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America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Friday, July 24, 2020

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Who Were the Founding Fathers of the United States?

The Founding Fathers of the United States of America are, generally speaking, the people viewed as responsible for the creation of this country. But who determines the criteria as to who is a Founding Father, and who is not?

The Founding Fathers term itself was not popularized until well after the time of the Founders themselves. President Warren G. Harding, who served as President of the United States from 1921-1923, is cited as the person who popularized the term “Founding Fathers,” though from Harding's speeches, it is not clear who exactly he considered a Founding Father. Harding is believed to have first used the term "founding American fathers" at the 1912 Republican National Convention, and the term "founding fathers" at the 1916 Republican National Convention when he said the following:

"No political party ever has built or even can build permanently except in conscientious devotion to abiding principles. Time never alters a fundamental truth. Conditions do change, popular interest is self-assertive, and ‘paramounting’ has its perils, as the Democratic party will bear witness, but the essentials of constructive government and attending progress are abiding and unchanging. For example, we ought to be as genuinely American today as when the Founding Fathers flung their immortal defiance in the face of old-world oppressions and dedicated a new republic to liberty and justice. We ought to be as prepared for defence as Washington urged amid the anxieties of our national beginning, and Grant confirmed amid the calm reflections of union restored."

Most can agree that the signers of The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, the two most important documents in the founding of this nation, were indeed Founding Fathers. However, if you limit the Founding Fathers to just the signers of these documents, there are many worthy candidates for consideration as Founding Fathers who would not otherwise be included. Even if you expand the definition to include military commanders who were instrumental in winning America’s fight for Independence, and other notable politicians from the era, there would still be founders who were not included.

For example, Thomas Paine never fought in the American Revolution, and he was never elected to political office. Paine had no official position within the movement for American Independence, yet as the author of the influential pamphlet, Common Sense, it could be argued that few people were more important in the creation of the United States. Just through words alone, Paine rallied a nation to the cause of Independence. What list of Founding Fathers could possibly be complete without including the likes of Thomas Paine?

The signers of the United States Constitution are among those considered to be "Founding Fathers"

Therefore, we have chosen to view the term “Founding Father” through a much broader lens, and we have been attempting to identify most, if not all, of those who played a key role in the creation of America. This includes significant politicians and statesmen, but also the key figures such as Thomas Paine who never held an official role within our government, but who nonetheless left a greater mark on history than many who did hold an official governmental role.

Some of the Founding Fathers shaped America from outside of the political system, stood outside of the system by choice, including scholars, business leaders and philanthropists. Others though, are people who had been excluded by the system, and yet nonetheless played a crucial role in the creation of a new American society. For example, First Lady of the United States Abigail Adams and African American businessman and abolitionist James Forten. Regardless of how these men and women left their mark, these are the people without whom the America as we know it would not have been created.

To date, The Constitutional Walking Tour has identified and written profiles for over 100 people who we have deemed as Founding Fathers of the United States, but we will be adding more influential individuals as we put together what we hope will be the most complete database on the Internet of America's Founding Fathers.

 

Name Declaration of
Independence
Articles of 
Confederation
United States
Constitution
Abigail Adams      
John Adams X    
Samuel Adams X X  
Richard Allen      
Abraham Baldwin     X
John Barry      
Josiah Bartlett X X  
Richard Bassett     X
Gunning Bedford, Jr.     X
John Blair     X
William Blount     X
Carter Braxton X    
David Brearly     X
Jacob Broom     X
Pierce Butler     X
Charles Carroll X    
Daniel Carroll   X X
Samuel Chase X    
Abraham Clark X    
George Clinton      
George Clymer X   X
Jonathan Dayton     X
John Dickinson   X X
William Ellery X X  
William Few, Jr.     X
Thomas Fitzsimmons     X
William Floyd X    
James Forten      
Benjamin Franklin X   X
Horatio Gates      
Elbridge Gerry X X  
Nicholas Gilman     X
Nathaniel Gorham     X
Nathanael Greene      
Button Gwinnett X    
Lyman Hall X    
Alexander Hamilton     X
John Hancock X X  
Benjamin Harrison X    
John Hart X    
Patrick Henry      
Joseph Hewes X    
Thomas Heyward, Jr. X X  
William Hooper X    
Stephen Hopkins X    
Francis Hopkinson X    
Samuel Huntington X X  
Jared Ingersoll     X
John Jay      
Thomas Jefferson X    
Daniel Jenifer     X
William Samuel Johnson     X
John Paul Jones      
Rufus King     X
Henry Knox      
Tadeusz Kosciuszko      
John Langdon     X
Francis Lightfoot Lee X X  
Richard Henry Lee X X  
Francis Lewis X X  
Philip Livingston X    
William Livingston     X
Thomas Lynch, Jr. X    
Dolley Madison      
James Madison     X
Marquis de Lafayette      
George Mason      
James McHenry     X
Thomas McKean X X  
Arthur Middleton X    
Thomas Mifflin     X
Gouvernor Morris   X X
Lewis Morris X    
Robert Morris X X X
John Morton X    
Thomas Nelson, Jr. X    
William Paca X    
Robert Treat Paine X    
Thomas Paine      
William Paterson     X
John Penn X    
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney     X
Charles Pinckney     X
Peyton Randolph      
George Read X   X
Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau      
Caesar Rodney X    
George Ross X X  
Benjamin Rush X    
Edward Rutledge X    
John Rutledge     X
Haym Salomon      
Roger Sherman X X X
James Smith X    
Richard Dobbs Spaight     X
Baron Steuben      
Richard Stockton X    
Thomas Stone X    
George Taylor X    
Matthew Thornton X    
George Walton X    
George Washington     X
Martha Washington      
William Whipple X    
William Williams X    
Hugh Williamson     X
James Wilson X   X
John Witherspoon X X  
Oliver Wolcott X X  
George Wythe X    

 

 

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