They are rightfully placed among the most influential people in American history. The story of America begins with our Founding Fathers. They brought us the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights,and the Constitution. They are the framers of American history. We are all familiar with the many famous quotes from the Founding Fathers, but not nearly enough time is spent diving into who these people actually were.
1. Patrick Henry
His immortal words still ring out today. “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Yet Patrick Henry’s path to that moment was paved with two failed business ventures, several career changes and the horrible, tragic death of his beloved wife, Sarah. Patrick Henry’s life teaches us that success often comes after failure. The moral to the story: never give up.
2. John Adams
He was the 2nd President of the United States and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. A highly educated man whose ideas strongly shaped the governmental structure of our republic. He was a direct descendent of the founding generation of Puritans who established colonial presence in America. Religion played a dominant role in his life, and his views were complicated and contrasting. One of the biggest lessons Adams’ life teaches is the importance of choosing the right mate. His wife Abigail was a great encourager to him. Even though his work required them to be apart for years at a time, she stood by him and continued to be his rock.
3. Benjamin Franklin
Everyone knows Benjamin Franklin. He is one of America’s most enduring and beloved figures. His inventions and innovations are all over the blueprints of modern history. His life was monumental to the future of America. Despite being commonly addressed as “Doctor,” Benjamin Franklin had but a 2nd grade education. His life shows that intelligence without traditional education can still equal success, if good character and hard work are evident.
4. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson is the author of the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd President of the United States. Like John Adams, his ideas and influence strongly shape our lives today. And even though it looks like Mr. Jefferson’s life was one of success after success, a notable failure is that he entered a contest to choose the architect to design the White House and lost. Even the most successful people suffer setbacks.
5. Thomas Paine
A great intellectual writer and fierce revolutionary, his many works are highlighted by his publication Common Sense. John Adams said of the pamphlet, “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” Thomas Paine is a revered figure among American patriots then and now. Yet, without the influence of another Founding Father, Paine would have never made his way to America. His revolutionary thoughts and religious beliefs had worn out their welcome in London, and it was Benjamin Franklin who suggested he might find a better audience in America. Thomas Paine barely survived the trip to the colonies and arrived extremely ill. It took 6 weeks for him to recover once he landed in Philadelphia. Thankfully he survived, and his words went on to spur the motivation to stand up and fight the tyranny of the King. Physical challenges can make us stronger.
6. Alexander Hamilton
The first United States Secretary of the Treasury who was described as one whom “more than any other designed the government of the United States.” His hand guided the formation of the nation’s first political party, The Federalists, and he was a direct rival to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. This man was a giant. Are you aware he was born an illegitimate child in the British West Indies? He was sent to the colonies for an education, but he never graduated as his ambition led him to seek fortune and fame. His political career was rocked by scandal, but his contributions were nonetheless vital. He would eventually die in a very famous gun duel with Aaron Burr.
7. Samuel Adams
More than a beer, he was the second cousin to President John Adams and a major leader in the movement that led to the revolt. Samuel Adams was known as the “Father of the American Revolution.” He was charismatic and a natural leader. His early life, however, included failed business ventures and a stint as a tax collector, which is ironic considering he would later spur the Boston Tea Party. He would often fail to collect the taxes from his fellow citizens, which increased his popularity. However, he was held liable for the shortages and sued. A revolutionary spirit indeed.
8. James Madison
Our 4th President, James Madison, is considered the “Father of the Constitution” and the author of the Bill of Rights. As Secretary of State under President Jefferson, he supervised the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the nation. His wife is equally as well known, and there is an interesting twist to their meeting. James was a lonely bachelor until age 43. Senator Aaron Burr introduced Mr. Madison to a widow named Dolley Todd. The two never had children and the very upbeat Dolley would often overshadow her soft-spoken husband. To be such an enormous figure in American history, James Madison stood but 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. But he was 100% American and had a heart big enough to help our infant country find its way. So success doesn’t equal size. Might doesn’t equal right.
9. George Washington
The Father of our Country and America’s 1st President, George Washington, stands tall above all others in the history of our Founders. He never did actually chop down that cherry tree though. That story was concocted by a biographer years after his death. He did, however, almost meet an early death on many occasions that would have prevented his ascent. He had bullets graze him and nearly drowned in an icy river after falling off a raft. He also suffered with and survived malaria, smallpox, pleurisy and dysentery. George Washington was a man destined to lead the birth of what would become the world’s greatest nation. And his greatest act? Leaving office peacefully (and joyfully) after his term. America is what it is today because Washington was who he was.