Founding Fathers

We have talked about The Constitution and the separation of powers of the three branches of our government and the way our Constitution provides checks and balances so that no one person or group of people can ever exercise dictatorial powers over the American people.
Several times, I have talked about the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Who were these men who were responsible for this great document? Today we are going to look back at the beginning of our national history and call the roll of some of these men.
I will talk about seven of the Founding Fathers. These are not by any means all of them, but they are the key people, the core of leaders “who were there from the start and stayed to the finish” as one writer put it. They “not only had an impact on the War of Revolution but were the leaders in the development of the national government.”
I have to admit that the selection I am presenting is not original. Richard B. Morris, Professor of History at Columbia University, in an article printed in U.S. News and World Report listed his selections which I will pass on to you. You can decide if you agree or disagree with Professor Morris.
Who do you think should be number 1? Professor Morris says Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, printer, editor, inventor, scientist, diplomat, statesman, one of the best minds among all the early leaders in the Colonies. Franklin helped draft The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. He was the first Postmaster-General for the United States. He was also sent as an emissary of the Colonies to Canada, England, and France. Franklin was a man of tremendous ability and intellect. He was also a master of diplomacy, a very down to earth man with plenty of common sense.
Number 2 is George Washington of Virginia, surveyor, planter, soldier in the French and Indian Wars, Commander-in-Chief of the American armies during seven years of the Revolutionary War, President of the Constitutional Convention, and first President of the United States. Washington was truly an outstanding leader in war and peace. He had a great sense of morality and personal honor. I think that I would be inclined to disagree with Professor Morris here. I would put Washington first and Benjamin Franklin in second place.
Number 3 is John Adams of Boston, Massachusetts, one of the members of the renowned Adams family. Adams was a man of courage, a leader all the way through the struggle for independence. He was an important figure in the adoption of The Declaration of Independence and the drafting of The Constitution. He helped negotiate the peace agreement with Great Britain after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. He was America’s first ambassador to Great Britain, was Vice President under President George Washington and became the second President of the United States.
Number 4 is Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, one of the most talented men in all of our history. Jefferson was the author of The Declaration of Independence, Governor of Virginia, Minister to France, Secretary of State in Washington’s Cabinet, Vice President under John Adams and the third President. He was a great champion of people.
Number 5 is John Jay of New York, a noted lawyer, Chief Justice for New York State, a member of Congress, Minister to Spain, Secretary for Foreign Affairs for the Colonies, a member of the commission with Benjamin Franklin to negotiate peace with Great Britain. Jay was appointed by President Washington to be the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Number 6 is Alexander Hamilton of New York, a soldier, statesman, financial expert who was President Washington’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton’s policies brought financial stability to the new government. While still a young man, Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr.
Number 7 is James Madison of Virginia, who was the main author of The Constitution. He was also the man who introduced the resolution in Congress to amend The Constitution by adding the first ten amendments, which we know as The Bill of Rights. Madison was Secretary of State under Jefferson and then became the fourth President of the United States. He was a man of small stature and was shy and unassuming, but he was an intellectual giant.
Professor Morris notes that we have never had such a collection of great leaders at any one time in our nation’s history. We have had great individual leaders such as Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, but the revolutionary era produced the greatest group of dedicated men this country has ever known.

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