himself to tell her of his feelings. 'Ah, woe is me, that I should love and conceal; Long have I wished and never dare reveal,' he wrote excruciatingly.

However in Shenandoah, he took up with another 'Low Land Beauty' with rather more success. There is speculation that she was a Miss Grimes, who later married a man named Henry Lee. Her son, General Henry Lee – known during the War of Independence as Light Horse Harry – was a favourite of Washington's.

That December, after returning from Shenandoah, Washington met the love of his life. She was the wife of his best friend George William Fairfax, whose father, Lord Fairfax, was Washington's patron. George Fairfax had been brought up in England where his family had made his life miserable by spreading rumours that he was a mulatto. When he came out to the colonies, a marriage was arranged with Sarah 'Sally' Cary, the eighteen-year-old daughter of a planter. Fairfax found her an acceptable wife. Washington found her unutterably lovely.

Washington would often visit Belvoir, the Fairfax's estate. He was sixteen at the time and, as Lord Fairfax observed, was 'beginning to feel the sap rising'.

At first, when he stayed at Belvoir with the Fairfaxes, Washington tried not to think about sex. He wrote to a friend 'was my heart disengaged [I might] pass my time very pleasantly, as there's a very agreeable young lady lives in the same house ... but as that's only adding fuel to the fire, it makes me the more uneasy for, by often and unavoidably being in the company with her, revives my former passion for your Low Land Beauty, whereas was I to live more retired from young women, I might in some measure alleviate my sorrows by burying that chaste and troublesome passion in the grave of oblivion or eternal forgetfulness.'

Actually, the 'agreeable young lady' Washington mentions here was Mary Cary, Sally Fairfax's sister, but it was Sally who eventually stole his heart.

Sally was two years older than Washington, attractive, vivacious and the most fascinating woman he ever met. He was totally smitten by her and throughout his life he could not think of her without being choked with emotion.

He found relief from his infatuation in foxhunting, English-style. Thomas Jefferson said later that he was 'the best horseman of his age and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback'.

Washington also took time out to compose his famous '110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior'. These included: 'When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body not usually discovered' and 'Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out of your chamber half dressed.' He was against spitting in the fire, killing fleas, lice and ticks in the presence of others, picking your teeth and talking with your mouth full. But the most important rules were: 'Let your recreations be manful not sinful' and 'Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience'.

A tall, impressive man, Washington had light, grey-blue eyes, auburn hair and – according to several contemporaries – the largest hands and feet they had seen. It is popularly thought that the size of a man's hands and feet reflect the size of his member, so we can suppose that Washington was well endowed. Two local women would have been able to confirm this. In the summer of 1751, Washington went swimming in the Rappahannock near his mother's home, when the two women stole his clothes. The women were arrested and one of them turned state's evidence. The other, Mary McDaniel, was convicted of 'robbing the clothes of Mr George Washington when he was washing in the river' and received fifteen lashes on her bare back.

Washington was not there to see the punishment carried out. He had sailed for Barbados in September 1751, possibly to escape from an affair with the wife of a neighbour, Captain John Posey, who was heavily in debt to Washington. Mrs Posey's first son was, like Washington, inordinately tall and he rose through the ranks of the Revolutionary Army with extraordinary speed.

In 1752, Washington courted fifteen-year-old Betsy Fauntleroy, the daughter of a wealthy Richmond planter. Her father did not think that Washington was rich enough to maintain her in the manner to which she had become accustomed and she turned him down. Washington wrote to her begging her to 'revoke ... [her] cruel sentence', but she married a prosperous planter's son and died a wealthy woman. Washington consoled himself with one of the less sophisticated women in the valley. Nevertheless his infatuation with Sally Fairfax continued.

In 1753, Washington indulged his lifelong passion for uniforms and joined the Virginia militia. Sally was there to see him march off with General Braddock on a campaign to retake Fort Duquesne, in what is now Pittsburgh, from the French. She was a terrible coquette and could not resist flirting with Braddock.

Within twenty-four hours of leaving, Washington had fired off a letter to Sally. Two more letters followed in the next six weeks. When Sally failed to reply, Washington wrote to her brother and sister, asking them to persuade her to write, but it was George Fairfax's sister, having found out what was going on, who wrote to Washington, reproaching him. Washington was not to be put off.

When Braddock sent him on an errand to Williamsburg, he stopped off at Belvoir to see Sally. She rebuked him and told him to stop writing to her. He did not. If she would only send him a letter, he begged in his next missive, it would 'make me happier than the day is long'.

As it happens, his thoughts were not solely on Sally during the expedition. Encamped at Wills' Creek, the soldiers came across some Delaware Indians. Their young squaws liked the British – as Washington then was – and hung around Braddock's camp. They had small hands and feet, and soft voices. One particular squaw caught Washington's attention – Bright Lightning, the daughter of Chief White Thunder.

'The squaws bring in money aplenty,' the secretary of the expedition wrote to Governor Morris, 'the officers are scandalously fond of them.'

Eventually, the Delaware warriors got jealous and Bright Lightning and the other squaws had to be banned from the British camp for the sake of peace.

As Braddock progressed towards Fort Duquesne, his mission turned into a disaster. The column was ambushed by hostile Indians and Braddock died in the ensuing battle. Washington discharged himself bravely. Two horses were shot out from under him and four bullets tore through his clothes, miraculously, without hurting him. Already a full colonel, the twenty-three-year-old Washington assumed command of all Virginia's troops. He returned home to Mount Vernon a hero and found a letter from Sally waiting for him there. In it, Sally expressed her joy that he had returned home safely and she begged him to come to Belvoir the next day, if he was fit. If he was not, she and two other ladies would come to Mount Vernon.

Washington could hardly contain himself. The next day, he rode to the Fairfax mansion. Suddenly, Washington found that his feelings for Sally were, to some extent, reciprocated and he and Sally began an intense correspondence – though Sally repeatedly urged him to observe certain proprieties. She insisted, for example, that he did not write to her directly, rather he should communicate via a third party. The ardent young Washington took no notice and, though Sally chided him, she continued to write to him. In a brief note to her from Fort Cumberland, he wrote of his joy 'at the happy occasion of renewing a correspondence which I feared was disrelished on your part'. She even began performing womanly tasks for him, like having his shirts made.

Washington gradually began to accept the fact that he could never possess his true love, so he was constantly looking around for other women. On a visit to New York in 1756, he met Mary Eliza Philipse, who was known as 'the agreeable Miss Polly'. This was not least because of her social connections and the size of her inheritance. She was statuesque with a full, sensuous mouth and she was very wealthy. Her father owned 51,000 acres of prime New York real estate. Washington took her dancing and to a mechanical exhibition called 'The Microcosm, or World in Miniature'. Passion flared in his breast.

However, the main purpose of the trip to New York was not love, but military matters. The Virginia Gazette had accused Washington and his officers of 'all manner of debauchery, vice and idleness'. This was unfair. Washington was a stern disciplinarian, if anything he was rather too fond of the lash. He meted out brutal floggings of up to five hundred strokes.

In New York, Governor Shirley grilled Washington for several days on the conditions on the frontier and Polly grew impatient. Her affections turned elsewhere. Eventually she married Captain Roger Morris, who had been with Washington on the Braddock expedition.

During the War of Independence, Morris remained loyal to the British crown. Washington confiscated his house to use as his headquarters. He met Polly there again and there are indications that they had an affair.

After his trip to New York, Washington returned to Virginia and, during the winter of 1757–58 he fell ill. The doctor put him on a diet of 'jellies and such kinds of foods', but among the fourteen slaves he had inherited and the six – including a woman and her child – he had bought, there was no one at Mount Vernon capable of preparing such things, he complained. Sally came to his rescue.

Following the death of his father, George Fairfax had gone to England to sort out the estate. Sally had been left behind, alone, at Belvoir and she rode over to see Washington frequently. She prepared jellies for him, hyson tea and a special wine that was mixed with gum arabic. When Washington rose from his sickbed, he was more in love with her than ever.

Their letters of that period are full of veiled suggestions and innuendo, but their conduct was always restrained and discreet. Even among their small circle of friends there was not a whiff of scandal.

Undoubtedly this was the high point of their affair. Soon after Washington was well again, George Fairfax returned from England and Washington set about finding himself a wife in earnest. As his heart was already taken, he decided to marry for money and started wooing Martha Custis, a widow and the richest woman in Virginia.

Martha Custis had been born Martha Dandridge on 2 June 1731 on a plantation near Williamsburg. The oldest daughter of John and Frances Dandridge, her education was limited to social and domestic skills. She displayed a natural ability as a horsewoman and as a young woman had horrified her aunt and stepmother when she rode her horse Fatima up and down the stairs of her uncle's house.

At the age of eighteen, she married wealthy planter Daniel Parke Custis, twenty years her senior, and took up residence in the Custis family home, which was called, ironically, the White House. She had four children by him, two of whom died in infancy. Her husband died in 1757, after seven years of marriage. The following year, the twenty-six-year-old Washington paid his first visit to her. He was eight months her junior. They sat in the parlour and talked. He stayed the night. A little more than a week later, he visited her again. This time he promised to marry her. She was not Sally Fairfax. Martha was plump, dowdy and rather shy. She once described herself as 'an old-fashioned housekeeper'. But Washington was sincere; after all, she was loaded. He ordered from London 'as much of the best superfine blue cotton velvet as will make a coat, a waistcoat and breeches for a tall man, with a fine silk button to suit it ... six pairs of the very latest shoes ... [and] six pairs of gloves'. At the same time, Martha sent out to have her nightgown dyed a more fashionable colour.

When Sally got wind of Washington's impending engagement, she wrote congratulating him. Although he was pleased to hear from her, he had hoped that she would have taken this last opportunity to spell out her feelings towards him. He felt he had nothing to lose and wrote back declaring his love for her – but also his resolve to go ahead with his marriage if she did not reciprocate.

'If you allow that any honour can be derived from my opposition to our present system of management, you destroy the merit of it entirely in me by attributing my anxiety to the animated prospect of possessing Mrs Custis,' he wrote. 'When – I need not name it – guess yourself. Should not my own honour and country's welfare be the excitement? 'Tis true, I profess myself a votary of love. I acknowledge that a lady is in the case, and further I confess that this lady is known to you. Yes, Madam, as well as she is to one who is too sensible of her charms to deny the power whose influence he feels and must ever submit to. I feel the force of her amiable beauties in recollection of a thousand tender passages that I could wish to obliterate. You have drawn me, dear Madam, or rather I have drawn myself, into an honest confession of a simple fact. Misconstrue not my meaning; doubt it not, nor expose it. The world has no business to know the object of my love, declared in this manner to you, when I want to conceal it. One thing, above all things in this world I wish to know, and only one person of your acquaintance can solve that, or guess my meaning. But adieu to this, till happier times, if I ever shall see them.' By comparison, Washington's letters to Martha are pedestrian.

Sally's reply has never been found. She did respond because, on 25 September 1758, Washington wrote again, still desperate for some declaration of love from Sally: 'Dear Madam, Do we still misunderstand the true meaning of each other's letters? I think it must appear so, though I would feign hope the contrary as I cannot speak plainer with. But I'll say no more and leave you to guess the rest ...'

In this letter, Washington also alluded to the play Cato by Joseph Addison and says that he would be 'doubly happy in being the Juba to such a Marcia as you must make'. In the play, Juba asks Marcia what he must do to win her love. She replies that he must make 'any woman but Marcia happy' for 'while Cato lives, his daughter has no right to love or hate but as his choice directs'.

Washington set about trying to make Martha happy. He sent to Philadelphia for a ring and at 1 p.m. on 6 January 1759, after what would have been considered a whirlwind romance, they married in front of forty guests. The ceremony was brief; the reception formal.

They honeymooned at the White House, while renovations were being completed at Mount Vernon. When they were completed, Washington moved his ready-made family there. Martha was a popular addition to the household. Later a slave at Mount Vernon would say: 'The General was only a man, but Mrs Washington was perfect.'

Within a year, Washington was writing to a friend: 'I am now I believe fixed at this seat with an agreeable consort for life and hope to find more happiness in retirement than I ever experienced amidst the wide and bustling world.'

In later life, he compared unfavourably 'the giddy round of promiscuous pleasure' he enjoyed in his youth with the 'domestic felicity' he found in marriage. He summed up his attitude to marriage in a letter to his stepdaughter. He advised her not to 'look for perfect felicity before you consent to wed. Nor conceived, from the fine tales the poets and lovers of old have told us of the transports of mutual love, that heaven has taken its abode on earth. Nor do not deceive yourself in supposing that the only means by which these are to be obtained is to drink deep of the cup and revel in an ocean of love. Love is a mighty pretty thing, but, like all other delicious things, it is cloying; and when the first transports of the passion begin to subside, which it assuredly will do, and yield, oftentimes too late, to more sober reflections, it serves to evince that love is too dainty a food to live on alone, and ought not to be considered further than as a necessary ingredient for that matrimonial happiness which results from a combination of causes: none of which are of greater importance than that the object on whom it is placed should possess good sense, a good disposition, and the means of supporting you in the way you have been brought up. Such qualifications cannot fail to attract (after marriage) your esteem and regard into which or into disgust, sooner or later love naturally resolves itself ... Be assured, and experience will convince you that there is no truth more certain than that all our enjoyments fall short of our expectations, and to none does it apply with more force than to the gratification of the passions.'


Excerpted from "Sex Lives of the Presidents"
by .
Copyright © 1996 Nigel Cawthorne.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Foreword to the New Edition,
1. Stepfather to the Nation,
2. Adams and Eves,
3. Mad Tom and His Mulattos,
4. The Straitlace Unravels,
5. The Adams Family,
6. Hickory, Dickory,
7. Wooing at the White House,
8. Mrs Vice-President,
9. The Great Emancipator,
10. Useless Grant,
11. Garfield the Gay?,
12. The Private Presidents,
13. Rover Cleveland,
14. Rough Rider,
15. A President Frustrated,
16. The Bermuda Triangle,
17. In the Closet,
18. The Secretary of State,
19. I Like Ike,
20. Some Like It Hot,
21. Whey, Hey LBJ,
22. Expletives Deleted,
23. Sinning City on a Hill,
24. The Man from Dope (Who Didn't Inhale),
25. Slick Willie Pulls It Off?,
Select Bibliography,

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