When Dreams Turn into Battles

What makes our founding fathers so special?  William J. Bennett edited a book called Our Country’s Founders: A Book of Advice for Young People. This book gives us a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the men who fought for independence over 230 years ago. Some of our founding fathers served on the battlefield, while others served in the courtroom and behind closed doors as they pushed for a republic for the citizens of this new country they longed to form.  The book is a series of letters written by the very men who fought for us to have the lives we have now. While the book is a good source of primary sources from some of these men, others are not included. The delegates had varied backgrounds but most had some political experience and were not afraid to voice their opinions. I think it might be a good idea to give a brief snapshot of these men and what they experienced.
Benjamin Rush wrote a letter to John Adams and said of him and Thomas Jefferson, “I consider you and him to be the North and South Poles of the American Revolution. Some talked, some wrote, and some fought to promote and establish it, but you and Mr. Jefferson thought for us all.”  It is in these words that we understand the truth.  Without men like Adams and Jefferson, as well as the ones you will read about, the American Revolution could never have been successful.

William Penn

William Penn – born in 1644 and died in 1718. It’s hard to imagine a fight for independence without William Penn and his beliefs of freedom for all men. The very foundation of Philadelphia is based upon the principles he held dear and helped formulate the premise for the Declaration of Independece.

Richard Stockton

Richard Stockton – born in 1730, he died in 1780, before the final battles were won. My relative from New Jersey pledged to give not only his life but all his belongings in the fight for Independence and in the end, he did just that.  Arrested for treasonous acts against the crown, he was imprisoned and all his possessions were either destroyed or stolen from him. Along with other men of stature who declared themselves free of Great Britain’s rule, he went into hiding. Unfortunately he was discovered and thrown into gaol where he was treated abominably – often times given no food for days and left in a freezing cell with barely the clothes on his back.  Through it all, he refused to give in to the King’s soldiers and was punished harshly for maintaining his opinions of freedom.  Once the war ended and he was released, he was forced to live off the hospitality of friends in order to survive.  He was far too sickly because of his prolonged imprisonment and died at the age of 51. 

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry (1736-1799) Famous for his lines “Give me liberty or give me death”, Patrick Henry spent most of his political life in Virginia and was very passionate about his beliefs.  He was a colonel in the army during the revolution and was involved in the Gunpowder Incident against Lord Dunmore.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) – The author of Common Sense, Thomas Paine said “we have the power to remake the world anew.” He was born in England and worked as a corsetmaker. Benjamin Franklin suggested Paine emigrate to the colonies and Thomas Paine almost did not survive the voyage. Not surprisingly years later, he was also involved in the start of the French Revolution while he resided there.

John Adams

John Adams (1735-1826) He defended the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.  Our second President, he was always at odds with Thomas Jefferson but amazingly they both died on the same exact day.  A delegate from Massachusetts, he convinced Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence.

George Washington

George Washington (1732 – 1799) He started out his life as a surveyor but became a soldier in 1753.  His military career took him through the Revolutionary War where he became the commander of the patriot forces.  We all know him as the Father of our country, but he enjoyed the life of a planter and once his years were complete as president, he returned to Mount Vernon to work as a farmer.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (1745-1826) Given credit for writing the Declaration of Independence, he actually worked with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. He became our third president after a  close election against Alexander Hamilton who became his vice president.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin – 1706-1790.  An inventor, a statesman, a diplomat, an author, and many other occupations, Benjamin Franklin traveled to France and helped convince their government to assist us in the war.  His wit and wisdom has become a part of our everyday life.

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones – (1741-1792) a naval officer who was known for saying “I have not yet begun to fight”.  Born in Scotland, he believed in American independence and set out to free soldiers being held captive in Nova Scotia.  He is best known for commanding the Bonhomme Richard and defeating the British ship Serapis.

Nathan Hale – (1755-1776) he was a soldier in the Continental Army and was captured by the British.  Before he was hanged, he said “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country”.  He volunteered to go behind enemy lines. He was recognized and trapped into revealing his true identity.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton – born in 1755 and died in 1804, he was our first Secretary of the Treasury. He had no formal education but helped build the US’s reputation by repaying debts after the war.  While fighting in the war, he was an aide-de-camp for Washington and later became a commander. He wrote most of the Federalist papers.

James Madison (1751-1836) – Our fourth president, he was president during the War of 1812 and his wife saved George Washington’s portrait, cutting it from its frame and taking it with her when they fled the White House.  He worked with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton on the Federalist papers. He also supervised the Louisiana Purchase during Jefferson’s reign as president.

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Rush – born in 1746 and died in 1813.  He was a doctor and medical professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Just a bit of information that intrigued me – he married Richard Stockton’s daughter, Julia (which in away makes me a relative of both signers of the Declaration)

Samuel Adams (1722-1803) – He was one of the leaders of the movement to bring about the revolution.  He attended Harvard and was very active in politics. John Adams was his second cousin. He worked in his family’s malthouse and learned the brewing business. Throughout the early years, he wrote many letters about independence, arguing for the need to separate from Great Britain.  He convinced his cousin to represent the soldiers after the Boston Massacre to show the colonists were fair minded.

John Jay

John Jay (1745-1829) – became our first Justice of the Supreme Court.  He helped negotiate the treaty that ended the war.  He was Governor of New York and proposed several bills to end slavery.

Benjamin Harrison (1726-1791) – A planter from Virginia, he attended the College of William and Mary where he became a member of the House of Burgesses. A member of the 1st and 2nd Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence. He later became Governor of Virginia.  His son, William Henry Harrison would become president as would his great grandson – Benjamin Harrison.

Henry Knos

Henry Knox – (1750-1806) – A self-taught man, he owned a bookstore and loved to read.  He became a commander in the American army and used much of his knowledge during his battles. He was chief artillery officer of the Continental Army.  George Washington named him Secretary of War.

Richard Henry Lee – 1732-1794 – a member of the 2nd Continental Congress, he became a senator from Virginia.  He was a member of the House of Burgesses where he met Patrick Henry.  Famous for “Lee’s Resolution” where he called the Congress to declare independence from Great Britain.

Robert Morris

Robert Morris – (1734-1806) made his money from shipping, but then increased his worth by purchasing land.  He helped finance the war in the beginning.  He used money from France and his own money to start the Bank of the United States.

William White

William White – pastor of Christ’s Church in Philadelphia. He was born in 1746 and died in 1836.  He served as chaplain to the Continental Congress and the US Senate.

John Hancock

John Hancock (1737-1793) – famous for his overlarge signature on the Declaration of Independence. Raised by his uncle, he inherited his uncle’s possessions and became one of the wealthiest men of the time. 

There are many more men and even several women who are noted as people responsible for the formation of our country. Without the bravery of these people, the United States of America would never have been able to blossom and erupt on to the political landscape of the 1700s.

The pictures you see are from the painter Charles Peale and we saw them while traveling through Philadelphia at the 2nd Bank of America. A portrait gallery had been set up inside the former bank.  I hope you enjoyed this mini tour of portraits as much as we did.

No comments: