Here is an excerpt from the book, The Jefferson Allegiance, where it is used to halt President Nixon.
This book was a #2 national bestseller at Barnes and Noble when it came out!
7 August 1974
President Nixon sat alone and weary in the early morning darkness contemplating non-existent options within the positive psychosis that had become his last refuge. He was in his White House private office, surrounded by legal documents, books, spools of tape, transcriptions and bottles. He’d run out of Coca-Cola sometime during the night, and was now drinking straight rum on the rocks, but the alcohol did little to dull the pervading sense of betrayal.
The room was lit only by the reflection through the windows of the exterior security lights, which cast long shadows through the room. He sat in an armchair, a set of headphones on his lap, the cord of which dangled to the reel-to-reel machine. He just couldn’t understand why everyone else didn’t hear the tapes the way he did; understand that he had acted in the best interests of the country.
The previous day and evening had been, in his opinion, a non-stop barrage of betrayal and cowardice. Kissinger had pleaded in person; Governor Reagan had called from California; a harsh letter had been hand-delivered from George H. W. Bush who was the National Chairman of the Republican Party; a parade of naysayers had trooped down from Capitol Hill; all pushing for him to resign. And in the midst of it all, Ehrlichman and Haldeman had been calling the White House switchboard, desperately trying to get through to ask for Presidential pardons, an even more certain sign the clock was ticking.
The media was the worst, especially those parasites from the Washington Post who’d splashed what should have been classified information all over their pages. Phil Graham would roll in his grave if he knew how his wife and Ben Bradlee now used his newspaper. Nixon clenched his fist, furious with Bradlee, that hypocrite, who was tearing him apart daily, but had had no problem with his sister-in-law, Mary Meyer, banging Kennedy. Of course, she’d ended up with a bullet in her head and one in her heart less than a year after Kennedy took one. Not much reporting on that either, Nixon thought.
The door opened without a knock, and Nixon turned his gaze toward it. A ghost of a smile touched his lips as he recognized the only person he would allow to penetrate his private sanctum: his daughter, Julie. As trouble had come cascading down on him, Nixon had been disappointed that his wife had faded away, but encouraged that Julie had taken her place to the point where the press were calling her “the First Lady in practice.”
Julie had traveled across the country the past year, giving over a hundred interviews, trying to get people to see the reality of the President’s position. For that, Nixon was greatly indebted to his daughter. He tilted his head up and she kissed him on the forehead before sitting down on the leather couch close to his chair.
“You’ve heard?” Nixon asked.
His daughter nodded sadly. “They’ve turned. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I thought at least a few of them would stand with you.”
“And David?” he asked, referring to her husband, David Eisenhower, grandson of the former General, and the man under whom Nixon had served as Vice President for two administrations. Just two months ago, his daughter and her husband had stood in the East Garden, and she had told the press that her father planned to fight this crisis ‘constitutionally down to the wire.’
He saw a flicker of concern on her face. “He’s been fielding calls all night, trying to generate support. He says you should take a break. Go to his camp,” she added with a brave attempt at a joke as she referred to the Retreat that President Eisenhower had named after his grandson when he took office.
“You know Roosevelt called Camp David ‘Shangri-La,’” Nixon said. “I could use a Shangri-La right now. A little escape from reality.”
He caught his daughter’s glance at the bottle of rum, but she said nothing about it, instead focusing on the problem. “You’re right about the situation. I know you as well as anyone. I know the burden you carry. To resign now would be to admit you had done something wrong — and that simply did not happen. The President is above it all, and has to act in the best interests of the country in ways ordinary people cannot possibly understand.”
Nixon nodded. “Only someone who wears the heavy mantle of the office can truly comprehend what’s involved. Even the great Eisenhower, as Supreme Allied Commander had that Summersby woman, and don’t forget the U-two scandal.”
The President didn’t see his daughter’s sudden stiffening at the mention of a forbidden family topic. “And Kennedy — don’t even get me started on the women and the Bay of Pigs and the other disasters the man perpetrated in his few years in office. Hell, Kennedy got us into Vietnam, and I had to get us out. I did that. And China!” Nixon’s voice had a wavering edge to it. “No one talks about China. It’s Watergate this and Watergate that, but never a mention of China. I split the damn Commies up. Russia and China. Opened China up to us.”
“Dad.” Julie Nixon-Eisenhower’s voice was low, and he didn’t hear her the first time she said it, so lost was he in his diatribe. “Dad.”
The President paused and looked at his daughter, something in her tone getting through to him. “Yes?”
She couldn’t meet his gaze. “The General wants to speak with you.”
“I’m sorry.” She went over to the door and opened it, beckoning. Surprisingly she slipped out the door, and the President fought back a surge of irritation as he recognized his Chief of Staff entering.
“What is it?” Nixon snapped.
The General was a dark shadow, silhouetted against the open door, his military bearing unmistakable despite the suit he wore. “There are some people you need to talk to, sir.”
Nixon frowned. It was four in the morning and he was facing the most difficult time of his life. The last thing he wanted was another former colleague who had turned on him. “Who?”
“They have something you need to read.”
“I’m in no mood for — “
“You need to talk to these men,” the General interrupted in a voice used to issuing orders, which caused the nominal Commander-in-Chief to half rise out of his chair, the headphones falling to the floor with a clatter.
“How dare you — “
“It’s the Jefferson Allegiance, sir. I warned you.” Without waiting for assent, the General turned to the open door and gestured. Four men filed in, and the General departed, shutting the door behind him. The President slumped back wearily into the chair.
“Who are you?” Nixon demanded. His hand shook as he grabbed the bottle and poured a dash of rum over the half-melted cubes in his glass. He took a quick swallow, trying to alleviate the pounding in his head.
One of the men stepped forward in the darkness, a wooden tube in his hands. He had thick, flowing white hair. “I am the Chair of the American Philosophical Society, and with me are the Philosophers, Mister President. We have a message for you.”
Nixon stiffened as he heard the titles. “Who is the message from?”
“Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, and a legal majority of Congress.” The Chair opened the end of the tube and carefully pulled out a scroll, yellowed with age. He extended it to Nixon.
The President didn’t take it. “I have no time for games.” Nixon was trying to buy time, but he knew it had run out.
“This is no game, Mister President,” the Chair said.
Nixon reached up and turned on the light next to his chair, barely illuminating a small circle around him. The man appeared to be in his fifties, tall and distinguished. He was not military, that much Nixon could tell.
“You work at the Post, don’t you?” Nixon demanded. “For that ass, Bradlee.”
“My job is not important,” the Chair said. “Just my duty.”
The other three men were still as statues. All were in uniform and had the same stiff bearing as the General. The three major services were represented by the uniforms: Army, Navy and Air Force. Stars glittered on the men’s shoulders, but not enough to bring light to the gloomy room.
The President finally took the scroll, feeling the fragileness of the paper. He carefully opened the scroll. There were four sentences followed by numerous signatures. The first sentence, Nixon immediately recognized. The following three, though, were startling to say the least, but what he had been warned about.
Nixon noted the signatures, recognizing the names of men long ago turned to dust, but whose power lived on.
The Chair continued. “We require you to resign the Presidency or face the consequences implicit in the words you’ve just read. The country is in no condition to go through a long impeachment, nor do we think it is good for the country to be so divided at such a dangerous time.”
Nixon shook the document as if he could make the writing slide off the page.
“It’s the Jefferson Allegiance,” the Chair said. “It is law, sir, part of the highest law of the land. And it will be enforced. So you have no option other than to resign.” He did not wait for a reply. “Your Chief of Staff has already coordinated with Vice President Ford. You will eventually be pardoned and live the rest of your life in peace. But you must vacate this office. Your crimes against the Constitution and the country have become unacceptable.”
Nixon stared at the writing. “This can’t be true.”
“It is true,” the Chair said, “and frankly, sir, you can’t take the chance. It will harm the country greatly if we have to enforce the Allegiance, but we will. It’s our sworn duty. You know you have violated the law and exceeded your powers. The country is divided and on the precipice. It is our duty to bring it back on course. You have no other option than to do what we demand.”
The Chair reached out and took the document. He gingerly rolled it, then slid it into the tube, and sealed the end. “If you have not announced your resignation within twenty-four hours, the Philosophers will present the Jefferson Allegiance to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the generals and admirals in charge of all the major commands, who will take action.”
With that, he turned for the door and left, the three military men following. The door swung shut, leaving the thirty-seventh President of the United States alone once more in the dark.
Not for long. His Chief-of-Staff, General Haig, once more entered unbidden.
“You know what they told me?” Nixon demanded. “What they showed me?”
“Can it be enforced?”
The General took a deep breath. “Mister President, I took an oath on the Plain at West Point on Reception-Day — the very first day I was there — when I was a Plebe. The same oath every military officer takes. I didn’t swear to defend the country. Or the people. Or even the Presidency,” he added pointedly. “I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States.”
“But the Allegiance isn’t part of it,” Nixon argued.
“Incorrect, sir. The Allegiance is part of the Bill of Rights,” Haig countered. “And — “ he paused and took a deep breath — “when I received my third star and was promoted to Lieutenant General, I was made to re-swear my oath. Except there was an addition — I was told there was a secret addition to the Bill of Rights: the Jefferson Allegiance. I wasn’t told what it was, but I was informed that some day I might have to enforce it.”
Nixon leaned back wearily in his seat. “So the Joint Chiefs will uphold the Jefferson Allegiance?”
“Every officer in the military will, if they become aware of it.”
“That would be a coup!”
“No, sir,” the General said firmly. “It would be enforcing the highest law of the land. And then the country would go back to the way it was originally designed to work.”
A long silence played out, the words seeming to sink into the books lining the walls of the room.
“Leave me,” Nixon finally ordered.
The General spun on his heel and departed, shutting the door.
The 37thPresident of the United States was alone in the dark once more; the only sound his labored breathing. That slight sound was over-ridden by the shrill ring of the phone. Another violation of the isolation Nixon had ordered. Rattled by the recent visitors, he turned on the speakerphone. “Yes?”
A voice echoed out of the small box next to the phone. “Mister President, this is Lucius. I understand you’ve had some visitors.”
How could he know so quickly? Nixon wondered. “They just left. What are you going to do about–”
“I’m afraid The Society can’t help you, sir.”
Nixon’s hand tightened on the receiver, the knuckles turning white. “You promised — “
Once more he was cut off. “You’ve received all the support The Society could give you, and you over-stepped the boundaries. The tapes are too damning. We cannot have the Allegiance invoked. You are now on your own. Good luck in your new life.”
Many of my books deal with history. After The Jefferson Allegiance is The Kennedy Endeavor.
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Originally published at bobmayer.com on July 29, 2018.