Recalling his death resulted from a duel might reveal something fundamental about his character and his perverted sense of honor. Among the Founding Fathers, only James Madison was considered to have intellect of such strength that he might oppose the “towering genius” of Alexander Hamilton as lamented by Thomas Jefferson. At five and a half feet, what Hamilton lacked in imposing height he made up in brilliance. An aggressive patriot, he enthusiastically endeavored to engage battle during the Revolution to the dismay of John Adams who considered him mad. As United States Treasurer, Hamilton single handedly turned America’s fledgling economy from desperation, and American war bonds appreciated from worthless to better than face value under his stewardship.
As most trusted aid, George Washington valued Hamilton’s council during the Revolution, and as towering a figure as was Hamilton, his greatness was overshadowed by a superior integrity, grace, and might, possessed by the formidable General. Unanimously nominated to be our first President, Washington held together our feeble undersupplied Army under disastrous conditions and guaranteed there would be a United States as decreed in America’s Declaration of Independence. Upon taking the oath of office vowing to protect our Constitution he completed the pledge with a simple and spontaneous addition, “So help me God.”
Brilliant, Warren Buffet wealthy and world renown for his invention of the lightning rod, while visiting France as diplomat to enlist French support in the Revolutionary war effort, Benjamin Franklin was treated with pomp and majesty today’s biggest rock stars could not obtain. The father of electricity, inventor of bifocals, the Franklin stove, the glass armonica, and purveyor of the world’s fastest and furthest reaching communication system; Franklin served as co-Post Master General for the colonies from 1753.
A committed loyalist, Franklin had no interest in revolution. After presenting the colonial case to English parliament as its representative, Franklin was dressed down like a petulant child, and in 1774 was dismissed from his position as Post Master by England sighting Franklin’s devotion to the new world as “too sympathetic”. In one arrogant insult, mother country transferred the wise and crafty old statesman into a deliberate revolutionary.
Born with a silver platter upon his highchair, Thomas Jefferson might be compared to a modern day Edward Kennedy, except he never drove off a bridge killing a girl. When considering the plight of today’s American education system, consistently underperforming and consistently requesting money, it is instructive to recall Jefferson’s words explaining all that is required to train a lawyer, “A good library where the student is instructed in what order to read its contents…”
Perhaps the most quoted of America’s Founders, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and after incorporating a few edits advised by the old post master, America presented its case to the world to advocate its justification for separation from Britain.
After succeeding Adams as President, the vocal “states rights” Jefferson consistently railed against an expansion in power within the federal government considering the just repository of government power to reside with the states and people. Upon acquiring the office of President, Jefferson did more than either of his predecessors to expand that power he deplored.
Stodgy, pugnacious, rigid and loyal, John Adams name was notably absent from a list maintained by the English, those high ranking individuals among the colonial opposition to be spared death upon capitulation, were the Revolutionary War to be ended in such fashion.
While serving as diplomat in France with Franklin, Adams was perturbed by the old fox who seemed to betray his own teachings, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Unlike Franklin, Adams was wholly incapable of making the cultural adjustments necessary to succeed among the French aristocrats. Their customs and traditions were repugnant to Adams who only wanted to get on with his work.
Adams’ inflexible demeanor made him ineffective as French diplomat, and too plagued his one miserable term as our Nation’s second President. His devotion to truth and justice cannot be understated, however. Adams continually fought for justice and righteousness, and when eight British sentries along with their commanding officer were tried for murder after the Boston Massacre, it was Adams who agreed to defend them.
Without concern for his own career, Adams provided legal counsel in a hostile atmosphere where he stood nothing to gain. He procured acquittals for all but two of the soldiers charged and spared those the penalty of death.
Adam’s would later ruminate in his diary, “…one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.”
The original “nerd”, James Madison exited Princeton University to suffer a nervous breakdown after pushing himself relentlessly by completing his Junior and Senior year studies in a single term. The youngest member of the Constitutional Convention, Madison is remembered as “Father of the Constitution” for his copious notes chronicling the proceedings, and his persuasive arguments on the floor helping to mold the document.
Politically aligned with Jefferson, Madison opposed Alexander Hamilton who he conspired with to write the Federalist Papers, and set the foundational principles which would create the Democratic-Republican Party. He was author of Federalist #10 which is considered by many scholars the premier Federalist document laying out most clearly the argument for American Republican government.
When George Mason and others refused to sign the Constitution lamenting, “it contains no Bill of Rights”, Madison wrote the first ten Amendments to the Constitution and fought to see them ratified.
Madison died in 1836, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence.