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 Integral to its mission, First Principles publishes articles and press releases, combs news media outlets for current events, presents research and educational materials to a wide variety of audiences, and houses a vast archive of historical documents and quotations. Check back here regularly for what’s new at FPP.
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Key Founding Figures – Part III


In this last part of series about America’s Key Founding Figures, we will highlight Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay—drafters of The Federalist Papers, published between 1787 and 1788 in several New York newspapers persuading voters to ratify the proposed U.S. Constitution. The Papers consisted of 85 essays with Hamilton credited with 52, Madison with 28, and Jay with five.

A lawyer and political scientist, Alexander Hamilton, while a student at King’s College, joined the anti-British movement in 1774. He made an impression with public speeches and the writing of two pamphlets containing his revolutionary essays.  In 1776, Hamilton organized a volunteer artillery company which led to his assignment as captain of an artillery in the Continental Army.  Hamilton’s abilities were noticed by George Washington, and he joined Washington’s staff in 1777 serving four years as Washington’s private secretary. As a New York state legislature, he was chosen as a delegate to the Federal Convention of 1787. Although Hamilton did not agree with much of the content of the proposed Constitution, he was one of three New York delegates to sign it and made substantial contribution to its ratification.  Hamilton’s significant role in the writing of the The Federalist Papers played a huge part in convincing New Yorkers to vote in favor of the Constitution.  In 1789, Hamiliton was apppointed Secretary of the Treasury and was the primary author of the economic policies of George Washington’s administration.

James Madison, an American statesman and political theorist, took great interest in the relationship between the American colonies and Britain. In 1774, Madison took a seat on the local Committee of Safety in Virginia, a patriot pro-revolution group that oversaw the local militia, and joined the Virginia militia in 1775. Madison served in Virginia’s state legislature writing the state constitution and making special contributions to the wording of religious freedoms. In 1780, he represented Virginia as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In 1787, Madison represented Virginia at the Constitution Convention. It was Madison’s idea to form a federal government consisting of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and to have a system of checks and balances. He was also credited with the idea of “shared sovereignty” between state and federal government. His contributions to the Constitution and The Federalist Papers were major in Madison later being dubbed as “Father of the Constitution.”  In 1809 Madison became the 4th American president.
Biographer Walter Stahr sites John Jay, a successful New York lawyer, as “a vital figure in the founding of our republic,” who devoted himself to the American Revolution. He represented New York at the First Continental Congress in September, 1774. He wanted to keep ties with Britain, but ensuring the rights of the colonists became more important. In October, 1774, Jay’s draft of The Address to the People of Great Britain was adopted by Congress. As New York’s chief justice in 1776, Jay helped write the state constitution. He returned to the Continental Congress in 1778, becoming its president, then took on his most prominent role—diplomat. As Minister to Spain, Jay convinced Spain to loan the U.S. $170,000. He then joined Benjamin Franklin in Paris, France, negotiating an end to the Revolutionary War with the Treaty of Paris (1783). Besides his contribution to The Federalist Papers, Jay authored a pamphlet, “An Address to the People of New York,” which helped ratify the Constitution.  He would become the 1st Chief Justice of the supreme Court in 1789.

Seven key figures among the Founding Fathers made significant contributions that would affect the lives of the millions who came after them.

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Key Founding Figures – Part II


This is the second part of a three part series highlighting seven key Founding Fathers as identified by historian, Richard B. Morris, in 1973. The two such figures in focus on this blog are probably the most recognized names in American history: Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

A world-renowned polymath, Benjamin Franklin was an author, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, and diplomat.  He was at the forefront of the efforts to have the Stamp Act repealed by Parliament, and became a national hero in America as a result.  He created the first newspaper chain, believing the press had a public service duty.  He made several “small but important changes” to the first draft of the Declaration of Independence.  Franklin was an ambassador to France during the American Revolution and secured a military alliance in 1778.  He negotiated the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  The French were fascinated with the American, who wore a coonskin hat during his time there, and was active with the local freemasons.  Benjamin Franklin was the only founding father to sign all four of the key documents in the establishment of the U.S., the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris, and the U.S. Constitution.

Franklin died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84. 20,000 people attended the funeral of the man who was called, “the harmonious human multitude.”  His quick wit, clever sayings, constant curiosity and dedication to God and country still fascinate and inspire people today.

George Washington was known as “the father of his country”, even during his lifetime.  He opposed the Stamp Act of 1765 and found the British Proclamation of 1763 that prohibited settlement beyond the Alleghenies irritating. He didn’t take a leading role in the colonial resistance against the British Ben until the Townshend Acts of 1767 were passed.  However, he was opposed to the colonies declaring independence according to letters from this period.  He wasn’t opposed to resisting violations by the Crown of the rights of Englishmen, and called a resolution to the House of Burgesses asking Virginia to boycott British goods until the Acts were repealed.  After the Intolerable Acts were passed, Washington chaired a meeting that produced the adoption of the Fairfax Resolves which called for the convening of the Continental Congress and secured the use of armed resistance as a last resort.

He was chosen to be a delegate of the First Continental Congress.  After the events of the battles of Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, the conflict between Britain and the colonies erupted into armed conflict.  Washington traveled to the Second Continental Congress dressed in a military uniform, showing he was prepared for war.  On June 16, 1775, Washington formally accepted command of the American Army with these words, “But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.”  Washington’s would lose more battles than he won throughout his military career, but his leadership that helped secure American independence.

In 1789 Washington was unanimously elected as the first president of the America.  He passed away at the age of 67 in 1799, the nation mourned for months.

Part three will highlight the last of the seven key Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, all three of whom were writers of the Federalist Papers.


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Key Founding Figures – Part I


The Founding Fathers of America are some of the most influential people and interesting studies in history, and it’s important to recognize who they are and their accomplishments. Identifying key founders can be difficult as some historians include the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Framers of the Constitution, Signers of the Articles of Confederation, and every politician, statesman, soldier, jurist, diplomat, or ordinary citizen, who took part in winning American Independence and creating our nation. Historian Richard B. Morris narrowed it down by identifying seven men as key Founding Fathers: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. For the purpose of informing our readers, the contributions of these men will be highlighted in a three part series.

John Adams was a lawyer, statesmen, and a diplomat who gained much influence in early America. He defended the soldiers in the Boston Massacre, stating, “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished . . .”  He countered essays written by Daniel Leonard, a Massachusetts lawyer, who argued for the absolute authority of Parliament in the colonies, by virtue of his own Letters of Novanglus, a long series of newspaper essays. Novanglus was Adams’ pseudonym for“New Englander.”  Adams position was that the colonies were only connected to Great Britain through the King.  Later, he was sent as a delegate to both Continental Congresses, intent on separation from England.  Adams nominated George Washington to be the commander of the colonial forces.  In 1777, Adams became the head of the Board of War and Ordnance where he worked eighteen-hour days as a “one man war department.”   Adams would later become the 2nd president of the newly formed America.  In the damp, unfinished rooms of the White House, Adams wrote his wife, “Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.”

Thomas Jefferson was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress where he sought out John Adams.  The two became fast friends, which led to Jefferson becoming the author of the Declaration of Independence. Adams ensured that Thomas Jefferson was appointed to the five-man committee that was to write a declaration in favor of a resolution of independence.  After Adam’s had convinced them, the committee decided that Jefferson should be the one to write the first draft with Adam’s consultation.    He spoke five languages, studied philosophy, science, invention and architecture, just to name a few of his interests.  He designed his own mansion near Charlottesville, Virginia, naming it Monticello.  Though he was an eloquent writer, he was a poor public speaker and suffered from a speech impediment.  Jefferson was elected the 3rd president of the U.S., narrowly beating John Adams who was running for reelection.  Jefferson and Adams would become staunch political rivals, but eventually renewed their friendship following the end of Jefferson’s presidency.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries who had stood up to the British empire. On July 4, 1826, at the age of 90, Adams lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” Little did he know that his friend, Jefferson had died five hours earlier in his home, Monticello, at the age of 82.

Next up, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.


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Hard Work: Even More American Than Apple Pie


Is apple pie really as American as everyone says it is? Probably not.

When something is loved and celebrated enough by a certain culture, it will likely come to be heavily associated with that culture—like apple pie is now associated with American culture. However, pie is not the only thing we have come to celebrate in this country since its founding. We are proud of our freedom, our military, our progress, and our hard working citizens. At first glance, it is easy to ask whether today’s America is really as hardworking as the America we once were. This is an easy question to ask, but perhaps not an easy question to answer.

George Washington, our first president, was appointed official surveyor for Culpeper County when he was just seventeen. This was a position that carried with it significant responsibility and good wages. Paul Revere, famous for his midnight ride during the American Revolution, developed a successful post-war ironwork business. This was an expansion of his existing silversmith outfit. America’s history is filled with similar stories of entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial success.

Today we have access to exponentially better education and infrastructure—resources that should make sustainable business growth easier than ever before. However, these amenities also come with a more saturated market and fiercer competition. Regardless of the way these changes affect business owners, they certainly have major affects on the consumer, as well. When large corporations supply the majority of commodities needed to survive, consumers no longer have to be as industrious on an individual level. Specialized skills become more important than diverse skills, changing cultural norms.

Although this shift is not inherently bad, it could mean a decrease in innovative ventures. Disruption caused by low-capital startups can be extremely healthy for the economy and consumers. There is certainly plenty of this going on in Silicon Valley, with companies like Pinterest and Uber shaking things up, to much acclaim. However, startup culture should extend beyond software, and beyond the Pacific Northwest.

There are many initiatives focused on forming entrepreneurial tendencies in American youth. Initiatives like the Thiel FellowshipIntel’s International Science and Engineering Fair, and Foundation Capital’s Young Entrepreneurship Program  Make no mistake, networking and exposure are important, but there are some virtues vital to success that are not often the focus of startup incubators. These include patience, integrity, and honor. 


Success is often about well-roundedness, and it is our responsibility to rear a well-rounded youth. When multi-tasking is inevitable, we should teach focus. When efficiency is paramount, we should also stress quality. When times get tough, we should teach thriftiness. It is up to us to prepare our children for a diverse future—a future not wholly secured by corporations or government

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