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Advice from the Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson

Advice from the Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson

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Over the course of his life, Thomas Jefferson developed a list of ideas for those wishing to be on their best personal behavior. A Dozen Canons of Conduct in Life, is a list he sent to his granddaughter, Cornelia Jefferson Randolph.

Thomas Jefferson: The Scholar Farmer

F ew figures in American history are studied or debated as frequently as Thomas Jefferson. A colleague once remarked that American history and American politics are simple: you are either a Jeffersonian or a Hamiltonian. He might be right. Little has changed in two hundred years. Modern political ideology has blended elements of both men, but in substance, Americans can be split into two distinctive camps that have nothing to do with party affiliation: you either believe in a government of restraint or a government of action. Jefferson did not have the military record of Washington or the political stature, at least at first, of his fellow Virginian Patrick Henry, but his legacy, while not always correctly interpreted, has had a more lasting impact on American political life than most men in the Founding generation.

Thomas Jefferson was born on 13 April 1743 at his family plantation called Shadwell. His father, Peter Jefferson, earned his way into Virginia society through perseverance and marriage. The Jefferson clan arrived in the colonies around 1677, and like Washington, Thomas Jefferson was a fourth generation American. Jefferson’s mother, Jane Randolph, was a member of one of the most powerful families in Virginia. Peter Jefferson ensured social standing for his children through his union to Jane and by conducting himself as a Southern gentleman. He made the first accurate map of Virginia, helped survey the boundary line between North Carolina and Virginia, and served as a burgess and county lieutenant for Albermarle. When Peter Jefferson died, he bequeathed Thomas Jefferson 2,750 acres of land and an established place in the community.

Thomas Jefferson obtained a rigorous education in his youth. He studied the classics, particularly the histories and philosophy of Greece and Rome, French, and mathematics. Jefferson grew attached to the land in his youth and developed an affinity for Virginian society that continued throughout his life. He entered the College of William and Mary in 1760 at sixteen and was graduated at eighteen. This was not uncommon at the time young men with talent rose quickly through the formal education “system” and began their careers. To that end, Jefferson studied law, and continued his study of the classics under George Wythe, the first and only law professor in Virginia at the time. Jefferson had a natural talent for legal work, but little appetite to apply it in court. He was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767, but never practiced law after 1775. In 1772, Jefferson married a beautiful widow, Martha Wayles Skelton she died ten years later. Jefferson was a devoted husband, and the marriage produced six children, two of whom lived to adulthood. The loss of his wife buried Jefferson in a deep, lasting depression, and he promised that he would not marry after her death. He never did.

Shortly after their marriage, Thomas Jefferson and his wife moved to Monticello, where all their children were born. Monticello became his passion his happiest occupation was building and perfecting his mountain-top plantation. By 1775, he owned close to 10,000 acres and between 100 to 200 slaves, and with both came the debt and financial concerns that often plagued Southern planters. Jefferson maintained meticulous records of plantation life, from the activities of his slaves to the temperature, foliage, and migratory patterns of birds and wildlife. He was a naturalist and scientist with a passion for education. This pursuit of learning led him to charter the University of Virginia in 1819, a project he had envisioned since at least 1800. He wanted his college to be “temptation to the youth of other States to come and drink of the cup of knowledge and fraternize with us.” Even more important, Jefferson wanted his fellow Virginians to be educated in their own state, to be free from the corruption of the “dark Federalist mills,” such as Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. The University of Virginia, he believed, would perpetuate the agrarian order of Virginia. He listed the founding of the institution as one of his most important contributions to his state.

In the years leading up to the Revolution, Jefferson gained political experience as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. He was renowned less as an orator than as a writer. His A Summary View of the Rights of British America, written in 1774, justified American grievances against the crown on the basis of their common, natural rights as Englishmen. Jefferson emphasized that life and liberty were granted through God, and though the “hand of force may destroy, [it] cannot disjoin them.” As in the case of the later Declaration, the Summary was aggressive but conservative.

Thomas Jefferson begged the king in the spirit of “fraternal love” to check the oppressive acts of Parliament and maintain harmony throughout the empire. The colonists, who had carved a life for themselves through their own blood and toil and were of right Englishmen, had legitimate concern with the belligerent and unconstitutional acts forced upon them. Jefferson maintained the colonies were granted freedom of trade through “natural right” and demanded that taxing power be vested in the colonial legislatures. He was not a separatist in 1774. Jefferson believed the colonies could no longer suffer through the “slavery” of oppressive and unconstitutional government, but he preferred peaceful reconciliation to separation.

Though elected as an alternate, Thomas Jefferson spent little time in the Continental Congress before May 1776. He was appointed the commander of the Albemarle militia and organized his county’s defense, but he did not see military duty during the war. In June 1776, Congress elected Jefferson—along with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston—to draft a declaration of independence. The Declaration was, in the words Jefferson’s biographer Dumas Malone, the document that justified the “secession of the colonies from the Mother Country.” In Jefferson’s mind, the colonists were acting within their sovereign, natural rights as Englishmen to resist tyranny. Those sovereign rights were to be exercised by the sovereign states.

The Declaration affirms that the colonies “are, and of Right out to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES . . . and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do.” The emphasis is in the original, and the use of the plural, “independent states,” is not an accident. When Jefferson referred to his “country” he always meant Virginia, and it was this idea that the colonies were free and independent states, united by common interest, that later made Jefferson such an ardent proponent of limiting the power of the Federal government and reaffirming the rights of the states. During the Revolution, Jefferson served in the Virginia House of Delegates until he was elected governor in 1779. He helped draft the first constitution for Virginia in 1776, a document that created a bicameral legislature with an independent executive and a declaration of rights. This constitution would be the model for the United States Constitution.

In 1779, he authored a bill for establishing religious liberty, the “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom,” a document that he believed to be his most important contribution to his state. The bill, which did not pass until 1786, with James Madison as its champion, is often used to illustrate Thomas Jefferson’s distaste for established “religion.” But Jefferson and every other American in the eighteenth century understood established religion to mean an established church, such as the Church of England. The bill was meant as an abettor, not a hindrance, to freedom of religion in the state.

The war took its toll on Thomas Jefferson, as it did on everyone else. In 1781, the British occupied Richmond. Benedict Arnold’s “American Legion” of British loyalists sacked the Governor’s House, Jefferson’s home as governor. The following year Jefferson’s wife died, and his own health was uncertain. From 1781, his last year as governor, to 1783, the last year of the Revolutionary War, Jefferson retired from public life and devoted himself to writing Notes on the State of Virginia. The Notes is the fullest expression we have of Jefferson’s views on philosophy, education, science, and politics. He believed that his beloved Virginia needed improvements, and he openly discussed them, but he also understood that his freedom and individuality were only possible because of the rigid structure of the old order of Virginia life, an order that had been defined from the earliest settlers to Virginia and perpetuated by the moral, geographical, legal, and political boundaries of his state. In plain terms, tradition allowed freedom, not just for Jefferson the aristocrat, but for the members of his community regardless of status. The Notes explicitly recognized and defended this maxim.

“In God’s name, from whence have they derived this power (dictatorship during the Revolution)? Is it from our ancient laws? None such can be produced. Is it from any principle in our new constitution (of Virginia), expressed or implied? Every lineament of that expressed or implied, is in full opposition to it. Its fundamental principle is, that the state shall be governed as a commonwealth. It provides a republican organization, proscribes under the name of prerogative the exercise of all powers undefined by the laws places on this basis the whole system of our laws and, by consolidating them together, chuses [SIC] that they shall be left to stand or fall together, never providing for any circumstances, nor admitting that such could arise, wherein either should be suspended, no, not for a moment. Our ancient laws expressly declare, that those who are but delegates themselves shall not delegate to others powers which require judgment and integrity in their exercise.”

After accepting his election as a delegate to the Congress of the United States in 1783, Thomas Jefferson authored the bill that ceded Virginia’s western lands, which extended from the Ohio Valley to the Mississippi River, to the new central government, quite possibly the most substantial act of generosity in American history. Since the early stages of the Revolution, Jefferson had envisioned this territory as room for American expansion, for the creation of new states, as equal and sovereign as the other American states. Jefferson also determined that the western territory should be free from slavery. If early western land legislation had been drafted according to his wishes, slavery would have been forbidden in all western territory after 1800. As it stood, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, a document modeled after Jefferson’s designs, prohibited slavery in the territory until the said territory became a state. At that point the sovereign state could legislate for the institution as it wished. Jefferson owned slaves, but he could also see the potentially destructive nature of the system, thus his insistence on the exclusion of slavery in the territories and his attempted inclusion of a statement condemning slavery in the Declaration of Independence.

Diplomat and secretary of state

Thomas Jefferson began his career as a diplomat in 1784 when he helped negotiate a trade agreement with Prussia from 1785 to 1789 he was the United States ambassador to France and from 1789 until his resignation in 1793 he was secretary of state. Jefferson was something of a Francophile he liked the French and preferred them to the English, whom he thought arrogant and selfish. Although he thought America could continue to benefit from its relationship with France, it is a common misconception that Jefferson wanted to make the United States more like France. He did not. While he sympathized with the leaders of the early stages of the French Revolution, he was disgusted by the violence and turmoil of the Reign of Terror and was shocked and dismayed by the ascension of Napoleon Bonaparte to power. He admired French arts, but did not think much of their science or philosophy. Jefferson was born with an English mind and educated English minds were molded by the classics of Greece and Rome it was the classics, not the French philosophes, that framed his philosophy.

As Washington’s choice for first secretary of state under the Constitution, Jefferson accepted, but not without reservation. He continued to long for retirement from public service, but believed duty required him to be a good steward of the new Constitution, and also to watch the designs of the potential “monarchists” who had gained control of the central government during his long absence in France. Jefferson developed a clearer picture of American political life during this period. He became convinced that some Americans were attempting to subvert the principles of the Revolution, consolidate power, and trample on American liberty. His fears appeared justified when Hamilton presented his First Report on the Public Credit and advocated the establishment of a Bank of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson wished to “preserve the lines drawn by the Federal Constitution between the general and particular governments as it stands at present, and to take every prudent means to prevent either from stepping over it.” Hamilton’s program overstepped these boundaries. Jefferson had long been suspicious of Hamilton. He thought Hamilton was generally a good man, but did not understand his infatuation with Britain and its system of government, including its corruption, which Hamilton simply accepted without demur.

Jefferson outlined his understanding of the Constitution in his challenge to the bank. Because chartering a bank or any other corporation was not a specific power delegated to the central government by the Constitution, the bank could not be created. Jefferson argued that Hamiltonianism “flowed from principles adverse to liberty, and was calculated to undermine and demolish the republic. . . . ” It meant, in short, an ever expanding federal government which would of necessity be an enemy of freedom. Jefferson faced an international crisis in his final year as secretary of state that underlined his differences with Hamilton.

In 1793, the French appointed Edmond Charles Genêt as minister to the United States. Jefferson described him as a hothead, and Genêt created controversy when he attempted to commission Americans to act as privateers and seize British shipping Genêt also publicly and repeatedly disparaged George Washington. Genêt wanted the United States to join France’s war with Great Britain. Washington had no interest in another war with Britain. Neither did Jefferson, who eventually requested that the government of France recall Genêt recall from the United States.

In April 1793, Washington issued his famous Neutrality Proclamation. Jefferson supported neutrality, but thought Washington was overreaching his authority. Jefferson knew that Hamilton, the pro-British Federalist, was actually behind the proclamation. Jefferson urged Madison to challenge it, which he did. Madison argued that treaty-making was the sole responsibility of Congress, and that by issuing a “proclamation” of neutrality, the executive was seizing power not delegated to it by the Constitution and violating the principle of congressional oversight over questions of war and peace. Madison and the Jeffersonian Republicans are generally seen as sympathetic to the French, while the Federalists were sympathetic to Britain. But what was really at stake was not a matter of sympathies but of Jefferson’s desire to maintain a strict obedience to the Constitution and the limits it set on the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of the Federal government.

Retirement and vice president

Because he was increasingly at odds with Hamilton and Hamilton’s growing influence over Washington, Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State in 1793. At fifty-one (the same age as Washington when he “retired” in 1783), Jefferson believed he was leaving public service for good. He brought his family to Monticello. First and foremost, Jefferson was a traditional Virginia planter. He believed agrarian life, coupled with “the eye of vigilance,” provided the best security against what he saw as the evils of centralization, consolidation, and urbanization.

Thomas Jefferson implemented a scientific rotation of crops, then a novel experiment, added a grist-mill and nail factory to make the plantation more self-sufficient, and expanded Monticello. Jefferson wrote in the Notes that towns were unimportant in Virginia because commerce could be conducted along rivers. In any event, the goal for the planter was selfsufficiency so that he didn’t have to dirty his hands too much with the money-grubbing of the merchant class. The goal was to be a gentleman, and as one Virginian wrote in 1773, “The people of fortune . . . are the pattern of all behaviour here.” Politics was a duty, but the plantation was center of his life.

Duty called again. Jefferson finished second in the 1796 presidential election, and accordingly, served one term as vice-president. He fulfilled his constitutional duties and even wrote the definitive manual on parliamentary practice in the Senate. His defining moment as vice president, however, was not in any official capacity. It was during the Quasi-War with France, when the Federalists, worried that French revolutionary ideas and agents were spreading to America, issued the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Jefferson responded by writing, in secret, the Kentucky Resolutions for the state legislature of Kentucky. The Constitution, the resolutions stated, is a compact among the states, and if the federal government, as the agent of the contracting parties, breached that compact by violating its delegated authority (as in the Alien and Sedition Acts), the states had a right to declare such acts null and void. Popular opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts doomed the Federalist Party, which was defeated by Jefferson and the Republican Party in 1801.

The presidency

Thomas Jefferson detested his time as president. He was elected by Congress in 1801 after the Electoral College returns ended in a tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Hamilton, who considered Jefferson to be the safer man, prodded Federalists in Congress to vote for Jefferson. He was elected by one vote on the thirty-sixth ballot. Jefferson viewed his election as a second revolution, and though he did not desire office and considered his election more of a curse than a blessing, he nevertheless seized the opportunity to place his stamp on the executive branch. As the third president and the first of an opposition “party,” Jefferson sought to downgrade the presidency and place it within its proper constitutional position.

Jefferson took office on 4 March 1801. In his first symbolic move, Jefferson walked to the capitol building rather than ride in a coach. He wanted to portray an image of humility and republican simplicity. Jefferson was many things, and enemies described him as cunning and petty, but no one could rightfully accuse him of ambition. He was setting an example that he hoped future presidents would emulate. The president was to be the faithful defender of constitutional powers, but nothing more, and show leadership in restraint.

The most famous line from his first inaugural address, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists,” is often taken out of context. In the next sentence, Jefferson stated, “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments to the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” In other words, we can get along, but if the Federalists would like to secede and create a monarchy, go ahead. Though we may not agree with you, we won’t stop you.

Thomas Jefferson outlined his plans for government later in the address. He desired “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies. . . . ” Jefferson’s belief in abiding by the letter of the Constitution, strictly limiting Federal power, and jealously guarding states’ rights would have made him an opponent of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Square Deal,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal,” John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier,” Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “Great Society,” George W. Bush’s “Compassionate Conservatism,” and Barack Obama’s unprecedentedly massive expansion of federal spending and debt. Jefferson would also have warned against joining NATO or any other military alliance.

Jefferson’s vision of government was simple: “A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” He wanted a government that paid its debts with “economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burdened.” He wanted government “enlightened by a benign religion . . . inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man.” He wanted a government that jealously protected the sovereignty of the people through election, and that understood that the people held the right to use the “sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided” against overreaching government. A government possessing these attributes “is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”

“These principles,” Jefferson said in his first inaugural address, “form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed by which to try the services of those we trust and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.”

Thomas Jefferson followed through. The federal debt was cut in half taxes were reduced or eliminated, and appropriations were only given for specific purposes. Jefferson often personally answered the door to the executive mansion and worked in his slippers. One socialite described his appearance during this period as one that had “no pretensions to elegance, but it was neither coarse nor awkward, and it must be owned that his greatest personal attraction was a countenance beaming with benevolence and intelligence.” He eliminated official state dinners, delivered his annual messages to Congress in written form rather than in person, and generally downgraded the importance of the executive office. Opponents, even those in his own party, called him inconsistent, and Jefferson did have to mold his persona to the office at times, but he believed he was following the prescriptions set forth in his first inaugural.

One example of his “inconsistency” occurred in 1807. During the previous six years of his presidency, Jefferson tried in vain to renegotiate the terms of Jay’s Treaty. With a fresh outbreak of warfare between France and England, the United States was again in the crosshairs of the most powerful military forces in Europe, with both powers seeking to drag the United States onto its side, embargoing the other. Jefferson wished to remain neutral and avoid the “entangling alliances” that could wreck the United States. The path of neutral trade had been blazed by Washington and by Jefferson as the first secretary of state and now as president. The experience of the Revolution also played a role in his decision to remain neutral. The young United States was in no position to wage war against either power, but the British were making things difficult. They harassed United States merchants and impressed its sailors. Jefferson applied diplomatic pressure to no avail. Then the British struck.

In 1807, the USS Chesapeake was fired upon by the H.M.S. Leopard in American waters. This act of aggression dictated war, but Jefferson hesitated and chose commercial rather than military action. He refused to ask for a declaration of war and instead drew plans for the most controversial bill of his career. He ordered all British vessels out of American waters and asked Congress for an embargo against all international commerce. This plan had its origins in the American Revolution. Non-importation, the favorite tactic of the colonists against the British, worked before, and Jefferson believed an assault on British commerce would surly weaken the empire again.

Unfortunately, his plan backfired. The British had other commercial outlets, and the only victims of the embargo proved to be honest New England merchants (whom Jefferson didn’t much care for) and Southern planters who needed some imported manufactured goods and British outlets for cash crops. Members in Jefferson’s own party blasted the embargo as unconstitutional. Jefferson insisted the policy was the most effective way to maintain peace, and believed if it had more time to work the British economy would have been crippled. He never found out. Jefferson left office in 1809 with little support from his fellow Virginia republicans and a tarnished reputation made worse by the incessant attacks of an unfriendly press.

Historians often showcase the Louisiana Purchase as the crown jewel of Thomas Jefferson’s inconsistency. After concluding a war with the British in 1802, the French received a large chunk of the North American continent through the Spanish. The territory and the prospect of a North American empire seemed intriguing to Napoleon Bonaparte, military dictator of the French “Republic.” It terrified Jefferson. He remarked that if Napoleon were to control Louisiana and the Mississippi, “we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation.” This conflicted with Jefferson’s ideas of American independence and peaceful neutrality.

Thomas Jefferson sent a secret diplomatic delegation to France to gain the use of Louisiana and the Mississippi, but when the two-man team arrived in France, they were surprised by the offer: all of the territory for a steal, $15 million or what turned out to be roughly three cents an acre. The treaty was worked out without Jefferson’s knowledge—they couldn’t just pick up the “red-phone” and let him know—and they returned to the United States in 1803 and presented it to Congress and the president. Congress had only authorized Monroe to spend $2 million for New Orleans and West Florida, so the increase in funds needed approval. Because it increased the public debt by nearly 20 percent, Jefferson’s secretary of the treasury, Swiss-born Albert Gallatin, was forced to finance a deal he thought went against republican principles, and it did contradict republican ideals of independence because most of the stock used to finance the purchase were sold to foreign banks. Jefferson also had to wrestle with the constitutionality of the measure.

He did not think the Constitution permitted the United States to acquire territory. James Madison persuaded him otherwise, but for good measureThomas Jefferson immediately went to work drafting a constitutional amendment that permitted the acquisition. When nary a soul confronted Jefferson on the constitutionality of the matter (even the staunch strict-constructionist John Randolph of Roanoke supported the purchase at the time, though he later changed course) Jefferson considered the issue dead and did not follow-up. The Senate ratified the treaty with little debate.

On the one hand, Jefferson maintained American independence by steering clear of British attempts to hook the United States into an alliance against Napoleon, but on the other the treaty saddled the county with more debt than Gallatin or some other Republicans could stomach. It also laid the foundation for the sectional conflict of the mid-nineteenth century. But these problems appear more clearly in hindsight than they did at the time. Jefferson concluded that American independence was more important than any other issue and thought the Louisiana Purchase did more to augment republican principles than destroy them. Had he known of the future problems adding Louisiana would present, he may have pressed his case for a constitutional amendment more firmly and may have proceeded more cautiously. Either way, the case of “inconsistency” is only an issue if the diplomatic realities of the time and Jefferson’s desire to remain independent are ignored.

The Jeffersonian tradition

Thomas Jefferson spent the final seventeen years of his life at Monticello living as a gentleman planter. He worked on various educational projects, including the foundation of the University of Virginia, and carried on extensive correspondence with his friends, both foreign and domestic. Jefferson was deeply in debt and died virtually broke. He sold his personal library of 10,000 volumes to the federal government following the War of 1812 in order to restock the burned Library of Congress and to gain much needed cash. Interestingly, although faced with a crushing financial burden, Jefferson continued to lend his less fortunate friends money, a policy he followed most of his life. He was benevolent to the end.

Thomas Jefferson died on 4 July 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and just hours before John Adams, the only other former president who signed the document. This was a fitting end to his life. He instructed that his tombstone read simply, “Here was Buried Thomas Jefferson Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia of Religious Freedom, and the Father of the University of Virginia.” He is buried under no grand monument, but a simple obelisk.

Thomas Jefferson remains an inspiration to Americans who revere liberty and states’ rights and want a strictly limited federal government. Two of Jefferson’s grandchildren served the Confederate States of America on just these grounds. His eldest grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, was given a commission as a colonel in the Confederate army, while his youngest grandson, George Wythe Randolph, served as a brigadier general in the Confederate army and later as the Confederate Secretary of War. He also had numerous great-grandsons who served in the Confederate military. His family remained loyal to their “country” of Virginia and to Jefferson’s conviction that “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

2. ‘Never trouble another for what you can do yourself’

To many modern people, this may sound a bit harsh, as if Jefferson is suggesting we should never reach out for help. But that would be a misreading. In fact, Jefferson suggests we first take stock of what we can do ourselves, do it, and to the extent that falls short, then ask for help. In my own life, and observing the lives of many others, the sense of “earned accomplishment” is crucial to a healthy sense of identity. We’re more capable of tackling the challenges of life after developing a healthy confidence in ourselves—a confidence that’s secure enough to ask for help when needed.

Banneker earned notice for his work as an astronomer and surveyor

Banneker was born in 1731 in rural Baltimore County, Maryland, one of 200 free Blacks in an area of 4,000 enslaved and 13,000 white people, and grew up in relative comfort on a 100-acre tobacco farm.

Those factoids alone made him a rarity for his era, but Banneker also displayed uncommon brainpower and ingenuity. While in his early 20s, he constructed a perfectly working wooden clock after studying the gears of a pocket watch, an achievement described as "one of the curiosities of the wild region."

He enjoyed more intellectual stimulation after befriending George Ellicott, a surveyor, mathematician and amateur astronomer who readily shared the contents of his library. Focused on tracking the motions of celestial bodies, Banneker successfully predicted a solar eclipse in 1789.

In 1791, Banneker joined Ellicott&aposs cousin Andrew to work as an assistant surveyor on the development of what would become Washington, D.C. He also put the finishing touches on a farmer&aposs almanac, which included his painstaking calculations for an ephemeris (celestial table), and sent it to a Philadelphia-based printer for publication.

Thomas Jefferson 'Came Out Very Clearly' Against LGBT Rights, Pundit Claims

If one right-wing pundit is to be believed, one of America's Founding Fathers would have absolutely no interest in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.

Self-taught "historian" David Barton, who leads a Keep The Promise PAC backing 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, claimed on Glenn Beck's radio show that Thomas Jefferson "came out very clearly" against the LGBT community during his presidency. The interview coincided with the re-release of The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, Barton's controversial 2012 book which examined Jefferson's views on government, marriage and Christianity.

"He actually introduced a bill that said that laws should be those that are recognized by the Bible," Barton told Beck. "Marriage should be based on biblical recognition. So, he said marriage has got to be defined by what the Bible defines it as. That's the law that he introduced."

Jefferson, he continued, "also said that sexual relations were designed for procreation, not for entertainment. So sexual relations was designed by the Creator, throughout the law of nature, for procreation. Anything that violates that, violates the laws of nature."

Lies is now being re-released by conservative website WorldNetDaily after its original publisher, Thomas Nelson, ceased distribution of the book shortly after it was originally published, citing "basic truths [that] just were not there," according to NPR.

The remarks aren't particularly surprising given Barton's history of anti-LGBT rhetoric. In 2015, he suggested that the American government could, in theory, outlaw homosexuality, and claimed that child molesters would be free to openly serve in the U.S. military once the ban on transgender service members is lifted.

Not sure where you get your information from, David, but we're having a hard time taking you seriously when your research has been so widely debunked.

Advice from the Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson - HISTORY

This portrait was painted when Thomas Jefferson won the presidential election, and became the official third president of the United States.

Questions For Thomas Jefferson

I would ask this question because Thomas Jefferson's biggest passion in life was writing. In fact, he wrote about 30 political documents. When he was in his 30's, his house burned down, and he said that he had lost it, and it was like 'every piece of my life is in the ashes.' I think it would be a good question, and I am interested in knowing the answer.

I think this would be a qu estion to ask, because Congress deleted al l his work, a nd their only hope for liberty. Tho mas Jefferson must have been really mad, beca use he worked so hard , and he might also feel hate toward the British when they destroye d all of his hard work without reading any of it.

This wound be a good question to ask, because I think that Thomas Jefferson might have g a ve up, but not c o mpletely. It was a really to ugh time: there was hardly any m oney, the British were adding more taxes, and they were getting attacked for even speaking their minds.

I think I woul d ask this question because back then so many people w ere dying early , and Thomas Jefferso n lived for so long.

This would be a good question to ask, because Thomas J efferson was very successful in school , and he had such a good education , and I think that he would have good words of advice for people who are in school.


The First Continental Congress met briefly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1774, consisting of 56 delegates from all thirteen American colonies except Georgia. 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 were 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. [12] New arrivals included Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, John Hancock of Massachusetts, John Witherspoon of New Jersey, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton of Maryland, who was named as a late delegate due to [ clarification needed ] his being Roman Catholic. 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. [13] 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.

The newly founded country of the United States had to create a new government to replace their governance by 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. [14] The Constitutional Convention took place during the summer of 1787, in Philadelphia. [15] 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 and the replacement of the Continental Congress with the United States Congress.

The Founding Fathers represented a cross-section of 18th-century U.S. leadership. According to a study of the biographies by Caroline Robbins:

The Signers came for the most part from an educated elite, were residents of older settlements, and belonged with a few exceptions to a moderately well-to-do class representing only a fraction of the population. Native or born overseas, they were of British stock and of the Protestant faith. [16] [17]

They were leaders in their communities several were also prominent in national affairs. Virtually all participated in the American Revolution at the Constitutional Convention at least 29 had served in the Continental Army, most of them in positions of command. Scholars have examined the collective biography of the Founders, including both the signers of the Declaration and of the Constitution. [18]

Education Edit

Many of the Founding Fathers attended or graduated from the colonial colleges, most notably Columbia known at the time as "King's College", Princeton originally known as "The College of New Jersey", Harvard College, the College of William and Mary, Yale College and University of Pennsylvania. Some had previously been home schooled or obtained early instruction from private tutors or academies. [19] Others had studied abroad. Ironically, Benjamin Franklin who had little formal education himself would ultimately establish the College of Philadelphia (1755) "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, the University of St. Andrews, and the University of Glasgow.

Colleges attended Edit

  • College of William and Mary: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison V [20] : John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and William Williams
  • King's College (now Columbia): John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, [21] Gouverneur Morris, Robert R. Livingston and Egbert Benson. [22]
  • College of New Jersey (now Princeton): James Madison, Gunning Bedford Jr., Aaron Burr, Benjamin Rush and William Paterson
  • College of Philadelphia later merged into the University of Pennsylvania: eight signers of the Declaration of Independence and twelve signers of the U.S. Constitution[23]
  • Yale College: Oliver Wolcott, Andrew Adams
  • Queen's College (now Rutgers): James Schureman attended the University of St. Andrews, the University of Glasgow, [24]

Advanced degrees and apprenticeships Edit

Doctors of Medicine Edit

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 [26] were trained as lawyers through apprenticeships in the colonies while a few trained at the Inns of Court in London. Charles Carroll of Carrollton earned his law degree at Temple 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

The great majority were born in the Thirteen Colonies, but at least nine were born in other parts of the British Empire:

  • England: Robert Morris, Button Gwinnett : Butler, Fitzsimons, McHenry and Paterson : Hamilton : Wilson and Witherspoon

Many of them had moved from one colony to another. Eighteen had already lived, studied or worked in more than one 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.

Occupations Edit

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. [27]

  • As many as thirty-five including Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and Jay were trained as lawyers though not all of them practiced law. Some had also been local judges. [28]
  • Washington trained as a land surveyor before he became commander of a small militia.
  • 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.
  • Broom and Few were small farmers.
  • Franklin, McHenry and Mifflin had retired from active economic endeavors.
  • Franklin and Williamson were scientists, in addition to their other activities.
  • McClurg, McHenry, Rush and Williamson were physicians.
  • Johnson and Witherspoon were college presidents.

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. [29]

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. [27]

  • 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 derived income from plantations or large farms which they owned or managed, which relied upon the labor of enslaved men and women particularly in the Southern colonies: Bassett, Blair, Blount, Davie, [30] Johnson, Butler, Carroll, Jefferson, Jenifer, Madison, Mason, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Rutledge, Spaight, and Washington.
  • Eight of the men received a substantial part of their income from public office: Baldwin, Blair, Brearly, Gilman, Livingston, Madison, and Rutledge.

Prior political experience Edit

Several of the Founding Fathers had extensive national, state, local and foreign political experience prior to the adoption of the Constitution in 1787. Some had been diplomats. Several had been members of the Continental Congress or elected president of that body.

    began his political career as a city councilman and then Justice of the Peace in Philadelphia. He was next elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly and was sent by them to London as a colonial agent which helped hone his diplomatic skills. , Adams, Jay and Franklin all acquired significant political experience as ministers to countries in Europe. and John Jay drafted the Constitutions of their respective states, Massachusetts and New York, and successfully navigated them through to adoption.
  • Jay, Thomas Mifflin and Nathaniel Gorham had served as president of the Continental Congress. had been a member of the New York Provincial Congress. , Franklin, Langdon, and Rutledge had been governors or presidents of their states. had been a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly and president of Pennsylvania's Committee of Safety. He was also a member of the Committee of Secret Correspondence. had served in the Connecticut House of Representatives. was a member of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. served in the Maryland Senate. 's first exposure to politics was as a member of Virginia's House of Burgesses. 's entry into the political arena was as a commissioner of the town of Charlestown, Maryland. was a member of the Philadelphia Committee of Safety and the Continental Congress. 's time as a member of the Continental Congress in 1776 was his introduction to colonial politics.

Nearly all of the 55 Constitutional Convention delegates had some experience in colonial and state government, and the majority had held county and local offices. [31] Those who lacked national congressional experience were Bassett, Blair, Brearly, Broom, Davie, Dayton, Alexander Martin, Luther Martin, Mason, McClurg, Paterson, Charles Pinckney, Strong, and Yates.

Religion Edit

Franklin T. Lambert (2003) has examined the religious affiliations and beliefs of some of the Founders. Of the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, 28 were Anglicans (i.e. Church of England or Episcopalian, after the American Revolutionary War was won), 21 were other Protestant, and two were Roman Catholic (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 notably Jefferson. [33] [34]

Historian Gregg L. Frazer argues that the leading Founders (John Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Wilson, Morris, Madison, Hamilton, and Washington) were neither Christians nor Deists, but rather supporters of a hybrid "theistic rationalism". [35]

Many Founders deliberately avoided public discussion of their faith. Historian David L. Holmes uses evidence gleaned from letters, government documents, and second-hand accounts to identify their religious beliefs. [36]

Ownership of slaves and position on slavery Edit

The founding fathers were not unified on the issue of slavery. Many of them were opposed to it and repeatedly attempted to end slavery in many of the colonies, but predicted that the issue would threaten to tear the country apart and had limited power to deal with it. In her study of Thomas Jefferson, historian Annette Gordon-Reed discusses this topic, "Others of the founders held slaves, but no other founder drafted the charter for freedom". [37] In addition to Jefferson, George Washington, and many other of the Founding Fathers were slaveowners, but some were also conflicted by the institution, seeing it as immoral and politically divisive Washington gradually became a cautious supporter of abolitionism and freed his slaves in his will. John Jay led the successful fight, along with Alexander Hamilton, to outlaw the slave trade in New York. [38] Conversely, many founders such as Samuel Adams and John Adams were against slavery their entire lives. Benjamin Rush wrote a pamphlet in 1773 which criticized the slave trade as well as the institution of slavery. In the pamphlet, Rush argued on a scientific basis that Africans were not by nature intellectually or morally inferior, and that any apparent evidence to the contrary was only the "perverted expression" of slavery, which "is so foreign to the human mind, that the moral faculties, as well as those of the understanding are debased, and rendered torpid by it." The Continental Association of 1774 contained a clause which banned any Patriot involvement in slave trading. [39] [40] [41] [42]

Franklin, though he was a key founder of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, [43] originally owned slaves whom he later manumitted. While serving in the Rhode Island Assembly, Stephen Hopkins introduced one of the earliest anti-slavery laws in the colonies, in 1769, Jefferson entered public life as a young member of the House of Burgesses, he began his career as a social reformer by an effort to secure legislation permitting the emancipation of slaves and John Jay would try unsuccessfully to abolish slavery as early as 1777 in the State of New York. [44] He nonetheless 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 helped secure and signed into law an abolition law fully ending forced labor as of 1827. He freed his own slaves in 1798. Alexander Hamilton opposed slavery, as his experiences in life left him very familiar with slavery and its effect on slaves and on slaveholders, [45] although he did negotiate slave transactions for his wife's family, the Schuylers. [46] John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Paine never owned slaves. [47]

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". [43] [48] 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. [48] In 1782 Virginia passed a manumission law that allowed slave owners to free their slaves by will or deed. [49] As a result, thousands of slaves were manumitted in Virginia. [49] Thomas Jefferson, in 1784, proposed to ban slavery in all the Western Territories, which failed to pass Congress by one vote. [48] Partially following Jefferson's plan, Congress did ban slavery in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, for lands north of the Ohio River. [48]

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. [48] 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. Among them was Patrick Henry of Virginia, who in response to questions about his refusal to attend was quick to reply, "I smelled a rat." He believed that the frame of government the convention organizers were intent on building would trample upon the rights of citizens. [50] Also, Rhode Island's lack of representation at the convention was due to leader's 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. [51]

Spouses and children Edit

Only four (Baldwin, Gilman, Jenifer, and Alexander Martin) were lifelong bachelors. Many of the Founding Fathers' wives, like Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Sarah Livingston Jay, Dolley Madison, Mary White Morris and Catherine Alexander Duer, were strong women who made significant contributions of their own to the fight for liberty. [52]

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. George Washington, who became known as "The Father of His Country", [53] had no biological children, though he and his wife raised two children from her first marriage and two grandchildren.

Among the state documents promulgated between 1774 and 1789 by the Continental Congress, four are paramount: the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. Altogether, 145 men signed at least one of the four documents. In each instance, roughly 50% of the names signed are unique to that document. Only a few people (6) signed three of the four, and only Roger Sherman of Connecticut signed all of them. [54] The following persons signed one or more of these United States formative documents:

Name Province/state #
CA (1774) DI (1776) AC (1777) USC (1787)
Andrew Adams Connecticut 1 Yes
John Adams Massachusetts 2 Yes Yes
Samuel Adams Massachusetts 3 Yes Yes Yes
Thomas Adams Virginia 1 Yes
John Alsop New York 1 Yes
Abraham Baldwin Georgia 1 Yes
John Banister Virginia 1 Yes
Josiah Bartlett New Hampshire 2 Yes Yes
Richard Bassett Delaware 1 Yes
Gunning Bedford Jr. Delaware 1 Yes
Edward Biddle Pennsylvania 1 Yes
John Blair Virginia 1 Yes
Richard Bland Virginia 1 Yes
William Blount North Carolina 1 Yes
Simon Boerum New York 1 Yes
Carter Braxton Virginia 1 Yes
David Brearley New Jersey 1 Yes
Jacob Broom Delaware 1 Yes
Pierce Butler South Carolina 1 Yes
Charles Carroll of Carrollton Maryland 1 Yes
Daniel Carroll Maryland 2 Yes Yes
Richard Caswell North Carolina 1 Yes
Samuel Chase Maryland 2 Yes Yes
Abraham Clark New Jersey 1 Yes
William Clingan Pennsylvania 1 Yes
George Clymer Pennsylvania 2 Yes Yes
John Collins Rhode Island 1 Yes
Stephen Crane New Jersey 1 Yes
Thomas Cushing Massachusetts 1 Yes
Francis Dana Massachusetts 1 Yes
Jonathan Dayton New Jersey 1 Yes
Silas Deane Connecticut 1 Yes
John De Hart New Jersey 1 Yes
John Dickinson Delaware 3 [a] Yes Yes
Pennsylvania Yes
William Henry Drayton South Carolina 1 Yes
James Duane New York 2 Yes Yes
William Duer New York 1 Yes
Eliphalet Dyer Connecticut 1 Yes
William Ellery Rhode Island 2 Yes Yes
William Few Georgia 1 Yes
Thomas Fitzsimons Pennsylvania 1 Yes
William Floyd New York 2 Yes Yes
Nathaniel Folsom New Hampshire 1 Yes
Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania 2 Yes Yes
Christopher Gadsden South Carolina 1 Yes
Joseph Galloway Pennsylvania 1 Yes
Elbridge Gerry Massachusetts 2 Yes Yes
Nicholas Gilman New Hampshire 1 Yes
Nathaniel Gorham Massachusetts 1 Yes
Button Gwinnett Georgia 1 Yes
Lyman Hall Georgia 1 Yes
Alexander Hamilton New York 1 Yes
John Hancock Massachusetts 2 Yes Yes
John Hanson Maryland 1 Yes
Cornelius Harnett North Carolina 1 Yes
Benjamin Harrison Virginia 2 Yes Yes
John Hart New Jersey 2 Yes
John Harvie Virginia 1 Yes
Patrick Henry Virginia 1 Yes
Joseph Hewes North Carolina 2 Yes Yes
Thomas Heyward Jr. South Carolina 2 Yes Yes
Samuel Holten Massachusetts 1 Yes
William Hooper North Carolina 2 Yes Yes
Stephen Hopkins Rhode Island 2 Yes Yes
Francis Hopkinson New Jersey 1 Yes
Titus Hosmer Connecticut 1 Yes
Charles Humphreys Pennsylvania 1 Yes
Samuel Huntington Connecticut 2 Yes Yes
Richard Hutson South Carolina 1 Yes
Jared Ingersoll Pennsylvania 1 Yes
William Jackson South Carolina 1 Yes
John Jay New York 1 Yes
Thomas Jefferson Virginia 1 Yes
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Maryland 1 Yes
Thomas Johnson Maryland 1 Yes
William Samuel Johnson Connecticut 1 Yes
Rufus King Massachusetts 1 Yes
James Kinsey New Jersey 1 Yes
John Langdon New Hampshire 1 Yes
Edward Langworthy Georgia 1 Yes
Henry Laurens South Carolina 1 Yes
Francis Lightfoot Lee Virginia 2 Yes Yes
Richard Henry Lee Virginia 3 Yes Yes Yes
Francis Lewis New York 2 Yes Yes
Philip Livingston New York 2 Yes Yes
William Livingston New Jersey 2 Yes Yes
James Lovell Massachusetts 1 Yes
Isaac Low New York 1 Yes
Thomas Lynch South Carolina 1 Yes
Thomas Lynch Jr. South Carolina 1 Yes
James Madison Virginia 1 Yes
Henry Marchant Rhode Island 1 Yes
John Mathews South Carolina 1 Yes
James McHenry Maryland 1 Yes
Thomas McKean Delaware 3 Yes Yes Yes
Arthur Middleton South Carolina 1 Yes
Henry Middleton South Carolina 1 Yes
Thomas Mifflin Pennsylvania 2 Yes Yes
Gouverneur Morris New York 2 [b] Yes
Pennsylvania Yes
Lewis Morris New York 1 Yes
Robert Morris Pennsylvania 3 Yes Yes Yes
John Morton Pennsylvania 2 Yes Yes
Thomas Nelson Jr. Virginia 1 Yes
William Paca Maryland 2 Yes Yes
Robert Treat Paine Massachusetts 2 Yes Yes
William Paterson New Jersey 1 Yes
Edmund Pendleton Virginia 1 Yes
John Penn North Carolina 2 Yes Yes
Charles Pinckney South Carolina 1 Yes
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney South Carolina 1 Yes
Peyton Randolph Virginia 1 Yes
George Read Delaware 3 Yes Yes Yes
Joseph Reed Pennsylvania 1 Yes
Daniel Roberdeau Pennsylvania 1 Yes
Caesar Rodney Delaware 2 Yes Yes
George Ross Pennsylvania 2 Yes Yes
Benjamin Rush Pennsylvania 1 Yes
Edward Rutledge South Carolina 2 Yes Yes
John Rutledge South Carolina 2 Yes Yes
Nathaniel Scudder New Jersey 1 Yes
Roger Sherman Connecticut 4 Yes Yes Yes Yes
James Smith Pennsylvania 1 Yes
Jonathan Bayard Smith Pennsylvania 1 Yes
Richard Smith New Jersey 1 Yes
Richard Dobbs Spaight North Carolina 1 Yes
Richard Stockton New Jersey 1 Yes
Thomas Stone Maryland 1 Yes
John Sullivan New Hampshire 1 Yes
George Taylor Pennsylvania 1 Yes
Edward Telfair Georgia 1 Yes
Matthew Thornton New Hampshire 1 Yes
Matthew Tilghman Maryland 1 Yes
Nicholas Van Dyke Delaware 1 Yes
George Walton Georgia 1 Yes
John Walton Georgia 1 Yes
Samuel Ward Rhode Island 1 Yes
George Washington Virginia 2 Yes Yes
John Wentworth Jr. New Hampshire 1 Yes
William Whipple New Hampshire 1 Yes
John Williams North Carolina 1 Yes
William Williams Connecticut 1 Yes
Hugh Williamson North Carolina 1 Yes
James Wilson Pennsylvania 2 Yes Yes
Henry Wisner New York 1 Yes
John Witherspoon New Jersey 2 Yes Yes
Oliver Wolcott Connecticut 2 Yes Yes
George Wythe Virginia 1 Yes

  1. ^ Dickinson signed three of the documents, two as a delegate from Delaware and one as a delegate from Pennsylvania.
  2. ^ Morris signed two of the documents, one as a delegate from New York, and one as a delegate from Pennsylvania.

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, Madison, and Monroe served in the highest U.S. office of President. Jay would be appointed as the first chief justice of the United States and later elected to two terms as Governor of New York. Alexander Hamilton would be appointed the first Secretary of the Treasury in 1789, and later Inspector General of the Army under President John Adams in 1798.

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. [52] 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

Many of the Founding Fathers were under 40 years old at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776: Aaron Burr was 20, Alexander Hamilton was 21, Gouverneur Morris was 24. The oldest were Benjamin Franklin, 70, and Samuel Whittemore, 81. [56]

A few Founding Fathers lived into their nineties, including: Paine Wingate, who died at age 98 Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who died at age 95 Charles Thomson, who died at 94 William Samuel Johnson, who died at 92 and John Adams, who died at 90. Among those who lived into their eighties were Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Whittmore, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Armstrong Jr., Hugh Williamson, and George Wythe. Approximately 16 died while in their seventies, and 21 in their sixties. Three (Alexander Hamilton, Richard Dobbs Spaight, and Button Gwinnett) were killed in duels. Two, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died on the same day, July 4, 1826. [57]

The last remaining founders, also poetically called the "Last of the Romans", lived well into the nineteenth century. [58] The last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence was Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who died in 1832. [59] The last surviving member of the Continental Congress was John Armstrong Jr., who died in 1843. He gained this distinction in 1838 upon the death of the only other surviving delegate, Paine Wingate. [60]

The following men and women also advanced the new nation through their actions.

Although there were toothbrushes of various designs (Washington used one on his dentures), the main method of cleaning the teeth included toothpicks and soft cloths. The Founding Fathers who could afford them purchased tooth powders, which mixed with water to form a paste which they applied to their teeth. Several rinsed their mouths throughout the day, using nostrums including salt water, warm water imbued with the scent of bay leaves, mint leaves, cloves and other spices, and even garlic. Salt applied with a dampened cloth scoured stains and removed tartar, grinding down the enamel at the same time. Nearly all of the Founding Fathers had personal experience with toothaches during their lifetimes.

Society considered strong, white teeth a sign of overall health and strength. Scouring with abrasives did more harm than good, and enamel weakened by cleaning fell prey to caries. Those who could no longer stand the pain of toothaches had little recourse other than extraction. Barbers, doctors, and even blacksmiths performed the extractions in the absence of dentists. The Founding Fathers, for the most part, attempted to practice dental hygiene, though their attempts often caused long-term harm. Washington suffered his first extraction at the young age of 24. By time he became President he had only one real tooth remaining, despite his records indicating large expenses to care for his dental health.

What Jefferson Said

Americans this year were confronted by a near-record 174 ballot propositions, many hitting the usual hot buttons: same-sex marriage, illegal immigration, abortion, etc. Nearly lost in this deluge were three unusual--and very intriguing--referenda on whether state constitutional conventions should be called. Voters in Connecticut, Hawaii, and Illinois had to decide--as they’re required to by their state constitutions every ten or 20 years--whether they were satisfied with their states’ foundational documents or wanted to revamp them. All three states declined to hold conventions this time, and in fact most votes of this sort fail. But that’s no reason to be dissuaded: Periodic convention referenda help unclog our political process and are worth adopting more broadly.

The idea of amending constitutions at regular intervals dates back to Thomas Jefferson. In a famous letter, he wrote that we should “provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods.” “[E]ach generation” should have the “solemn opportunity” to update the constitution “every nineteen or twenty years,” thus allowing it to “be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time.”

The Founding Fathers did not, of course, follow Jefferson’s advice. Not only does the U.S. Constitution not allow for revision by each generation, but it can be amended only by votes of two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of state legislatures. A number of states, however, proved more receptive to Jefferson’s recommendation. Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire embraced periodic convention referenda in the late 18th century, and today 14 state constitutions provide for them. About 100 such votes have been held over the course of American history, succeeding a total of 25 times in eight different states.

The first argument for periodic convention referenda is the Jeffersonian one: People alive today should have the opportunity to think seriously about how their state governments are structured and their rights allocated. It may be that everything is going swimmingly and that no changes need to be made. But it is also possible that the existing state constitution, drafted in a bygone era, has started to show its age, and that amendments are thus necessary.

This was precisely the argument made by Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, a supporter of Illinois’s 2008 referendum. “[T]he 1970 Constitution is pretty good, but after 38 years, there are several defects. And that’s why a convention … is needed to remedy those defects rather than let more decades go by without addressing those issues.” Concerns about outdated constitutions were also largely responsible for the successful referenda in New York in 1936 and Missouri in 1942. Voters in both states felt that difficult economic times required bold new constitutional measures.

Second, and more importantly, convention referenda allow voters to bypass their often obstructionist state legislatures. Legislators are notorious for blocking proposals that threaten the comfortable status quo--term limits, fair redistricting, stricter ethics rules, balanced budget requirements, etc. Constitutional conventions convened directly by the people are a way to enact needed reforms when the usual channels for change are blocked. And unlike voter initiatives, which can address only one issue at a time, conventions can overhaul dysfunctional state governments in one fell swoop.

Supporters of the 2008 convention referenda frequently made arguments of this sort. Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Willes Lee, for instance, wrote that a convention was necessary because “[t]ax relief, local school boards, tort reform and many other critical issues get put aside for special interests that reign supreme in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.” Illinois’s main pro-referendum group similarly pointed out that a convention could “call for major changes to our dysfunctional government” and “bypass the gridlock in Springfield and address decades-old structural problems.” Historically too, referenda succeeded in Ohio in 1912 and Rhode Island in 1984 because of legislative ethics scandals, and in Hawaii in 1976 because the legislature had persistently failed to address issues of concern to native Hawaiians.

Lastly, convention referenda are useful even if they fail. When the public votes against holding a constitutional convention, it sends a powerful message that it is satisfied with how things are or, at least, opposes the proposals of the convention’s supporters. Those supporters can then no longer claim a mandate for their ideas. This year in Connecticut, for example, the referendum’s backers wanted to use a convention to ban same-sex marriage and restrict the power of eminent domain. The referendum’s overwhelming rejection at the polls was immediately construed as a rebuke of these goals. As one gay rights lawyer declared, “Today Connecticut sends a message of hope and promise to lesbian and gay people. . It’s living proof that marriage equality is moving forward.”

But Connecticut’s 2008 experience also highlights the potential dark side of convention referenda: the danger that they might be used not to reform state governments, but to take away people’s rights. This danger should not be overstated, though, given that no referendum has ever passed when its supporters’ principal aim was to abridge politically unpopular rights. That referenda merely cause a constitutional convention to be convened, as opposed to directly amending a state’s constitution, provides an additional safeguard against rights-restricting mischief. For same-sex marriage to have been jeopardized in Connecticut, first the referendum needed to pass, then the convention would have had to vote to ban same-sex marriage, and then the people would have had to ratify the convention’s recommendation.

There is also no reason to worry that periodic convention referenda might give rise to excessive constitutional instability. These referenda fail about three-fourths of the time--which means they only succeed on the rare occasions when the public is convinced that constitutional change is necessary. In fact, in only one state, New Hampshire, have convention referenda passed more than three times, and those (13!) successes occurred not because New Hampshire voters love playing James Madison, but because there was, until recently, no other way to amend the state’s constitution.

The case for periodic convention referenda is thus strong. When they succeed, archaic state constitutions are updated and obstructionist state legislatures are bypassed, while individual rights are preserved. And even when they fail, the public has the chance to reflect on fundamental constitutional issues and to express its satisfaction with the status quo.

Words of Advice from our Founding Fathers

Happy Independence Day! On this day we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and the 13 colonies that separated themselves from the rule of Great Britain to establish what we now know as the United States of America.

This day will be filled with barbecues, family and friends getting together and many, many fireworks displays. And although all of these activities are fun, we certainly should not forget to reflect upon the true reason this day is such an important one in our nation&rsquos history: freedom.

And more specifically, July 4 represents the idea, pursuit and accomplishment of freedom. Our Founding Fathers had an idea that the 13 colonies now established in North America should be free to unite and govern themselves totally separate from the authority and reign of Great Britain.

Many Americans fought and died for this idea of freedom, and the opportunities we all have in America today are credited to those who came before us who not only had this idea of freedom, but were bold enough to pursue it.