Leading individuals in founding of the United States

The Founding Fathers of the United States were a group of philosophers, politicians and writers who led the American Revolution against the Kingdom of Great Britain. Most were descendants of colonists settled in the Thirteen Colonies in North America.

  • Adams, Samuel - American revolutionary leader, organizer of the Boston Tea Party
  • Franklin, Benjamin - 18th century American printer, inventor and statesman
  • Hancock, John - Signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, president of the Second Continental Congress
  • Henry, Patrick - American revolutionary figure, famous for "Give me liberty or give me death" speech
  • Jay, John - First Chief Justice of the United States, co-author of the Federalist Papers
  • Jefferson, Thomas - Author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States
  • Madison, James - Author of Federalist essays, fourth President of the United States
  • Mason, George - Author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights
  • Paine, Thomas - American Revolutionary leader, author of the Common Sense pamphlet
  • Washington, George - First President of the United States


Founding Fathers
Definitions and history on the term "founding fathers"
"Warren G. Harding, the newspaper publisher and Republican Senator from Ohio, was the first person to use the phrase 'Founding Fathers.' ... The phrase Founding Fathers applies to a large group that's divided into two subsets. The signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 are considered Founding Fathers, and the Framers of the US Constitution are also called Founding Fathers. ... Some historians say there are seven key Founding Fathers. That group is: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison."


An Independent Judiciary: Edward Coke, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
Lengthy biographical essay
"'The men of the American Revolution were nurtured upon Coke's writings,' observed constitutional historian Bernard Schwartz. ... Thomas Jefferson remarked that 'Coke Lyttleton was the universal elementary book of law students and a sounder Whig never wrote nor of profounder learning in the orthodox doctrines of British liberties.' Patrick Henry, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Jay, Daniel Webster and many other influential Americans read Coke. ... Schwartz observed that 'The influence of Coke may be seen at all of the key stages in the development of the conflict between the Colonies and the mother country.'"
Bruce Evoy is Dead, by Vince Miller, The Libertarian Enterprise, 14 Jul 1998
Memorial notice and brief biographical summary of Evoy
"He is particularly well known for his electrifying performances in period costume of U.S. Revolutionary hero Patrick Henry and has performed the famous 'Give me liberty or give me death' speech for innumerable libertarian gatherings in the U.S. and abroad. At the USLP convention in Washington, DC in 1996, Bruce performed as George Washington, delivering his famous 'Farewell Address.' This was covered on C-SPAN TV and earned him a standing, cheering ovation. He also performed as Thomas Jefferson, reading the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial."
Bureaucracy and the Civil Service in the United States, by Murray Rothbard, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1995
Historical account of the evolution of the United States Civil Service and attempts to reform it, from its beginnings through the early 20th century
"The Founding Fathers of the American republics ... were very much alive to the problem of bureaucracy and of government power. ... The first was to confine government, for the first time in history, by explicit written constitutions ... The second and equally essential part ... was to make sure that entrenched oligarchies and bureaucracies would not develop."
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, by Clarence B. Carson, The Freeman, Sep 1996
Review of the 1996 book by Richard Brookhiser, concluding that it is "a worthy testament to the greatness of Washington"
"The weakest section of the book is the one dealing with 'The Founding Father.' That Washington was father of his country is a metaphor which captures some of the truth and much of my feelings about the matter. He did indeed tenaciously lead the country through the war which effected our separation from Britain and independence of her. He chaired the Constitutional Convention that produced the document on which our union stands. And he piloted us safely through the perilous and tenuous early years of the Republic. But the metaphor will not bear close and extensive analysis; it falls from so much weight."
Related Topic: George Washington
Claiming Paine, by Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason, Jul 2007
Review of the book Thomas Paine and the Promise of America by Harvey J. Kaye
"He returned in the same sorry state as when he first arrived in 1774: ill, impoverished, and friendless, having been already written out of the pantheon of Founders for his association with more radical, less successful European revolutions and for his renunciation of religion in The Age of Reason. In Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, Kaye, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, tries to bring the revolutionary back to his rightful place as one of the Founding Fathers."
Foreword to A Foreign Policy of Freedom by Ron Paul, by Lew Rockwell, Mises Daily, 15 Mar 2007
Examines the historical precedents for the Paulian view that American foreign and domestic policy both be conducted in the same non-interventionist manner
"Government should be restrained from intervening at home or abroad because its actions fail to achieve their stated aims ... If you recognize the line of thinking in this set of beliefs, it might be because you have read the Federalist Papers, the writings of Thomas Jefferson or George Washington or James Madison, or examined the philosophical origins of the American Revolution. Or you might have followed the debates that took place in the presidential election of 1800, in which this view emerged triumphant."
Forrest McDonald, "The Founding Fathers and the Economic Order", by Forrest McDonald, 19 Apr 2006
Speech given at the Economic Club of Indianapolis; contrasts the economic system the founding fathers intended to create with the one that was actually created
"[John] Adams denounced credit as responsible for 'most of the Luxury & Folly which has yet infected our People,' and declared that anyone who could devise a way to abolish credit forever 'would deserve a Statue to his Memory.' [Benjamin] Franklin characterized commerce as 'generally cheating' and wrote bitterly of its corrupting and debilitating effects. ... You have heard Jefferson's quotation ... 'those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God if ever He had a chosen people.' That attitude was widely shared in l8th century America ..."
Related Topics: Free Market, Money
Historian Paul Johnson on American Liberty, by Paul Johnson, The Freeman, Jun 1996
Topics discussed include religious freedom, abolishing slavery, the impact of immigration, the Founding Fathers, the U.S. Constitution, individualism, reining in government and the prospects for liberty in America
"During the 1770s and 1780s, America wasn't yet a democracy. Male suffrage was limited. Still, a lot of males could vote. Equally important, the Founding Fathers were imbued with the democratic spirit. They believed every man had a right to voice his views. Debate took place in public meetings, legislatures and in the growing media. ... America was fortunate that there was an outstanding group of people who shaped the debate and the Constitution itself. One would have to go a long way in history to find a group as competent, cosmopolitan, and skillful with the language."
Impeach the American People!, by Butler Shaffer, 17 Nov 2006
Comments on proposals to impeach (or otherwise bring to justice) George W. Bush and others in his administration, countering that most Americans didn't do their part under the alleged "social contract"
"'Founding Fathers' such as Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams, and James Madison, were well aware of the danger of ordinary people coming to trust power. The likes of Alexander Hamilton, however, counted on such weakness... Those who drafted the Declaration of Independence had an inherent distrust of power. Rather than see this as a reason to not create state systems, they believed that members of an enlightened, skeptical, and constantly observant public could and would insist upon state authorities restraining their appetites, lest they be driven from office."
Imperium in Imperio, by Frank Chodorov, analysis, Jun 1950
Examines the theory of government espoused by James Madison in The Federalist number 10, and how property rights have regressed since then
"... the Founding Fathers made concessions to the slave trade, the landed gentry, the money speculators and the protection-seeking industrialists. In so doing they simply accepted what the mores sanctioned. ... The Founding Fathers made concessions to pressure-groups, to be sure; but when did politicians do otherwise?"
Ludwig von Mises and the Justification of the Liberal Order, by William Baumgarth, The Economics of Ludwig von Mises, Nov 1974
Critically examines various Mises' writings on liberalism, democracy, the wisdom of the masses, special-interest politics, equal treatment under the law, anarchism, self-determination and of course economics
"Modern-day liberalism is the political embodiment of the Enlightenment; for example, the liberalism of the Founding Fathers explicitly incorporates its philosophical attitudes. Early American political philosophy, as developed in the Federalist Papers, consists of a blend of various Enlightenment themes, clarified and reordered by the practical experiences of American political life. The primary motivations of the passions and of self-interest in social life gave rise to a new science of politics, which concluded that the regime best suited for human progress, material and spiritual, is the commercial democratic republic."
Misguided Democracy, by George Leef, Future of Freedom, Mar 2006
Review of Attention Deficit Democracy (2006) by James Bovard
"Bovard draws a sharp contrast between the government envisioned by the nation's Founders and the government we have today. At the time of the founding, government was to have minimal power, and it was expected that the vigilant, well-read electorate consisting of property owners would ensure that governmental power was kept strictly confined ... Only a great philosophical change can repair the tremendous damage ... it is hard to see how that can happen in a country where most of the people resemble the inhabitants of Orwell's 1984 more than they do the resolute individuals who fought for liberty 230 years ago."
Original Intent, by Charley Reese, 3 Jun 2006
"If the Founding Fathers were to come back, I doubt if they would recognize the United States today. ... The Founding Fathers were suspicious of government and wary of it. They recognized that government is always the greatest threat to liberty. ... Clearly, the Founding Fathers did not approve of the modern concept, imposed by federal courts, of one man, one vote."
Sic Semper Tyrannis, by Lew Rockwell, The American Conservative, 23 Apr 2007
Analyzes how the U.S. Presidency has been transmogrified from the role proposed by the Federalists
"Recall that the founders had long tangled with the king in England. The entire Declaration of Independence was a personal attack on him and his policies. ... As an alternative ... the founders (perhaps naively) believed that they could create a Roman-style republic with a twist. There would be a head of state, but he would be controlled by a legislature. In fact, controlling the president would be the main job of the legislature. The founders went this one better by refusing to invest much power in the central government. Instead, the powers were decentralized and belonged to the member states."
The Federal War on Gold, Part 1, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Aug 2006
Discusses some of the provisos in the U.S. constitution regarding coinage and the issuance of paper money
"Such ignorance and such trust in government did not characterize our American forefathers. Having studied economics and monetary history and having experienced the ravages of inflation firsthand with the Continental currency, they decided to establish a monetary system based on gold and silver coin rather than paper money. ... Did the Framers intend for our country to have a monetary system based on gold and silver coins or on paper money?"
The Lawless State, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 11 Jul 2006
Explains how the United States changed from being a decentralized republic to a centralized democracy and how most of the power has moved from the legislative branch to the "imperial presidency"
"... the United States ... has quietly shifted from being a decentralized federal republic to being a centralized democracy. Moreover, the actual power has shifted from the legislative branch to the executive. This would have startled the men who created that republic in reaction against the British monarchy, which they regarded as tyrannical because it concentrated so much power in one man's hands. ... If the Founding Fathers could see us now, they'd surely ask, 'How on earth did you get yourselves into this mess?' We've managed to do nearly everything the Constitution was designed to prevent us from doing."
The Progressive Era, Part 1: The Myth and the Reality, by William L. Anderson, Future of Freedom, Feb 2006
Examines various aspects of Progressivism's "much darker tale", tracing its roots to 19th century Unitarians and pointing out Progressive support of prohibition and segregation
"... the mentality of the intellectuals of the mid and late 19th century differed substantially from that of the group of intellectuals who fashioned the early documents of the United States. Unlike the early American intellectuals who saw liberty as a polestar and tried to limit the growth and power of the state, the later intellectuals saw the state as a vehicle for their own political and social agendas. While the original American intellectuals championed the federal system with its balance of powers between the states and central government, the later intellectuals placed their faith squarely in the power of the centralized state."
The Threat of Militarism, by Karen Kwiatkowski, 9 Jul 2006
Presentation to Global Scholar seminar, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va.
"... we must limit our military forces to defensive purposes only. ... is an idea that guys like George Washington ,,, embraced, along with about every one of the founders. ... if a founding father believed that we should have profit in war, force people to fight those for-profit wars, and expand our military capabilities to offensive and imperialistic, he would have kept those thoughts to himself."
The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State, Part 1, by Sheldon Richman, 27 Feb 2015
Examines the sentiments of the founding fathers and other leading figures and some of the events that led to the War of 1812, and argues that "dangerous precedents were set" that led to imperialism and further wars
"... historian Gordon S. Wood notes that as the 19th century unfolded, the survivors of the founding generation were unhappy with what they saw in America. ... '... a pervasive pessimism, a fear that their revolutionary experiment in republicanism was not working out as they had expected, runs through the later writings of the founding fathers. All the major revolutionary leaders died less than happy with the results of the Revolution. ...' ... As a result, 'the founding fathers were unsettled and fearful not because the American Revolution had failed but because it had succeeded, and succeeded only too well.'"
Related Topics: Thomas Jefferson, War
Thomas Jefferson's Sophisticated, Radical Vision of Liberty, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jul 1995
Biographical essay, highlighting Jefferson's "felicity of expression" that led him to write the famous words in the Declaration of Independence
"With his gifted pen and meticulous script, Jefferson drafted more reports, resolutions, legislation, and related official documents than any other Founding Father. ... Jefferson was an instantly recognizable Founding Father. He stood about six feet two inches tall, was thin, had reddish hair, hazel eyes, and a freckled complexion. ... He fell even further out of favor during the 'Progressive Era' when reformers imagined that every problem could be fixed by giving the federal government more power. ... Hamilton, apostle of government power, became the most revered Founder."
Thomas Paine-Passionate Pamphleteer for Liberty, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jan 1996
Biographical essay, highlighting Paine's writings in Common Sense, American Crisis, Rights of Man and Age of Reason
"Paine remained a forgotten Founder for decades. Theodore Roosevelt summed up the prevailing view when he referred to Paine as a 'filthy little atheist.' ... But fellow Founders recognized Paine's rare talent. Benjamin Franklin helped him get started in Philadelphia and considered him an 'adopted political son.' Paine served as an aide to George Washington. He was a compatriot of Samuel Adams. James Madison was a booster. James Monroe helped spring him from prison in France. His most steadfast friend was Thomas Jefferson."
What the Martha Stewart Case Means to You, by Harry Browne, 5 Mar 2004
Examines the Martha Stewart insider trading case, including juror and prosecutor comments after the guilty verdict
"This is why the Founding Fathers were determined that the federal government would have nothing to do with such matters as business dealings. They knew that government officials — armed with threats of fines and imprisonment — would inevitably abuse such powers. Thomas Jefferson wanted America to be an agrarian society, but he didn't use the power of his office to aid farmers at the expense of commercial interests. He knew that politicians must be bound down by 'the chains of the Constitution,' as he put it."
Related Topics: War on Drugs, Rule of Law

Cartoons and Comic Strips

Founding Fathers at 1787 Constitutional Convention, by Chip Bok, 8 Aug 2004


Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, by Charles A. Goodrich, 1829
Digitized copy available at Google Books


Raps!: Founding Fathers, 15 Dec 2000
Macromedia Flash animation starring George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, with rap-like lyrics

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Founding Fathers of the United States" as of 5 Dec 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.