Founding Fathers

Founding Fathers

The term is applied to the men who were present and actively contributed to the creation of the United States, particularly the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Founding Fathers - History

Burr’s political achievements are largely overshadowed by his duel with Hamilton.

He signed the Declaration of Independence and went on his own (not-so-famous) midnight ride. But a deformity may have contributed to Caesar Rodney's lack of fame.

A Texas congressman takes aim at the possibility of an 'Aaron Burr-style' duel.

The second known parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence has been found—in England.

Explore 10 surprising facts about the most unusual of the Founding Fathers.

Check out 11 little-known facts about the United States’ original renaissance man.

Explore seven surprising facts about the framers and the Constitutional Convention.

William Few, Georgia

Few was born in 1748. His father's family had emigrated from England to Pennsylvania in the 1680s, but the father had subsequently moved to Maryland, where he married and settled on a farm near Baltimore. William was born there. He encountered much hardship and received minimal schooling. When he was 10 years of age, his father, seeking better opportunity, moved his family to North Carolina.

In 1771 Few, his father, and a brother associated themselves with the "Regulators," a group of frontiersmen who opposed the royal governor. As a result, the brother was hanged, the Few family farm was destroyed, and the father was forced to move once again, this time to Georgia. William remained behind, helping to settle his father's affairs, until 1776 when he joined his family near Wrightsboro, Ga. About this time, he won admittance to the bar, based on earlier informal study, and set up practice in Augusta.

When the War for Independence began, Few enthusiastically aligned himself with the Whig cause. Although largely self-educated, he soon proved his capacity for leadership and won a lieutenant-colonelcy in the dragoons. In addition, he entered politics. He was elected to the Georgia provincial congress of 1776 and during the war twice served in the assembly, in 1777 and 1779. During the same period, he also sat on the state executive council besides holding the positions of surveyor-general and Indian commissioner. He also served in the Continental Congress (1780-88), during which time he was reelected to the Georgia Assembly (1783).

Four years later, Few was appointed as one of six state delegates to the Constitutional Convention, two of whom never attended and two others of whom did not stay for the duration. Few himself missed large segments of the proceedings, being absent during all of July and part of August because of congressional service, and never made a speech. Nonetheless, he contributed nationalist votes at critical times. Furthermore, as a delegate to the last sessions of the Continental Congress, he helped steer the Constitution past its first obstacle, approval by Congress. And he attended the state ratifying convention.

Few became one of his state's first U.S. senators (1789-93). When his term ended, he headed back home and served again in the assembly. In 1796 he received an appointment as a federal judge for the Georgia circuit. For reasons unknown, he resigned his judgeship in 1799 at the age of 52 and moved to New York City.

Few's career continued to blossom. He served 4 years in the legislature (1802-5) and then as inspector of prisons (1802-10), alderman (1813-14), and U.S. commissioner of loans (1804). From 1804 to 1814 he held a directorship at the Manhattan Bank and later the presidency of City Bank. A devout Methodist, he also donated generously to philanthropic causes.

When Few died in 1828 at the age of 80 in Fishkill-on-the-Hudson (present Beacon), he was survived by his wife (born Catherine Nicholson) and three daughters. Originally buried in the yard of the local Reformed Dutch Church, his body was later reinterred at St. Paul's Church, Augusta, GA.

Image: Courtesy of National Archives, Records of Exposition, Anniversary, and Memorial Commissions (148-CP-157)

Alexander Martin, North Carolina

Though he represented North Carolina at the Constitutional Convention, Alexander Martin was born in Hunterdon County, NJ, in 1740. His parents, Hugh and Jane Martin, moved first to Virginia, then to Guilford County, NC, when Alexander was very young. Martin attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), received his degree in 1756, and moved to Salisbury. There he started his career as a merchant but turned to public service as he became justice of the peace, deputy king's attorney, and, in 1774 and 1775, judge of Salisbury district.

At the September 1770 session of the superior court at Hillsboro, 150 Regulators armed with sticks, switches, and cudgels crowded into the courtroom. They had come to present a petition to the judge demanding unprejudiced juries and a public accounting of taxes by sheriffs. Violence erupted, and several, including Alexander Martin, were beaten. In 1771 Martin signed an agreement with the Regulators to refund all fees taken illegally and to arbitrate all differences.

From 1773 to 1774 Martin served in the North Carolina House of Commons and in the second and third provincial congresses in 1775. In September 1775 he was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the 2d North Carolina Continental Regiment. Martin saw military action in South Carolina and won promotion to a colonelcy. He joined Washington's army in 1777, but after the Battle of Germantown he was arrested for cowardice. A court-martial tried and acquitted Martin, but he resigned his commission on November 22, 1777.

Martin's misfortune in the army did not impede his political career. The year after his court-martial he entered the North Carolina Senate, where he served for 8 years (1778-82, 1785, and 1787-88). For every session except those of 1778-79, Martin served as speaker. From 1780 to 1781 he also sat on the Board of War and its successor, the Council Extraordinary. In 1781 Martin became acting governor of the state, and in 1782 through 1785 he was elected in his own right.

After his 1785 term in the North Carolina Senate, Martin represented his state in the Continental Congress, but he resigned in 1787. Of the five North Carolina delegates to the Constitutional Convention, Martin was the least strongly Federalist. He did not take an active part in the proceedings, and he left Philadelphia in late August 1787, before the Constitution was signed. Martin was considered a good politician but not suited to public debate. A colleague, Hugh Williamson, remarked that Martin needed time to recuperate after his great exertions as governor "to enable him again to exert his abilities to the advantage of the nation."

Under the new national government, Martin again served as Governor of North Carolina, from 1789 until 1792. After 1790 he moved away from the Federalists to the Republicans. In 1792 Martin, elected by the Republican legislature, entered the U.S. Senate. His vote in favor of the Alien and Sedition Acts cost him reelection. Back in North Carolina, Martin returned to the state senate in 1804 and 1805 to represent Rockingham County. In 1805 he once again served as speaker. From 1790 until 1807 he was a trustee of the University of North Carolina. Martin never married, and he died on November 2, 1807 at the age of 67 at his plantation, "Danbury," in Rockingham County and was buried on the estate.

Image: Courtesy of Independence National Historical Park

The Founding Fathers and Slavery

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Although many of the Founding Fathers acknowledged that slavery violated the core American Revolutionary ideal of liberty, their simultaneous commitment to private property rights, principles of limited government, and intersectional harmony prevented them from making a bold move against slavery. The considerable investment of Southern Founders in slave-based staple agriculture, combined with their deep-seated racial prejudice, posed additional obstacles to emancipation.

Slaveholders among prominent Founding Fathers
1 Held slaves at some point in time.
slaveholders 1 non-slaveholders
Founding Father state Founding Father state
Charles Carroll Maryland John Adams Massachusetts
Samuel Chase Maryland Samuel Adams Massachusetts
Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania Oliver Ellsworth Connecticut
Button Gwinnett Georgia Alexander Hamilton New York
John Hancock Massachusetts Robert Treat Paine Massachusetts
Patrick Henry Virginia Thomas Paine Pennsylvania
John Jay New York Roger Sherman Connecticut
Thomas Jefferson Virginia
Richard Henry Lee Virginia
James Madison Virginia
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney South Carolina
Benjamin Rush Pennsylvania
Edward Rutledge South Carolina
George Washington Virginia

In his initial draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson condemned the injustice of the slave trade and, by implication, slavery, but he also blamed the presence of enslaved Africans in North America on avaricious British colonial policies. Jefferson thus acknowledged that slavery violated the natural rights of the enslaved, while at the same time he absolved Americans of any responsibility for owning slaves themselves. The Continental Congress apparently rejected the tortured logic of this passage by deleting it from the final document, but this decision also signaled the Founders’ commitment to subordinating the controversial issue of slavery to the larger goal of securing the unity and independence of the United States.

Nevertheless, the Founders, with the exception of those from South Carolina and Georgia, exhibited considerable aversion to slavery during the era of the Articles of Confederation (1781–89) by prohibiting the importation of foreign slaves to individual states and lending their support to a proposal by Jefferson to ban slavery in the Northwest Territory. Such antislavery policies, however, only went so far. The prohibition of foreign slave imports, by limiting the foreign supply, conveniently served the interests of Virginia and Maryland slaveholders, who could then sell their own surplus slaves southward and westward at higher prices. Furthermore, the ban on slavery in the Northwest tacitly legitimated the expansion of slavery in the Southwest.

Despite initial disagreements over slavery at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the Founders once again demonstrated their commitment to maintaining the unity of the new United States by resolving to diffuse sectional tensions over slavery. To this end the Founders drafted a series of constitutional clauses acknowledging deep-seated regional differences over slavery while requiring all sections of the new country to make compromises as well. They granted slaveholding states the right to count three-fifths of their slave population when it came to apportioning the number of a state’s representatives to Congress, thereby enhancing Southern power in the House of Representatives. But they also used this same ratio to determine the federal tax contribution required of each state, thus increasing the direct federal tax burden of slaveholding states. Georgians and South Carolinians won a moratorium until 1808 on any congressional ban against the importation of slaves, but in the meantime individual states remained free to prohibit slave imports if they so wished. Southerners also obtained the inclusion of a fugitive slave clause (see Fugitive Slave Acts) designed to encourage the return of runaway slaves who sought refuge in free states, but the Constitution left enforcement of this clause to the cooperation of the states rather than to the coercion of Congress.

Although the Founders, consistent with their beliefs in limited government, opposed granting the new federal government significant authority over slavery, several individual Northern Founders promoted antislavery causes at the state level. Benjamin Franklin in Pennsylvania, as well as John Jay and Alexander Hamilton in New York, served as officers in their respective state antislavery societies. The prestige they lent to these organizations ultimately contributed to the gradual abolition of slavery in each of the Northern states.

Although slavery was legal in every Northern state at the beginning of the American Revolution, its economic impact was marginal. As a result, Northern Founders were freer to explore the libertarian dimensions of Revolutionary ideology. The experience of Franklin was in many ways typical of the evolving attitudes of Northern Founders toward slavery. Although enmeshed in the slave system for much of his life, Franklin eventually came to believe that slavery ought to be abolished gradually and legally. Franklin himself had owned slaves, run ads in his Pennsylvania Gazette to secure the return of fugitive slaves, and defended the honour of slaveholding revolutionaries. By 1781, however, Franklin had divested himself of slaves, and shortly thereafter he became the president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. He also went further than most of his contemporaries by signing a petition to the First Federal Congress in 1790 for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade.

Jay was the son of one of the largest slaveholders in New York and, like Franklin, a slaveholder himself, though he claimed his ownership was a means to a beneficial end: “I purchase slaves and manumit them at proper ages and when their faithful services shall have afforded a reasonable retribution.” He and Hamilton, whose youth in the West Indies embittered him against slavery, were among the founders of the New York Manumission Society in 1785, which established the New York African Free School in 1787. That year, during debate on the Constitution, one of the most-vocal opponents of slavery among the Founding Fathers, Gouverneur Morris, called slavery a “nefarious institution” and “the curse of heaven on the States where it prevailed.”

Unlike their Northern counterparts, Southern Founders generally steered clear of organized antislavery activities, primarily to maintain their legitimacy among slaveholding constituents. Furthermore, while a few Northern and Southern Founders manumitted a small number of slaves, no Southern plantation-owning Founder, except George Washington, freed a sizeable body of enslaved labourers. Because his own slaves shared familial attachments with the dower slaves of his wife, Martha Custis Washington, he sought to convince her heirs to forego their inheritance rights in favour of a collective manumission so as to ensure that entire families, not just individual family members, might be freed. Washington failed to win the consent of the Custis heirs, but he nevertheless made sure, through his last will and testament, that his own slaves would enjoy the benefit of freedom.

Washington’s act of manumission implied that he could envision a biracial United States where both blacks and whites might live together as free people. Jefferson, however, explicitly rejected this vision. He acknowledged that slavery violated the natural rights of slaves and that conflicts over slavery might one day lead to the dissolution of the union, but he also believed that, given alleged innate racial differences and deeply held prejudices, emancipation would inevitably degrade the character of the republic and unleash violent civil strife between blacks and whites. Jefferson thus advocated coupling emancipation with what he called “colonization,” or removal, of the black population beyond the boundaries of the United States. His proposals won considerable support in the North, where racial prejudice was on the rise, but such schemes found little support among the majority of Southern slaveholders.

When the last remaining Founders died in the 1830s, they left behind an ambiguous legacy with regard to slavery. They had succeeded in gradually abolishing slavery in the Northern states and Northwestern territories but permitted its rapid expansion in the South and Southwest. Although they eventually enacted a federal ban on the importation of foreign slaves in 1808, the enslaved population continued to expand through natural reproduction, while the growing internal domestic slave trade led to an increase in the tragic breakup of enslaved families.


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.

The 3rd Wave: Humanistic Psychology

This wave is known for its two major strands of thought – existentialist psychology (Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre) and humanistic psychology (Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers).

According to Sartre, every human being is responsible for working out his identity and his life’s meaning through the interaction between himself and his surroundings. No one else can do it for him, least of all a non-existent God. For this reason, meaning is something truly unique to each person – separate and independent (Jean-Paul Sartre, 1946).

One cannot quarrel with this strand of thought, particularly the responsibility of the individual for his own destiny, but the underlying atheism is dampening.

What about people who cannot find their identity and their life’s meaning on their own?

Uncontrollable anxiety would be inevitable, particularly in the absence of faith in a supernatural being, an idea rejected by existentialism. This anxiety is recognized in psychotherapy as “existential anxiety” and has been of major therapeutic concern of many leading psychologists, particularly Victor Frankl, the originator of logo-therapy.

There is a considerable divergence of views on the question of “What is life’s meaning?” and, clearly, each individual needs to work it out for themselves, with their own unique experience and surroundings.

Here is a very thoughtful quote from Kierkegaard, arguably the earliest exponent of existentialism:

“What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. (…) I certainly do not deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge and that through it men may be influenced, but then it must come alive in me, and this is what I now recognize as the most important of all”

The humanistic movement was about adding a holistic dimension to psychology. Humanistic psychologists believed that our behavior is determined by our perception of the world around us and its meanings, that we are not simply the product of our environment or biochemistry, and that we are internally influenced and motivated to fulfill our human potential.

Humanistic psychology emphasizes the inherent human drive towards self-actualization, the process of realizing and expressing one’s own capabilities and creativity. This approach rose to prominence in the mid-20th century in response to the limitations of the disease model in fulfilling the human desire for actualization and a life of meaning (Benjafield, John G., 2010).

The 5 basic principles or postulates of humanistic psychology are:

  • Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of their parts. They cannot be reduced to components
  • Human beings have their existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology
  • Human beings are aware and are aware of being aware – i.e. they are conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other people
  • Human beings have the ability to make choices and therefore have responsibility
  • Human beings are intentional—they aim at goals, are aware that they cause future events, and seek meaning, value, and creativity.>

It is hard to miss the significant foundation that the humanistic approach has provided for positive psychology.

No one knows where Thomas Paine's remains are

You might not recognize Thomas Paine's name offhand, but you've probably heard of his pamphlet, Common Sense, which inspired many American colonists to rebel against British rule. While he never signed any of the country's founding documents, his influence coursed throughout those who did, according to the Library of Congress.

But, later in life, Paine fell out of favor. While most of the Founding Fathers were Christian deists, Paine turned to atheism late in life, and ended up writing several pieces decrying organized religion and Christianity in particular, a view that was highly unpopular at the time. As such, when he died in 1809, he was a pauper and his funeral was only attended by six people.

While that might be sad enough, something even stranger happened after he died. A decade later, his frenemy William Cobbett had his remains exhumed in order to give him a proper burial in England. When he returned to England to raise money for a tomb for Paine, he was ignored. Paine's remains stayed in Cobbett's family after his own death, but were sold by his son to avoid bankruptcy. Over the centuries since, the bones have been sold and traded, parceled off and moved around. While a few scattered pieces of Paine are extant today, the majority of them have long been lost.

The Founding Fathers on Jesus, Christianity and the Bible

(This list is by no means exhaustive many other Founders could be included,
and even with those who appear below, additional quotes could have been used.)


The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God. 1

Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell. 2

The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity. 3

Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be! 4

I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world. 5

U. S. REPRESENTATIVE “OLD MAN ELOQUENT” “HELL-HOUND OF ABOLITION” My hopes of a future life are all founded upon the Gospel of Christ and I cannot cavil or quibble away [evade or object to]. . . . the whole tenor of His conduct by which He sometimes positively asserted and at others countenances [permits] His disciples in asserting that He was God. 6

The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the Divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made “bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” [Isaiah 52:10]. 7

In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity. 8


The name of the Lord (says the Scripture) is a strong tower thither the righteous flee and are safe [Proverbs 18:10]. Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better. 10

I conceive we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world . . . that the confusions that are and have been among the nations may be overruled by the promoting and speedily bringing in the holy and happy period when the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and the people willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is the Prince of Peace. 11

He also called on the State of Massachusetts to pray that . . .

  • the peaceful and glorious reign of our Divine Redeemer may be known and enjoyed throughout the whole family of mankind. 12
  • we may with one heart and voice humbly implore His gracious and free pardon through Jesus Christ, supplicating His Divine aid . . . [and] above all to cause the religion of Jesus Christ, in its true spirit, to spread far and wide till the whole earth shall be filled with His glory. 13
  • with true contrition of heart to confess their sins to God and implore forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior. 14

JUDGE GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE Called on the people of New Hampshire . . .
to confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord. 15

SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION FEDERAL JUDGE To the triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – be ascribed all honor and dominion, forevermore – Amen. 16

Elias Boudinot PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS SIGNED THE PEACE TREATY TO END THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION FIRST ATTORNEY ADMITTED TO THE U. S. SUPREME COURT BAR FRAMER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS DIRECTOR OF THE U. S. MINT Let us enter on this important business under the idea that we are Christians on whom the eyes of the world are now turned… [L]et us earnestly call and beseech Him, for Christ’s sake, to preside in our councils. . . . We can only depend on the all powerful influence of the Spirit of God, Whose Divine aid and assistance it becomes us as a Christian people most devoutly to implore. Therefore I move that some minister of the Gospel be requested to attend this Congress every morning . . . in order to open the meeting with prayer. 17

A letter to his daughter:

You have been instructed from your childhood in the knowledge of your lost state by nature – the absolute necessity of a change of heart and an entire renovation of soul to the image of Jesus Christ – of salvation through His meritorious righteousness only – and the indispensable necessity of personal holiness without which no man shall see the Lord [Hebrews 12:14]. You are well acquainted that the most perfect and consummate doctrinal knowledge is of no avail without it operates on and sincerely affects the heart, changes the practice, and totally influences the will – and that without the almighty power of the Spirit of God enlightening your mind, subduing your will, and continually drawing you to Himself, you can do nothing. . . . And may the God of your parents (for many generations past) seal instruction to your soul and lead you to Himself through the blood of His too greatly despised Son, Who notwithstanding, is still reclaiming the world to God through that blood, not imputing to them their sins. To Him be glory forever! 18

For nearly half a century have I anxiously and critically studied that invaluable treasure [the Bible] and I still scarcely ever take it up that I do not find something new – that I do not receive some valuable addition to my stock of knowledge or perceive some instructive fact never observed before. In short, were you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive both to the wise and ignorant. Were you to ask me for one affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the inquiring mind, I should repeat, it is the Bible and should you renew the inquiry for the best philosophy or the most interesting history, I should still urge you to look into your Bible. I would make it, in short, the Alpha and Omega of knowledge. 19

Jacob Broom LEGISLATOR SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION A letter to his son, James, attending Princeton University:

I flatter myself you will be what I wish, but don’t be so much flatterer as to relax of your application – don’t forget to be a Christian. I have said much to you on this head, and I hope an indelible impression is made. 20

Charles Carroll SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE SELECTED AS DELEGATE TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION FRAMER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS U. S. SENATOR On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits, not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts. 21

Grateful to Almighty God for the blessings which, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, He had conferred on my beloved country in her emancipation and on myself in permitting me, under circumstances of mercy, to live to the age of 89 years, and to survive the fiftieth year of independence, adopted by Congress on the 4th of July 1776, which I originally subscribed on the 2d day of August of the same year and of which I am now the last surviving signer. 22

I, Charles Carroll. . . . give and bequeath my soul to God who gave it, my body to the earth, hoping that through and by the merits, sufferings, and mediation of my only Savior and Jesus Christ, I may be admitted into the Kingdom prepared by God for those who love, fear and truly serve Him. 23

Congress, 1854 The great, vital, and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 24

Congress, U. S. House Judiciary Committee, 1854 Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle… In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity… That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants. 25

John Dickinson SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR OF DELAWARE GENERAL IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION Rendering thanks to my Creator for my existence and station among His works, for my birth in a country enlightened by the Gospel and enjoying freedom, and for all His other kindnesses, to Him I resign myself, humbly confiding in His goodness and in His mercy through Jesus Christ for the events of eternity. 26

[Governments] could not give the rights essential to happiness… We claim them from a higher source: from the King of kings, and Lord of all the earth. 27

COMPTROLLER OF THE U. S. TREASURY U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE I resign my soul into the hands of the Almighty Who gave it, in humble hopes of His mercy through our Savior Jesus Christ. 28

SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and His religion as He left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see. 29

The body of Benjamin Franklin, printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and guilding, lies here, food for worms. Yet the work itself shall not be lost for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more beatiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author. 30 (FRANKLIN’S EULOGY THAT HE WROTE FOR HIMSELF)

GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES He called on the State of Massachusetts to pray that . . .

  • with one heart and voice we may prostrate ourselves at the throne of heavenly grace and present to our Great Benefactor sincere and unfeigned thanks for His infinite goodness and mercy towards us from our birth to the present moment for having above all things illuminated us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, presenting to our view the happy prospect of a blessed immortality. 31
  • And for our unparalleled ingratitude to that Adorable Being Who has seated us in a land irradiated by the cheering beams of the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . let us fall prostrate before offended Deity, confess sincerely and penitently our manifold sins and our unworthiness of the least of His Divine favors, fervently implore His pardon through the merits of our mediator. 32
  • And deeply impressed with a scene of our unparalleled ingratitude, let us contemplate the blessings which have flowed from the unlimited grave and favor of offended Deity, that we are still permitted to enjoy the first of Heaven’s blessings: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 33

AUTHOR OF THE FEDERALIST PAPERS SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY Following his duel with Aaron Burr, in those final twenty four hours while life still remained in him, Hamilton called for two ministers, the Rev. J. M. Mason and the Rev. Benjamin Moore, to pray with him and administer Communion to him. Each of those two ministers reported what transpired. The Rev. Mason recounted:

[General Hamilton said] “I went to the field determined not to take his life.” He repeated his disavowal of all intention to hurt Mr. Burr the anguish of his mind in recollecting what had passed and his humble hope of forgiveness from his God. I recurred to the topic of the Divine compassion the freedom of pardon in the Redeemer Jesus to perishing sinners. “That grace, my dear General, which brings salvation, is rich, rich” – “Yes,” interrupted he, “it is rich grace.” “And on that grace,” continued I, “a sinner has the highest encouragement to repose his confidence, because it is tendered to him upon the surest foundation the Scrip¬ture testifying that we have redemption through the blood of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins according to the richness of His grace.” Here the General, letting go my hand, which he had held from the moment I sat down at his bed side, clasped his hands together, and, looking up towards Heaven, said, with emphasis, “I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Al¬mighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.” 34

The Rev. Benjamin Moore reported:

[I]mmediately after he was brought from [the field] . . . a mes¬sage was sent informing me of the sad event, accompanied by a request from General Hamilton that I would come to him for the purpose of administering the Holy Communion. I went. . . . I proceeded to converse with him on the subject of his receiving the Communion and told him that with respect to the qualifications of those who wished to become partakers of that holy ordinance, my inquires could not be made in lan¬guage more expressive than that which was used by our [own] Church. – [I asked], “Do you sincerely repent of your sins past? Have you a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of the death of Christ? And are you disposed to live in love and charity with all men?” He lifted up his hands and said, “With the utmost sincerity of heart I can answer those questions in the affirmative – I have no ill will against Col. Burr. I met him with a fixed resolution to do him no harm – I forgive all that happened.” . . . The Communion was then administered, which he received with great devotion, and his heart afterwards appeared to be perfectly at rest. I saw him again this morning, when, with his last faltering words, he expressed a strong confidence in the mercy of God through the intercession of the Redeemer. I remained with him until 2 o’clock this afternoon, when death closed the awful scene – he expired without a struggle, and almost without a groan. By reflecting on this melancholy event, let the humble believer be encouraged ever to hold fast that precious faith which is the only source of true consolation in the last extremity of nature. [And l]et the infidel be persuaded to abandon his opposition to that Gospel which the strong, inquisitive, and comprehensive mind of a Hamilton embraced. 35

One other consequence of Hamilton’s untimely death was that it permanently halted the formation of a religious society Hamilton had proposed. Hamilton suggested that it be named the Christian Constitutional Society, and listed two goals for its formation: first, the support of the Christian religion and second, the support of the Constitution of the United States. This or¬ganization was to have numerous clubs throughout each state which would meet regularly and work to elect to office those who reflected the goals of the Christian Constitutional Society. 36

REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement. 37

He called on the entire state to pray “that universal happiness may be established in the world [and] that all may bow to the scepter of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole earth be filled with His glory.” 38

He also called on the State of Massachusetts to pray . . .

  • that all nations may bow to the scepter of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that the whole earth may be filled with his glory. 39
  • that the spiritual kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be continually increasing until the whole earth shall be filled with His glory. 40
  • to confess their sins and to implore forgiveness of God through the merits of the Savior of the World. 41
  • to cause the benign religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be known, understood, and practiced among all the inhabitants of the earth. 42
  • to confess their sins before God and implore His forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. 43
  • that He would finally overrule all events to the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom and the establishment of universal peace and good will among men. 44
  • that the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be established in peace and righteousness among all the nations of the earth. 45
  • that with true contrition of heart we may confess our sins, resolve to forsake them, and implore the Divine forgiveness, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Savior. . . . And finally to overrule all the commotions in the world to the spreading the true religion of our Lord Jesus Christ in its purity and power among all the people of the earth. 46

John Hart JUDGE LEGISLATOR SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION [T]hanks be given unto Almighty God therefore, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die and after that the judgment [Hebrews 9:27] . . . principally, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner . . . to receive the same again at the general resurrection by the mighty power of God. 47

RATIFIER OF THE U. S. CONSTITUTION GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA Being a Christian… is a character which I prize far above all this world has or can boast. 48

The Bible… is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed. 49

Righteousness alone can exalt [America] as a nation…Whoever thou art, remember this and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others. 50

The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible. 51

This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed. 52

JUDGE GOVERNOR OF CONNECTICUT It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver . . . and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 53

U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE APPOINTED BY PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON For my part, I am free and ready enough to declare that I think the Christian religion is a Divine institution and I pray to God that I may never forget the precepts of His religion or suffer the appearance of an inconsistency in my principles and practice. 54

ORIGINAL CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U. S. SUPREME COURT GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK Condescend, merciful Father! to grant as far as proper these imperfect petitions, to accept these inadequate thanksgivings, and to pardon whatever of sin hath mingled in them for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior unto Whom, with Thee, and the blessed Spirit, ever one God, be rendered all honor and glory, now and forever. 55

Unto Him who is the author and giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son. . . . Blessed be His holy name. 56

Mercy and grace and favor did come by Jesus Christ, and also that truth which verified the promises and predictions concerning Him and which exposed and corrected the various errors which had been imbibed respecting the Supreme Being, His attributes, laws, and dispensations. 57

By conveying the Bible to people . . . we certainly do them a most interesting act of kindness. We thereby enable them to learn that man was originally created and placed in a state of happiness, but, becoming disobedient, was subjected to the degradation and evils which he and his posterity have since experienced. The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed – that this Redeemer has made atonement “for the sins of the whole world,” and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy, has opened a way for our redemption and salvation and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve. The Bible will also [encourage] them with many explicit and consoling assurances of the Divine mercy to our fallen race, and with repeated invitations to accept the offers of pardon and reconciliation. . . . They, therefore, who enlist in His service, have the highest encouragement to fulfill the du¬ties assigned to their respective stations for most certain it is, that those of His followers who [participate in] His conquests will also participate in the tran¬scendent glories and blessings of His Triumph. 58

I recommend a general and public return of praise and thanksgiving to Him from whose goodness these blessings descend. The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the source from which they flow. 59

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts. 60

[T]he evidence of the truth of Christianity requires only to be carefully examined to produce conviction in candid minds… they who undertake that task will derive advantages. 61

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. 62


The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses. 64

I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all others. 65

I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. 66

FRAMER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS PRESIDENT OF COLUMBIA COLLEGE U. S. SENATOR [I] . . . am endeavoring . . . to attend to my own duty only as a Christian. . . . let us take care that our Christianity, though put to the test . . . be not shaken, and that our love for things really good wax not cold. 67

In an address to graduates:

You this day. . . . have, by the favor of Providence and the at¬tention of friends, received a public education, the purpose whereof hath been to qualify you the better to serve your Creator and your country. You have this day invited this au¬dience to witness the progress you have made. . . . Thus you assume the character of scholars, of men, and of citizens. . . . Go, then, . . . and exercise them with diligence, fidelity, and zeal. . . . Your first great duties, you are sensible, are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer. Let these be ever present to your minds, and exemplified in your lives and conduct. Imprint deep upon your minds the principles of piety towards God, and a reverence and fear of His holy name. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and its [practice] is everlasting [happiness] . . . . Reflect deeply and often upon [your] relations [with God]. Remember that it is in God you live and move and have your being, – that, in the language of David, He is about your bed and about your path and spieth out all your ways – that there is not a thought in your hearts, nor a word upon your tongues, but lo! He knoweth them altogether, and that He will one day call you to a strict account for all your conduct in this mortal life. Remember, too, that you are the redeemed of the Lord, that you are bought with a price, even the inestimable price of the precious blood of the Son of God. Adore Jehovah, therefore, as your God and your Judge. Love, fear, and serve Him as your Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Acquaint yourselves with Him in His word and holy ordinances. . . . [G]o forth into the world firmly resolved neither to be allured by its vanities nor contaminated by its vices, but to run with patience and perseverance, with firmness and [cheerfulness], the glorious career of religion, honor, and virtue. . . . Finally, . . . in the elegant and expressive language are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” – and do them, and the God of peace shall be with you, to whose most gracious protection I now commend you, humbly imploring Almighty Goodness that He will be your guardian and your guide, your protector and the rock of your defense, your Savior and your God. 68

James Kent JUDGE LAW PROFESSOR “FATHER OF AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE” My children, I wish to talk to you. During my early and middle life I was, perhaps, rather skeptical with regard to some of the truths of Christianity. Not that I did not have the utmost respect for religion and always read my Bible, but the doctrine of the atonement was one I never could understand, and I felt inclined to consider as impossible to be received in the way Divines taught it. I believe I was rather inclined to Unitarianism but of late years my views have altered. I believe in the doctrines of the prayer books as I understand them, and hope to be saved through the merits of Jesus Christ. . . . My object in telling you this is that if anything happens to me, you might know, and perhaps it would console you to remember, that on this point my mind is clear: I rest my hopes of salvation on the Lord Jesus Christ. 69

AUTHOR OF THE “STAR SPANGLED BANNER” [M]ay I always hear that you are following the guidance of that blessed Spirit that will lead you into all truth, leaning on that Almighty arm that has been extended to deliver you, trusting only in the only Savior, and going on in your way to Him rejoicing. 70

BILL OF RIGHTS SECRETARY OF STATE FOURTH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven. 71

I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way. 72


I rejoice that the religion of Jesus prevails in your parts I can tell you the same agreeable news from this quarter. Yesterday I returned from Piscataway in East Jersey, where was held a Baptist annual meeting (I think the largest I ever saw) but much more remarkable still for the Divine influences which God was pleased to grant. Fifteen were baptized a number during the three days professed to experience a change of heart. Christians were remarkably quickened multitudes appeared. 73


And may God grant that His grace may really affect your heart with suitable impressions of His goodness. Remember that God made you, that God keeps you alive and preserves you from all harm, and gives you all the powers and the capacity whereby you are able to read of Him and of Jesus Christ, your Savior and Redeemer, and to do every other needful business of life. And while you look around you and see the great privileges and advantages you have above what other children have (of learning to read and write, of being taught the meaning of the great truths of the Bible), you must remember not to be proud on that account but to bless God and be thankful and endeavor in your turn to assist others with the knowledge you may gain. 74 (to his daughter)

George Mason DELEGATE AT THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION “FATHER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS” I give and bequeath my soul to Almighty God that gave it me, hoping that through the meritorious death and passion of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ to receive absolution and remission for all my sins. 75

My soul I resign into the hands of my Almighty Creator, Whose tender mercies are all over His works. . humbly hoping from His unbounded mercy and benevolence, through the merits of my blessed Savior, a remission of my sins. 76

SECRETARY OF WAR UNDER PRESIDENTS GEORGE WASHINGTON AND JOHN ADAMS [P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. Without the Bible, in vain do we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. 77

Bibles are strong protections. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience. 78

GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR OF DELAWARE In the case Respublica v. John Roberts, 79 John Roberts was sentenced to death after a jury found him guilty of treason. Chief Justice McKean then told him:

You will probably have but a short time to live. Before you launch into eternity, it be¬hooves you to improve the time that may be allowed you in this world: it behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct to repent of your evil deeds to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins to teach you to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer, and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow – those doleful shades where peace and rest can never dwell, where even hope cannot enter. It behooves you to seek the [fellowship], advice, and prayers of pious and good men to be [persistent] at the Throne of Grace, and to learn the way that leadeth to happiness. May you, reflecting upon these things, and pursuing the will of the great Father of light and life, be received into [the] company and society of angels and archangels and the spirits of just men made perfect and may you be qualified to enter into the joys of Heaven – joys unspeakable and full of glory! 80

SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION “PENMAN OF THE CONSTITUTION” DIPLOMAT U. S. SENATOR There must be religion. When that ligament is torn, society is disjointed and its members perish… [T]he most important of all lessons is the denunciation of ruin to every state that rejects the precepts of religion. 81

Your good morals in the army give me sincere pleasure as it hath long been my fixed opinion that virtue and religion are the great sources of human happiness. More especially is it necessary in your profession firmly to rely upon the God of Battles for His guardianship and protection in the dreadful hour of trial. But of all these things you will and I hope in the merciful Lord. 82

APPOINTED BY SECRETARY OF STATE TO DOCUMENT CONDITION OF INDIAN AFFAIRS To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. All efforts made to destroy the foundations of our Holy Religion ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation… in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom… Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government – and all the blessings which flow from them – must fall with them. 83

John Morton LEGISLATOR JUDGE SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION With an awful reverence to the Great Almighty God, Creator of all mankind, being sick and weak in body but of sound mind and memory, thanks be given to Almighty God for the same. 84

MENTOR OF JOHN HANCOCK AND SAMUEL ADAMS Has [government] any solid foundation? Any chief cornerstone?… I think it has an everlasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God… The sum of my argument is that civil government is of God. 85

ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MASSACHUSETTS JUDGE I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears. 86

I am constrained to express my adoration of the Supreme Being, the Author of my existence, in full belief of His Providential goodness and His forgiving mercy revealed to the world through Jesus Christ, through whom I hope for never ending happiness in a future state. 87

I believe the Bible to be the written word of God and to contain in it the whole rule of faith and manners. 88

GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE When the righteous rule, the people rejoice when the wicked rule, the people groan. [invoking Proverbs 29:2 to instruct a grand jury]. 89

SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER PRESIDENT JOHN ADAMS Pardon, we beseech Thee, all our offences of omission and commission and grant that in all our thoughts, words, and actions, we may conform to Thy known will manifested in our consciences and in the revelations of Jesus Christ, our Savior. 90

[W]e do not grieve as those who have no… resurrection to a life immortal. Here the believers in Christianity manifest their superior advantages, for life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel of Jesus Christ [II Timothy 1:10]. Prior to that revelation even the wisest and best of mankind were involved in doubt and they hoped, rather than believed, that the soul was immortal. 91

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL LEGISLATOR SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION DIPLOMAT To the eternal and only true God be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen! 92

JAMES MONROE, JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, ANDREW JACKSON U. S. SENATOR DIPLOMAT I have thrown myself, reeking with sin, on the mercy of God, through Jesus Christ His blessed Son and our (yes, my friend, our) precious Redeemer and I have assurances as strong as that I now owe nothing to your rank that the debt is paid and now I love God – and with reason. I once hated him – and with reason, too, for I knew not Christ. The only cause why I should love God is His goodness and mercy to me through Christ. 93

I am at last reconciled to my God and have assurance of His pardon through faith in Christ, against which the very gates of hell cannot prevail. Fear hath been driven out by perfect love. 94

[I] have looked to the Lord Jesus Christ, and hope I have obtained pardon. 95 [I] still cling to the cross of my Redeemer, and with God’s aid firmly resolve to lead a life less unworthy of one who calls himself the humble follower of Jesus Christ. 96

TREASURER OF THE U. S. MINT “FATHER OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION” The Gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations! . . . My only hope of salvation is in the infinite tran¬scendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the Cross. Noth¬ing but His blood will wash away my sins [Acts 22:16]. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! [Revelation 22:20] 97

I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament. 98

By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects… It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. 99

[T]he greatest discoveries in science have been made by Christian philosophers and . . . there is the most knowledge in those countries where there is the most Christianity. 100 [T]he only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible. 101

The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never invented a more effective means of limiting Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was improper to read the Bible at schools. 102

[C]hristianity is the only true and perfect religion and… in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obey its precepts, they will be wise and happy. 103

The Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world. 104

The Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life… [T]he Bible… should be read in our schools in preference to all other books because it contains the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public happiness. 105

Roger Sherman SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION “MASTER BUILDER OF THE CONSTITUTION” JUDGE FRAMER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS U. S. SENATOR I believe that there is one only liv¬ing and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are a revelation from God, and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him. . . . That He made man at first perfectly holy that the first man sinned, and as he was the public head of his posterity, they all became sinners in consequence of his first transgression, are wholly indisposed to that which is good and inclined to evil, and on account of sin are liable to all the miseries of this life, to death, and to the pains of hell forever. I believe that God . . . did send His own Son to become man, die in the room and stead of sinners, and thus to lay a foundation for the offer of pardon and salvation to all mankind, so as all may be saved who are willing to accept the Gospel offer. . . . I believe a visible church to be a congregation of those who make a credible profession of their faith in Christ, and obedience to Him, joined by the bond of the covenant. . . . I believe that the sacraments of the New Testament are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. . . . I believe that the souls of believers are at their death made perfectly holy, and immediately taken to glory: that at the end of this world there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a final judgment of all mankind, when the righteous shall be publicly acquitted by Christ the Judge and admitted to everlasting life and glory, and the wicked be sentenced to everlasting punishment. 106

God commands all men everywhere to repent. He also commands them to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and has assured us that all who do repent and believe shall be saved… [G]od… has absolutely promised to bestow them on all these who are willing to accept them on the terms of the Gospel – that is, in a way of free grace through the atonement. “Ask and ye shall receive [John 16:24]. Whosoever will, let him come and take of the waters of life freely [Revelation 22:17]. Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]. 107

[I]t is the duty of all to acknowledge that the Divine Law which requires us to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves, on pain of eternal damnation, is Holy, just, and good. . . . The revealed law of God is the rule of our duty. 108

True Christians are assured that no temptation (or trial) shall happen to them but what they shall be enabled to bear and that the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for them. 109

“The volume which he consulted more than any other was the Bible. It was his custom, at the commencement of every session of Congress, to purchase a copy of the Scriptures, to peruse it daily, and to present it to one of his children on his return.” 110

Richard Stockton JUDGE SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE [A]s my children will have frequent occasion of perusing this instrument, and may probably be particularly impressed with the last words of their father, I think it proper here not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great and leading doctrines of the Christian religion, such as the being of God the universal defection and depravity of human nature the Divinity of the person and the completeness of the redemption purchased by the blessed Savior the necessity of the operations of the Divine Spirit of Divine faith accompanied with an habitual virtuous life and the universality of the Divine Providence: but also, in the bowels of a father’s affection, to exhort and charge [my children] that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, that the way of life held up in the Christian system is calculated for the most complete happiness that can be enjoyed in this mortal state, [and] that all occasions of vice and immorality is injurious either immediately or consequentially – even in this life. 111

SELECTED AS A DELEGATE TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION Shun all giddy, loose, and wicked company they will corrupt and lead you into vice and bring you to ruin. Seek the company of sober, virtuous and good people… which will lead [you] to solid happiness. 112

U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE APPOINTED BY PRESIDENT JAMES MADISON One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law. There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundations. 113

I verily believe that Christianity is necessary to support a civil society and shall ever attend to its institutions and acknowledge its precepts as the pure and natural sources of private and social happiness. 114

RATIFIER OF THE CONSTITUTION U. S. SENATOR GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS He called on the State of Massachusetts to pray that . . .
all nations may know and be obedient to that grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ. 115

Zephaniah Swift U. S. CONGRESSMAN DIPLOMAT JUDGE AUTHOR OF AMERICA’S FIRST LEGAL TEXT (1795) Jesus Christ has in the clearest manner inculcated those duties which are productive of the highest moral felicity and consistent with all the innocent enjoyments, to which we are impelled by the dictates of nature. Religion, when fairly considered in its genuine simplicity and uncorrupted state, is the source of endless rapture and delight. 116

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE APPROVED BY CONGRESS I am a Christian. I believe only in the Scriptures, and in Jesus Christ my Savior. 117

CONFIDANT OF GEORGE WASHINGTON AND CALLED “BROTHER JONATHAN” BY HIM The examples of holy men teach us that we should seek Him with fasting and prayer, with penitent confession of our sins, and hope in His mercy through Jesus Christ the Great Redeemer. 118

Principally and first of all, I bequeath my soul to God the Creator and giver thereof, and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent Christian burial, in firm belief that I shall receive the same again at the general resurrection through the power of Almighty God, and hope of eternal life and happiness through the merits of my dear Redeemer Jesus Christ. 119

He called on the State of Connecticut to pray that . . .

God would graciously pour out His Spirit upon us and make the blessed Gospel in His hand effectual to a thorough reformation and general revival of the holy and peaceful religion of Jesus Christ. 120

FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES “FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY” You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. 121

While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian. 122

The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country. 123

I now make it my earnest prayer that God would… most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of the mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion. 124

Daniel Webster U. S. SENATOR SECRETARY OF STATE “DEFENDER OF THE CONSTITUTION” [T]he Christian religion – its general principles – must ever be regarded among us as the foundation of civil society. 125

Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens. 126

[T]o the free and universal reading of the Bible… men [are] much indebted for right views of civil liberty. 127

The Bible is a book… which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own dignity, and his equality with his fellow man. 128

Noah Webster REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIER JUDGE LEGISLATOR EDUCATOR “SCHOOLMASTER TO AMERICA” [T]he religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles… This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government. 129

The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. 130

All the… evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. 131

[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion. 132 [T]he Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children under a free government ought to be instructed. No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people. 133

The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society – the best book for regulating the temporal concerns of men. 134

[T]he Christian religion… is the basis, or rather the source, of all genuine freedom in government… I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence. 135

John Witherspoon SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE RATIFIER OF THE U. S. CONSTITUTION PRESIDENT OF PRINCETON [C]hrist Jesus – the promise of old made unto the fathers, the hope of Israel [Acts 28:20], the light of the world [John 8:12], and the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth [Romans 10:4] – is the only Savior of sinners, in opposition to all false religions and every uninstituted rite as He Himself says (John 14:6): “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” 136 [N]o man, whatever be his character or whatever be his hope, shall enter into rest unless he be reconciled to God though Jesus Christ. 137 [T]here is no salvation in any other than in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. 138

I shall now conclude my discourse by preaching this Savior to all who hear me, and entreating you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ for “there is no salvation in any other” [Acts 4:12]. 139

It is very evident that both the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New are at great pains to give us a view of the glory and dignity of the person of Christ. With what magnificent titles is He adorned! What glorious attributes are ascribed to him!… All these conspire to teach us that He is truly and properly God – God over all, blessed forever! 140

[I]f you are not rec¬onciled to God through Jesus Christ – if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness – you must forever perish. 141 [H]e is the best friend to American liberty who is the most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country. 142


Through various scenes of life, God has sustained me. May He ever be my unfailing friend may His love cherish my soul may my heart with gratitude acknowledge His goodness and may my desires be to Him and to the remembrance of His name….May we then turn our eyes to the bright objects above, and may God give us strength to travel the upward road. May the Divine Redeemer conduct us to that seat of bliss which He himself has prepared for His friends at the approach of which every sorrow shall vanish from the human heart and endless scenes of glory open upon the enraptured eye. There our love to God and each other will grow stronger, and our pleasures never be dampened by the fear of future separation. How indifferent will it then be to us whether we obtained felicity by travailing the thorny or the agreeable paths of life – whether we arrived at our rest by passing through the envied and unfragrant road of greatness or sustained hardship and unmerited reproach in our journey. God’s Providence and support through the perilous perplexing labyrinths of human life will then forever excite our astonishment and love. May a happiness be granted to those I most tenderly love, which shall continue and increase through an endless existence. Your cares and burdens must be many and great, but put your trust in that God Who has hitherto supported you and me He will not fail to take care of those who put their trust in Him….It is most evident that this land is under the protection of the Almighty, and that we shall be saved not by our wisdom nor by our might, but by the Lord of Host Who is wonderful in counsel and Almighty in all His operations. 143

1.Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 292-294. In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813.

2. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. X, p. 254, to Thomas Jefferson on April 19, 1817.

3. John Adams, Works, Vol. III, p. 421, diary entry for July 26, 1796.

4. John Adams, Works, Vol. II, pp. 6-7, diary entry for February 22, 1756.

5. John Adams, Works, Vol. X, p. 85, to Thomas Jefferson on December 25, 1813.

6. John Adams and John Quincy Adams, The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams, Adrienne Koch and William Peden, editors (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), p. 292, John Quincy Adams to John Adams, January 3, 1817.

7. Life of John Quincy Adams, W. H. Seward, editor (Auburn, NY: Derby, Miller & Company, 1849), p. 248.

8. John Quincy Adams, An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport at Their Request on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1837 (Newburyport: Charles Whipple, 1837), pp. 5-6.

9. From the Last Will & Testament of Samuel Adams, attested December 29, 1790 see also Samuel Adams, Life & Public Services of Samuel Adams, William V. Wells, editor (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1865), Vol. III, p. 379, Last Will and Testament of Samuel Adams.

10. Letters of Delegates to Congress: August 16, 1776-December 31, 1776, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1979), Vol. 5, pp. 669-670, Samuel Adams to Elizabeth Adams on December 26, 1776.

11. From a Fast Day Proclamation issued by Governor Samuel Adams, Massachusetts, March 20, 1797, in our possession see also Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908), Vol. IV, p. 407, from his proclamation of March 20, 1797.

12. Samuel Adams, A Proclamation For a Day of Public Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, given as the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from an original broadside in our possession see also, Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908), Vol. IV, p. 385, October 14, 1795.

13. Samuel Adams, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 10, 1793.

14. Samuel Adams, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 15, 1796.

15. Josiah Bartlett, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792.

16. Gunning Bedford, Funeral Oration Upon the Death of General George Washington (Wilmington: James Wilson, 1800), p. 18, Evans #36922.

17. Elias Boudinot, The Life, Public Services, Addresses, and Letters of Elias Boudinot, J. J. Boudinot, editor (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1896), Vol. I, pp. 19, 21, speech in the First Provincial Congress of New Jersey.

18. Elias Boudinot, The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia: Asbury Dickins, 1801), pp. xii-xiv, from the prefatory remarks to his daughter, Susan, on October 30, 1782 see also Letters of the Delegates to Congress: 1774-1789, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1992), Vol. XIX, p. 325, from a letter of Elias Boudinot to his daughter, Susan Boudinot, on October 30, 1782 see also, Elias Boudinot, The Life Public Services, Addresses, and Letters of Elias Boudinot (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1896), Vol. I, p. 260-262.

19. Elias Boudinot, The Age of Revelation, or the Age of Reason Shewn to be An Age of Infidelity (Philadelphia: Asbury Dickins, 1801), p. xv, from his “Dedication: Letter to his daughter Susan Bradford.”

20. Jacob Broom to his son, James, on February 24, 1794, written from Wilmington, Delaware, from an original letter in our possession.

21. From an autograph letter in our possession written by Charles Carroll to Charles W. Wharton, Esq., September 27, 1825.

22. Lewis A. Leonard, Life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (New York: Moffit, Yard & Co, 1918), pp. 256-257.

23. Kate Mason Rowland, Life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890), Vol. II, pp. 373-374, will of Charles Carroll, Dec. 1, 1718 (later replaced by a subsequent will not containing this phrase, although he reexpressed this sentiment on several subsequent occasions, including repeatedly in the latter years of his life).

24. Journal of the House of the Representatives of the United States of America (Washington, DC: Cornelius Wendell, 1855), 34th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 354, January 23, 1856 see also: Lorenzo D. Johnson, Chaplains of the General Government With Objections to their Employment Considered (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., 1856), p. 35, quoting from the House Journal, Wednesday, January 23, 1856, and B. F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), p. 328.

25. Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854), pp. 6-9.

26. From the Last Will & Testament of John Dickinson, attested March 25, 1808.

27. John Dickinson, The Political Writings of John Dickinson (Wilmington: Bonsal and Niles, 1801), Vol. I, pp. 111-112.

28. From his last will and testament, attested on September 21, 1840.

29. Benjamin Franklin, Works of Benjamin Franklin, John Bigelow, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), p. 185, to Ezra Stiles, March 9, 1790.

30. Benjamin Franklin, Works of the Late Doctor Benjamin Franklin (Dublin: P. Wogan, P. Byrne, J. More, and W. Janes, 1793), p. 149.

31. Elbridge Gerry, Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise, October 24, 1810, from a proclamation in our possession, EAI #20675.

32. Elbridge Gerry, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 13, 1811, from a proclamation in our possession, Shaw #23317.

33. Elbridge Gerry, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 6, 1812, from a proclamation in our possession, Shaw #26003.

34. John M. Mason, A Collection of the Facts and Documents Relative to the Death of Major General Alexander Hamilton (New York: Hopkins and Seymour, 1804), p. 53.

35. John M. Mason, A Collection of the Facts and Documents Relative to the Death of Major General Alexander Hamilton (New York: Hopkins and Seymour, 1804), pp. 48-50.

36. Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, John C. Hamilton, editor (New York: John F. Trow, 1851), Vol. VI, p. 542, to James A. Bayard, April, 1802 see also, Alexander Hamilton, The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Harold C. Syrett, editor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), Vol. XXV, p. 606, to James A. Bayard, April 16, 1802.

37. Independent Chronicle (Boston), November 2, 1780, last page see also Abram English Brown, John Hancock, His Book (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1898), p. 269.

38. John Hancock, A Proclamation For a Day of Public Thanksgiving 1791, given as Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from an original broadside in our possession.

39. John Hancock, Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving, October 28, 1784, from a proclamation in our possession, Evans #18593.

40. John Hancock, Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving, October 29, 1788, from a proclamation in our possession, Evans #21237.

41. John Hancock, Proclamation For a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 16, 1789, from a proclamation in our possession, Evans #21946.

42. John Hancock, Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise, September 16, 1790, from an original broadside in our possession.

43. John Hancock, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, February 11, 1791, from a proclamation in our possession, Evans #23549.

44. John Hancock, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, February 24, 1792, from a proclamation in our possession, Evans #24519.

45. John Hancock, Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving, October 25, 1792, from an original broadside in our possession.

46. John Hancock, Proclamation for Day of Public Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, March 4, 1793, from a broadside in our possession.

47. From his last will and testament, attested April 16, 1779.

48. A. G. Arnold, The Life of Patrick Henry of Virginia (Auburn and Buffalo: Miller, Orton and Mulligan, 1854), p. 250.

49. William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: James Webster, 1818), p. 402 see also George Morgan, Patrick Henry (Philadelphia & London: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1929), p. 403.

50. Patrick Henry, Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches, William Wirt Henry, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), Vol. II, p. 632, addendum to his resolutions against the Stamp Act, May 29, 1765.

51. Patrick Henry, Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches, William Wirt Henry, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), Vol. II, p. 592, to Archibald Blair on January 8, 1799.

52. Will of Patrick Henry, attested November 20, 1798.

53. Samuel Huntington, A Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, March 9, 1791, from a proclamation in our possession, Evans #23284.

54. James Iredell, The Papers of James Iredell, Don Higginbotham, editor (Raleigh: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1976), Vol. I, p. 11 from his 1768 essay on religion.

55. William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York: J & J Harper, 1833), Vol. I p. 518, Appendix V, from a prayer found among Mr. Jay’s papers and in his handwriting.

56. William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833), Vol. I, pp. 519-520, from his Last Will & Testament.

57. William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York: J & J Harper, 1833), Vol. II, p. 386, to John Murray, April 15, 1818.

58. John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, 1794-1826, Henry P. Johnston, editor (New York: Burt Franklin, 1890), Vol. IV, pp. 494, 498, from his “Address at the Annual Meeting of the American Bible Society,” May 13, 1824.

59. William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833), Vol. I, pp. 457-458, to the Committee of the Corporation of the City of New York on June 29, 1826.

60. John Jay, John Jay: The Winning of the Peace. Unpublished Papers 1780-1784, Richard B. Morris, editor (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980), Vol. II, p. 709, to Peter Augustus Jay on April 8, 1784.

61. William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833), Vol. II, p. 266, to the Rev. Uzal Ogden on February 14, 1796.

62. William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833), Vol. II, p. 376, to John Murray Jr. on October 12, 1816.

63. Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, editor (Washington, D. C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1904), Vol. XV, p. 383, to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse on June 26, 1822.

64. Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Alberty Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XII, p. 315, to James Fishback, September 27, 1809.

65. Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Boston: Grey & Bowen, 1830), Vol. III, p. 506, to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803.

66. Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington, D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIV, p. 385, to Charles Thomson on January 9, 1816.

67. Edwards Beardsley, Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1886), p. 184.

68. E. Edwards Beardsley, Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1886), pp. 141-145.

69. William Kent, Memoirs and Letters of James Kent, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1898), pp. 276-277.

70. Hugh A. Garland, The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1853), Vol. II, p. 104, from Francis Scott Key to John Randolph.

71. James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (New York: R. Worthington, 1884), Vol. I, pp. 5-6, to William Bradford on November 9, 1772.

72. James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, William T. Hutchinson, editor (Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1962), Vol. I, p. 96, to William Bradford on September 25, 1773.

73. Letters of Delegates to Congress: November 7, 1785-November 5, 1786, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1995), Vol. 23, p. 337, James Manning to Robert Carter on June 7, 1786.

74. Letters of Delegates to Congress: May 1, 1777 – September 18, 1777, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1981), Vol. 7, pp. 645-646, Henry Marchant to Sarah Marchant on September 9, 1777.

75. Kate Mason Rowland, Life of George Mason (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1892), Vol. I, p. 373, Will of Colonel George Mason, June 29, 1715 (this will was later replaced by the will below.)

76. Will of George Mason, attested March 20, 1773.

77. Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14.

78. Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14.

79. A. J. Dallas, Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Courts of Pennsylvania (Phila¬delphia: P. Byrne, 1806), p. 39, Respublica v. John Roberts, Pa. Sup. Ct. 1778.

80. William B. Reed, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1847), Vol. II, pp. 36-37.

81. Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1821 (New York: E. Bliss and E. White, 1821), pp. 32, 34, from “An Inaugural Discourse Delivered Before the New York Historical Society by the Honorable Gouverneur Morris, (President,) 4th September, 1816.”

82. Letters of Delegates to Congress: February 1, 1778-May 31, 1778, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1982), Vol. 9, pp. 729-730, Gouverneur Morris to General Anthony Wayne on May 21, 1778.

83. Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America, Delivered at Charlestown, April 25, 1799, The Day of the National Fast (MA: Printed by Samuel Etheridge, 1799), p. 9.

84. From his last will and testament, attested January 28, 1777.

85. James Otis, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved (London: J. Williams and J. Almon, 1766), pp. 11, 98.

86. Robert Treat Paine, The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson, editors (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1992), Vol. I, p. 48, Robert Treat Paine’s Confession of Faith, 1749.

87. From the Last Will & Testament of Robert Treat Paine, attested May 11, 1814.

88. Robert Treat Paine, The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson, editors (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1992), Vol. I, p. 49, Robert Treat Paine’s Confession of Faith, 1749.

89. United States Oracle (Portsmouth, NH), May 24, 1800.

90. Charles W. Upham, The Life of Timothy Pickering (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1873), Vol. IV, p. 390, from his prayer of November 30, 1828.

91. Mary Orne Pickering, Life of John Pickering (Boston: 1887), p. 79, letter from Thomas Pickering to his son John Pickering, May 12, 1796.

92. From his last will and testament, attested October 8, 1807.

93. Collected Letters of John Randolph of Roanoke to Dr. John Brockenbrough, Kenneth Shorey, editor (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1988), p. 17, to John Brockenbrough, August 25, 1818.

94. Hugh A. Garland, The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1853), Vol. II, p. 99, to Francis Scott Key on September 7, 1818.

95. Hugh A. Garland, The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1853), Vol. 1I, p. 374.

96. Hugh A. Garland, The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1853), Vol. II, p. 106, to Francis Scott Key, May 3, 1819.

97. Benjamin Rush, The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, George W. Corner, editor (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1948), pp. 165-166.

98. Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 475, to Elias Boudinot on July 9, 1788.

99. Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), Vol. II, p. 936, to John Adams, January 23, 1807.

100. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), p. 84, Thoughts upon Female Education.”

101. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas & Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), p. 112, “A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book.”

102. Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), Vol. I, p. 521, to Jeremy Belknap on July 13, 1789.

103. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas & Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), p. 93, “A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book.” See also Rush, Letters, Vol. I, p. 578, to Jeremy Belknap on March 2, 1791.

104. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas & Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), p. 93, “A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book” see also Rush, Letters, Vol. I, p. 578, to Jeremy Belknap on March 2, 1791.

105. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas & Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), pp. 94, 100, “A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book.”

106. Lewis Henry Boutell, The Life of Roger Sherman (Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company, 1896), pp. 271-273.

107. Correspondence Between Roger Sherman and Samuel Hopkins (Worcester, MA: Charles Hamilton, 1889), p. 9, from Roger Sherman to Samuel Hopkins, June 28, 1790.

108. Correspondence Between Roger Sherman and Samuel Hopkins (Worcester, MA: Charles Hamilton, 1889), p. 10, from Roger Sherman to Samuel Hopkins, June 28, 1790.

109. Correspondence Between Roger Sherman and Samuel Hopkins (Worcester, MA: Charles Hamilton, 1889), p. 26, from Roger Sherman to Samuel Hopkins, October, 1790.

110. The Globe (Washington DC newspaper), August 15, 1837, p. 1.

111. Will of Richard Stockton, dated May 20, 1780.

112. John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: R. W. Pomeroy, 1824), Vol. IX, p. 333, Thomas Stone to his son, October 1787.

113. Joseph Story, Life and Letters of Joseph Story, William W. Story, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. II, p. 8.

114. Joseph Story, Life and Letters of Joseph Story, William W. Story, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. I, p. 92, March 24, 1801.

115. Caleb Strong, Governor of Massachusetts, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, February 13, 1813, from a proclamation in our possession, Shaw #29090.

116. Zephaniah Swift, The Correspondent (Windham: John Byrne, 1793), p. 135.

117. The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush His “Travels Through Life” together with his Commonplace Book for 1789-1813, George W. Carter, editor (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1948), p. 294, October 2, 1810.

118. Jonathan Trumbull, Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 9, 1774, from a proclamation in our possession, Evans #13210.

119. Last will and testament of Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., attested on January 29, 1785.

120. Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut, A Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving, October 12, 1770, from a proclamation in our possession.

121. George Washington, The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XV, p. 55, from his speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779.

122. George Washington, The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XI, pp. 342-343, General Orders of May 2, 1778.

123. George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. 5, p. 245, July 9, 1776 Order.

124. George Washington, The Last Official Address of His Excellency George Washington to the Legislature of the United States (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1783), p. 12 see also The New Annual Register or General Repository of History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1783 (London: G. Robinson, 1784), p. 150.

125. Daniel Webster, Mr. Webster’s Speech in Defence of the Christian Ministry and in Favor of the Religious Instruction of the Young. Delivered in the Supreme Court of the United States, February 10, 1844, in the Case of Stephen Girard’s Will (Washington: Printed by Gales and Seaton, 1844), p. 41.

126. Daniel Webster, The Works of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1853), Vol. I, p. 44, A Discourse Delivered at Plymouth, on December 22, 1820.

127. Daniel Webster, Address Delivered at Bunker Hill, June 17, 1843, on the Completion of the Monument (Boston: T. R. Marvin, 1843), p. 31 see also W. P. Strickland, History of the American Bible Society from its Organization to the Present Time (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1849), p.

128. Daniel Webster, Address Delivered at Bunker Hill, June 17, 1843, on the Completion of the Monument (Boston: T. R. Marvin, 1843), p. 31 see also W. P. Strickland, History of the American Bible Society from its Organization to the Present Time (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1849), p.

129. Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1832), p. 300, ¶ 578.

130. Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 339, “Advice to the Young,” ¶ 53.

131. Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 339, “Advice to the Young,” ¶ 53.

132. Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1832), p. 6.

133. Noah Webster, A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary, and Moral Subjects (New York: Webster and Clark, 1843), p. 291, from his “Reply to a Letter of David McClure on the Subject of the Proper Course of Study in the Girard College, Philadelphia. New Haven, October 25, 1836.”

134. Noah Webster, The Holy Bible . . . With Amendments of the Language (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1833), p. v.

135. K. Alan Snyder, Defining Noah Webster: Mind and Morals in the Early Republic (New York: University Press of America, 1990), p. 253, to James Madison on October 16, 1829.

136. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. V, p. 255, Sermon 15, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ,” January 2, 1758.

137. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. V, p. 245, Sermon 15, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ,” January 2, 1758.

138. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. V, p. 248, Sermon 15, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ,” January 2, 1758.

139. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. V, p. 276, Sermon 15, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ’ January 2, 1758.

140. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. V, p. 267, Sermon 15, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ,” January 2, 1758.

141. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. V, p. 278, Sermon 15, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ,” January 2, 1758.

142. John Witherspoon, The Works of the Reverend John Witherspoon (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1802), Vol. III, p. 42.

143. Letters of Delegates to Congress: January 1, 1776-May 15, 1776, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1978), Vol. 3, pp. 502-503, Oliver Wolcott to Laura Wolcott on April 10, 1776.

The Founding Fathers

When the Founding Fathers embarked on a grand experiment to create a government for a fledgling nation, they likely never anticipated how successful their experiment would be.

Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History

Washington at the Constitutional Convention

Before becoming the the United States' first president, George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, which established the nation's Constitution. "Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention" was painted by Junius Brutus Stearn.

Photograph by Ian Dagnall/Alamy Stock Photo

In the 1760s and 1770s, growing discontent with British rule caused its American colonists to begin to discuss their options. In 1774, leaders of the various colonies came together in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at what has since become known as the First Continental Congress. Shortly after hostilities broke out between British troops and American colonists at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, these men met once again. The Second Continental Congress declared independence from Britain and later drafted the Articles of Confederation, which would dictate how the newly independent states were to be governed. Many of these same men were sent to Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation. In early discussions, the delegates determined that the Articles needed more than just revisions and set about writing a new Constitution&mdashthe Constitution that continues to rule the United States to this day. These men were responsible for forging a new nation. Collectively, they are often referred to as the Founding Fathers.

Who Were the Founding Fathers?

Historians have varied opinions about exactly who should be included on the list of Founding Fathers, or how large this list should be. Some names&mdashGeorge Washington, James Madison, and John Adams&mdashare obvious, but others may be more debatable. Fifty-five delegates attended the Constitutional Convention, each of whom had an important part to play. There were also men&mdashThomas Jefferson, most notably&mdashwho were not at the Constitutional Convention but who nonetheless played a critical role in the foundation of the country. Jefferson not only wrote the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, but also provided counsel to the Constitutional Convention from Paris, France, where he was serving as the minister to France.

The Founding Fathers were, relatively speaking, a diverse group. They were doctors and lawyers, merchants and farmers. Each brought his own unique knowledge, experiences, and ideas. Most of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had experience in politics and/or government. With the Revolutionary War behind them, they looked to the future. They agreed that they wanted liberty, but they did not all agree on the best course of action for the country, the appropriate role of government, or the optimal governmental structure that would balance liberty with order.

Roles and Responsibilities

By definition, the Founding Fathers played key roles in the founding of the country, but some played particularly critical parts. As with any group, their strength was often gained from their differences. Without the fiery tempers of Bostonians John Adams and Samuel Adams, the colonies may have decided to appease Parliament and back down from demanding their rights. Instead, the persuasive voices of patriots like journalist Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry gave credence to their cause and contributed to a sense of patriotism that swept the colonies. John Hancock, best remembered for his large looping signature as the first signer of the Declaration of Independence, also served as the president of the Continental Congress.

The Founding Fathers served one another well during these challenging and unstable times. During the American Revolution, George Washington led the Continental Army to victory over a much larger and better equipped British army. As president of the Constitutional Convention, Washington was instrumental in ensuring that all opinions were heard and in keeping discussions on track. As Washington presided, fellow Virginian James Madison took copious notes on the proceedings. Not just any Founding Father, Madison is often called the Father of the Constitution.

At 81 years of age, Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was hampered by ill health, yet missed just a few sessions&mdasheven when he was so weak he had to be carried in the sessions. By then, Franklin had already earned a name in the history books for his role in drafting the Declaration of Independence and negotiating the 1783 Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War.

The Founding Fathers did not just craft the new government, they also ensured its success. After the Constitutional Convention, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote a series of 85 articles and essays under the pseudonym &ldquoPublius&rdquo to urge states to ratify the historic document. In what were later published as the &ldquoFederalist Papers,&rdquo these three Founding Fathers painstakingly set about describing the features of the government and explaining its advantages. To address concerns that a strong national government might encroach on the rights of citizens, Madison also wrote a series of amendments outlining the rights of the people, which were added to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights in 1791.

The Grand Experiment

The Founding Fathers often viewed their new government as an experiment, but this was an experiment they desperately wanted to succeed. Where differences arose, the Founding Fathers hammered out compromises, working together for more than four months to &ldquoform a more perfect union,&rdquo as described in the preamble to the Constitution.

Their experiment resulted in a constitutional republican form of government that has withstood both internal and external threats, including a bloody Civil War, and has led the United States to become the most powerful country in the world. In the end, the legacy of the Founding Fathers is the promise of liberty and justice, not only for Americans, but for any people willing to invest in democratic self-government.

Before becoming the the United States' first president, George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, which established the nation's Constitution. "Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention" was painted by Junius Brutus Stearn.

Caleb Strong, Massachusetts

Strong was born to Caleb and Phebe Strong on January 9, 1745 in Northampton, MA. He received his college education at Harvard, from which he graduated with highest honors in 1764. Like so many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, Strong chose to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1772. He enjoyed a prosperous country practice.

From 1774 through the duration of the Revolution, Strong was a member of Northampton's committee of safety. In 1776 he was elected to the Massachusetts General Court and also held the post of county attorney for Hampshire County for 24 years. He was offered a position on the state supreme court in 1783 but declined it.

At the Constitutional Convention, Strong counted himself among the delegates who favored a strong central government. He successfully moved that the House of Representatives should originate all money bills and sat on the drafting committee. Though he preferred a system that accorded the same rank and mode of election to both houses of Congress, he voted in favor of equal representation in the Senate and proportional in the House. Strong was called home on account of illness in his family and so missed the opportunity to sign the Constitution. However, during the Massachusetts ratifying convention, he took a leading role among the Federalists and campaigned strongly for ratification.

Massachusetts chose Strong as one of its first U.S. senators in 1789. During the 4 years he served in that house, he sat on numerous committees and participated in framing the Judiciary Act. Caleb Strong wholeheartedly supported the Washington administration. In 1793 he urged the government to send a mission to England and backed the resulting Jay's Treaty when it met heated opposition.

Caleb Strong, the Federalist candidate, defeated Elbridge Gerry to become Governor of Massachusetts in 1800. Despite the growing strength of the Democratic party in the state, Strong won reelection annually until 1807. In 1812 he regained the governorship, once again over Gerry, and retained his post until he retired in 1816. During the War of 1812 Strong withstood pressure from the Secretary of War to order part of the Massachusetts militia into federal service. Strong opposed the war and approved the report of the Hartford Convention, a gathering of New England Federalists resentful of Jeffersonian policies.

Strong died on November 7, 1819, 2 years after the death of his wife, Sarah. He was buried in the Bridge Street Cemetery in Northampton. Four of his nine children survived him.

Image: National Archives, Records of Exposition, Anniversary, and Memorial Commissions

Watch the video: Just as the Founding Fathers Intended