Cokie Roberts describes the "fondling fathers" and the pregnant women they left behind after negotiating the Missouri Compromise

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In case anyone want’s to be able to read that, I’ve done some very minimal formatting:

It was the year of the Missouri Compromise, 1820 and Congress was in session much longer than it normally is. It stayed in session in that era until March usually, and because of hammering out the Compromise and having to do everything else they were here till June, which totally screwed up everything. They were running out of food. Nobody knew what to do about Washington with all these people in it until June. Finally, they go home and Louisa Catherine Adams, John Quincy Adams’ wife – He’s Secretary of State at this point and running for President. Everybody is running for President which sounded familiar – and so after the Congress finally goes home she goes to a meeting of the orphans’ asylum trustees.

After the War of 1812, Dolley Madison had worked with the women in Washington to establish an orphans’ asylum because there had been many orphans left by the British invasion, and so Louisa goes to this meeting of the orphan asylum trustees and is told that they’re soon going to need more space because “Congress had left many females in such difficulties as to make it probable they would beg our assistance” and Louisa says, “What are you talking about?” and the answer comes back from the trustee “The session had been very long. The fathers of the nation had left 40 cases to be provided for by the public and our institution was the most likely to be called upon to maintain this illicit progeny.” There were 40 pregnant women left behind as Congress goes home to its wives and Louisa Adams is writing these letters to old John Adams, who’s home in Quincy. Abigail [John Adams’s wife] had died by this time. And she’s [Louisa Adams] trying to amuse him and so she discovers this shocking fact. Then she says to him, “I recommended a petition to Congress’ next session for that great and moral body to establish a foundling institution and should certainly move that the two additional dollars a day which they have given themselves as an increase in pay may be appropriated as a fund toward the support of the institution.”

The original poster or a moderator may feel free to copy it into the original post.


Let’s not misquote Ms. Roberts… Her term was “foundling” not “fondling.” The meanings are rather different.

Great story, bad quotation marks in the title.


Hi there new person… welcome to BoingBoing.
And since “fondling” is in quotes we all assume that liberties have been taken.
Though much less liberties than the “Fondling Fathers” took.


Not to be pedantic, but attributing a phrase to someone using quotes suggests that you’re quoting them, no taking liberties with their words. I’ve been a reader of boingboing for over a decade, and did not read the title as suggesting liberties were being taken with her words. That said, I’m prepared to be wrong…


Thank you thank you thank you! I’m pretty sure the nachos I had for lunch were a contributing factor, but I was actually getting a little seasick trying to read that mess :rofl:


This is good to know. Samantha Bee also had a great response for people who try to claim the “Founding Fathers” are above reproach:


They were not sent to Washington for that kind of congress.


This seems like a time to bring up Gerry’s (of -mander) quote from the constitutional convention:

“A standing army is like a standing member. It’s an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure.”


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