Henry Knox (July 25, 1750 – October 25, 1806) was an American bookseller from Boston who became the chief artillery officer of the Continental Army and later the nation’s first Secretary of War.
Knox supported the American rebels, the Sons of Liberty, and was present at the Boston Massacre. He volunteered as a member of the Boston Grenadier Corps in 1772 and served under General Artemas Ward at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. Being a member of the Army of Observation, Knox met and impressed General George Washington when he took command. Knox offered his services to Washington, who had him commissioned a Colonel and gave him command of the Continental Regiment of Artillery. Washington and Knox soon became good friends. Read more »
Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1757 – July 12, 1804) was the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, a Founding Father, economist, and political philosopher. The chief of staff to General George Washington during the American Revolution, he was a leader of nationalist forces calling for a new Constitution. Hamilton was one of America’s first Constitutional lawyers, and wrote half of the Federalist Papers, a primary source for Constitutional interpretation. He was more influential than the other three members of Washington’s Cabinet, and the financial expert; the Federalist Party was formed in support of his policies.
Born and raised in the Caribbean, Hamilton attended King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York. At the start of the American Revolutionary War, he organized an artillery company and was chosen as its captain. Hamilton became the senior aide-de-camp and confidant to General George Washington, the American commander-in-chief. After the war, Hamilton was elected to the Continental Congress from New York, but he resigned to practice law and to found the Bank of New York. He served in the New York Legislature, and he was the only New Yorker who signed the U.S. Constitution. Read more »
John Hancock (January 23, 1737 – October 8, 1793) was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He is remembered for his large and stylish signature on the United States Declaration of Independence, so much so that “John Hancock” became, in the United States, a synonym for “signature”.
Before the American Revolution, Hancock was one of the wealthiest men in the Thirteen Colonies, having inherited a profitable shipping business from his uncle. Hancock began his political career in Boston as a protégé of Samuel Adams, an influential local politician, though the two men would later become estranged. As tensions between colonists and Great Britain increased in the 1760s, Hancock used his wealth to support the colonial cause. Read more »
Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779. A prominent figure in the American Revolution, Henry is known and remembered for his “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech, and as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Along with Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, he is remembered as one of the most influential, radical advocates of the American Revolution and republicanism, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights. After the Revolution, Henry was a leader of the anti-federalists who opposed the replacement of the Articles of Confederation with the United States Constitution, fearing that it endangered many of the individual freedoms that had been achieved in the war. Read more »
James Monroe (April 28, 1758 – July 4, 1831) was the fifth President of the United States (1817–1825). His administration was marked by the acquisition of Florida, the Missouri Compromise, in which Missouri was declared a slave state, the admission of Maine in 1820 as a free state, and the profession of the Monroe Doctrine, declaring U.S. opposition to European interference in the Americas, as well as breaking all ties with France remaining from the War of 1812.
At the age of 16, Monroe enrolled in the College of William and Mary. However in 1774, the atmosphere on the Williamsburg campus was not conducive to study, and the prospect of rebellion against King George charged most of the students, including Monroe, with patriotic fervor. In June 1775, after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Monroe joined 24 older men in raiding the arsenal at the Governor’s Palace. The 200 muskets and 300 swords they appropriated helped arm the Williamsburg militia. The following spring, Monroe dropped out of college and joined the Continental Army. He never returned to earn a degree. Between 1780 and 1783, he studied law under Thomas Jefferson.
Monroe fought in the War of Independence, serving with distinction at the Battle of Trenton, where he was shot in his left shoulder. He spent three months in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, recuperating from his wound. He is depicted holding the flag in the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware. Read more »
John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American politician and the second President of the United States, after being the first Vice President for two terms. He is regarded as one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States.
Adams came to prominence in the early stages of the American Revolution. As a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress, he played a leading role in persuading Congress to adopt the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. As a representative of Congress in Europe, he was a major negotiator of the eventual peace treaty with Great Britain, and chiefly responsible for obtaining important loans from Amsterdam. Read more »
James Madison (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American politician and political philosopher who served as the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817), and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Considered to be the “Father of the Constitution,” he was the principal author of the document. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution.
Madison was the first President to have served in the United States Congress, drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution (said to be based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights), and thus is also known as the “Father of the Bill of Rights”. As a political theorist, Madison’s most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority. Read more »
Roger Sherman (April 19, 1721 – July 23, 1793) was an early American lawyer and politician. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic.
Sherman was the only person to sign all four great state papers of the U.S.: the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson said of him: “That is Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.” Read more »
Samuel Huntington (July 16, 1731 – January 5, 1796) was a jurist, statesman, and Patriot in the American Revolution from Connecticut. As a delegate to the Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. He also served as President of the Continental Congress from 1779 to 1781, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court from 1784 to 1785, and Governor of Connecticut from 1786 until his death. Read more »
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the third President of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States.
Jefferson served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress beginning in June 1775, soon after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. When Congress began considering a resolution of independence in June 1776, Jefferson was appointed to a five-man committee to prepare a declaration to accompany the resolution. The committee selected Jefferson to write the first draft probably because of his reputation as a writer. Read more »