Skip to main content

The Founding Fathers

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.









George Washington

George Washington relinquished near-absolute political power when equally ambitious but less principled men would have reached for more. He was the epitome of gravity, propriety, patriotism, and patient virtue. President Washington was morally tough, unyieldingly firm, and believed practical judgment to be of vast import for political action. Americans wanted to make him King, another Caesar or Napoleon. He abhorred this idea and said, "Banish these thoughts from your mind."

The Founding Fathers synthesized the Liberalism of John Locke, republicanism of antiquity, English common law, and Protestant Christianity. George Washington wrote that individual rights and liberty must be distinguished from license, that real liberty is ordered liberty.

Washington believed that the keys to success for the American Experiment were adherence to the Constitution, the subordination of the military to civil authority, statesmanship, and overall moderation. He emphasized religious faith, sacred honor, civility, prudence, character, and service to your country. He hoped a "national character" would unify all states and regions. He never shifted his principles according to public opinion.

George Washington wrote: "Above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation has had a meliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of society." He believed in duty, decency, and Providence.

Washington emphasized prosperity and property, tempered by Christian aims, charity, honorable and just conduct. He said to the American citizens: "I now make my earnest prayer, that God would have you and the state over which you preside in holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another; to love mercy, charity, and humility—which are characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation."

George Washington absolutely believed in "fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe."

Washington said that the foundations of America were the principles of private morality. The government must abide by "the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained. There is no truth more thoroughly established than indissoluble union between virtue and happiness."

President Washington stressed the importance of responsible public finances; the need for education; and the importance of the rule of law over the passions. He wrote that religion and morality were necessary for a self-governing citizenry. He insisted on the need for moral and intellectual virtue, and the cultivation of manners, among the citizenry.

Sound judgment, integrity, modesty, and dignity are required for the American Experiment to be a success. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."





Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation





John Adams

John Adams focused on setting up a Constitution and set of laws that would last as long as the American Republic. "No man will contend that a nation can be free that is not governed by fixed laws. All other government than that of permanent known laws, is the government of mere will and pleasure." Permanent law had to be above the control of men who held office under it. Adams quoted Cicero, "As laws are founded on eternal morals, they are emanations of the Divine mind." The people should submit to the authority not of some imperfect human legislator but to the eternal Legislator of the universe. Law is bound up with virtue, wisdom, religion, and morality. Adams said God made men for liberty.

John Adams was a strong believer in education, so men could intelligently choose their course in life. He wrote that the way anyone chooses to think about the world we perceive with our senses is itself a moral choice. Adams accepted on faith that there was one God who created and ordered the world.

Adams reasoned that a properly constructed society respected the right of individuals to think, speak, and act, but with rights came duties.

President Adams said, "Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty. If property is not as sacred as the laws of God, anarchy and tyranny commence." Men have the right to the fruits of one's own labors.

John Adams and the other Founding Fathers took an enormous responsibility on themselves when they set out to create republican self-government in America. Adams wrote: "The people of America have now the best opportunity and the greatest trust in their hands, that Providence ever committed to so small a number." If they succeeded, they would vindicate the honor of man in the court of history.

Adams emphatically endorsed the notion that Americans were to be not subjects but citizens. The principle of self-government includes duty to others, and to God. "The happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue." Liberty was the foundation principle of American government. The power was given to the legislature to write laws, the executive branch to enact them, the courts to judge under them.

John Adams knew it was inevitable that men would have contention. Men have imperfect knowledge, they exaggerate their own claims, they clash. Certain men have more true, useful, and persuasive ideas than others. Inequalities exist in human societies because of human diversity and human passions. But all men are made in God's image, and thus all should enjoy equal rights.

Adams wrote: "What are we to understand about equality? Are the citizens to be all of the same age, sex, size, strength, stature, activity, courage, hardiness, industry, patience, ingenuity, wealth, knowledge, fame , wit, temperance, constancy, and wisdom? Was there, or will there ever be, a nation whose individuals are all equal in natural and acquired qualities, in virtues, talents, and riches?"

The things which helped men rise were "talents, such as education, wealth, strength, beauty, stature, birth, marriage, graceful attitudes and motions, gait, air, complexion, physiognomy, as well as genius, science, and learning." Talents help one man advance over another. They do not make any man better than another in the absolute sense.

Adams knew that men valued their material possessions, but more importantly wanted to be loved by his fellow men. "Who will love me? is a key to the human heart; to the history of human life and manners; and to the rise and fall of empires." Men have a passion for distinction, a desire to be seen in action, to place himself on stage and outshine his neighbors, to gain the notice of others. By this they hope to draw affection. Man's desire to be loved can cause political strife, because the desire for distinction rams up against the unequal distribution of talents that make certain men more useful to society than others.

Adams, and the other Founding Fathers, believed government to be by nature a moral affair. The challenge is to draw men toward the good in their natures, helping reason to guide the passions, rather than allowing the opposite to be the case. The key is for the common man to be brave, enterprising, sober, industrious, and frugal.

John Adams did not want the American idea of liberty to be associated with the French Revolution, lest the world conclude that liberty leads to violence, terror, bloodshed, and dictatorship. Adams did not believe there would ever be a universal order of peace, justice and brotherhood. In fact, he believed this idea to be dangerous, as it would hamper the ability of a society to manage natural inequalities, and give people false hope that the good life is easily obtained.

Of the French Revolution he said: "Government of nations may fall into the hands of men who teach the most disconsolate of all creeds, that men are but fireflies, and that all this [the world] is without a Father." Adams feared that such doctrines were not only false, but that it would lead men to behave as beasts, for it gave them no reason to think that they were superior to animals. Adams held that men were equal only because they had exalted souls.









Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson declared the American Declaration of Independence as the chief accomplishment of his life. And what an accomplishment it was. Jefferson put into words the political premise of a new nation with incredible concision and eloquence. It is the authoritative statement of the American political creed—the document that best articulates the prevailing views of the American People. The Declaration of Independence does not present the personal views of Jefferson, but a consensus he gathered from the collection of Founding Fathers. This revolutionary document intends to present "eternal truth, applicable to all men and all times" (Abraham Lincoln).

The Declaration owes a debt to the political thought of John Locke. It takes account of the natural state of human beings—that all men are created equal by their Creator, which means that prior to their consent to be governed men are not naturally under the authority of other men—and articulates the purpose and limits of government. Legitimate government is based on a true understanding of nature. Legitimate government is based on the consent of the governed and the will of the majority. Governments are instituted by men to secure their otherwise vulnerable natural rights. The source of these rights is God—a standard not of human making.

Thomas Jefferson believed the heart to be the locus of morality and the seat of the natural moral sense. He did not believe that the moral capacities of human beings are equal, any more than their intellectual capacities. Only some of those who are deficient in these capacities can even be improved through education.

Thomas Jefferson believed that individual states had the right to declare a state religion, as long as the United States Congress did not impose a national religion. The latter would cause conflict because the folks in Maryland were largely Catholics, in Pennsylvania mostly Quakers, in New England generally Puritans, in Virginia chiefly Anglicans, and so on.

Jefferson said: "Almighty God hath created the mind free." Since individuals are compelled to affirm different religious opinions, religious freedom—not freedom from religion—becomes a fundamental moral necessity for society. Governments are mandated to secure the natural right of religious liberty. What Thomas Jefferson was strongly opposed to was the use of civil authority to interfere in religious matters. As for Jefferson himself, he proclaimed: "I am a Christian."

Jefferson maintained: "The only secure basis for preserving liberty was a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God. Religion fosters habits of mind and heart conducive to the blessings and security of self-government."

Thomas Jefferson envisioned a system of public education with the goal of discovering and cultivating talent and virtue for positions in public leadership, and educating the general populace to where they would have the intellect and knowledge necessary to select representatives for government who would best serve the common good.

The people would also receive a civic education through participation in local affairs, such as caring for the poor, building roads, running elections, selecting jurors, and attending to small cases of justice. Local communities must have charge over local issues in order to bring public affairs within the grasp of ordinary citizens, which will keep alive the civic spirit necessary for self-government to succeed. The local people must have direct political participation in those decisions that fall within their competence. Jefferson defined a republic as: "A government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally, according to rules established by the majority."











James Madison

James Madison wrote: "All power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people." The people delegate power to their rulers. This was a shocking and revolutionary idea in the 18th century, and was certainly not based on past experience. It is the American idea.

To James Madison, government was created as the security of pre-existing rights—"the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property; and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." The Founding Fathers of America introduced into the world an idea that became one of the most important principles of modern politics—only a democratic government is legitimate. Americans were the first people to commit themselves to this idea.

Madison said, "A just government impartially secures to every man whatever is his own. It must not seize the property which a man has. Men must not be denied the free use of their faculties and the free choice of their occupations." All equally have rights, and all have an equal right to have their property secured. This is just governance. Some have more (sometimes much more) of the external things of the world than others. All do not have equal property.

Madison, influenced by Montesquieu, set up the modern idea of the separation of powers, with checks and balances. Legislation involves the making of laws—general rules which are applied impartially across society. The executive branch has the power of coercion at its disposal but only to apply those rules enacted by the legislature. The judiciary was set up as the weakest part of the government, as a guarantor that the executive branch does not apply coercion outside the laws enacted by the legislature.

The lower house of the legislature, the House of Representatives, guarantees that the personal rights of the common man will not be overrun by the upper classes. The upper house, the Senate, protects the property of those who have it, from populist whims of the regular folks. The President is supposed to stand above this fray and remain independent of partisan politics, to provide impartial leadership and foster compromise.

All people in positions of authority are not to be to be trusted with large powers and independent range of action. Political service is not to be made into a career. After serving the country in elected office, people are to return to the life they led before being elected—before they develop an attachment to their authority and sense themselves as somehow different from those who elected them. This helps to maintain a certain level of social homogeneity.

While people are entitled to equal rights under the law, they are not entitled to equal property. Men are only entitled to the property which they have earned or inherited. The right of all men's property to be secure is fundamental to a self-governing society. The loss of this vital liberty would discourage the exercise of the unequal faculties of individuals on which a flourishing community ultimately depends.

"Efforts to prevent the emergence of social differentiation through engineered homogeneity would not work, and in any case, it would require a suppression of the forces that produced differentiation—the free use of human faculties."

James Madison wrote: "Wherever there is an interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done." "The less elevated but more reliable self-interested passions, if properly channeled, produce not only more reliable but on the whole better results than behavior better motivated." "Much of politics involves a struggle among competing groups for the differential benefits of social and political life. So fierce can this struggle become that the genuine common good is frequently lost sight of and endangered because of it."


History of American Political Thought by Bryan-Paul Frost and Jeffrey Sikkenga


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 28, 2019:

Priscilla Limon ~ Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article. I don't understand your question. Could you rephrase it for me?

Priscilla Limon on August 27, 2019:

Why do you think the founding fathers would want to work private?

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 20, 2016:

Johnb460~ Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article. I especially appreciate you sending me a message with your gracious compliments on my work.

Johnb460 on May 15, 2014:

Hey very cool blog!! Guy.. Beautiful.. Wonderful.. I will bookmark your website and take the feeds additionallyKI am satisfied to search out numerous useful information right here in the publish, we want develop more techniques on this regard, thank you for sharing kebackadekcd

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 03, 2012:

CerenaBoo1063013— Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind note. We love writing here on HubPages and I read thousands of Hubs. What an education I get!

As for your question, I would try this article:

CerenaBoo1063013 on October 02, 2012:

What the hell do you guys spend you life on this website? im only on here to get help for my patriots pen.. and i really need help its due this friday on 10/5/12 and i need at least 300 to 400 word about the constitution and our founding fathers so if you guys have anything please notify me and type back on this web site please :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 22, 2012:

adagio4639— Do myself a favor and publish another Hub? I have published 103 Hubs since this one. I have published 22 Hubs since you first commented on this one—exactly twice as many as you have ever published. One day next month I will celebrate one million Page Views.

Your state-by-state statistics conveniently overlook the fact that in the states with the highest percentage of out-of-wedlock births and the resultant fatherlessness; and the resultant poverty, violent crime, and low educational attainment—the most common denominator is its percentage of African-Americans; and lesser so its percentage of people of Hispanic origin. This only make sense when one considers that 77 of black babies are born out-of-wedlock; 53 percent of Latinos; and 29 percent of whites.

It should be noted that the white percentage was 2 percent before people like you began teaching children that all cultures were equal; even cultures that at the time had illegitimacy rates ten times higher. Instead of teaching the black children that a 20 percent rate for out-of-wedlock births was bad, you taught them that since it was part of their culture to have bastard children it cannot be bad. Had the right approach been taken, the black rate might have been reduced to 2 percent. The message should have been: emulate the white people—don't have out-of-wedlock babies. Instead you taught the white girls that all cultures are equal including one where out-of-wedlock births were 10 times more frequent. The blacks, with your blessing, zoomed from 20% to 77%; the whites from 2% to 29%, after you kicked God out of schools and taught multiculturalism.

For the first time in history, more than half of births to mothers under age 30 are illegitimate, thanks to the ideology of people like you. Of course, people like you see nothing wrong with it since it creates more dependents for your dreamed of future Socialist State. You see it as progress. But there is a problem Houston. Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherlessness: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, teen pregnancy, suicide—all correlate more strongly to fatherlessness than to any other single factor. The majority of prisoners, juvenile detention inmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists all come from fatherless homes.

Children without their fathers living with them are more likely to go to prison by twenty times, to commit suicide by five times, to commit murder by eight times, to have behavioral problems by twenty times, to become rapists by fourteen times, to run away by thirty-two times, to abuse chemical substances by ten times, to drop out of high school by nine times, to be seriously abused by thirty-three times, to be fatally abused by seventy-three times, to be one tenth as likely to get A's in school, and to have a seventy-two percent lower standard of living. And you call this progress.

Not even transfers of wealth from men who earn it to women who don't, through massive social spending programs like welfare, AFDC, HUD, food stamps, WIC, CAPTA, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Department of Education,"child support", family law courts, the ten fold increase in prison spending, and $1.5 trillion in federal taxation, was able to reduce the social pathology surrounding single mother households.

In America today, the 30% of children who live apart from their fathers will account for 63% of teen suicides, 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71% of high-school dropouts, 75% of children in chemical-abuse centers, 80% of rapists, 85% of youths in prison, 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, and 90% of homeless and runaway children. And thanks to people of your ilk, we have progressed to the point where the next generation won't be 30%—it will be 50%.

A counselor at a juvenile-detention facility in California, which has the nation’s highest juvenile-incarceration rate, said recently, “If you find a gang member who comes from a complete nuclear family, I’d like to meet him. … I don’t think that kid exists.”

The vast majority of those from homes without fathers externalize responsibility for problems and solutions, holding others to blame for their ills, and bestowing upon the state the duty of providing basic needs and, ultimately, of arbitrating proper conduct. And you encourage this attitude. You think it a mark of progress.

Illegitimate children strongly tends to result in mental rigidity, fear, anger, aggression and insecurity, the result of low self-esteem and arrested emotional development associated, predominantly, with fatherless households in which children were not adequately affirmed. Such individuals harbor contempt for those who are self-sufficient for much the same reason. They believe that conforming to a code of non-conformity is a sign of individualism, when it is nothing more than an extreme form of conformism for those who are truly insecure. Though people like you feign concern for the less fortunate and the primacy of individual liberty, people like you are ardent statists.

The fate of the fatherless is, at best, a broken heart. At worst, it is the root cause of the social entropy we observe in contemporary American culture, because the fate of the fatherless is directly linked to the faith of the fatherless, their relationship with God the Father. Broken trust with earthly fathers often results in a lack of trust in the Heavenly Father.

Larry Allen Brown from Brattleboro Vermont on February 11, 2012:

Well, I had not planned on responding anymore to your screwball comments, but I couldn't resist this.

"Well sir, 80 percent of people living in poverty are from broken homes, and this has not changed in forty years."

Well sir, I have a better stat for you. 100% of that 80% of broken homes are a result of men and women getting married in the first place. So I guess we can blame broken homes on the institution of marriage itself. You can manufacture a stat out of anything if you want to.

Furthermore; here is an interesting stat:

Variation in divorce rates by religion:

Religion % have been divorced

Jews 30%

Born-again Christians 27%

Other Christians 24%

Atheists, Agnostics 21%

And something else:

Ron Barrier, Spokespersonn for American Atheists remarked on these findings with some rather caustic comments against organized religion. He said:

"These findings confirm what I have been saying these last five years. Since Atheist ethics are of a higher caliber than religious morals, it stands to reason that our families would be dedicated more to each other than to some invisible monitor in the sky. With Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage. There is no room in Atheist ethics for the type of 'submissive' nonsense preached by Baptists and other Christian and/or Jewish groups. Atheists reject, and rightly so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with respect to marriage."

"We hear an awful lot from conservatives in the Bible Belt and on the TV about how we all should be living. Certainly a culture that teaches the conservative religious values of the Christian right must have clean living written all over it. And lots of ripe fruit from their morally superior lives abounding."

"It doesn't. Far from it. People that talk the loudest may be the ones walking the slowest. Joining its history of Biblically correct bigotry and discrimination, it is an area with the highest divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates in the nation. As a region, the Bible Belt has the poorest health care systems and the lowest rates of high school graduation."

The highest divorce rates were found in the Bible Belt. "Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma round out the Top Five in frequency of divorce...the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average" of 4.2/1000 people.

11 southern states (AL, AR, AZ, FL, GA, MS, NC, NM, OK, SC and TX averaged 5.1/1000 people. (LA data is not available; TX data is for 1997).

Nine states in the Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT) averaged only 3.5/1000 people.

Some of the factors that contribute to a high divorce rate in the Bible Belt, relative to Northeastern states are:

More couples enter their first marriage at a younger age.

Average household incomes are lower (OK and AR rate 46th and 47th in the U.S.)

They have a lower percentage of Roman Catholics, a denomination that does not recognize divorce. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Southern Baptist Convention in Oklahoma commented: "I applaud the Catholics," says Jordan. "I don't think we as Protestant evangelists have done nearly as well preparing people for marriage. And in the name of being loving and accepting, we have not placed the stigma on divorce that we should have."

Some factor in conservative Protestantism -- which is prevalent in the Bible Belt -- may causes a higher level of divorce.

The Associated Press analyzed divorce statistics from the US Census Bureau. They found that Massachusetts had the lowest divorce rate in the U.S. at 2.4 per 1,000 population. Texas had the highest rate at 4.1 per 1,000. They found that the highest divorce rates are found in the "Bible Belt."

According to the Boston Globe:

"The AP report stated that 'the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average of 4.2 per thousand people.' The 10 Southern states with some of the highest divorce rates were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. By comparison nine states in the Northeast were among those with the lowest divorce rates: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont."

One reason for the higher divorce rates in the Bible Belt may be the lower percentage of Roman Catholics in the South. Their denomination does not recognize divorce. Other reasons could be related more to culture than religion:

Couples in the South enter their first marriages at a younger age.

Family incomes in the South are lower.

Educational attainment is lower in the South: One in three Massachusetts residents have completed college. while only 23% of Texans have. incomes are lower indicating greater poverty, AND...lower education which of course leads to lower income and greater poverty. I argued this point before with you. Education is the key element to success in ones life. You claimed it was a family environment. With a solid education you can rise above any family environment. I've known Doctors emerge from broken families, and kids that have been raised in the lap of luxury that end up in jail or drug rehab.

So...stop your preaching James. It's really pointless. If you want to argue or debate another person, you'll need to focus on facts instead of arguing beliefs. Nobody cares about your beliefs but you. Do yourself a favor and start another Hub.