Founding Fathers of the United States

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Declaration of Independence, a painting by John Trumbull depicting the Committee of Five presenting their draft to the Congress on June 28, 1776.[1]
Signature page of Treaty of Paris (1783); the treaty was negotiated by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay

The Founding Fathers of the United States were those individuals of the Thirteen Colonies in North America who led the American Revolution against the authority of the British Crown in word and deed and contributed to the establishment of the United States of America.[2]

Historian Richard B. Morris in 1973 identified the following seven figures as the key Founding Fathers: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.[3][4] Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin were members of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay were authors of The Federalist Papers, advocating ratification of the Constitution. The constitutions drafted by Jay and Adams for their respective states of New York (1777) and Massachusetts (1780) were heavily relied upon when creating language for the US Constitution [5] Jay, Adams and Franklin negotiated the Treaty of Paris (1783) that would end the American Revolutionary War.[6] Washington was Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and was President of the Constitutional Convention. Washington, Jay and Franklin are considered the Founding Fathers of U.S. Intelligence by the CIA.[7] All held additional important roles in the early government of the United States, with Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison serving as President. Jay was the nation's first Chief Justice. Four of these seven - Washington, Jay, Hamilton and Madison - were not signers of the Declaration of Independence.[8]

The term Founding Fathers is sometimes used to refer to the Signers of the embossed version of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.[9] It is not to be confused with the term Framers; the Framers are defined by the National Archives as those 55 individuals who were appointed to be delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and took part in drafting the proposed Constitution of the United States. Of the 55 Framers, only 39 were signers of the Constitution.[10][11] Two further groupings of Founding Fathers include: 1) those who signed the Continental Association, a trade ban and one of the colonists' first collective volleys protesting British control and the Intolerable Acts in 1774 [12] or 2) those who signed the Articles of Confederation, the first U.S. constitutional document.[13]

The phrase "Founding Fathers" is a twentieth-century appellation, coined by Warren G. Harding in 1916.[14] In the 19th century, they were referred to as simply, the "Fathers".

Background[edit]

The Albany Congress of 1754 was a conference attended by seven colonies, which presaged later efforts at cooperation. The Stamp Act Congress of 1765 included representatives from nine colonies.

The First Continental Congress met briefly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1774, consisting of fifty-six delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies (excluding Georgia) that became the United States of America. Among them was George Washington, who would soon be drawn out of military retirement to command the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Also in attendance was Patrick Henry, and John Adams, who like all delegates were elected by their respective colonial assemblies. Other delegates included Samuel Adams from Massachusetts, John Dickinson from Pennsylvania and New York's John Jay. This congress in addition to formulating appeals to the British crown, established the Continental Association to administer boycott actions against Britain.

When the Second Continental Congress convened on May 10, 1775, it essentially reconstituted the First Congress. Many of the same 56 delegates who attended the first meeting participated in the second.[15] New arrivals included Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, John Hancock of Massachusetts, and John Witherspoon of New Jersey. Hancock was elected Congress President two weeks into the session when Peyton Randolph was recalled to Virginia to preside over the House of Burgesses. Thomas Jefferson replaced Randolph in the Virginia congressional delegation.[16] The second Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. Witherspoon was the only active clergyman to sign the Declaration. He also signed the Articles of Confederation and attended the New Jersey (1787) convention that ratified the Federal Constitution.[17]

The newly founded country of the United States had to create a new government to replace the British Parliament. The U.S. adopted the Articles of Confederation, a declaration that established a national government with a one-house legislature. Its ratification by all thirteen colonies gave the second Congress a new name: the Congress of the Confederation, which met from 1781 to 1789.[18] Later, the Constitutional Convention took place during the summer of 1787, in Philadelphia.[19] Although the Convention was called to revise the Articles of Confederation, the intention from the outset for some including James Madison and Alexander Hamilton was to create a new frame of government rather than amending the existing one. The delegates elected George Washington to preside over the Convention. The result of the Convention was the United States Constitution.

Interesting facts and commonalities[edit]

George Washington served as President of the 1787 Constitutional Convention.
Benjamin Franklin, an early advocate of colonial unity, was a foundational figure in defining the U.S. ethos and exemplified the emerging nation's ideals.
Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist papers with Jay and Madison
John Jay was President of the Continental Congress from 1778-1779 and negotiated the Treaty of Paris with Adams and Franklin.
James Madison, called the "Father of the Constitution" by his contemporaries.
Peyton Randolph, as President of the Continental Congress, presided over creation of the Continental Association.
Richard Henry Lee, who introduced the Lee Resolution in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain.
A Committee of Five, composed of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston, drafted and presented to the Continental Congress what became known as the U.S. Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776.
John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, renowned for his large and stylish signature on the United States Declaration of Independence.
John Dickinson authored the first draft of the Articles of Confederation in 1776 while serving in the Continental Congress as a delegate from Pennsylvania, and signed them late the following year, after being elected to Congress as a delegate from Delaware.
Henry Laurens was President of the Continental Congress when the Articles were passed on November 15, 1777.
Roger Sherman, the only person who signed all four U.S. historical documents.

The Founding Fathers represented a cross-section of 18th-century U.S. leadership. Almost all of them were well-educated men of means who were leaders in their communities. Many were also prominent in national affairs. Virtually every one had taken part in the American Revolution; at least 29 had served in the Continental Army, most of them in positions of command. Scholars have examined the collective biography of them as well as the signers of the Declaration and the Constitution.[20]

Education[edit]

Many of the Founding Fathers attended or held degrees from the colonial colleges, most notably Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, the College of William and Mary, Yale and University of Pennsylvania. Some had previously been home schooled or obtained early instruction from private tutors or academies.[21] Others had studied abroad. Ironically, Benjamin Franklin who had little formal education himself would ultimately establish the University of Pennsylvania based on European models (1740); "Penn" would have the first medical school (1765) in the thirteen colonies where another Founder, Benjamin Rush would eventually teach.

With a limited number of professional schools established in the U.S., Founders also sought advanced degrees from traditional institutions in England and Scotland such as the University of Edinburgh and University of St. Andrews.

Colleges attended[edit]

Advanced degrees and apprenticeships[edit]

Doctors of medicine[edit]
  • University of Edinburgh: Rush [24]
  • University of Utrecht, Netherlands: Williamson
Theology[edit]
  • University of Edinburgh: Witherspoon (attended, no degree)
  • University of St. Andrews: Witherspoon (honorary doctorate)
Legal apprenticeships[edit]

Several like John Jay, James Wilson, John Williams and George Wythe[25] were trained as lawyers through apprenticeships in the colonies while a few trained at the Inns of Court in London.

Self-taught or little formal education[edit]

Franklin, Washington, John Williams and Henry Wisner had little formal education and were largely self-taught or learned through apprenticeship.

Demographics[edit]

  • Most of the Founding Fathers were natives of the Thirteen Colonies. At least nine were immigrants: four (Butler, Fitzsimons, McHenry, and Paterson) in Ireland, two (Davie and Robert Morris) in England, two (Wilson and Witherspoon) in Scotland, and one (Hamilton) in the West Indies.
  • Many of them had moved from one state to another. Eighteen had already lived, studied or worked in more than one state or colony: Baldwin, Bassett, Bedford, Davie, Dickinson, Few, Franklin, Ingersoll, Hamilton, Livingston, Alexander Martin, Luther Martin, Mercer, Gouverneur Morris, Robert Morris, Read, Sherman, and Williamson.
  • Several others had studied or traveled abroad.

Political experience[edit]

The Founding Fathers had extensive political experience. Many had been members of the Continental Congress. Nearly all of the 55 Constitutional Convention delegates had experience in colonial and state government, and the majority had held county and local offices.[26]

Occupations and finances[edit]

Historian Caroline Robbins in 1977 examined the status of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and concluded:

There were indeed disparities of wealth, earned or inherited: some Signers were rich, others had about enough to enable them to attend Congress....The majority of revolutionaries were from moderately well-to-do or average income brackets. Twice as many Loyalists belonged to the wealthiest echelon. But some Signers were rich; few, indigent.... The Signers were elected not for wealth or rank so much as because of the evidence they had already evinced of willingness for public service.[27]

The Founding Fathers practiced a wide range of high and middle-status occupations, and many pursued more than one career simultaneously. They did not differ dramatically from the Loyalists, except they were generally younger and less senior in their professions.[28] A few of them were wealthy or had financial resources that ranged from good to excellent, but there are other founders who were less than wealthy. On the whole they were less wealthy than the Loyalists.[29]

  • As many as thirty-five had legal apprenticeship, though not all of them practiced law. Some had also been local judges.[30]
  • At the time of the convention, 13 men were merchants: Blount, Broom, Clymer, Dayton, Fitzsimons, Shields, Gilman, Gorham, Langdon, Robert Morris, Pierce, Sherman, and Wilson.
  • Seven were major land speculators: Blount, Dayton, Fitzsimmons, Gorham, Robert Morris, Washington, and Wilson.
  • Eleven speculated in securities on a large scale: Bedford, Blair, Clymer, Dayton, Fitzsimons, Franklin, King, Langdon, Robert Morris, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Sherman.
  • Many owned or managed slave-operated plantations or large farms, particularly in the southern colonies: Bassett, Blair, Blount, Davie,[31] Johnson, Butler, Carroll, Jefferson, Jenifer, Madison, Mason, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Rutledge, Spaight, and Washington.
  • Many wealthy Northerners owned domestic slaves: Franklin later freed his slaves and was a key founder of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Jay founded the New York Manumission Society in 1785, for which Hamilton became an officer. They and other members of the Society founded the African Free School in New York City, to educate the children of free blacks and slaves. When Jay was governor of New York in 1798, he signed into law a gradual abolition law; fully ending slavery as of 1827. He freed his own slaves in 1798.
  • Broom and Few were small farmers.
  • Eight of the men received a substantial part of their income from public office: Baldwin, Blair, Brearly, Gilman, Livingston, Madison, and Rutledge.
  • Three had retired from active economic endeavors: Franklin, McHenry, and Mifflin.
  • Franklin and Williamson were scientists, in addition to their other activities.
  • McClurg, McHenry, Rush, and Williamsonwere physicians
  • Johnson and Witherspoon were college presidents.

Religion[edit]

Franklin T. Lambert (2003) has examined the religious affiliations and beliefs of the Founders. Of the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, 28 were Anglicans (in the Church of England; or Episcopalian, after the American Revolutionary War was won), 21 were Protestants, and two were Roman Catholics (D. Carroll, and Fitzsimons).[32] Among the Protestant delegates to the Constitutional Convention, eight were Presbyterians, seven were Congregationalists, two were Lutherans, two were Dutch Reformed, and two were Methodists.[32]

A few prominent Founding Fathers were anti-clerical Christians such as Thomas Jefferson,[33][34][35] who constructed the Jefferson Bible, and Benjamin Franklin.[36]

Historian Gregg L. Frazer argues that the leading Founders (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilson, Morris, Madison, Hamilton, and Washington) were neither Christians nor Deists, but rather supporters of a hybrid "theistic rationalism".[37]

The Faiths of the Founding Fathers is a book that discusses the religion held by the founding fathers, written in 2006 by historian of U.S. religion David L. Holmes.

Ownership of slaves and position on slavery[edit]

Portrait of George Washington and his valet slave William Lee.

One of the greatest contradictions of the Founding Fathers was their disunity with regard to slavery at a time that they were seeking liberty for themselves. In her study of Thomas Jefferson, historian Annette Gordon-Reed emphasizes this irony, "Others of the founders held slaves, but no other founder drafted the charter for freedom, "[38] In addition to Jefferson, George Washington, John Jay and many other of the Founding Fathers practiced slavery but were also conflicted by the institution which many saw as immoral and politically divisive.[39] Benjamin Franklin owned slaves (though Franklin later became an abolitionist).[40] John Jay would try unsuccessfully to abolish slavery as early as 1777 in the State of New York but was overruled (though he would later sign the Gradual Emancipation Act into law while Governor).[41] Alexander Hamilton opposed slavery, as his experiences in life left him very familiar with slavery and its effect on slaves and on slaveholders,[42] although he did negotiate slave transactions for his wife's family, the Schuylers.[43] John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Paine never owned slaves [44]

Slaves and slavery are mentioned only indirectly in the 1787 Constitution. For example, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 prescribes that "three fifths of all other Persons" are to be counted for the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives and direct taxes. Additionally, in Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3, slaves are referred to as "persons held in service or labor".[40][45] The Founding Fathers, however, did make important efforts to contain slavery. Many Northern states had adopted legislation to end or significantly reduce slavery during and after the American Revolution.[45] In 1782 Virginia passed a manumission law that allowed slave owners to free their slaves by will or deed.[46] As a result, thousands of slaves were manumitted in Virginia.[46] Thomas Jefferson, in 1784, proposed to ban slavery in all the Western Territories, which failed to pass Congress by one vote.[45] Partially following Jefferson's plan, Congress did ban slavery in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, for lands north of the Ohio River.[45]

The international slave trade was banned in all states except South Carolina, by 1800. Finally in 1807, President Jefferson called for and signed into law a Federally-enforced ban on the international slave trade throughout the U.S. and its territories. It became a federal crime to import or export a slave.[47] However, the domestic slave trade was allowed, for expansion, or for diffusion of slavery into the Louisiana Territory.[48]

Attendance at conventions[edit]

In the winter and spring of 1786–1787, twelve of the thirteen states chose a total of 74 delegates to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Nineteen delegates chose not to accept election or attend the debates; for example, Patrick Henry of Virginia thought that state politics were far more interesting and important than national politics, though during the ratification controversy of 1787–1788 he claimed, "I smelled a rat." Rhode Island did not send delegates because of its politicians' suspicions of the Convention delegates' motivations. As the colony was founded by Roger Williams as a sanctuary for Baptists, Rhode Island's absence at the Convention in part explains the absence of Baptist affiliation among those who did attend. Of the 55 who did attend at some point, no more than 38 delegates showed up at one time.[49]

Spouses and children[edit]

Most of the Founding Fathers married and had children. Many of their spouses, like Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Sarah Livingston Jay, Dolley Madison, Mary White Morris and Catherine Alexander Duer were strong women and made significant contributions of their own to the fight for liberty.[50]

Sherman fathered the largest family: 15 children by two wives. At least nine (Bassett, Brearly, Johnson, Mason, Paterson, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Sherman, Wilson, and Wythe) married more than once. Four (Baldwin, Gilman, Jenifer, and Alexander Martin) were lifelong bachelors. Many of the delegates also had children conceived illegitimately.[51] George Washington, "The Father of our Country,"[52] had no biological descendants.

Charters of freedom and historical documents of the United States[edit]

The National Archives and Records Administration also known as NARA, defines U.S. Founding Documents, or Charters of Freedom, as the Declaration of Independence (1776), The Constitution (1787) and the Bill of Rights (1791). These original instruments which represent the philosophy of the United States are housed in Washington, D.C. in the NARA Rotunda.[53] The Library of Congress further identifies the Articles of Confederation, also preserved at NARA, as a primary U.S. document.[54] The Articles of Confederation served as the first constitution of the United States until its replacement by the present Constitution on March 4, 1789.

Signatories of the Continental Association (CA), Declaration of Independence (DI), Articles of Confederation (AC), and the United States Constitution (USC)):

Name Province/State CA (1774) DI (1776) AC (1777) USC (1787)
Andrew Adams Connecticut Yes
John Adams Massachusetts Yes Yes
Samuel Adams Massachusetts Yes Yes Yes
Thomas Adams Virginia Yes
John Alsop New York Yes
Abraham Baldwin Georgia Yes
John Banister Virginia Yes
Josiah Bartlett New Hampshire Yes Yes
Richard Bassett Delaware Yes
Gunning Bedford, Jr. Delaware Yes
Edward Biddle Pennsylvania Yes
John Blair Virginia Yes
Richard Bland Virginia Yes
William Blount North Carolina Yes
Simon Boerum New York Yes
Carter Braxton Virginia Yes
David Brearley New Jersey Yes
Jacob Broom Delaware Yes
Pierce Butler South Carolina Yes
Charles Carroll of Carrollton Maryland Yes
Daniel Carroll Maryland Yes Yes
Richard Caswell North Carolina Yes
Samuel Chase Maryland Yes Yes
Abraham Clark New Jersey Yes
William Clingan Pennsylvania Yes
George Clymer Pennsylvania Yes Yes
John Collins Rhode Island Yes
Stephen Crane New Jersey Yes
Thomas Cushing Massachusetts Yes
Francis Dana Massachusetts Yes
Jonathan Dayton New Jersey Yes
Silas Deane Connecticut Yes
John De Hart New Jersey Yes
John Dickinson Delaware Yes Yes
Pennsylvania Yes
William Henry Drayton South Carolina Yes
James Duane New York Yes Yes
William Duer New York Yes
Eliphalet Dyer Connecticut Yes
William Ellery Rhode Island Yes Yes
William Few Georgia Yes
Thomas Fitzsimons Pennsylvania Yes
William Floyd New York Yes Yes
Nathaniel Folsom New Hampshire Yes
Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania Yes Yes
Christopher Gadsden South Carolina Yes
Joseph Galloway Pennsylvania Yes
Elbridge Gerry Massachusetts Yes Yes
Nicholas Gilman New Hampshire Yes
Nathaniel Gorham Massachusetts Yes
Button Gwinnett Georgia Yes
Lyman Hall Georgia Yes
Alexander Hamilton New York Yes
John Hancock Massachusetts Yes Yes
John Hanson Maryland Yes
Cornelius Harnett North Carolina Yes
Benjamin Harrison Virginia Yes Yes
John Hart New Jersey Yes
John Harvie Virginia Yes
Patrick Henry Virginia Yes
Joseph Hewes North Carolina Yes Yes
Thomas Heyward, Jr. South Carolina Yes Yes
Samuel Holten Massachusetts Yes
William Hooper North Carolina Yes Yes
Stephen Hopkins Rhode Island Yes Yes
Francis Hopkinson New Jersey Yes
Titus Hosmer Connecticut Yes
Charles Humphreys Pennsylvania Yes
Samuel Huntington Connecticut Yes Yes
Richard Hutson South Carolina Yes
Jared Ingersoll Pennsylvania Yes
William Jackson South Carolina Yes
John Jay New York Yes
Thomas Jefferson Virginia Yes
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Maryland Yes
Thomas Johnson Maryland Yes
William Samuel Johnson Connecticut Yes
Rufus King Massachusetts Yes
James Kinsey New Jersey Yes
John Langdon New Hampshire Yes
Edward Langworthy Georgia Yes
Henry Laurens South Carolina Yes
Francis Lightfoot Lee Virginia Yes Yes
Richard Henry Lee Virginia Yes Yes Yes
Francis Lewis New York Yes Yes
Philip Livingston New York Yes Yes
William Livingston New Jersey Yes Yes
James Lovell Massachusetts Yes
Isaac Low New York Yes
Thomas Lynch South Carolina Yes
Thomas Lynch, Jr. South Carolina Yes
James Madison Virginia Yes
Henry Marchant Rhode Island Yes
John Mathews South Carolina Yes
James McHenry Maryland Yes
Thomas McKean Delaware Yes Yes Yes
Arthur Middleton South Carolina Yes
Henry Middleton South Carolina Yes
Thomas Mifflin Pennsylvania Yes Yes
Gouverneur Morris New York Yes
Pennsylvania Yes
Lewis Morris New York Yes
Robert Morris Pennsylvania Yes Yes Yes
John Morton Pennsylvania Yes Yes
Thomas Nelson, Jr. Virginia Yes
William Paca Maryland Yes Yes
Robert Treat Paine Massachusetts Yes Yes
William Paterson New Jersey Yes
Edmund Pendleton Virginia Yes
John Penn North Carolina Yes Yes
Charles Pinckney South Carolina Yes
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney South Carolina Yes
Peyton Randolph Virginia Yes
George Read Delaware Yes Yes Yes
Joseph Reed Pennsylvania Yes
Daniel Roberdeau Pennsylvania Yes
Caesar Rodney Delaware Yes Yes
George Ross Pennsylvania Yes Yes
Benjamin Rush Pennsylvania Yes
Edward Rutledge South Carolina Yes Yes
John Rutledge South Carolina Yes Yes
Nathaniel Scudder New Jersey Yes
Roger Sherman Connecticut Yes Yes Yes Yes
James Smith Pennsylvania Yes
Jonathan Bayard Smith Pennsylvania Yes
Richard Smith New Jersey Yes
Richard Dobbs Spaight North Carolina Yes
Richard Stockton New Jersey Yes
Thomas Stone Maryland Yes
John Sullivan New Hampshire Yes
George Taylor Pennsylvania Yes
Edward Telfair Georgia Yes
Matthew Thornton New Hampshire Yes
Matthew Tilghman Maryland Yes
Nicholas Van Dyke Delaware Yes
George Walton Georgia Yes
John Walton Georgia Yes
Samuel Ward Rhode Island Yes
George Washington Virginia Yes Yes
John Wentworth, Jr. New Hampshire Yes
William Whipple New Hampshire Yes
John Williams North Carolina Yes
William Williams Connecticut Yes
Hugh Williamson North Carolina Yes
James Wilson Pennsylvania Yes Yes
Henry Wisner New York Yes
John Witherspoon New Jersey Yes Yes
Oliver Wolcott Connecticut Yes Yes
George Wythe Virginia Yes

Post-constitution life[edit]

Subsequent events in the lives of the Founding Fathers after the adoption of the Constitution were characterized by success or failure, reflecting the abilities of these men as well as the vagaries of fate.[55] Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison served in highest U.S. office of President. Jay would be elected to two terms as Governor of New York.

Seven (Fitzsimons, Gorham, Luther Martin, Mifflin, Robert Morris, Pierce, and Wilson) suffered serious financial reversals that left them in or near bankruptcy. Robert Morris spent three of the last years of his life imprisoned following bad land deals.[50] Two, Blount and Dayton, were involved in possibly treasonous activities. Yet, as they had done before the convention, most of the group continued to render public service, particularly to the new government they had helped to create.

Youth and longevity[edit]

Death age of the Founding Fathers.

Many of the Founding Fathers were under 40 years old at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776: James Armistead Lafayette was 15, Marquis de Lafayette was 18, Alexander Hamilton was 19, Aaron Burr was 20, Gouverneur Morris and Betsy Ross were 24. The oldest were Benjamin Franklin, 70 and Samuel Whittemore, 81.[56]

Secretary Charles Thomson lived to the age of 94. Johnson died at 92. John Adams lived to the age of 90. A few — Franklin, Jay, Jefferson, Madison, Hugh Williamson, and George Wythe — lived into their eighties. Approximately 16 died in their seventies, 21 in their sixties, 8 in their fifties, and 5 in their forties. Three (Alexander Hamilton, Richard Dobbs Spaight and Button Gwinnett) were killed in duels.

Friends and political adversaries John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the same day - July 4, 1826 [57]

The last remaining founders, also called the "Last of the Romans", lived well into the nineteenth century.[58]

Founders who were not signatories or delegates[edit]

The following men and women are also recognized by many as having been founders of the United States based upon their significant contributions to the formation of American nation and democracy.

Legacy[edit]

Institutions formed by Founders[edit]

Several Founding Fathers were instrumental in establishing schools and societal institutions that still exist today:

  • Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania, while Jefferson founded the University of Virginia.
  • Benjamin Rush founded Dickinson College and Franklin College, (today Franklin and Marshall) as well as the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the oldest medical society in America.
  • Alexander Hamilton founded the New York Post, as well as the United States Coast Guard.
  • Henry Knox [86] helped found the Society of the Cincinnati in 1783; the society was predicated on service as an officer in the Revolutionary War and heredity. Members included Washington, Hamilton and Burr. Other Founders like Sam Adams, John Adams, Franklin and Jay criticized the formation of what they considered to be an elitist body and threat to the Constitution. Franklin would later accept an honorary membership though Jay declined.[87]

Scholarship on the Founders[edit]

Articles and books by twenty-first century historians combined with the digitization of primary sources like handwritten letters continue to contribute to an encyclopedic body of knowledge about the Founding Fathers.

Living historians whose focus is the Founding Fathers[edit]

Ron Chernow won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of George Washington. His bestselling book about Alexander Hamilton inspired the blockbuster musical of the same name.

Joseph J. Ellis - According to Ellis, the concept of the Founding Fathers of the U.S. emerged in the 1820s as the last survivors died out. Ellis says "the founders", or "the fathers", comprised an aggregate of semi-sacred figures whose particular accomplishments and singular achievements were decidedly less important than their sheer presence as a powerful but faceless symbol of past greatness. For the generation of national leaders coming of age in the 1820s and 1830s – men like Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun – "the founders" represented a heroic but anonymous abstraction whose long shadow fell across all followers and whose legendary accomplishments defied comparison.

"We can win no laurels in a war for independence," Webster acknowledged in 1825. "Earlier and worthier hands have gathered them all. Nor are there places for us ... [as] the founders of states. Our fathers have filled them. But there remains to us a great duty of defence and preservation."[88]

Joanne B. Freeman Freeman's area of expertise is the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton as well as political culture of the revolutionary and early national eras.[89][90][91] Freeman has documented the often opposing visions of the Founding Fathers as they tried to build a new framework for governance, "Regional distrust, personal animosity, accusation, suspicion, implication, and denouncement—this was the tenor of national politics from the outset.” [92]

Annette Gordon-Reed is an American historian and Harvard Law School professor. She is noted for changing scholarship on Thomas Jefferson regarding his relationship with Sally Hemings and her children. She has studied the challenges facing the Founding Fathers particularly as it relates to their position and actions on slavery. She points out "the central dilemma at the heart of American democracy: the desire to create a society based on liberty and equality" that yet does not extend those privileges to all." [38]

Jack N. Rakove - Thomas Jefferson

Peter S. Onuf - Thomas Jefferson

Noted collections of the Founding Fathers[edit]

Founders Online is a searchable database of over 178,000 documents authored by or addressed to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

In stage and film[edit]

The Founding Fathers were portrayed in the Tony Award winning musical 1776, a stage production about the debates over, and eventual adoption of, the Declaration of Independence; the popular performance was later turned into the 1972 film

More recently, several of the Founding Fathers - Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Laurens and Burr - were reimagined in Hamilton an acclaimed production about the life of Alexander Hamilton, with music, lyrics and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda.The show was inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. The rap musical won 11 Tony Awards.[93]

Children's books[edit]

In their 2015 children's book, The Founding Fathers author Jonah Winter and illustrator Barry Blitt categorized 14 leading patriots into two teams based on their contributions to the formation of America - the Varsity Squad (Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, John Adams, Madison, Jay, and Hamilton) and the Junior Varsity Squad (Sam Adams, Hancock, Henry, Morris, Marshall, Rush, and Paine).[94]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "American Revolution: Key to Declaration of Independence". Retrieved April 6, 2017. 
  2. ^ Mellinkoff, David. Mellinkoff's Dictionary of American Legal Usage (West Publishing, 1992)
  3. ^ Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries (New York: Harper & Row, 1973).
  4. ^ Kettler, Sarah. "The Founding Fathers: Who Were They Really?". Biography. Retrieved April 5, 2017. 
  5. ^ "About America, The Constitution of the United States" (PDF). World Book. Retrieved September 17, 2017. 
  6. ^ PBS NewsHour. "Forgotten Founding Father". 
  7. ^ Rose, P.K. "The Founding Fathers of American Intelligence". Retrieved April 5, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Did any of our "Founding Fathers" NOT sign the Declaration of Independence?". Harvard University: Declaration Resources Project. Retrieved April 8, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Signers of the Declaration". National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  10. ^ National Archives. "Meet the Framers of the Constitution". 
  11. ^ US Constitution Online. "The Framers". 
  12. ^ Carl G. Karsch. "The First Continental Congress: A Dangerous Journey Begins". Carpenter's Hall. Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  13. ^ Stanfield, Jack. America's Founding Fathers: Who Are They? Thumbnail Sketches of 164 Patriots (Universal-Publishers, 2001).
  14. ^ Jill Lepore, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle American History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 16.
  15. ^ Burnett, Continental Congress, 64–67.
  16. ^ Fowler, Baron of Beacon Hill, 189.
  17. ^ "Signers of the Declaration". National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. p. Biography #54. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Confederation Congress". Ohio Historical Society. Retrieved October 23, 2010. 
  19. ^ Calvin C. Jillson (2009). American Government: Political Development and Institutional Change (5th ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-203-88702-8. 
  20. ^ See Brown (19764); Martin (19739); "Data on the Framers of the Constitution," at [1]
  21. ^ Brown (1976); Harris (1969)
  22. ^ "The Alma Maters of Our Founding Fathers". Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  23. ^ "A Brief History of Columbia". Columbia University. 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-14. 
  24. ^ "Benjamin Rush (1746 - 1813) access-date=April 9, 2017". Penn University Archives and Records Center. 
  25. ^ "George Wythe". Colonial Williamsburg. Retrieved April 9, 2017. 
  26. ^ Martin (1973); Greene (1973)
  27. ^ Caroline Robbins, "Decision in '76: Reflections on the 56 Signers" Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society Vol. 89 (1977), pp. 72-87 online quoting page 83.
  28. ^ Greene (1973)
  29. ^ Greene (1973).
  30. ^ Brown (1976)
  31. ^ William R. Davie, Blackwell P. Robinson. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1957.
  32. ^ a b Lambert, Franklin T. (2003). The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (published 2006). ISBN 978-0691126029. 
  33. ^ Letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813 "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government,"
  34. ^ Letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814 "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."
  35. ^ The Religion of Thomas Jefferson Archived November 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 9, 2011
  36. ^ Quoted in The New England Currant (July 23, 1722), "Silence Dogood, No. 9; Corruptio optimi est pessima." "And it is a sad Observation, that when the People too late see their Error, yet the Clergy still persist in their Encomiums on the Hypocrite; and when he happens to die for the Good of his Country, without leaving behind him the Memory of one good Action, he shall be sure to have his Funeral Sermon stuff'd with Pious Expressions which he dropt at such a Time, and at such a Place, and on such an Occasion; than which nothing can be more prejudicial to the Interest of Religion, nor indeed to the Memory of the Person deceas'd. The Reason of this Blindness in the Clergy is, because they are honourably supported (as they ought to be) by their People, and see nor feel nothing of the Oppression which is obvious and burdensome to every one else."
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  38. ^ a b Annette Gordon-Reed, Engaging Jefferson: Blacks and the Founding Father, The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 171-182
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  40. ^ a b Wright, William D. (2002). Critical Reflections on Black History. West Port, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers. p. 125. 
  41. ^ The Selected Papers of John Jay, Columbia University, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/inside/dev/jay/JaySlavery.html
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  43. ^ Magness, Phillip. "Alexander Hamilton's Exaggerated Abolitionism". Retrieved April 6, 2017. 
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  46. ^ a b The Cambridge History of Law in America. 2008. p. 278. 
  47. ^ Freehling, William W. (February 1972). "The Founding Fathers and Slavery". The American Historical Review. 77 (1): 88. doi:10.2307/1856595. JSTOR 1856595. 
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  49. ^ See the discussion of the Convention in Clinton L. Rossiter, 1787: The Grand Convention (New York: Macmillan, 1966; reprint ed., with new foreword by Richard B. Morris, New York: W. W. Norton, 1987).
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  52. ^ George Washington's Mount Vernon. "Father of His Country". Retrieved April 6, 2017. 
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  54. ^ "Articles of Confederation". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  55. ^ Martin (1973)
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  62. ^ Jane Goodall (27 August 2013). Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants. Grand Central Publishing. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-1-4555-1321-5.
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  68. ^ Stephen Yafa (2006). Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber. Penguin. p. 75. ISBN 9780143037224. 
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  81. ^ Schwartz, Laurens R. Jews and the American Revolution: Haym Solomon and Others, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 1987.
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  84. ^ "A Patriot of Early New England", New York Times (December 20, 1931). This book review referred to Wingate as one of the "Fathers" of the United States, per the book title.
  85. ^ The New Yorker, Volume I, page 398 (September 10, 1836): "'The Last of the Romans' — This was said of Madison at the time of his decease, but there is one other person who seems to have some claims to this honorable distinction. Paine Wingate of Stratham, N.H. still survives."
  86. ^ "THE FOUNDING OF THE SOCIETY, 1783–1784". Society of the Cincinnati. Retrieved April 9, 2017. 
  87. ^ "History:The Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut". 
  88. ^ Joseph J. Ellis; Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams. (2001) p. 214.
  89. ^ Jennifer Schuessler. "Up From the Family Basement, a Little-Seen Hamilton Trove". The New York Times. 
  90. ^ Joanne B. Freeman. "The Long History of Political Idiocy". The New York Times. 
  91. ^ Joanne B. Freeman. "How Hamilton Uses History: What Lin-Manuel Miranda Included in His Portrait of a Heroic, Complicated Founding Father—and What He Left Out". Slate. Retrieved April 9, 2017. 
  92. ^ Chris Bray. "Tip and Gip Sip and Quip-The politics of never". The Baffler. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  93. ^ Robert Viagas. "Hamilton Tops Tony Awards With 11 Wins". Playbill. Retrieved April 9, 2017. 
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References[edit]

  • American National Biography Online, (2000).
  • Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew Knopf, 2003.
  • Richard B. Bernstein, Are We to Be a Nation? The Making of the Constitution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.
  • R. B. Bernstein, The Founding Fathers Reconsidered (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Richard D. Brown. "The Founding Fathers of 1776 and 1787: A Collective View," William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 33, No. 3 (Jul. 1976), pp. 465–480 online at JSTOR.
  • Henry Steele Commager, "Leadership in Eighteenth-Century America and Today," Daedalus 90 (Fall 1961): 650–673, reprinted in Henry Steele Commager, Freedom and Order (New York: George Braziller, 1966).
  • Joseph J. Ellis. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000), winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History.
  • Joseph J. Ellis. The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 (New York: First Vintage Books Edition, May 2016).
  • Joanne B. Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.
  • Steven K. Green, Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Jack P. Greene. "The Social Origins of the American Revolution: An Evaluation and an Interpretation," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 88, No. 1 (Mar. 1973), pp. 1–22 online in JSTOR.
  • P.M.G. Harris, "The Social Origins of American Leaders: The Demographic Foundations, " Perspectives in American History 3 (1969): 159–364.
  • Mark E. Kann; The Gendering of American Politics: Founding Mothers, Founding Fathers, and Political Patriarchy (New York: Frederick Praeger, 1999).
  • Adrienne Koch; Power, Morals, and the Founding Fathers: Essays in the Interpretation of the American Enlightenment (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1961).
  • K. M. Kostyal. Founding Fathers: The Fight for Freedom and the Birth of American Liberty (2014)
  • Franklin T. Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. (Princeton, NJ Princeton University Press, 2003).
  • James Kirby Martin, Men in Rebellion: Higher Governmental Leaders and the coming of the American Revolution, (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1973; reprint, New York: Free Press, 1976).
  • Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries (New York: Harper & Row, 1973).
  • Robert Previdi; "Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America," Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, 1999
  • Rakove, Jack. Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2010) 487 pages; scholarly study focuses on how the Founders moved from private lives to public action, beginning in the 1770s
  • Cokie Roberts. Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation. New York: William Morrow, 2005.
  • Gordon S. Wood. Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different (New York: Penguin Press, 2006)

External links[edit]