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Top 10 Founding Fathers

Significant Figures Who Helped Found America

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The founding fathers were those political leaders who were part of the American Revolution and the founding of the new nation after independence was won. There were many more than ten founders that had a huge impact on the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. However, this list attempts to pick the top ten founding fathers who had the greatest impact. Honorable mentions not included were John Hancock, John Marshall, Peyton Randolph, and John Jay.

1. George Washington - Founding Father

Portrait of President George Washington
Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-7585 DLC
George Washington was a member of the First Continental Congress. He was then chosen to lead the Continental Army. He was the president of the Constitutional Convention and of course became the first president of the United States. In all these leadership positions, he showed a steadfastness of purpose and helped create the precedents and foundations that would form America.

2. John Adams

John Adams, Second President of the United States
Independence National Historical Park
John Adams was an important figure in both the First and Second Continental Congresses. He was on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence and was central to its adoption. Because of his foresight, George Washington was named Commander of the Continental Army at the Second Continental Congress. He was chosen to help negotiate the Treaty of Paris that officially ended the American Revolution. He later became the first vice president and then the second president of the United States.

3. Thomas Jefferson

Image of Thomas Jefferson by Charles Wilson Peale, 1791.
Credit: Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson, as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, was chosen to be part of a Committee of Five that would draft the Declaration of Independence. He was unanimously picked to write the Declaration. He was then sent to France as a diplomat after the Revolution and then returned to become first the vice president under John Adams and then the third president.

4. James Madison

James Madison, Fourth President of the United States
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-13004
James Madison was known as the Father of the Constitution, for he was responsible for writing much of it. Further, with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, he was one of the authors of the Federalist Papers that helped persuade the states to accept the new Constitution. He was responsible for drafting the Bill of Rights that were added to the Constitution in 1791. He helped organize the new government and later became the fourth president of the United States.

5. Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
National Archives
Benjamin Franklin was considered the elder statesman by the time of the Revolution and later Constitutional Convention. He was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. He was part of the Committee of Five that was to draft the Declaration of Independence and made corrections that Jefferson included in his final draft. Franklin was central to getting French aid during the American Revolution. He also helped with negotiating the Treaty of Paris that ended the war.

6. Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs: LC-USZ62-102271
Samuel Adams was a true revolutionary. He was one of the founders of the Sons of Liberty. His leadership helped organize the Boston Tea Party. He was a delegate to both the First and Second Continental Congresses and fought for the Declaration of Independence. He also helped draft the Articles of Confederation. He helped write the Massachusetts Constitution and became its governor.

7. Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Thomas Paine was the author of a very important pamphlet called Common Sense that was published in 1776. He wrote a compelling argument for independence from Great Britain. His pamphlet convinced many colonists and founding fathers of the wisdom of open rebellion against the British if necessary. Further, he published another pamphlet called The Crisis during the Revolutionary War that helped spur on the soldiers to fight.

8. Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry
Library of Congress
Patrick Henry was a radical revolutionary who was unafraid to speak up against Great Britain at an early date. He is most famous for his speech which includes the line, "Give me liberty or give me death." He was a governor of Virginia during the Revolution. He also helped fight for the addition of the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, a document with which he disagreed because of its strong federal powers.

9. Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-48272
Hamilton fought in the Revolutionary War. However, his true importance came about after the war when he was a huge proponent for the US Constitution. He, along with John Jay and James Madison, wrote the Federalist Papers in an effort to secure support for the document. Once Washington was elected as the first president, Hamilton was made the first Secretary of the Treasury. His plan for getting the new country on its feet economically was instrumental in forming a sound financial basis for the new republic.

10. Gouverneur Morris

Gouverneur Morris
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-48272
Gouverneur Morris was an accomplished statesman that ushered in the idea of a person being a citizen of the union, not the individual states. He was part of the Second Continental Congress and as such helped provide legislative leadership to back up George Washington in his fight against the British. He signed the Articles of Confederation. He is credited with writing parts of the Constitution including possibly its preamble.

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