Founding Fathers

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Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.

The Founding Fathers are the leaders who founded the United States, especially the 40 dignitaries who signed the U.S. Constitution at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Historians consider the most important founders to include John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. Washington is known for his leadership and honesty; Hamilton for his brilliance; John Adams for his morality; Franklin for his inventiveness; Madison for his scholarship; and Jefferson for his egalitarianism.

The 55 initial participants -- all of whom would be considered "Founders" in the broad sense of the term -- wrote 15,000 articles, books and other materials. A study found that the Bible comprised 34% of their direct quotations. They particularly liked quoting the Book of Deuteronomy.



The Founding Fathers sought "Honor" -- freedom from corruption, and a positive devotion to civic virtue. These were key elements of Republicanism, and the Founding Fathers made republicanism the core values of the American system of government.

Corruption was the great evil the Founding Fathers confronted. When Britain showed too much corruption, it was time to break free with the American Revolution. To overcome the temptations of corruption -- such as luxury and bribery -- in their own lives, the Founding Fathers cultivated the virtue of disinterestedness. That is, the made a conscious effort to not be the creature of his financial interests, and not give any sign to the public that they sought luxury or bribes. The goal was to be impartial, concerned only for the public good, not the advancement of friends or, still less, of political party.

Even personal shame and humiliation was preferable to a tarnished honor or the hint of corruption. When Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton was accused of corruption for making secret payments to a man named James Reynolds, Hamilton revealed he had been set up and was paying blackmail to Reynolds following an affair with Mrs. Reynolds. Duels over honor were common in the era -- Hamilton was killed in one, as was Hamilton's son.

Signatories of the Declaration of Independence

Signatories of the Articles of Confederation

Signatories of the United States Constitution

Other Founding Fathers

Further reading

  • Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2002), good overview of leading figures by top scholar excerpt and text search
  • McClanahan, Brion. The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers (2009), popular book by conservative writer. excerpt and text search
  • Wood, Gordon. Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different (2007), very good overview by leading conservative scholar excerpt and text search


See also

External Links

Founding Fathers Quotes

  • "There is no question that we have failed to live up to the dreams of the Founding Fathers many times and in many places. Sometimes we do better than others. But all in all, the one thing we must be on guard against is thinking that because of this, the system has failed. The system has not failed. Some human beings have failed the system." - June 21, 1973, President Ronald Reagan
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