Long before they won the highest office, American presidents were trying to win the hearts of their favorite fair maiden. In honor of both Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, let’s look at the softer side of a few of our more romantic Commanders-in-Chief.
Letters were lifelines for Abigail Adams who was forced to endure long periods of separation from her husband John. For over three decades they shared their political concerns and professed their love for each other through the mail. As was the custom of the time, they adopted pen names. John wrote ardently to his Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon, often addressing the letters “Dear Miss Adorable.” In a letter dated April 20th, 1763, he sounds more like a lovesick teenager than a Revolutionist. “I begin to find that an increasing affection for a certain lady, (you know who my Dear) quickens my affections for everybody else…”
It would seem that Letitia Christian had a somewhat formal courtship with her future husband and 10th president, John Tyler. He once wrote to a friend that Letitia was always so “reserved and modest” that he did not dare to kiss even her hand until a few weeks before the wedding. Once he had won her heart, he relayed his delight for the acquisition. “To think of you and to write to you are the only sources from whence I can derive any real satisfaction…Indeed, I do esteem myself most rich in possessing you.”
Woodrow Wilson courted Edith Galt while still mourning the death of his first wife. They were married soon after they met and their quick courtship scandalized Washington society. That didn’t stop his heartfelt praise, “You are more wonderful and lovely in my eyes than you ever were before; and my pride and joy and gratitude that you should love me with such a perfect love are beyond all expression, except in some great poem which I cannot write.”
Harry Truman was smitten with Bess Wallace from the moment he laid eyes on her in Sunday school. He doggedly pursued her for seven years. His love letters, like his politics, were very straightforward. “I suppose that I am too crazy about you anyway. Every time I see you I get more so if it is possible. I know I haven’t any right to but there are certain things that can’t be helped and that is one of them. I wouldn’t help it if I could you know.”
Lyndon Johnson was so taken with his “Lady Bird” Claudia Taylor that he proposed almost immediately. His love-struck countenance is evident in a concise correspondence written one crisp Washington, DC day, “This morning I’m ambitious, proud, energetic and very madly in love with you.”
Ronald Reagan frequently wrote letters of love to his wife, Nancy. She especially looked forward to the ones she received on their anniversary. This is from his letter to her on March 4, 1983. “Still this is the day, the day that marks 31 years of such happiness as comes to few men. I told you once that it was like an adolescent’s dream of what marriage should be like. That hasn’t changed…I more than love you, I’m not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone I’m waiting for you to return so I can start living again.”
Contact Margaret Lavin at email@example.com.