Preserving America's Historical Significance

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  He was at the forefront of the efforts to have the Stamp Act repealed by Parliament, and became a national hero in America as a result.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and called a resolution to the House of Burgesses asking Virginia to boycott British goods until the Acts were repealed.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.