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Monday, July 4, 2011

Who were the Founding Fathers and What did they Believe

       On this Fourth of July I thought it would be interesting to talk about the facts and beliefs of the Founding Fathers (FF).  This many times is as controversial as talking about religion.  The FFs have been held up to justify just about everything.  Both liberals and conservatives have used the FFs to justify their political beliefs and just like religious figures you can find enough information to prove whatever point you want.  Few people seem to study the writings of the FFs to form their beliefs but seem to use a quote, many times out of context, to justify their already formed beliefs.  This point was shown recently with Michelle Backman’s statement about john Quincy Adams being one of the FFs and that the FFs having fought to end slavery.  That lack of historical knowledge by someone who is running for President only follows Sarah Palin’s statement that the battles of Lexington and Concord occurred in New Hampshire.  So on that basis I thought I would give some historical context to the FFs and to show that they were a diverse group of thinkers.  I guess I should qualify that in saying that they were representative of wealthy, white, landowning, and educated men of some privilege.

       For some historical context I would like to share a brief Wikipedia description of the FFs:
Most historians define the "Founding Fathers" to mean a larger group, including not only the Signers and the Framers but also all those who, whether as politicians, jurists, statesmen, soldiers, diplomats, or ordinary citizens, took part in winning American independence and creating the United States of America. American historian Richard B. Morris, in his 1973 book Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, identified the following seven figures as the key Founding Fathers:[3]

     Most had served in the American Revolution either as soldiers in the Continental Army or as part of a legislative body. Locally we had our own FF in Charles Carroll whose home, Doughoregan Manor, still is owned by his family members off Homewood Road and the subject of local plans to sell some of the family estate for residential development.  Charles Carroll was the last surviving signer of the Declaration when he died in 1832.
      You would have to label many of the FFs as liberal or progressive for their time based on the belief that an electorate should control government and not based on royal secession that was the normal form of government during this period of time.   The right to govern and hence tax should not come from some divine basis. When this thought got around to the time of drawing up a constitution it only went so far.  Senators were to be chosen by state legislators and not the general voters.  Voters would elect “electors” to elect the President and not by a popular vote.  We saw how this played out in 2000.  Women, blacks, non-property owning folks were not generally seen as capable of voting.

      No discussion point about the FFs is as controversial as how religious a group they were and was there intent to have the country following a Christian set of principles.  How religious the FFs were is always controversial.  It is probably safe to say that given that they were a diverse group their religious beliefs covered a wide spectrum from atheists to devotedly religious.  However having ancestors who came to this country because of religious persecution most had a strong conviction that religion belief was a personal issue and government should take no action that favored one religious belief over another.  It should be noted that there is no religious wording or mention of God in the Constitution. Many professed to a belief in a Supreme Being but were not tied closely to any religious denomination. The problem that still exists even to today is how you separate religious belief from personal belief to be a basis for political belief.  The issues of abortion and gay marriage are examples of how this issue plays out in today’s political discourse.

   So you think you know our FFs?  Test it out with a quiz that will have the answers in tomorrow’s blog.

1)      Which Founding Father signed the Declaration of Independence?
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Josiah Bartlett, George Washington
2)      Who is the only president to belong to the Federalist Party?
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
3)      Where did the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr take place and who was killed?
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts
4)      John Hancock is famous for his signature on the Constitution?
True or False
5)      Thomas Jefferson and what other Founding Father died on July 4,1836 the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence?
John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Monroe
6)      Which Founding Father served as the first Postmaster General?
Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton
7)      Who did not sign the Constitution?
   John Adams, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin
8)      When did most of the signers of the Declaration sign the document?
   July 3rd, July 4th, August 2nd, August 25th
9)      The Declaration was first publicly read on
July 4th, July 6th, July 8th, July 10th
10)  When did the crack appear in the Liberty Bell”
 Tolling for John Marshall’s death, tolling on July 4, 1832, tolling for Washington’s birthday in 1846, tolling for the death of John Adams
11)  Who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution the 3 most important documents in our history?
Richard Stockton, Rodger Sherman, Gouverneur Morris, George Read
12)  George Washington was the first president of the United States
True or False
Finally to take a fun quiz on which of the FFs your personality most resembles click this link.  My quiz answers came out with James Madison.

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