Founding Fathers Blog

Labor Day Quotes from Founding Fathers

September 3rd, 2010

With Labor Day quickly approaching, I thought maybe you’d enjoy some favorite quotes from some of the Founding Fathers (and a few others) relating to labor.

“Well done is better than well said.” Benjamin Franklin

“Success has ruined many a good man.” Benjamin Franklin

“The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.” Benjamin Franklin

“Commerce and industry are the best mines of a nation.” George Washington

“The private virtues of economy, prudence, and industry are not less amiable, in civil life, than the more splendid qualities of valor, perseverance, and enterprise, in public life.” George Washington

“It is a point conceded, that America, under an efficient government, will be the most favorable country of any in the world, for persons of industry and frugality, possessed of moderate capital.” George Washington

“I flatter myself, that opportunities will not be wanting, for me to show my disposition to encourage the domestic and public virtues of industry, economy, patriotism, philanthropy, and that righteousness which exalteth a nation.” George Washington

“I never in my life believed that I had any talents beyond mediocrity. I have always be sensible (sensitive), to my mortification, that all I have done has been accomplished by the severest and most incessant labor.” John Adams

“But to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence to life, is as gross a fraud, as glaring an imposition on the credibility of people as was ever practised.” John Adams

“The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone, it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” Patrick Henry

“A mind always employed is always happy. . . .It is our own fault if we ever know what ennui (the condition of being bored) is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resources of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind.” Thomas Jefferson

“I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” Thomas Jefferson

“Our wish . . . is that the public efforts may be directed honestly to the public good, that . . . equality of rights [be] maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry or that of his fathers.” Thomas Jefferson

And Thomas Jefferson about James Madison: “[Madison] acquired a habit of self-possession, which placed at ready command the rich resources of his luminous and discriminating mind, and of his extensive information, and rendered him the first of every assembly afterwards, of which he became a member.

“Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.” Ulysses S. Grant

“As labor is the common burden of our race, so the effort of some to shift their share of the burden onto the shoulders of others is the great durable curse of the race.” Abraham Lincoln

George Washington and the Meaning of His Words

August 31st, 2010

I was reading some quotes from a few of our Founding Fathers. I came across a quote from George Washington and as I read it I wondered how many of us could just read the letter and know what George meant.

I decided to write the quote and include the meaning of those words which do not occur in the general conversation of most adults today. So here it is:

“While I reiterate* the professions* of my dependence upon Heaven as the source of public and private blessings; I will observe that the general prevalence* of piety*, philanthropy*, honesty, industry and economy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs*, particularly necessary for advancing and confirming the happiness of our country.

“While all men within our territories are protected in worshipping the Deity*, according to the dictates* of their consciences*; it is rationally to be expected from them in return, that they will be emulous* of evincing*, the sanctity* of their professions* by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence* of their actions for no man, who is profligate* in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be Christian, or a credit to his own religious society.”

Letter to Caleb Gibbs, May 26, 1789.

Here are the meanings of those words with asterisks:

Reiterate–to say or do again, repeatedly

Profession — declarations, avowels, claims

Heaven– God, the celestial powers, the Creator

Prevalence–of general use or occurance, acceptance

Piety–reverence for God or devout fullfillment of religious obligations

Philanthropy–affection for mankind, especially as manifested in donations of money, property, or work to needy persons or socially useful purposes

Affairs–anything done or to be done requiring action or effort; business; concerns

Deity–Godhead, the nature and essence of the Supreme Being

Dictates–an authoritative order or command

Consciences–internal or self-knowledge, or judgment of right or wrong, the light of Christ, spirit of Christ or the Lord

Emulous–desirous of equaling or excelling

Evincing–to show clearly or meke manifest or evident

Sanctity–sacred or hallowed character

Beneficence–the practice of doing good, kindness

Profligate–utterly and shamelessly immoral

Perhaps this more modern attempt at the translation of the above quote will help:

While I repeat the declaration of my dependence upon God as a source of ALL my blessings; I perceive that an overall acceptance and commitment to God, to humanity, to being honest, industrious and frugal in our everyday lives, seems to be necessary to progress and establish the happiness of our country and its citizens.

As Americans we have the fundamental right to worship God, according to what we feel is morally correct. It would be logical to expect that we in turn would be anxiously endeavoring to demonstrate our love and devotion to God through our actions. No one who is corrupt in his morals, or who is a bad member of the community can possibly be Christian, or be a credit to his own character or religious affiliation.

George Washington and the Book of Proverbs

August 24th, 2010

As I was teaching an adult Sunday School class about the Old Testament book of Proverbs, it struck me how similar the maxims in that book are to the maxims by which George Washington learned penmanship.

By the way, a proverb is a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought, adage,  or saw.

In 1745 George was tutored by a teacher from France who supervised his practice of penmanship. George transcribed from dictation what were known as the “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” as a method of mastering his proper penmanship. He would hear and write these Rules over and over again.

This improved his penmanship while at the same time instructing him in proper manners and comportment. This repeated exercise made a permanent empression on young George. He was taught how to treat others in social situations  and he learned important moral virtues.

 These rules were so unmistakenly exemplified in George Washington’s life that biographers have regarded them as a formative influence in the development of his character.

Let’s compare just a few of these maxims with some of those contained in the Book of Proverbs as given by King Solomon.

Rule: “Take all admonitions thankfully in what time or place soever given. . .”

Proverb: “Despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of His correction.” (Proverbs 3:11)

Rule: “Honour & obey your natural parents Altho they be poor.”

Proverb: “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22.)

Rule: “A man ought not to value himself of his achievements or rare qualities of wit, much less of his riches, virtue or kindred.”

Proverb: “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2.)

And there are several other good comparisons. Maybe we should bring back the methods of learnig character and behavior in the manner that Washington was taught. Perhaps it would do the young good to learn texting by using some of the maxims of the Proverbs.

A Few Random Thoughts From the Founding Fathers

July 26th, 2010
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” -Benjamin Franklin
 
“I believe He (God) is pleased and delights in the Happiness of those he has created; and since without Virtue Man can have no Happiness in this world, I firmly believe he delights to see me Virtuous because He is pleased when he sees me Happy.” -Benjamin Franklin (capitalization as he wrote it.)
 
“Of all the dispositions and  habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports. . . . (R)eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. -George Washington
 
“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” -George Washington
 
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  -John Adams
 
“I pray heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.” _John Adams to Abagail Adams, 2 November 1800 (referring to the Executive Mansion, now known as the White House; this passage is carved on a mantelpiece in the East Room.)
 
“The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of society; and . . . to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.” -James Madison
 
“I wish I could leave you my most cherished possession, my faith in Christ. For with Him you have everything, without Him you have nothing.”  -Patrick Henry
 
“I too have made a wee little book . . . which I call ‘The Philosophy of Jesus.”  It is . . . made by cutting the texts out of the book (the Bible) and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time and subject. . . . . It is a document in proof tha I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of Jesus.” -Thomas Jefferson 
 
 

 

WHO WOULD ARGUE WITH GEORGE WASHINGTON?

May 25th, 2010

George Washington’s self made will had some wonderful features. I’m thinking of re-popularizing at least one of them. You see, he had a well constructed clause to direct the settlement of disputes in the event there should be any.

As an estate planning attorney, I have long been a proponent of using revocable living trusts in the process. They avoid probate, make the settlement go smoothly, and cost less money in the long run. And they generally avoid conflicts in settling an estate.

A living trust is a written document to perform the same functions as a Last Will and Testament. But it does so without probate, if properly written and funded. Thus keeping the estate out of Court. So in order to dispute the trust, a new lawsuit must be filed. This was often considered unworkable.

Often the drafter of a living trust will include an “In Terrorum Clause” often referred to as a “No Contest Statement.” Such a clause instructs the Trustee of the Trust to consider anyone who should contest (or bring a lawsuit) against the Trust, to have died without any children. The outcome of this is to discourage anyone from causing a dispute over the settlement of the estate.

Unfortunately, the probate judges now-days sometimes take to looking askance at such clauses. Their reasoning is that if there is a real injustice caused by the document, by the Trustee, or the other heirs, then a person pointing out such an injustice should not be punished by cutting him out of the estate. And you know how good lawyers have become at arguing such things!

So perhaps we should look to George Washington’s solution and add it to our trust language. In so many words, George said that in the event of a disagreement, the disagreeing parties should follow his instructions. His instructions were that in such a case there should in essence be a mediation committee formed.

Each party to the disagreement should select one prominent and distinguished gentleman who was known for his wisdom and integrity. Then these two gentlemen would select a third person by mutual agreement. These three would then mediate any dispute and the parties would be bound by their decision, from which there would be no appeal.

I suppose such a clause would work until some judge would say that such disputes should always be decided at Court! “A mediation committee,” the Judge might shout, “Poppycock!” But I still think it’s worth a try.

Liberty or Not — That is the Question

May 17th, 2010

When any attention is paid to our nation’s founding documents, much attention is paid to the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, especially to the phrase “promote the general Welfare.” It seems to me that too little attention is paid to the words immediately following that phrase.  The words “and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” perhaps currently need much more attention by the citizenry and its representatives.

Are we trying at all to secure the “Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” when we go on unbridled spending sprees? Are we selling our Liberty for a mess of pottage? Are we purchasing our security for a loss of our Liberty, our Liberty and that of our children?

Instead of binding our Liberty with the chains of massive debt in exchange for some security, shouldn’t we be binding our representatives with the chains of the Constitution?

Support candidates and propositions of either political party. But be sure to choose men and women who are aware of the great dangers inherent in massive spending. Choose those who are truly dedicated to the Freedoms and Liberties for ourselves and our children as protected by the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers.

Those we select to represent us should be required to pledge a sincere allegiance to the cause of Liberty–a Liberty which aims at the preservation of both personal and property rights.

Some may say that the Constitution should change with the times. Experience has proved that the principles of the Constitution are sound. They are tested by time. They are still sound today. They have an impressive track record. Our Constitution is the oldest governing document in the world. It has created a country with unmatched Liberty, Freedom, growth, and prosperity.

 James Madison is called the “Father of the Constitution.” It is a title he strongly deserved. In the amazing time that reached from the Annapolis Convention (September 1786) to the ratification by Virginia (June 1788) he sheparded the acceptance of the Constitution by the citizens of the Nation and their leaders.  He defended the call to the Constitutional Convention in Congress, and persuaded George Washington to attend it.

Madison did his extensive research into the nature of governments and confederacies to determine a plan. He drafted the Virginia Plan, which became the basis for the Constitution. He played a key and indispensible role in transforming that plan into the finished draft. He argued in defense of drafting the Constitution in the “Federalist Papers.”

He went to Richmond, Virginia, to debate Patrick Henry (of “Give me liberty, or give me death” fame), who was opposed to its ratification. Although Henry was a more polished orator, Madison was well-founded in the principles of government and governing documents. Madison prevailed over Henry and won his States ratification.

Madison later wrote: “The principles and modes of government are too important to be disregarded by an inquisitive mind, and I think are well worthy of a critical examination by all . . .”

Let us give our choices and the words “and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” our critical examination.

A Vow is Only as Good as an Oath

April 30th, 2010

Every public servant, such as a judge, Senator, or Congressman, makes a personal oath when entering into such a position. It is required by the Constitution.

The Presidential Oath is set forth in the Constitution as: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

When being sworn in as our first President, George Washington spontaneously added the words: “so help me God.”  This has becoome a traditional part of the Oath of office.

The Oath is said while holding one hand on a  Bible, and raising the right hand to the square (although people have generally forgotten what it means to hold your hand “to the square. “)

An Oath is defined as “A solemn appeal to God . . . to witness one’s determination to speak the truth or to keep a promise.”

It is also often referred to as a Vow. A Vow is defined as “a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment.”

It sadly seems that some have now forgotten either the meaning of the Oath, or the meaning of such a promise when entering office as a public servant.

U.S. Congressman Phil Hare is talking to some constituents. It’s a town hall type of meeting. They are talking about the healthcare Bill, and Phil’s still trying to sell it even though it’s already law, and they ask him about the Constitution.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

CONGRESSMAN HARE: Well, look. We’ve got a

VOICE: Where in the Constitution?

CONGRESSMAN HARE: We are I don’t worry about the Constitution on this to be honest.

VOICE: Jackpot, brother.

CONGRESSMAN HARE: I care more about, I care more about the people that are dying every day that don’t have health insurance.

VOICE: You care more about that than the U.S. Constitution that you swore to uphold?

CONGRESSMAN HARE: I believe it says we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

VOICE: That’s the Declaration of Independence.

And this is just one of many such similar indications of ignorancce. When asked about the difference between ignorance and apathy, one man replied: “I don’t know, and I don’t care.” That seems to be a problem we have today in our public servants.

It seems there is a defininte lack of understanding of Oaths, Promises, and the Constitution and Declaration of Indedpendence in general. Perhaps public servants should be required to take a foundational course in oaths, vows, promises, and pledges before being sworn in. Many are now appalled at the disregard their public servants have for their promises.

What if all were determined to uphold their Oath of office and promote only those items specifically included in their job description as provided by the Constitution?

John Adams–What is Your Recipe for Preserving the Constitution?

April 7th, 2010

John Adams was the First Vice President of the New United States of America, serving under the Father of Our Country, George Washington. When Washington refused to serve a third term as President, John Adams was elected President. He served only one term.

In his Inaugural Address John Adams shared his vision for America as a “City on a Hill,” to be admired by every Nation of the Earth as a beacon for liberty and freedom. Adams advocated the support of “every rational effort to encourage schools, colleges, universities, academies, and every institution for propagating knowledge, virtue, and religion among all people. [It is] the only means of preserving our Constitition.”

In his Farewell Address, President George Washington warned us that religion and morality are indispensible supports to our Nation’s political properity.

Our current political prosperity seems now to be floundering. Perhaps the pendulum for separation of Church and State has swung too far. Maybe virtue, religion, and morality need to be propagated more effectively in our schools, colleges, universities, acadamies, and other institutions, in order to perserve our Nation’s political prosperity. We should listen to our founding Presidents.

The First Amendment to the Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” it doesn’t prohibit Americans from being religous and virtuous people. Our founders thought the propagation of religion and virtue was required to perserved our Nation’s political prosperity.

Were the Founding Fathers Christian?

April 5th, 2010

Thinking about Easter today, I was contemplating on some of the pictures people have today about the Founding Fathers. Some people hold to the teachings they now receive in school that the Founding Fathers were not Christians. That they were either unbelievers, athiests, or Deists. Such people should read some of their own words. Words of the Founders of this Nation. Here are just a select few.

George Washington was a Christian, attending services as often as he could. He was a vestryman and a Church warden, and supported the Church with generous financial offerings. He often acknowledged the protection by hand of Providence in his life. He was often seen in prayer, especially at Valley Forge. He said: “I was in hopes (that the present age) would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination (to add to) the peace of society.”

And he forcefully stated in his Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports.”

“I too have made a wee little book . . . which I call ‘The Philosophy of Jesus.’ . . . It is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel, and themselves Christians . . . .”   and

“The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored; such as it was preached and practised by Himself.” and

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights     . . .”   –Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson’s friend, and erstwhile antagonist, John Adams, wrote a letter on his 2nd night in the White House, which included these words now engraved on a mantle in the house: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

“I wish I could leave you my most cherished possession, my faith in Jesus Christ. For with Him you have everything and without Him you have nothing.” and

“It cannot be emphasized to strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by  Christians, not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” –Patrick Henry.

Benjamin Franklin created what he called his Plan for Arriving at Moral Perfection. His plan listed 13 character traits he planned to work on throughout his life, until he reached perfection. His thirteenth character trait was called “Humility: Imitate Jesus. . .” He also wrote for himself an interesting epitaph showing his belief in the Resurrection and the real meaning of Easter:  “The body of B. Franklin, printer (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of lettering and gilding), lies here food for worms. But the work shall not be lost; for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author.”

George Washington Had a Bad Cold!

March 30th, 2010

On a trip last week to visit our daughter and to speak about Patrick Henry, I caught a bad cold. On the day I was to make my presentation about one of my favorite founding fathers, I began to lose my voice. I made it through my presentation okay, but my cold and cough got worse. It began to remind me about George Washington.

In December, 1799, George Washington rode out about his beautiful plantation at Valley Forge to mark some trees which needed to be chopped down or trimmed. He kept riding in the midst of snow and sleet. As George returned home, his neck was wet with melted snow and he began to be hoarse.

Martha suggested he take some remedy against the malady. He refused saying, “No,l you know I take nothing for a cold. Let it go as it came. I’ll be all right.” Well, he wasn’t all right. He got worse.

Between 2 and 3 the next morning he wakened Martha saying he was very “unwell.” She sent for doctors. They came. They administered ointments, and began to “bleed” him as was the practice at the time. The doctors administered more remedies, continued the “bleeding” and tried all they could think of. It was all to no use.

At about 4 the next afternoon, George Washington asked for his own two hand-written wills to be produced. He reviewed them. Approved of one and asked Martha to burn the other.

At about 5 that day, George told his good friend, Dr. James Craik, “I die hard, but I am not afraid to go. I believed from my first attack,  that I should not survive it; my breath cannot last long.” And later: “I am just going. Have me decently buried.” He passed on between ten and eleven o’clock that night. He was 67 years old.

One of the greatest and most beloved men in history passed away on that December 13, 1799. Martha remarked that he didn’t intend “to quit the theatre of this world” until the new century had been rung in.

George Washington’s life ended in that century in which he had profoundly played the starring role. His friend Patrick Henry, had also died in June of that same year. Henry was only 63.

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