The Founders Lives and Wisdom

We stand on the shoulders of giants…

Thomas Jefferson

jefferson-portraitThomas Jefferson was a remarkable man who started learning very early in life and never stopped. Born April 13, 1743, Thomas Jefferson…

  • at age 5, began studying under his cousins’ tutor
  • at age 9, studied Latin, Greek and French
  • at age 14, studied classical literature and additional languages
  • at age 16, entered the College of William and Mary
  • at age 19, studied Law for 5 years starting under George Wythe
  • at age 23, started his own law practice
  • at age 25, was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses
  • at age 31, wrote the widely circulated “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and retired from his law practice
  • at age 32, was a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress
  • at age 33, wrote the Declaration of Independence
  • at age 33, took three years to revise Virginia’s legal code and wrote a Public Education bill and a statute for Religious Freedom
  • at age 36, was elected the second Governor of Virginia succeeding Patrick Henry
  • at age 40, served in Congress for two years
  • at age 41, was the American minister to France and negotiated commercial treaties with European nations along with Ben Franklin and John Adams
  • at age 46, served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington
  • at age 53, served as Vice President and was elected president of the American Philosophical Society
  • at age 55, drafted the Kentucky Resolutions and with James Madison, co-founded, and became the active head of Democratic-Republican Party
  • at age 57, was elected the third president of the United States
  • at age 60, obtained the Louisiana Purchase doubling the nation’s size
  • at age 61, was elected to a second term as President
  • at age 65, retired to Monticello
  • at age 80, helped President Monroe shape the Monroe Doctrine
  • at age 81, almost single-handedly created the University of Virginia and served as its first president
  • at age 83, died on the 50th anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson wisely said:

“When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.”

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.”

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

“To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property – until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

Thomas Jefferson extensively studied failed attempts at government, and applied the lessons of history throughout a life of research, reflection, and public service.

James Madison

JamesMadisonBorn March 16, 1751 at Port Conway in King George County, Virginia at the home of his maternal grandmother, James Madison…

  • at age 18 (1769-72), attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton)
  • at age 24 (1775), became colonel in the Orange County Militia
  • at age 25 (1776), elected delegate to the Virginia Convention and the General Assembly
  • at age 29 (1780), served as a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress
  • at age 36 (1787), served as a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention. After four months of private debate (essays known as “The Federalist Papers”), the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, and was signed on September 17.
  • at age 36 (1787), James Madison’s essay “The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection” exemplifies the brilliance and startling originality of the Federalist. Published on November 23, 1787, it challenges the assumption that individual rights can be secured only in small countries with homogeneous populations.
  • at age 37 (1788), the US Constitution, largely based on the “Virginia Plan”, authored by James Madison, was ratified. The three branches of government, judicial, legislative and executive, were primarily Madison’s invention. The bicameral legislature grew out of a compromise between the large states, wanting representation by population (Congress), and the small states, wanting representation by state (Senate).
  • at age 38 (1789), elected to the House of Representatives; sponsors Bill of Rights; works with Thomas Jefferson to form the Democratic Republican Party
  • at age 43 (1794), Married Dolley Payne Todd, September 15
  • at age 50 (1801), his father, James Madison Sr. dies; as eldest son, inherits Montpelier
  • at age 50 (1801-09), served as Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State
  • at age 58 (1809), inaugurated Fourth President of the United States
  • at age 61 (1812), delivered war message to Congress (War of 1812, with Great Britain)
  • at age 62 (1813), began second term as President
  • at age 63 (1814), British burned Washington and the White House. First lady Dolly Madison remains to salvage important papers and valuable memorabilia, such as the large painting of George Washington.
  • at age 64 (1815), treaty of Ghent officially ended the War of 1812
  • at age 66 (1817), retired from the presidency, to Montpelier
  • at age 75 (1826), succeeded Jefferson as Rector of the University of Virginia
  • at age 78 (1829), Serves as delegate to Virginia’s second constitutional convention; only member present from the first convention in 1776
  • at age 85 (1836), died June 28, at Montpelier

James Madison wisely said:

“Every word [of the Constitution] decides a question between power and liberty. ”

“All power in human hands is liable to be abused.”

“Conscience is the most sacred of all property….”

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”

“I go on the principle that a public debt is a public curse.”

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

“America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.”

“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

“With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

A good friend of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison was passionate about religious freedom and individual liberty. James Madison is widely acknowledged to be the “father of the US Constitution”.