Features January 2021
On the life and legacy of “the First American.”
There are Founding Fathers and then there are Founding Fathers. While anyone who signed the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution is, virtually by definition, a Founding Father, that doesn’t make Button Gwinnett the equal of George Washington in historical importance.
Indisputably, the top tier of the Founding Fathers consists of Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin, who in fact is the only one of the six to have signed both documents and who, not incidentally, fundamentally helped to shape them and thus to shape the country.
Having signed the Declaration, Franklin was soon dispatched to France, where he proved to be a highly skilled diplomat. Lionized by French society—which he thoroughly enjoyed—he worked hard and successfully to get the French to intervene in the...
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