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  He was at the forefront of the efforts to have the Stamp Act repealed by Parliament, and became a national hero in America as a result.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and called a resolution to the House of Burgesses asking Virginia to boycott British goods until the Acts were repealed.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


During World War II, widespread food shortages in America were common because much of the commercial agricultural force was sent off to war. Thus, food was rationed by the government. In order to help expand the amount of food available for Americans as well as keep the prices of produce down, pamphlets and posters were printed by the Department of Agriculture telling the people to start growing their own gardens. The idea began during World War I when Charles Lathrop Pack organized the U.S. National War Garden Commission which launched the war garden campaign in 1917, but the efforts needed to be expanded. The new campaign was christened “Victory Gardens.” The name of the program alone was a great way to spark interest and motivate people to start digging.

Americans were urged to plant crops in any idle land, including back yards, empty lots, parks, school land, and company grounds. Included in the pamphlets was information on how to deal with pests and insects so that the gardens would be more productive. A twenty-minute movie promoting planting gardens and explaining the best way to do so was issued by the same department. In addition to growing the crops, it was suggested that they can their own fruits and veggies so that they wouldn’t go to waste.

In what remained in the commercial agricultural realm, the department pushed keeping logs for seed germination, insects, and any diseases they found in or on the plants. Popular crops included squash, tomatoes, turnips, peas, and lettuce. Even the First Lady of the time, Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden on the White House grounds offering an example American women wanted to follow.

Photo: Smithsonian

The combined efforts of the American people produced more than 40 percent of the fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in the United States. This one idea increased morale, allowed the War department to save money on crops, and produced a sense of comradery among all Americans. Perhaps revisiting this idea would help Americans today have victory over the high prices of food due to droughts and other natural disasters, support local agriculture and communities, become self-sufficient and enjoy home grown food once again.

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