Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington
The history of the United States is among the most told in the world of politics. Since the United States has undergone turbulent and trying times although it has managed to navigate them with relative success. One such trying time came during the American Revolution when the Americans fought for their independence. Though various individuals played major roles, Thomas Jefferson Benjamin Franklin and George Washington stand out as those who made monumental contributions.
Thomas Jefferson was born in Virginia on April 13, 1743 (Cogliano, 2006). His most notable contribution to the American Revolution era was in the drafting of the United States Independence Declaration. In addition, Jefferson served as the first Secretary of State between 1789 and 1794. Jefferson was also the second vice president between 1797 and 1801 before assuming the presidency between 1801 and 1809. Other notable experiences include his role in the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson’s illustrious career was brought to an end when he died in Monticello in July 1826 (Cogliano, 2006).
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The third US president who is the author of the American Declaration for Independence was born into a prominent family in Virginia (Cogliano, 2006). The father to Thomas, Peter Jefferson was a cartographer, surveyor, and successful farmer while the mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson belonged to the Randolph club. While growing up as a boy, Jefferson liked playing, reading and playing the violin. Jefferson studied Latin and Greek before proceeding to focus on literature and mathematics.
At the time Jefferson was beginning his professional political life, Great Britain was experiencing unprecedented changes in its American colonies. In particular, the end of the French-Indian War of 1763 had left Great Britain in a difficult financial status (Cogliano, 2006). Hence, Britain sought to raise taxes to fill emerging deficits. Thus, the American colonies were under a new burden of paying additional taxes to the colonial masters. Particularly, the coming into force of the Stamp Act in 1765 was a case in point. The Act that imposed levies on paper goods proved to be the final straw that led to the American Revolution (Greene & Pole, 2003). The outraged Americans coined a slogan, “No taxation without representation”, which became the revolution’s slogan.
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In late 1773, Americans protesting the tax on tea in Boston clashed with British soldiers, in the famous Boston Tea Party (Greene & Pole, 2003). Further clashes between the two sides continued and spread to Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Later, the clashes gave way to the American Revolution War. Thomas Jefferson was one of the most outspoken supporters of the war against the Britons. In 1768, Jefferson was elected into the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he joined a radical group led by George Washington and Patrick Henry (Cogliano, 2006). Come the year 1774, Jefferson made a significant mark by authoring “A Summary View of the Rights of British America”. After articulating the case for American independence, Jefferson came out as one of the most ardent supporters of the American cause. Later in 1775, Jefferson participated in the Second Continental Congress, which led to the creation of a continental army under the leadership of George Washington. Nevertheless, the most significant task at the time, drafting the Declaration of Independence, fell to Jefferson (Cogliano, 2006).
Congress appointed five members to draft the Declaration of Independence. They included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman (Cogliano, 2006). The committee appointed Jefferson as its author. Drafted in 1776, the Declaration of Independence has retained its powerfulness and beauty of liberty as envisaged by the American citizens. The document opened with a preamble before commencing to list the grievances of the American people against the British leader, King George 11. At the same time, the declaration absolved Americans of any wrongdoing. Despite many revisions to the Independence Declaration, its initial words remain immortal. In particular, words on human equality, right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness remain intact.
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Being the author of the Declaration of Independence, which is the foundational stone of the American state and one of the most significant written pieces in the world history, Jefferson passes as one of the most influential figures in the history of the United States. However, despite his assertion that all men are equal, he owned slaves and expanded governmental authority beyond limits (Greene & Pole, 2003).
Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 in Boston (Lemay, 2008). His most notable contribution was organizing the US’s first volunteer fire department and lending library. Franklin also had an interest in scientific exploits as he led investigations on mapmaking and mathematics (Lemay, 2008). Franklin also played a role in the creation of the US Constitution, the Independence Declaration, and the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which helped to end the American Revolution War.
Unlike Jefferson, who came from a prominent family, Franklin ailed from a common family as his father worked as a candle maker (Lemay, 2008). His major publications appeared in The New England Courant. Benjamin had to escape the wrath of his brother and ended up in New York after realizing that readers liked the works he had refused to publish. Later, Benjamin settled in Philadelphia for the remainder of his life.
Franklin attained prominence when he published Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1732 (Lemay, 2008). He ventured into real estate, fire extinguishing, and lending libraries. Therefore, the library business was intended to allow other scholars to share or access books. Franklin later expanded into the production of stoves and scientific publications. He also became a militia aged 42 in Pennsylvania.
Franklin served as a diplomat in addition to representing the Pennsylvania Assembly (Lemay, 2008). Later, Franklin represented Massachusetts, Georgia, and New Jersey, although he continued pushing for the colonial union. In 1766, Franklin rose in support of the repealing of the Stamp Act. In 1775, Franklin was also elected into the Second Continental Congress. At the same time, he served as a postmaster general in charge of the British colonies. In 1776, Franklin was one of those appointed to serve in the committee of five in order to draft the Declaration of Independence. Another similar feat was registered when Franklin was appointed to a thirteen-man committee, which was assigned the responsibility of drafting the Articles of Confederation.
The first United States president was born in Westmoreland County, on February 22, 1732 (Heydt, 2005). Besides, George Washington also served as an army general and chief commander of the colonial army during the American Revolution. After serving as the military chief, Washington became the first US president serving between 1789 and 1797. George Washington had a prominent background since his father, John Washington, was an immigrant from England. Due to the family’s high position in England, Henry VIII gave John land.
When tracing the role of Washington, it is critical to focus on the pre-Revolutionary military career. In the 1950s, Britain and France were at peace. However, France began encroaching Ohio Valley to protect the king’s interests (Heydt, 2005). The borderlines along the area were contested by the two countries. After the death of Lawrence Washington, George Washington was appointed into a major rank in the Virginia militia. In 1753, Washington was sent to Fort LeBoeuf, Pennsylvania to implore the French to stay away from the land where the British had interests. After the French refusal, Washington made his way back to Pennsylvania before going back to the French with troops. This preceded the beginning of the French Indian War.
The revolutionary leadership of Washington came to the open following the British Proclamation Act of 1763, which barred people from settling beyond the Alleghenies (Greene, 2000). The leader’s position was also clear in the case of the Stamp Act of 1765. Despite the growing resistance against the British rule, Washington did not openly join anti-colonialists movements until 1767, when people protested the Townshend Act. In 1769, Washington sponsored a resolution to the House of Burgesses urging people to boycott British goods pending the repealing of the Act (Greene, 2000). Upon the adoption of the Intolerable Acts, Washington chaired led a meeting, which adopted Fairfax Resolves who called for reconvening the Continental Congress and employment of resistance to oppose the developments initiated by the British colonists.
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Unlike many first-time presidents who preferred overstaying in power, Washington defied pressure and stepped aside as president instead of going for a third term. Thus, Washington managed to set in place a system that could allow transitional leadership after every two terms. From that time on, each presidency in the country has seen a peaceful transition. While facing his retirement, Washington sought the help of Alexander Hamilton in composing his Farewell Address to the American people (Heydt, 2005). In the address, Washington underscored the significance of maintaining unity and avoiding forming unions with foreigners. In his final official act, Washington pardoned rebels behind the Whisky Rebellion. On 1st March 1797, Washington handed governance to John Adams before going back to Mount Vernon (Heydt, 2005).
Washington chose to be a citizen instead of a king. After assuming the presidency of the United States, Washington set many desirable precedents both for the presidency and for the national government. For instance, the two-term limit on the office of the residency became a major hallmark although Franklin Roosevelt broke it once. Later the precedent was enshrined into the constitution (22nd Amendment), implying that it could not be possible for any leader to break it (Heydt, 2005). Moreover, Washington crystallized the presidency as a section of the three branches of government. In particular, Washington set the stage for a presidency that exercises its authority, in addition to respecting the principle of separation of powers.
In brief, Washington was not necessarily a military hero, but a revolutionary figurehead. Most importantly, Washington exercised great personal integrity, sense of duty, patriotism, and honor. Although considerable time has passed, many observers believe that the American Revolution could not have registered the kind of success without his contribution.
It emerges that Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington played important roles towards ensuring that the American Revolution succeeded. As established in the paper, Washington and Jefferson became US presidents besides serving other roles within the American state. Franklin and Jefferson played many other influential roles such as calling for the rejection of the Stamp Act of 1775 and serving the Second Continental Congress. Besides, the two leaders took part in authoring the Declaration of Independence. Washington was also among the leaders who opposed the Stamp Act.
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Although the three leaders played a monumental role in the American Revolution, based on this paper’s assessment, George Washington stands out as the most outstanding performer. Such is held based on the view that Washington set important precedents bordering on the need for selflessness in leadership. Put differently, Washington set the stage for America to become the leading world democracy. However, Jefferson follows Washington closely since he played a major role including his leadership in assuming the presidency in addition to authoring the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin also made an immense contribution although he does not match the feats of the other two leaders. Regardless of such differences, the three leaders played critical roles in the history of the United States, and their names will remain in the annals of the country.