Ascent to Greatness
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Ascent to Greatness

Chapter Six:

Americas Founding Fathers

   Who were the leading "Founding Fathers" of the United States?
   What kind of men were they? What vital roles did they play in the framing of the important state papers of America — the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution?
   America has three great state documents which were written by the Founding Fathers during and shortly after the early struggles of this nation in the Revolutionary War period. Those valuable state papers are: The Declaration of Independence (1776), The Articles of Confederation (1781),and The Constitution of the United States (1787).
   The Articles of Confederation (America's first Constitution) now has no validity, having been superseded by the present Constitution.
   Only The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution have immediate relevance to us today. Therefore, let us consider the lives of a few of the more outstanding "Founding Fathers" — men who helped frame either The Declaration or the U.S. Constitution.

The Father of Our Country

   George Washington (1732-1799)was unquestionably one of the most outstanding among the Founding Fathers. It was he who was chosen to be the Commander-in-Chief of America's armed forces during the Revolutionary War.
   Also, it was he who was later chosen to preside over the Constitutional Convention — guiding that group of men through their debates which culminated in the ultimate draft of the present U.S. Constitution.
   And, when the United States was ready to select its first President, it was only natural that such an outstanding man should have been selected.
   Washington's life was very full and active. Even as a youth, he evinced a very sober-minded approach to life. Early in his life (1749)he worked as a surveyor. Then he spent several years in the army (1753- 1758)fighting alongside British troops against the French. 'He rose from major to colonel in command of the Virginia militia in the French and Indian War.
   He also served as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1759-1774, then was appointed a delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress, and served in that capacity during 1774-1775.
   Washington was looked upon as the most brilliant American commander at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. He was appointed to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. army in 1775,and continued serving in that capacity until the end of the war in 1783.
   He was sent as one of the delegates from Virginia to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. There he was chosen to preside over the Convention, and then, as President of the Convention, he signed the Constitution.
   In 1789, Washington was chosen to become America's first President, and was inaugurated into that office on April 30, 1789,serving until 1797.
   After refusing a third term as President and retiring to Mt. Vernon, he again served as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army in 1798-1799.
   That brief sketch of his life will reveal just how busy a man he was. Much of his life was spent in the service of his country. During his eight years as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, he took no pay for his services.
   There is a tendency for some to want to debunk the Founding Fathers of this nation. It is true that they (Washington included) were only human. They made their share of mistakes.
   Of all the Founding Fathers, there is perhaps less "bad" that can be said about Washington than any of the others.
   Thomas Jefferson, who knew Washington intimately, wrote this about him in 1814:
   "His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as I saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion .... Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining when 'he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose whatever obstacles opposed.
   "His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives or interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred being able to bias his decision. He was indeed, in every sense of the word, a wise, a good and a great man .... On the whole, his character was, in its mass, perfect, in nothing bad, in few points indifferent; and it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance."

[From Sparks's Washington, Vol. XII, p. 119.]



WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and
   WHEREAS both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
   Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness. and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
   And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
   Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.




LET US unite, therefore tn imploring the Supreme Ruler of Nations to spread his holy protection over these United States to turn the machinations of the wicked to the confirming or cur Constitution; to enable us at all times to root out internal sedition and put invasion to flight to perpetuate to our country that prosperity which His goodness has already conferred, and to verify the anticipations of this Government being a safeguard to human rights.


   Washington's character traits are better known than are his physical characteristics.
   About the year 1759,a fellow-member of the House of Burgesses, by the name of George Mercer, described Washington in the following words:
   "He may be described as being straight as an Indian, measuring 6 feet 2 inches in his stockings, and weighing 175lbs, when he took his seat in the Houses of Burgesses in 1759. His frame is padded with well developed muscles, indicating great strength. His bones and' joints are large as are his hands and feet. He is wide shouldered but not a deep or round chest; is neat waisted, but is broad across the hips, and has rather long legs and arms.
   "His head is well shaped, though not large, but is gracefully poised on a superb neck. A large and straight rather than a prominent nose; blue-grey penetrating eyes which are widely separated and overhung by a heavy brow. His face is long rather than broad, with high round cheek bones, and terminates in a good firm chin. He has a clear though rather colorless pale skin which burns with the sun. A pleasing and benevolent though a commanding countenance, dark brown hair which he wears in a cue. His mouth is large and generally firmly closed, but which from time to time discloses some defective teeth.
   "His features are regular and placed with all the muscles of his face under perfect control, tho flexible and expressive of deep feeling when moved by emotions. In conversation he looks you full in the face, is deliberate, deferential and engaging. His demeanor at all time composed and dignified. His movements and gestures are graceful, his walk majestic, and he is a splendid horseman."
   When Washington was unanimously elected Commander-in-Chief, he made it clear that he did not feel qualified for the job: "I do not think my self equal to the Command I am honoured with."
   During the winter of 1777-1778,while he and his army were camped at Valley Forge, he was urged to let his troops take what they wanted from the surrounding area. But Washington refused to let the army plunder or ravage the countryside even though they were ill-clothed, ill.. fed and in need of many things. Many deserted the army that winter. Only Washington's courage and tenacity kept many others from giving up.

The Whiskey Rebellion

   President Washington was a man who could show magnanimity, but he was no pushover. He could be firm when firmness was needed.
   The federal Government of the U.S. passed a federal tax on whiskey in 1791.Since many of the Scotch-Irish farmers made their own whiskey, this excise-tax law on whiskey proved to be very unpopular. The small farmers decided they simply would not pay it. They would rebel against the federal tax.
   What would the U.S. Government do? Would it tolerate the rebellion — and forever destroy its credibility as a government with any real power to enforce its laws? A lot was at stake in this issue.
   The whiskey tax was only four pence per gallon on all distilled spirits. But to the farmers,� it was a matter of principle. They didn't intend to pay this tax come what may.
   The center of the rebellion was in western Pennsylvania. Those counties west of the Alleghenies rose in violent protest. The Allegheny Mountains separated the whiskey-distilling area from its markets in the east. A lot of grain (corn, rye, etc.) was being grown in western Pennsylvania, where farmers could ship whiskey to markets more easily and profitably than bulky grain. At that time, roads and transportation facilities were very poor. .
   When in 1794 open rebellion broke out in Pennsylvania, organized squads of armed infantry (recruited primarily from among the farmers) begin drilling. They vowed: "The Whiskey Tax will never be collected!"
   The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 proved to be the federal government's first real challenge. What would Washington do? This challenge to the federal government must have presented President Washington with a nightmarish dilemma. Here, the U.S. President (the very first leader of the new federated nation) was being challenged. America's "new experiment" in government was being put to its first serious test. Could laws passed by the U.S. Congress he enforced — especially if they were unpopular?
   Many of those hostile, western farmers had been Washington's best soldiers in the recent Revolution.
   Fortunately for the Union, Washington didn't hesitate or waver. As America's first President, he had sworn to uphold and execute the laws of the United States of America.
   But how would the President put down the Whiskey Rebellion?
   In order to enforce the federal tax law, government agents had to enter homes and collect money from small whiskey producers. Throughout the whole Union, the farmers protested this. In 1792, the U.S. Congress removed the whiskey tax from the smallest stills. This satisfied the farmers of North Carolina and Virginia, but the whiskey makers in western Pennsylvania still flatly refused to pay the tax.
   President Washington called upon the governors of four states, and ordered them to organize fifteen thousand troops to occupy the area in rebellion, and restore order. They were to enforce the federal laws.
   By the summer of 1794,the federal government was ready to act. It ordered Pennsylvania ringleaders arrested. A number of bitter fights between U.S. marshals and the rebel farmers followed. Before the struggle was over, several had been killed or wounded. It was at this point, that President Washington ordered federal troops to squash the rebellion.
   When the rebels saw that the federal government meant business, they quickly laid down their arms. Even though many were arrested, only two rebel leaders were convicted of treason and imprisoned.
   But even these were soon pardoned by President Washington. He could afford to be magnanimous now that the Whiskey Rebellion had been quelled. Washington had proven his point. The rebellion had served as a timely "testing ground" concerning the use of federal power to enforce federal laws within a state.
   It was fortunate for the U.S. — and for the world — that Washington had the foresight and the firmness to deal wisely, firmly with the rebels. Later presidents (Jackson, Lincoln and Eisenhower) would have to take similar action — but under different circumstances — to preserve the authority and the unity of the federal Union.

Washington's Death

   Washington wrote his last note on December 1799.In that letter to Alexander Hamilton, he discussed the importance of establishing a national military academy. Then Washington went for his daily horseback ride around Mount Vernon. The day was cold and dreary — with snow turning into rain and sleet. When Washington returned home five hours later, he sat down to dinner without changing his damp clothes.
   On the following day, the 13th, he awoke with a sore throat. Washington then went for a walk, after which he made his last entry in his diary: "Morning snowing and about. 3 inches deep ... Mer. 28 at Night." Those were his last written words. When his secretary, Tobias Lear, suggested he take something for his cold, he replied; "N 0, you know I never take anything for a cold. Let it go as it came."
   Washington awakened Martha between 2 and 3 a.m. on the following morning, December 14, 1799. He informed her that he was quite ill and he was having great difficulty in speaking. When the new day dawned, Washington sent for James Craik, Who had been his friend and doctor since he was a young man.
   Even before the doctor arrived, Washington had called in his farm overseer Albin Rawlins and had him drain about a cup of blood from his veins (a common medical practice of the day). When his doctor arrived, he examined Washington and told him he had "inflammatory quinsy." Craik bled Washington again.
   Later that same day, two more doctors arrived. Again, the dying man was bled.iHe was bled four times in all. Later that same afternoon, Washington could hardly speak. He told the anxious doctors "I feel myself going. You had better not take any more trouble about me, but let me gooffquietly. I cannot last long."
   About 10 p.m. that same night, a greatly weakened Washington whispered: "I am just going. Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put in the vault in less than two days after I am dead. Do you understand me?" His private secretary answered: "Yes, sir." Washington replied: "Tis well." Then he felt his own pulse, and died immediately afterward.
   Doctor Gustavus R. Brown, one of the physicians who attended Washington before his death, wrote in 1800, admitting that he believed Washington's death had been caused by too much blood-letting. Nonetheless, he defended the treatment in the following words: "We were governed by the best light we had; we thought we were right, and so we were justified."
   In actuality, the farm overseer and the doctors only succeeded in bleeding Washington to death. They extracted more than five pints — about 50 percent of his blood.
   Shortly before his death, Washington said: "Doctor, I die hard, but — I am not afraid to go. I believed, from my first attack, that I should not survive it — my breath cannot last long."
   When Washington died, the nation was plunged into mourning, and his body was interred with military honors in the family tomb at Mount Vernon.

Tributes to Washington

   The most famous eulogy to Washington's honored memory was delivered by Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, one of Washington's former officers, at the funeral ceremony held by Congress on December 26, 1799:
   First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life: pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere, uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting.

   After Washington's death, his secretary wrote the following letter to President John Adams:

MOUNT VERNON, December 15,1799


   Sir: It is with inexpressible grief that I have to announce to you the death of the great and good General Washington. He died last evening between 10and 11o'clock, after a short illness of about twenty hours. His disorder was an inflammatory sore 'throat, which proceeded from a cold of which he made but little complaint on Friday. On Saturday morning about 3 o'clock he became ill. Dr. Craik attended him in the morning, and Dr. Dick, of Alexandria, and Dr. Brown, of Port Tobacco, were soon after called in. Every medical assistance was offered, but without the desired effect. His last scene corresponded with the whole tenor of his life; not a groan nor a complaint escaped him in extreme distress. With perfect resignation and in full possession of his reason, he closed his well-spent life.
   I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, sir, your most obedient and very humble servant.


   Following the death of Washington, the U.S. Senate proceeded to the house of President John Adams and it was there the President of the Senate pro tempore presented to the President of the United States the following address:
   The Senate of the United States respectfully take leave, sir, to express to you their deep regret for the loss their country sustains in the death of General George Washington.
   This event, so distressing to all our fellow-citizens, must be peculiarly heavy to you, who have long been associated with him in deeds of patriotism. Permit us, sir, to mingle our tears with yours. On — this occasion it is manly to weep. To lose such a man at such a crisis is no common calamity to the world. Our country mourns her father. The Almighty Disposer of Human Events has taken from us our greatest benefactor and ornament. It becomes us to submit with reverence to Him who maketh darkness His pavilion.
   With patriotic pride we review the life of our Washington and compare him with those of other countries who have been preeminent in fame. Ancient and modern names are diminished before him. Greatness and guilt have too often been allied, but his fame is whiter than it is brilliant. The destroyers of nations stood abashed at the majesty of his virtue. It reproved the intemperance of their ambition and darkened the splendor of victory. The scene is closed, and we are no longer anxious lest misfortune should sully his glory. He has traveled on to the end of his journey and carried with him an increasing weight of honor. He has deposited it safely, where misfortune cannot tarnish it, where malice cannot blast it. Favored of Heaven, he departed without exhibiting the weakness of humanity. Magnanimous in death, the darkness of _ the grave could not obscure his brightness.
   Such was the man whom we deplore. Thanks to God, his glory is consummated. Washington yet lives on earth in his spotless example; his spirit is in Heaven.
   Let his countrymen consecrate the memory of the heroic general, the patriotic statesman, and the virtuous sage. Let them teach their children never to forget that the fruit of his labors and his example are their inheritance.


President of the Senate pro tempore.

December 23, l799.
To which the President replied as follows:

UNITED STATES, December 23, 1799.

Gentlemen of the Senate:
   I receive with most respectful and affectionate sentiments in this impressive address — the obliging expressions of your regard for the loss our country has sustained in the death of her most esteemed, beloved, and admired citizen.
   In the multitude of my thoughts and recollections on this melancholy event you will permit me only to say that I have seen him in the days of adversity, in some of the scenes of his deepest distress and most trying perplexities; I have also attended him in his highest elevation and most prosperous felicity, with uniform admiration of his wisdom, moderation, and constancy.
   Among all our original associates in that memorable league of the continent in 1774,which first expressed the sovereign will of a free nation in America, he was the only one remaining in the General Government. Although with a constitution more enfeebled than his at an age when he thought it necessary to prepare for retirement, I feel myself alone bereaved of my last brother; yet I derive a strong consolation from the unanimous disposition which appears in all ages and classes to mingle their sorrows with mine on this common calamity to the world.
   The life of our Washington cannot suffer by comparison with those of other countries who have been most celebrated and exalted by fame. The attributes and decorations of royalty could have only served to eclipse the majesty of those virtues which made him, from being a modest citizen, a more resplendent luminary.
   Misfortune, had he lived, could hereafter have sullied his glory only with those superficial minds who, believing that characters and actions are marked by success alone, rarely deserve to enjoy it. Malice could never blast his honor, and envy made him a singular exception to her universal rule. For himself, he had lived enough to life and to glory. For his fellow-citizens, if their prayers could have been answered, he would have been immortal. For me, his departure is at a most unfortunate moment. Trusting, however, in the wise and righteous dominion of Providence over the passions of men and the results of their councils and actions, as well as over their lives, nothing remains for me but humble resignation.
   His example is now complete, and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations as long as our history shall be read. If a Trajan found a Pliny, a Marcus Aurelius can never want biographers, eulogists, or historians.


   Washington was no God. He was a mere man, but he did combine more of the character traits of honesty, justice, fortitude, impartiality, and humility than have most of our presidents.
   It is impossible to study his life without coming to the conclusion that, in many ways, here was a truly great man.
   He was not a great orator, or a gifted writer. His talents lay in leadership, and in his ability to seek wise counsel, think clearly, arrive at a sound conclusion, then act decisively once he had decided on a course of action.

Benjamin Franklin

   One of the most remarkable of the Founding Fathers was Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). He was the fifteenth child and the youngest son in his father's family of seventeen children. Benjamin's father Josiah had immigrated to America in 1683 seeking religious freedom.
   Franklin signed The Declaration of Independence when he was 70 years old and The Constitution of the United States at the tender age of 81.
   He has been called a jack-of-all-trades and master of many! This man certainly was a many — sided genius — a truly remarkable person in many ways.
   As a young man Franklin seems to have gotten into some bad company and sowed plenty of wild oats. He acknowledged being father to at least one illegitimate son, William Franklin, who later became the royal governor of New Jersey in 1764.
   Learning valuable lessons in the school of hard knocks, Franklin spent a useful and productive life. His list of accomplishments is almost endless.
   As a young boy he helped his father make candles and soap. In 1718- 1723, he apprenticed himself as a printer to his brother, James Franklin. Then he ran away when he was seventeen, and arrived in Philadelphia almost penniless (1723).
   Franklin went to London, England where he worked a while as a printer (1724-1726). But he was soon back in Philadelphia, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette (1726-1729). In 1831 he founded the first subscription library, the Library Company of Philadelphia. He published Poor Richard's Almanac in 1733-1738, and served as Clerk of the Pennsylvania colonial legislature in 1736-1751.
   Franklin was appointed Deputy postmaster of Philadelphia (1737- 1753), served as Representative in the Pennsylvania colonial legislature (1744-1754), invented the Franklin stove (1740), discovered positive and negative electricity (1747), invented the lightning rod (1749), used a kite to prove that lightning is electricity (1752), helped found the Academy of Philadelphia (1749). (It later became the University of Pennsylvania.) He was appointed Deputy Postmaster General of all the American colonies (1753-1774), received honorary masters degrees from Harvard and Yale (1753), represented Pennsylvania in the Albany Congress, wrote the Albany Plan of Union for the colonies (1734), represented the Pennsylvania colonial legislature in London (1757-1762), and was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of civil law by Oxford University (1762).
   In 1763, Franklin made a 1,600-mile tour of the American colonies inspecting post offices. And in 1764-1775, he represented Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts in London. Also in 1775,Franklin was appointed Postmaster General by the Continental Congress.
   Perhaps Benjamin Franklin's greatest achievement was his service as a foreign minister to France in 1776-1785. In 1778 he negotiated and signed in Paris the treaty of alliance with France. Also, while still in Europe, he negotiated and signed the Anglo-American treaty in 1783.
   Finally, on April 17, 1790, this many-sided genius was called before the bar of Justice to settle his account with "the Supreme Judge of the world." With his passing, America had lost one of its greatest men — one of the most outstanding of her Founding Fathers.
   Some have thought Benjamin Franklin was not a religious person, because he was a Deist, and because of the unorthodox religious views of his youth. But Franklin later came to regret the religious skepticism of his early days.
   It is true that when Franklin was young, he did sow his wild oats. His main weakness appears to have been sexual — "that hard-to-be governed Passion of Youth." In 1725,the 19-year-old Franklin arrived in England, and quickly got a job as a printer. During the ensuing eighteen months in London, Franklin lived a rather carefree, Bohemian life.
   He did, in fact, gain some notoriety in literary circles by publishing a pamphlet entitled: "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain." In this dissertation he argued that God had no control over the events of the world, and that man had no moral responsibility for his conduct. Franklin later reversed these views.
   Later in life Franklin made definite statements which clearly revealed that he most assuredly did believe that God intervenes in the lives of those who seek His "interposition."
   It was while attending the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that Franklin, then 81 years old, expressed certain religious sentiments, clearly showing that he looked upon the Deity as very real, and that he believed that a Supreme Being does at times intervene on behalf of those who sincerely seek His intervention.
   At the 1787 Continental Convention, the delegates had been hotly debating various proposed government models for many weeks. There seemed to be a complete deadlock. No one knew how to properly apportion the powers between the federal and the state governments. Also, there was much controversy over how many representatives each state would have in Congress. The smaller states wanted equal representation, but the big states wanted proportional representation. How could these difficult questions be resolved?
   At this critical point, just as the delegates appeared near the point of breaking up, Franklin made a short speech in which he suggested a solution to their impasse — the daily seeking of Divine guidance for their meetings:

   Mr. President, the small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other — our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes — is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding.
   We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all round Europe, but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
   In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth; and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered.
   All of us who are engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?

"God Governs"

   I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?
   We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the house they labor in vain ..that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

"Prayers...Every Morning"

   I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

   Even though Franklin's motion was seconded by Roger Sherman of Connecticut, in the discussion which followed Alexander Hamilton (who was later killed in a duel) pointed out that if they did request a clergyman to offer "daily prayers" in the Convention, then the public would suspect that disagreements in the Convention were worse than they really were.
   Then Hugh Williamson made the weak-kneed remark that there were 'no funds available to pay for the services of a clergyman.
   What were the delegates to do? The matter of daily prayers was dropped — without even being voted on! In effect, Franklin's resolution was shunted aside!

Take Canada — not Guadeloupe

   Is it possible that the people of Canada owe much to Franklin?
   When Britain defeated France in the French and Indian War (1756- 1763), France had offered Britain, as a settlement, either Guadeloupe in the West Indies, or the province of Canada in North America.
   Franklin was in London at the time, and published a pamphlet in which he tried to persuade Britain of the merits of accepting Canada, rather than Guadeloupe" His pamphlet was entitled: "The Interest of Great Britain Considered With Regard to Her Colonies, and the Acquisitions of Canada and Guadeloupe." In his pamphlet, he showed that Canada was much bigger and more important than the sugar-rich island of Guadeloupe.
   It is also a fact, that even after the British Government decided to take Canada as a settlement, rather than Guadeloupe, many in Britain were upset and vexed. They thought Britain was making a terrible mistake by not taking Guadeloupe instead of "the frigid, unproductive, God-forsaken land of Canada!"
   Benjamin Franklin had been one of the prime movers for American independence. While attending the Second Continental Congress in July, 1776, John Hancock, president of the Congress, admonished the delegates: "We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together."
   And the witty Franklin is said to have retorted: "Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Urged Adoption of Constitution

   Once the U.S. Constitution had been arduously fashioned after long debate, it grew apparent that complete agreement on all of its points was still impossible. The matter hung in grave peril. More sensible men, like Franklin, came to realize that the Constitution, in spite of its imperfections, was far superior to the old Articles of Confederation which created a very weak Union.
   Franklin tried to get those who had reservations to put them aside and vote for the adoption of the Constitution, so America could have a much stronger central government. Benjamin Franklin appealed to the assembled delegates in the following words:

   I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.
   Most men, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ "from them, it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant, in a dedication, tells the pope, that the only "difference between our churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines, is, 'the Church of Rome is infallible, and the Church of England is never in the wrong.' But ....
Then Mr. Franklin reveals the wisdom of his years:

   In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government, but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.
   I doubt, too, whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded, like those of the builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats.

"I Expect No Better"

   Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution, because 1 expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If everyone of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavour to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity.
   Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion — on the general opinion of the goodness of the government as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors. I hope, therefore, that for our own sakes, as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress and confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having it well administered.
   On the whole, sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

   With such words as these, is it any wonder that nearly all of the delegates present at the end of the Constitutional debates were persuaded to sign the new Constitution?
   Franklin's omnipresent sense of humor is illustrated in the events which surrounded Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence. On July 3rd and 4th, convention delegates acted as a board of editors by deleting certain passages and rewriting others. Naturally, Jefferson felt a little sensitive about their "mutilating" his masterpiece.
   But the wise old Franklin comforted his friend, by telling him a story about a hat-maker who put a sign in front of his shop, showing a picture of a hat, accompanied by the words, "John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money."
   A friend suggested the word "Hatter" was not needed. Another said that the words "makes and" were not necessary; and a third declared the sign would be simpler if it just said, 'John Thompson sells hats.'
   But a fourth pointed out that when people saw the picture of the hat on the sign, they would not expect him to be giving hats away. All that was really necessary on the sign was his name and a picture of a hat!
   Hopefully, Franklin's little story consoled Jefferson — making it easier for him to endure any editorial operations which the slash-happy delegates were performing on his new-born Declaration of Independence.

Building Character

   Since Franklin was born of sturdy Quaker stock, it became quite natural for him to be diligent — work hard, be thrifty and industrious. These were common Puritan virtues.
   In Franklin's Autobiography, he reveals that even as a young man, he set out to overcome all of his many faults.
   After a period of self-analysis, he made a chart in which he listed the twelve moral virtues which he desired to add to his character: 1) Temperance, 2) Silence, 3) Order, 4) Resolution, 5) Frugality, 6) Industry, 7) Sincerity, 8) Justice 9) Moderation, 10) Cleanliness, 11) Tranquility, and 12) Chastity.
   After making the chart, he dutifully began ticking off these virtues every day to see how he was doing. But Franklin soon realized he had bitten off more than he could chew.
   He admitted having great difficulty with "Order," and "made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character ... "
   He continued: "In Truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavor, a better and happier 'man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it; as those who aim at perfect writing by imitating the engraved copies, though they never reach the wished — for excellence of those copies, their hand is mended by the endeavor, and is tolerable while it continues fair and legible."
   Franklin admitted that he originally had a list of only twelve virtues, until a Quaker friend explained to him that he was "generally thought proud" and suggested that he add a thirteenth point — Humility!
   Benjamin Franklin then explained how difficult it had been for him to overcome his pride:
   "In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility."
   Unfortunately, near the end of his life the elderly Franklin was confined to his home by gout, and by a painful stone in his bladder. Near the end of his pilgrimage he told a personal friend:
   "Death is as necessary to the constitution as sleep; we shall rise refreshed in the morning. The course of nature must soon put a period to my present mode of existence. This I shall submit to with the less regret, as having seen, during a long life, a good deal of this world, I feel a growing curiosity to become acquainted with some other; and can cheerfully, with final confidence, resign my spirit to the conduct of that great

Benjamin Franklin was a many-sided genius: printer, inventor, postmaster, diplomat. author, statesmen. — H. Armstrong Roberts

John Adams, America's third president, acknowledged by his contemporaries as being of exemplary character and honesty. — American Stock Photo

and good Parent of mankind, who created it, and who 'has so graciously protected and preserved me from my birth to the present hour."
   Franklin had a long, active, rewarding life. He had accomplished much. He was not well, and was growing somewhat weary with his infirmities. This wise old genius died at his home in Philadelphia on April 17, 1790,at the age of eighty-four.

John Adams

   John Adams (1735-1826) is considered another of the giants among the "immortal" Founding Fathers. He was chosen as America's second President.
   From the very beginning, John Adams was one of the prime movers of the Thirteen Colonies — urging them to declare their independence.
   Suffering from religious persecution, John Adams' great-great- grandfather had sailed from England seeking religious freedom in America, and he had received a land grant at Braintree, Massachusetts in 1640.
   John Adams also counted among his illustrious ancestors John. Alden, of the group of devout Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock from the Mayflower in 1620.
   Immediately after the delegates at the Second Continental Congress had voted approval of the "Lee Resolution," which stated that "these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states," a gleeful Adams wrote his wife an interesting letter.
   A happy John Adams wrote: "The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty .... "
   It was also John Adams who proposed (on June 14, 1777) that America adopt her own national flag: "Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation." Adams' resolution was unanimously approved by the Second Continental Congress on that day.
   Notice the tribute which Thomas Jefferson made to his long-time friend, John Adams: "There is not upon this earth a more perfectly honest man than John Adams. Concealment is no part of his character; of that he is utterly incapable. It is not in his nature to mediate anything that he would not publish to the world. The measure of the general government are a fair subject for difference of opinion, but do not found your opinions on the notion that there is the smallest spice of dishonesty, moral or political, in the character of John Adams; for I know him well, and I repeat that a man more perfectly honest never issued from the hands of his Creator."
   Again, Thomas Jefferson revealed the integrity of John Adams on another occasion. Jefferson had wanted Adams to espouse his Anti-Federalist Party. Hamilton and Jefferson were having a bitter feud. Hamilton was a strong Federalist and desired to have a very strong central government, with very weak state governments.
   John Adams tried to remain neutral — shunning involvement in their party rivalries. Because Jefferson's friend John Adams wouldn't back him, he said Adams was "as disinterested as the Being Who made him."
   John Adams won the Presidential election of 1796, and Jefferson won the Vice-Presidency.
   Once again, Jefferson spoke of John Adams as a man "whose talents and integrity have been known and revered by me through a long course of years; have been the foundation of a cordial and uninterrupted friendship between us; and I devoutly pray", said Jefferson, "that he may be long preserved for the government, the happiness and prosperity of our country.
   In 1818, John Adams's wife died. They had been married for fifty- four years. This tragedy was partially offset in 1825 when John Adams' oldest son, John Quincy, became America's sixth President!
   Though John Adams's last years were clouded by ill health, his mind remained clear. A few days before he died, he was asked what toast he intended to propose a few days later on the 4th of July. His reply: "Independence forever!"
   But just a few days later — on the 4th of July — John Adams spoke his last words: "Thomas Jefferson still survives."
   It seems like one of the ironies of history that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (both good friends) died on the same day - the 4th of July, 1826 — exactly fifty years after the two of them had signed The Declaration of Independence!

Samuel Adams

   It might also be remembered that John Adams' cousin, Samuel Adams, figured prominently in helping to secure American independence.
   Sam Adams was not so well educated, was a poor businessman, and finally died bankrupt. But he had been one of the most influential persons both before and during the Revolution. He is sometimes called the "Father of the Revolution," for he probably did more to stir up the idea of independence in and around Boston (and elsewhere) than anyone else. He was also one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.
   John Hancock and Sam Adams were looked upon as the two main instigators of rebellion in the Thirteen Colonies. The British governor of Massachusetts offered Samuel Adams a bribe to stop his patriotic agitation. Furthermore, the governor told him that if he didn't stop, he could be arrested for treason and bundled back to England for a trial.
   Adams replied: "I trust I have long since made my peace with the King of Kings. No personal consideration shall induce me to abandon the righteous cause of my country. Tell Governor Gage, it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him, no longer to insult the feelings of an exasperated people."
   Both John and Samuel Adams were delegates at the Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774. The delegates reached a deadlock over which faith should provide religious guidance for the Congress. Samuel believed in religious tolerance, and even though he was a Puritan, he (according to a contemporary account) said "that he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from a gentleman of piety and virtue who was, at the same time, a friend to his country ... and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to the Congress tomorrow morning."
   Sam Adams' motion was approved, and the following. day the clergyman was present, and read the rather militant Thirty-fifth Psalm.

"Never...Abandoned by Heaven"

   After fighting between Britain and America had begun, some of the delegates to the Continental Congress were wavering, and talked about the war situation being "desperate." Sam Adams is said to have admonished them:
   "If this be our language, it is so, indeed. If we wear long faces, they will become fashionable. The people take their tone from ours, and if we despair, can it be expected that they will continue their efforts in what we conceive to be a hopeless cause? Let us banish such feelings, and show a spirit that will keep alive the confidence of the people, rather than dampen their courage. Better tidings �will soon arrive. Our sense is just and righteous, and we shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we show ourselves worthy of its aid and protection."
   How sad that this man spent the sunset days of his life in ill-health and indigence. His cousin John Adams wrote of him during this period of ill-health and poverty: "Sam Adams, a grief and distress to his family, a weeping, helpless object of compassion for years."
   Samuel Adams had spent a great deal of time, energy and even some expense in the cause of American independence — and he never received any fee or reward of any kind. Neither did he want any.

Thomas Jefferson, America's president and author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was a strong believer in religious freedom. — American Stock Photo

Thomas Jefferson

   Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but didn't sign the Constitution — since he was Minister to France at the time.
   Like Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson was a very versatile man — truly a many-sided genius who attained success in nearly everything he tried. Jefferson practiced law, served as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, and was appointed as a delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress where he served in 1775-1776.
   Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and others were on a committee appointed by the Congress to draft the Declaration of Independence. But since Jefferson was known to have some ability at composition, the actual task of drafting the Declaration fell to his lot.
   Even though various deletions, additions and corrections were made by the members of the committee and by the delegates to the Second Continental Convention, the final form of the Declaration of Independence was substantially the work of Jefferson.
   Later, Jefferson served as member of the Virginia legislature, and was governor of Virginia from 1779-1781.He was a delegate from Virginia to the Congress of the Confederation (1783-1784), and in 1784-1785 he was appointed as a Representative of Congress in Europe to help negotiate trade treaties. Then he served as Minister to France from 1785- 1789.
   Jefferson served as Secretary of State in the U.S. Government under Washington, and was Vice-President of the U.S. from 1797 through 1801. He was America's third President, serving from 1801 to 1809.
   One of his proudest accomplishments was helping to found the University of Virginia (1817-1825).
   Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Jefferson's grandson, wrote the following description of his grandfather:

   Mr. Jefferson's hair, when young, was a reddish cast, sandy as he advanced in years — his eye, hazel — dying in his 84th year, he had not lost a tooth, or had one defective; his skin, thin, peeling from his face on exposure to the sun, and giving it a tettered appearance; the superficial veins so weak, as upon the slightest blow, to cause extensive suffusions of blood, in early life, upon standing to write for any length of time, bursting beneath the skin: it, however, gave him no inconvenience. His countenance was mild and benignant, and attractive to strangers ....
   Mr. Jefferson's stature was commanding, six feet two and a half inches in height, well formed, indicating strength, activity, and robust health; his carriage, erect; step firm and elastic, which he preserved to his death; his temper, naturally strong under perfect control — his courage, cool and impressive — no one ever knew him to exhibit trepidation — his moral courage of the highest order — his will, firm and inflexible — it was remarked of him that he never abandoned a plan, a principle, or a friend....
   His habits were regular and systematic. He was a miser of his time, rose always at dawn, wrote and read until breakfast, breakfasted early, and dined from three to four — after breakfast read for half an hour in his public rooms of portico, in summer — visited his garden and workshops — returned to his writing and reading till one, when he rode on horseback to three or half past — dined, and gave the evening to his family and company — retired at nine, and to bed from ten to eleven.
   He said in his last illness, that the sun had not caught him in bed for fifty years. He always made his own fire. He drank water but once a day, a single glass, when he returned from his ride. He ate heartily, and much vegetable food, preferring French cookery, because it made the meats more tender. He never drank ardent spirits or strong wines....
   His manner was dignified, reserved with strangers, but frank and cordial with his friends; his conversation cheerful, often sportive, and illustrated by anecdotes. He spoke only of the good qualities of men, which induced the belief that he knew little of them, but no one knew them better....

"A Day of Fasting ... Prayer"

   Jefferson took a leading part in guiding the infant nation of America at the time of its birth.
   When word reached Virginia in May, 1774, that the British planned to close the port of Boston on June 1 — in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party — colonials in other states sprang to action.
   Jefferson, Patrick Henry and other Virginia legislators resolved:
   "This house, being deeply impressed with apprehension of the great dangers to be derived to British America from the hostile invasion of the city of Boston in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose commerce and harbor are, on the first day of June next, to be stopped by an armed force, deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the members of this House, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, devoutly to implore the divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights and the evils of civil war; give us one heart and one mind firmly to oppose, by all just and proper means, every injury to American rights; and that the minds of his Majesty and his Parliament, may be inspired from above with wisdom, moderation and justice, to remove from the loyal people of America all cause of danger from a continued pursuit of measures pregnant with their ruin."
   The first Constitutional amendment (out of the Ten Amendments, known as the Bill of Rights) was close to Jefferson's heart. Jefferson was in Paris at the time of the drafting and adoption of the U.S. Constitution. When he learned that George Mason had failed to get a "Bill of Rights" included as part of the Constitution, Jefferson was both alarmed and disappointed.
   He did everything to coax, nag and cajole influential people who could assist in getting a Bill of Rights added to the Constitution. And his urgings were crowned with success in 1791 — when the present Ten Amendments, the Bill of Rights, were adopted and became a permanent part of the Constitution of the U.S.
   The First Amendment guarantees, among other freedoms, the freedom of religion: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
   Jefferson wanted to be remembered by three of his paramount accomplishments: his drafting of The Declaration of Independence, his statute for religious freedom in the Virginia legislature, and his part in helping to found the University of Virginia.

Jefferson's Religious Tolerance

   Jefferson is well known through his paramount role in drafting the Declaration, but most people do not realize his part in helping to establish religious freedom in America.
   Here are some of the sentiments — included in the Virginia statute for religious freedom for which Jefferson was primarily responsible:

   Well aware that the opinions and beliefs of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his will that free it shall remain by making it altogether susceptible of restraint;
   — that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizens as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of these privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow-citizens, he has a natural right;
   — that the opinions of men are not the subject of civil government nor under its jurisdiction;
   — and finally that truth is great and will prevail if she is left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
   We, the General Assembly, do enact, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or beliefs; but that all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.

   This document expresses more accurately than nearly any other writing, how Jefferson felt about religious liberty.
   Thomas Jefferson was a firm believer that man ought to be close to the soil. He felt the "chosen people" were the farmers:
   "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people.... The mobs of great cities add just as much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution."
   Though Jefferson in no way wanted to see the Union dissolved, he nonetheless accorded those who wished to see a weakened Union their rights to hold this erroneous political opinion: "If there be any among us," said he, "who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."
   It was during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson that America made her richest purchase of territory. Though Jefferson had spoken against a U.S. President taking too much power to himself and acting too independently of Congress, the temptation to complete the Louisiana Purchase was just too big a temptation for him to resist.
   He therefore instructed the American minister to France to go ahead with the purchase. When the deal was concluded, the unbelievably-low final purchase of the vast territory amounted to only $15,000,000.
   Like Washington, Jefferson declined to run for a third term. After President-elect James Madison was inaugurated in 1809, Jefferson retired to his beloved Monticello (which he had designed and built), to his books, friends, servants and the serenity of the peaceful countryside. He later wrote that "never did a prisoner released from his chains feel such relief' as he felt when he left the White House in order to spend the twilight years of his life in peace and tranquility.
   The Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. (commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth) has engraved on it one of Jefferson's most famous quotations:
   "I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every tyranny over the mind of man."
   Like Washington and Franklin, Jefferson, too, had spent many eventful years in the service of his country. He, too, had accomplished much for his nation. But he was not immortal.
   Shortly before his death, the 83-year-old Jefferson uttered his very last words: "I resign myself to my God, and my child (the university of Virginia) to my country!"

James Madison

   There are many other notables among the Founding Fathers. James Madison (1751-1836) became the fourth President of the U.S. in 1809- 1817.
   He is called the "Father of the Constitution" because it was he who took a leading role in the Constitutional deliberations. He spoke more often than any other delegate at the Convention.
   Here is what William Pierce, a fellow-delegate at the Constitutional Convention, said of James Madison: "He blends together the profound . politician, with the scholar. In the management of every great question he evidently took the lead in the Convention, and tho' he cannot be called an orator, he is a most agreeable, eloquent, and convincing speaker .... From a spirit of industry and application which he possesses in a most eminent degree, he always comes forward the best informed man of any point in debate. The affairs of the United States, he perhaps has the most correct knowledge of, any man in the Union."
   Madison's greatest achievement while Secretary of State was his supervision of the negotiations which culminated in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Alexander Hamilton

   Alexander Hamilton (1755 or 1757-1804) was also one of the Signers of the Constitution. He was nicknamed "The Little Lion" because of his great courage, and his diminutive stature.
   He played an important role in the framing of the Constitution, for it was he who, more than anyone else, believed in a strong Union — a very strong central government.
   Hamilton wanted to see George Washington made King of the United States, and he would have liked to have had himself appointed Prime Minister.
   Perhaps his greatest contribution was in helping to frame and ratify the Constitution. Hamilton collaborated with James Madison and John Jay in writing the series of essays called "The Federalist," in which they all argued powerfully for the speedy ratification by all states of the Constitution.
   Unfortunately this brilliant man's life was cut short by a bullet from Aaron Burr's gun. Burr had challenged Hamilton to a duel. Tragically, Hamilton was killed on the same spot where his son had also been slain in a duel three years earlier! .
   Hamilton might have become President had his life not been cut short by acquiescing to Aaron Burr's folly.

John Hancock

   Another prominent figure among the Founding fathers was John Hancock (1737-1793). Along with Samuel Adams, he is credited with doing much to stir the spirit of independence in Boston.
   John Hancock presided over the Second Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia and drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He, as President of the Congress, was the first to sign — and signed with a large, flourishing signature. He said he wanted King George III to be sure and see his signature!
   At the age of twenty-eight Hancock became the wealthiest merchant in New England. He increased his wealth through the means of smuggling — which was common practice at the time in the Thirteen Colonies.
   Hancock risked his fortune in the patriotic cause of the War of Independence. But, unfortunately, his wealth also made it too easy for him to indulge his taste in rich foods, exotic wines, parties, dancing and other pleasures that are said to have hastened his death at the early age of fifty-six.
   John Hancock lived in a very regal fashion, and his ostentation and vainglorious manner alienated many from him. His clothes were embroidered with gold and silver, and studded with gold buttons. He had a handsomely appointed coach which was pulled around Boston by six bay horses, and he was accompanied by liveried servants.
   Perhaps it was his moral and financial support of the Revolutionary War, plus his being one of the two most wanted men by the British Governor, that made Hancock feel that he should have gotten the appointments which went to Washington. .
   In 1775, when it became apparent that America must have a Commander-in-Chief to coordinate her troops in the Thirteen Colonies, a search was made for the most suitable man for the job.
   John Hancock believed he was the logical choice for such an important command. But John and Samuel Adams knew that his weak constitution, and his taste for high living, were not compatible with the hard life of a soldier leading the Continental Army. Accordingly, the Adamses agreed before the meeting that George Washington was the man for the Job.
   When John Adams rose on June 14, 1775, and proposed, the choosing of a Commander-in-Chief to lead the Continental Army, and said that there was only one man who could be considered for the position, John Hancock's face lit up with obvious satisfaction.
   But when John Adams proposed that that man was George Washington, Hancock (unable to conceal his emotions) showed great disappointment. Sam Adams quickly seconded the motion.
   Later, when Hancock knew that the thirteen states were about to select the first President, he hoped he would be selected. Again, he was disappointed!
   Apparently, he could have had the position of Vice-President had he wanted it. But he said, no thanks, since this would have meant that his wife would now become "second lady" of the land; and he had always considered her "first lady" and so would not lower her by accepting the vice-presidency.
   In spite of all these things, John Hancock is rightly credited with having done much to move America along, the road to independence, and, in many ways, he served unselfishly in that cause.

Blessed With Great Leaders

   America produced a number of giants who rose up to face the serious challenges which confronted the Union during the War of Independence.
   Many have marveled at the wisdom and foresight displayed by the Founding Fathers in such documents as The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
   Armed with the Government provided by our Constitution, this nation has for 200years stood the storms of civil war, wars with foreign enemies, serious depressions, civil unrest and other tempests.



WHEN WE review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war, an increasing prospect of the continuance of that exemption, the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed, the recent confirmation of that tranquillity by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it, the happy course of our public affairs, in general, the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens, are circumstance which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine beneficence toward us. In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.
   Deeply penetrated with that sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next, as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation, particularly for the possession of constitutions of government which unite and by their union establish liberty with order; for the preservation of our peace, foreign and domestic; for the seasonable control which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection, and generally, for the prosperous course of our affairs, public and private; and at the same time humbly and fervently to beseech the kind Author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us: to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to Him for them: to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value; to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity, and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits; to dispose us to merit the continuance of His favors by not abusing them; by our gratitude for them, and by a correspondent conduct as citizens and men; to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries; to extend among us true and useful knowledge; to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality, and piety, and finally, to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.
   In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.
   Done at the city of Philadelphia, the 1st day of January 1795. and of the Independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.


By the President:

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Publication Date: 1976
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