95. How Did These Famous Friendships Survive Political Divides?

It’s become very easy these days to believe that we can’t be friends with those we disagree with. But our country is full of friendship that overcame the odds and withstood great differences. Today, Brittany and Connor talk about two great American friendships, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.


Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So In another episode, we discussed how you can kind of overcome your differences with other people and talk and get along with even those you might disagree with politically or ideologically or whatever. So this might seem like a silly concept because you shouldn’t have to agree with every single thing that your friends believe in, right? You can find common ground with almost anyone, but these days people are becoming really divided. You know you watch the news, you even walk outside your house, people are yelling at you to wear a mask or yelling at you for wearing a mask. We can’t seem to get along with anybody, but that doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, there are some really good examples throughout American history of people who overcame all their differences and were still friends. And I thought we could talk about that today specifically. We recently lost a Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And even though I did not agree with her on everything, she still did some pretty important things for history. And one thing that she was known for was her friendship with another, Supreme Court justice named Antonin Scalia, who was one of my favorite justices. And we lost him, I think 2016 is when he died. So what was special about their friendship is that neither of them agreed on anything when it came to interpreting the law. I mean, they were pretty much on opposite sides of everything, but in real life, they did not let those differences get in the way. Connor, can you tell us a little about what you know about the Para? They’re kinda a famous friendship, a dynamic duo.

Connor: Yeah, it is like a famous friendship. of course, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was very liberal, very kind of left progressive, big government kind of perspective. and then Scalia, was much more conservative, limited government, and so they had two very different world views. and so in terms of their work, their decisions on cases, they were often on opposite sides of the debate, and sometimes fiercely. So yes, sometimes you know about stuff they were very passionate about. but you know, when Scalia passed away, Justice Ginsburg, said, you know, we were best buddies. That’s what she said. I love that about, justice Scalia. And so that’s amazing, right? Like, here are people on two totally opposite ends of the political spectrum. Not just friends, not just cordial, not just civil, you know, they were best buddies. I mean, they would even spend, New Year’s Eve together every year with their spouses. That was kind of like a joint thing that they did. and even Justice Ginsburg at one point, she mentioned that Justice Scalia made her a better person because it led her to have to work even harder to defend her position against his, and kind of that friendly debate and, kind of holding one another accountable and poking holes and, you know, people’s arguments. And like, well, what about this? And, so she kind of liked that challenge that he was. Today it seems like there’s this notion that, you know, we can’t, get along with people that we disagree with politically. I can’t imagine talking to someone, you know, Thanksgiving, uh, you know, with, you know, uncle Bob and his crazy ideas. There’s no way. I’m just not gonna handle it. Like, here’s an example of people who not just tolerated one another, which I think is what most people say.

Brittany: Yeah. Tolerating

Connor: Yeah. Like when they’re talking about civility, it’s really just like not punching the other person, right? Like, just be near each other, maybe socially distant right now still, but like, you know, be in the same room without fighting, and that is civility. Yay. Right? Whereas in this case, they actually had a thriving friendship. And I think is a good lesson for us to think about, like in our own social circles. Do we have friends that we totally disagree with? Politically? Maybe one way to handle that is to simply not talk about the things that you disagree with. I know there’s, friendships I have like that in, my life where we just, you know, we know that we disagree there, so we just set that aside and we don’t touch it. but then you got cases like this one with Ginsburg and Scalia, where they were very aware of, you know, their work required them to engage on these ideas and even still had a close friendship. I think it’s something interesting for us to look at.

Brittany: I think people today too feel like if, they’re friends with someone they don’t agree with, that maybe they’re not, staying true to their principles and their beliefs. And so there’s this feeling of like, oh, I have to hate you because if I don’t hate you, then maybe I’m not as strong in my beliefs as I thought I was. But that’s so silly to me. because you can have very spirited arguments over issues with your friends. Now, I like what you said though. There are a few friends I have where we just say like, we don’t talk about these issues, right? These issues are too contentious. We don’t talk about ’em, and that’s okay too. And I kind of wanted to contrast this with another famous friendship which wasn’t quite as rosy. and this is one of my favorite American historical friendships, and that was between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who in my opinion are two of the most important founding fathers. But they were on very opposite sides of things post, you know, the revolutionary War. And a lot of that was cause Jefferson was like staunch, like an individualist. He was wary of big government. I mean, Thomas Jefferson was pretty aligned to how I feel I am today. and John Adams was like the opposite, right? Even though they were both on the same side of the revolution, John Adams actually wanted what he called a, I think it was called Republic Monarchy, or Monarchy Republic. I don’t know. He wanted a king, basically, after all that, after all, we went through, he wanted a king. And so they fought back and forth even when Jefferson spent, goodness. Do you remember how many years he spent in France? It was a lot of years. Yeah,

Connor: It was a lot. I don’t remember the number exactly.

Brittany: He was like gone when the Constitution was being written. Jefferson wasn’t even here for that. A lot of people don’t realize that. But he was here for the Declaration of Revolutionary War. But, once it came time to, craft the constitution, to frame our, new country, John Adams and Jefferson found themselves on completely opposite ends. I mean, John Adams was a federalist, right? They wanted a stronger government. Thomas Jefferson was very adamant in being an anti-federalist. Can you actually, Connor, kinda talk about those two terms? Cause we’ve talked about this before and you’ve explained them well. Like, what is a Federalist, and what’s an anti-Federalist?

Connor: So I’ll answer our previous question cuz I can Google really fast while we do the podcast. Thomas Jefferson was in France for five years. Ooh. he was sent there in 1784. So people who know their timeline of American history kinda see that that was right overlapping with the constitutional convention, just like Britney mentioned. So when the delegates to the constitutional convention were working on their drafts, and then later trying to persuade the public, to support the Constitution, there were two kinds of factions, two groups that opened up. One was the Federalists, which was composed of people who supported the ratification of the Constitution. They wanted to make it official and create the United States of America. Remember at the time they had the Articles of Confederation, but there were a lot of people who felt like the articles of Confederation weren’t really working. It wasn’t, helping these states pay down their, big war debts, right? A lot of states had gone into a lot of debt and they were really struggling, whereas other states hadn’t borrowed as much. Maybe they didn’t have to, you know, deal with as much of the fighting. And so they weren’t, as in debt. And so a lot of people felt that the articles of Confederation weren’t quite working. Now, I think that’s a debatable point. A lot of people in history classes, and social studies classes today are simply told, oh, the articles of Confederation didn’t work. You know, like, therefore we needed the Constitution. But that was an extremely hot debated point. And so you had the Federalists who said, we need the Constitution, a strong federal government, right? And then later we had Hamilton, as everyone knows from the play. Now, he one of his ideas was to have the new federal government assume take over all of those war debts. And that was kind of bribery for a lot of these states to kinda go along with the Constitution, like, Hey, you’ll, get out of all the debt if you support the Constitution and create the federal government, then we can go assume all the debts at the federal level, even though that wasn’t in the Constitution. So even the people who were involved in drafting the Constitution and selling it to the people and convincing them were already finding ways to wiggle around it and expand the government beyond what was agreed to. So the Federalists were saying yes to the Constitution and the anti-Federalists were saying no. Now what’s really interesting, Brittany is the way I can tell if there’s a good high school or college, history class focusing on like the revolutionary era, is that they will not just focus on the Federalist Papers, which is the writings of a few of these federalists making the kind of pro-constitution arguments, but that the course, the class, the teacher will also require, or at least say, Hey, over here are these selected writings from Anti-Federalists.

Brittany: That’s what mine did? Yep.

Connor: Yeah. There were some very prominent anti-Federalist writers. And what’s sad, I think is almost all classes just point people to the Federalist papers. It’s, there’s a saying I’m gonna butcher. It’s like, Victor gets to write the history Yeah. Something right? That it’s

Brittany: Written by the winners or something. Yeah,

Connor: Yeah. whoever wins the war gets to write the history. And so of course, the people that won, you know, the argument for the Constitution, the Federalists,  you know, that dominant viewpoint becomes how everyone is thinking today. But you can go read, you can find ’em online, you can buy a book super cheap on Amazon, the writings of the anti-Federalists. And what’s really interesting is their warnings, by and large, you know, when they’re saying, oh, you know, it’s gonna exceed its power. The federal government is the Constitution isn’t gonna work. the government is gonna grow, the states are gonna lose power. Like all of these warnings that they gave, I think we’re very, very accurate. more so than the assurances of the Federalists. Oh, don’t worry about it, it will never grow. Things will be fine. This will work great. And so in my mind, the people who are really vindicated are the anti-federalists. But you, but you had, sorry, I’m being long-winded. The point is,

Brittany: No, that’s Good. These are important terms to learn.

Connor: There were two factions. And so out of these factions when the Constitution was ratified and the new federal government was created, George Washington became the first president. immediately, like, within months, you already had a division in this brand-new federal government. So you had the Federalists still, and they were formed kinda the Federalist party if you will, which George Washington was really sad about. In fact, another good thing for mom and dad to read with the kids is George Washington’s farewell address. this is a very interesting thing. And one of the things that he warns about here he is got done being president, the first president, many people like John Adams like you say, Britney wanted him to be king. You know, they wanted, this kind of almost deified godlike person, you know, just keep ruling. And so in his farewell address, one of the things he warns about is what he called the spirit of party. In other words, partisanship, political parties. He was already seeing this division early on in America where, where two sides were just attacking one another mercilessly. Even within his own cabinet, the group of leaders that he appointed to help him, there was sharp division and attacks. And so you had the Federalists led by, you know, chief Lee John Adams on the one side. And then Thomas Jefferson on the other side started what’s called the Democratic-Republican Party. And so this party was largely the anti-Federalists, but it was also a lot of people who didn’t like what George Washington’s administration was doing. They disagreed with some policies. And so this became kind of the anti-Federalists party, that for many, many years, those were kind of the two factions early in America, constantly fighting against one another. So here he had John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, leaders of these two opposing parties. Later on, what’s super interesting and topic for another day, John Adams becomes President Thomas Jefferson becomes his vice president, the leading people of two totally different political parties, having to find ways to work together when in fact they were not really working well together. Thomas Jefferson is the vice president, is kind of undermining things that James Madison, excuse me, John Adams did. and so, but you know, even still back to our point of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Scalia, you know, later in life, these, these two giants of the early American experiment, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, you know, they reconciled their, friendship. They kept their friendship intact. They were, you know, I think it’s fair to say they were enemies for a while.

Brittany: For a good stretch of time. They were for sure.

Connor: Yeah. They were very upset with one another. And yet they were able to preserve their friendship, and get through it on the other side. And so these, stories are so interesting, right? Because we can kind of adapt them for our own lives and think how would we act in similar circumstances.

Brittany: No, I think you’re exactly right. And it’s easy to say, oh, we would, it would’ve been fine. Like we would’ve been, you know, we would’ve gotten along with our friends. But I know that sometimes I’ve gotten disagreements with my friends where it kind of fizzles out and we don’t talk for any, for, you know, a little bit of time, sometimes even years. But the thing that is so cool to me about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson is how they rekindled their friendship. And that is through letter writing. Something we don’t really get to do. in fact, I don’t think, and you correct me if I’m wrong, Connor, did they ever get to see each other again physically?

Connor: I don’t think so. I think, John Adams, if I’m remembering right, on his death bed 50th anniversary of, was it the signing of the Constitution?

Brittany: It Was, July? Wait, were talking about the death, the day the died? Yeah. So they both died on Independence Day, which I think is so just kind of beautiful and pointing to old men lying in their beds. They didn’t know, obviously, the other person was dying, cuz this wasn’t like sending a text message, right? Letters took many weeks, but it turned out that they died just hours apart from each other on the 4th of July on Independence Day. And to me, I get chills even just talking about it. I don’t think it gets much cooler than that. And they both lived to be very old. So it wasn’t like these were tragic deaths. These were men who had lived very long and hap or happy and well burdensome. They went through a lot, but very, very long lives.

Connor: So John Adams was 90 years old. You’re right, it was 1826, so it was 50 years to the day after, July 4th. Oh, now my computer’s playing something. And, John Adams laying on his death bed as these, as he’s literally like moments away from dying, said Thomas Jefferson lives. Well, he didn’t know that that wasn’t actually true. Thomas Jefferson had just barely, barely, barely died. and, yeah, there is something poetic almost heavenly about these two giants, you know, passing away on this significant anniversary and, recognizing in one another mutual greatness. Yes. Right? Yes. And I think that’s what you got with Justice Ginsburg and Scalia, respect for the other person, even though you have different perspectives, life backgrounds, opinions, that, respect of the other person and, knowing that they are kind of a competent person. They are well-meaning, they’re not vicious. They’re not, you know, just a jerk or whatever, right? They’re trying to do the right thing from their perspective. And so I think it’s that respect. I think that’s Important.

Brittany: No, I think you’re absolutely right. And I think, honestly, I’m not saying you should go seek out friends who disagree with just to have a friend you disagree with, but I know that the friends that challenge me the most, the friends that kind of force me to really reconsider my views, and a lot of the time, that means that I’m stronger in my views. It doesn’t mean I change my mind, but, having those friends around make me a better person. And there’s a huge amount of respect that I have for them that you, can’t really find elsewhere. So I would encourage people to make sure that they’re not just hanging out with people, you know, that they agree with that. It’s a really good benefit to you to find friends who have different views than you.

Connor: Great advice. guys, make sure you’re subscribed. We appreciate you listening. Head to Tuttletwins.com/podcasts. You can find the podcast and all the different channels and apps and everywhere podcasts are found. If this is your first time listening, welcome to the rest of you who have been with us for a while. Thank you. Until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.


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