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The Inaugural Heroes of History Lecture

By Robert V. Remini | HUMANITIES, July/August 2003 | Volume 24, Number 4

The first Heroes of History lecture took place May 1 as part of a White House forum on American history, civics, and service called We the People at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The event included the awarding of scholarships to winners of NEH’s Idea of America essay contest for eleventh graders. Here are some highlights.

First Lady Laura Bush: Through We the People and other federal initiatives you will hear about today, we hope to inspire more students and teachers across the country. It’s vitally important for young people to learn about our democracy. An understanding and appreciation of history makes every American a more engaged citizen. John Adams said, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.”

Last September, on the 215th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, the president announced a federal effort to address the need for better teaching of history and civics. The National Endowment for the Humanities was chosen to administer We the People as part of this effort and they’re doing a wonderful job. Thank you, Bruce Cole, for your leadership and hard work. As a former teacher myself, I’m thrilled that this new initiative will provide teachers with new curriculums and needed resources to teach these important lessons.

Through an investment of $100 million over the next three years, the NEH will help teachers sharpen their skills and their understanding of American history. Teachers will study significant texts on American history with noted scholars, attend two-week academies focused on history, and participate in summer enrichment programs at historic sites around the country. We the People will give our teachers new tools to teach some of the oldest and most important lessons in history.

Bruce Cole: Among all the ideas uniting Americans are the principles of democratic self-government established in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. These principles are the foundations of a democratic republic and the building blocks of a just society. Understanding them is essential to understanding who we are as a people, where we come from, and where we are headed. Knowledge of our past shines light on the path ahead and guides our steps towards the future.

Heroes teach us. They tell us about the past and what is worth preserving and protecting. They also expand the definition of what is possible.

I now have the honor of introducing the scholar who will deliver the inaugural Heroes of History lecture. Robert V. Remini is one of our nation’s finest historians. He is professor emeritus of history and the humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has been teaching history for more than fifty years and writing books about American history for nearly as long.

In addition to his magisterial three-volume biography of Jackson, he is the author of biographies of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster as well as a dozen other books on Jacksonian America. Now, at the behest of Congress, Mr. Remini is at work on the official history of the United States House of Representatives.

This first Heroes of History lecture properly begins at the beginning: our founders. In the years to come, our lectures will explore the wide range and depth of American heroes from the panorama of our history: inventors, scientists, social workers, civil rights leaders, suffragettes, nurses, doctors, and soldiers, the men and women, famous and sometimes obscure, who heal, teach, protect, and inspire. These are stories we need to tell and retell for each generation.

Ordinary Heroes
Founders of Our Republic

By Robert V. Remini

I have been invited to speak on Heroes of History, a subject about which it is very easy for professional historians to be cynical. And that is a great mistake because there are a great many genuine heroes in American history, starting at the very beginning and coming down to the present. I am thinking in particular of the heroes of 9/11, the astronauts of the space ship, Columbia, and the soldiers who fought and are fighting in Iraq.

The question immediately arises as to what constitutes heroism. How can a hero be defined? Each person will have his or her own definition, but to me heroes are those who have performed extraordinary sacrifices for the benefit of others, and most especially for their country.

This past year I was fortunate to be invited by the Library of Congress to undertake the writing of the history of the United States House of Representatives. I will start with the First Congress and continue to the present 108th. In researching and writing that book, I have been amazed by what the members of the First Congress accomplished, not only by the fact that they were mostly “ordinary” men, most of whom are obscure today, but how through heroic efforts they breathed life into the Constitution and helped create a republic that has not only survived, but prospered to an extraordinary extent.

These congressmen are my heroes about whom I wish to speak. I include them among the founders of our republic, along with the men and women who fought in the Revolution and the men who wrote and ratified the Constitution.

This history of the House of Representatives will naturally begin with the First Congress that met in New York City, the capital of the country since 1785. The expiring Congress under the Articles of Confederation directed that the First Congress under the Constitution meet on the first Wednesday of March, 1789. Unfortunately only a handful of men arrived on the scheduled day. Out of the sixty-five elected to the House of Representatives, thirteen showed up on time. In the upper house only eight out of twenty-two senators put in an appearance. Since they did not have a quorum, these men adjourned and continued meeting and adjourning day after day as they waited for the other congressmen to arrive.

Not until April 1 did the House have a quorum. Note it was April Fool’s Day! And they knew it. What a dreadful day to start a new government, moaned Representative Elias Boudinot of New Jersey. But start it they did. And in starting it they faced extraordinary problems: first they were attempting to create a permanent union of people under a republican form of government. Such a union had been tried before and failed. This was their second chance and the members understood that it must not fail again. They collectively recognized that this new government under the Constitution had to succeed. It must not be another Articles of Confederation. Second, they also understood that they were dealing with a document that had many shortcomings: the Constitution was unclear, incomplete, ambiguous, and had no Bill of Rights. Worse, it carried a poison pill lodged within it: slavery.

Still these men were determined to make the Constitution succeed. For if like the Articles it, too, failed, not only would foreign powers mock American attempts at forming a viable republic, which they feared, but would be encouraged to take advantage of the failure and reassert their influence and control of American affairs. Worse, it might prove impossible to discover the measures necessary to establish a lasting republic based on liberty, justice, and the protection of private property. With little to guide them and much to be accomplished they set to work, even though, as Fisher Ames, a representative from Massachusetts, noted, there were “few shining geniuses” among them. Still, he continued, the members are “honest and reasonably well informed.” They are “sober, solid, old-charter folks.” Just ordinary men. Yet, as it turned out, this First Congress of ordinary men was the most productive Congress in our entire history.

Once both houses had a quorum to do business, their first action was to count electoral ballots for president and vice president. To no one’s surprise they discovered that George Washington and John Adams had been elected. To them George Washington was a hero without equal. He was “the greatest Man in the world,” noted William Maclay, senator from Pennsylvania, in his diary. “When I saw Washington,” wrote another enthusiastically, “I felt very strong emotions. I believe that no man ever had so fair a claim to veneration as he.”

But what to call this venerable hero? The Constitution called him the President of the United States but that was not good enough for men like John Adams, who preferred “His Most Benign Highness.” Other members of the Senate opted for “His Highness, the President of the United States of America and Protector of the Rights of the Same.” Washington himself rather liked “His High Mightiness,” and in his public documents frequently referred to himself in the third person as though he were royalty. But this attention to a title was not frivolous or a matter of pride. The members were concerned about how a republican government would be viewed abroad among European monarchical states. They will hold us in contempt, feared John Adams. They will mock us and our republic and consider us of little consequence. Calling our head of state nothing but a president will be regarded as undignified.

The House of Representatives railed against the “aristocratic” pretensions of the Senate. Any other title than President of the United States was, in the words of Fisher Ames, unwarranted by the Constitution, “repugnant to republican principles; dangerous, vain, ridiculous, arrogant, and damnable.” And that ended the argument.

For Washington’s inauguration on April 30, 1789, these ordinary men went to a great deal of trouble to arrange it. Not that they had a clue about inaugurating a republic’s head of state other than the oath prescribed by the Constitution. There were few precedents to guide them, a situation that later became more obvious as the congressional session progressed. As Madison told Thomas Jefferson, we are “in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide us. Our successors will have an easier task.”

On the appointed day for the inauguration the president-elect rode to Federal Hall from his home on Cherry Street in a yellow carriage behind six white horses and attended by four footmen in livery. Members of Congress and the New York militia marched behind. Thousands of people lined the streets to cheer this “supreme hero.”

Dressed in a suit (not a military uniform) with silver buttons embossed with eagles, and wearing white silk stockings and pumps with silver buckles, the president-elect looked every inch an elegant (if not an English) gentleman of high society, especially with his powdered hair and dress sword buckled around his waist. Tall, thinlipped, his prominent Roman nose the most distinguishing feature of his slightly pockmarked face, he behaved as though he had been elected a monarch and was headed for his coronation.

Washington entered Federal Hall, a building at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets that served as New York’s City Hall, and strode up the stairs to the Senate chamber. There was a good bit of bowing and scraping all around after which Washington declared, “I am ready to proceed.” He walked outside to an open gallery facing the street and was sworn into office by the highest legal officer in New York, the Chancellor, Robert Livingston. Here stood the man who had literally created this nation and whose influence was a very important factor in winning ratification of the Constitution. In his person, many agreed, he represented the union that had been created. Without him, any union seemed unthinkable.

When Madison wrote that they were in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide them, he was talking mainly about initiating legislation. But the members of this First Congress had other precedents in shaping this republic. Actually, as has been said many times, the First Congress was a continuation of the constitutional convention and a continuation of a long chain of heroes stretching back to the colonists who initiated the American Revolution.

Allow me then to demonstrate in this address why I believe they should be counted among the founders of our republic. And why they are heroes. But in speaking of the founders I really need to begin with the early colonists who insisted on their rights as Englishmen and loyal subjects of His Majesty to run their internal affairs through their duly elected assemblies. They argued that taxes should be voted through their own representatives. However, the British dismissed their arguments on the ground that colonists were in fact represented in the Parliament.

The successive attempts of Parliament to assert its will on the colonies--the Stamp Act and the tea tax, which provoked the Boston Tea Party and brought on the Coercive Acts of 1774--only exacerbated the problem, after which fifty-six delegates assembled from all the colonies, save Georgia, to agree on demands and devise a strategy to pressure Britain into recognizing colonists’ rights. When this First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in September, 1774, most delegates had no intention of initiating rebellion. They were, by and large, still loyal to the crown. However, there were in fact a few among them who favored the cause of independence, such as John Adams and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, Richard Henry Lee and George Wythe of Virginia, and Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina.

Britain, as we know, did not accept the claims of the colonists, nor respond favorably to pressure, such as the non-importation agreement adopted by the First Continental Congress, so the crisis escalated and a Second Congress assembled in Philadelphia. There were again present those who argued for separation from Britain, but they were balanced by moderates such as John Dickinson, James Wilson, and John Jay. Even so, whether radical, moderate, or conservative, most of them realized that if there was to be conflict it must come not from the actions of Congress, but by the provocations of Great Britain.

Britain played into the hands of the radicals and pushed the delegates into adopting revolutionary action. After the events at Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill, these delegates dared to raise an army. They dared to open negotiations with foreign powers to win support and intervention. They dared to issue their own currency. And, a year later, they went further and finally dared to declare to the world that these colonies are and of a right ought to be free and independent of Great Britain. In their Declaration of Independence they dared to affirm that they had rights as human beings, not simply as Englishmen, and that these went beyond the matter of their right of representation. This collection of fifty-five mostly ordinary individuals, but including a few rather extraordinary men, who represented thirteen colonies with limited resources and strength, dared to challenge the most powerful nation in the world. That took courage and determination. But they would not back down.

And so the war for independence got under way and brought a long series of reverses. As the war progressed the colonists lived through military disasters, a shortage of food, an eroding economy, resulting in a runaway inflation, and a currency that was virtual worthlessness. Still they hung on.

Even children participated in this struggle for independence. Here I hope you will forgive me for mentioning Andrew Jackson, but I cannot resist the temptation. At thirteen years of age he and his older brother, Robert, joined a group of patriots commanded by Colonel William Richardson Davie and participated in the Battle of Hanging Rock against the British. The Americans almost won the battle, but they captured a supply of British rum, got drunk, and fled the scene in panic when the British started firing back at them. Later the two boys were captured and Andrew was slashed on the head and wrist because he refused to clean a British officer’s boots. The two boys were imprisoned in Camden where they were starved, robbed, and abused. They contracted smallpox. Their mother, Elizabeth, managed to win their freedom as part of an exchange of prisoners that was arranged between the British and Americans. Thirteen British soldiers were exchanged for the two Jackson boys and five of their neighbors. But Elizabeth found her sons near death from smallpox. She procured two horses and placed the dying older brother on one and rode the other herself while Andrew, barefoot and without a jacket, walked the forty miles to their home in the Waxhaws. When she arrived home, the older son had expired and Andrew seemed close to death. Fortunately the nursing skills of his mother brought him around. When he had recovered Elizabeth traveled one hundred and sixty miles to Charleston to nurse American prisoners of war held on prison ships in the harbor. A short time later Elizabeth contracted cholera and died. At the age of fourteen Andrew Jackson was an orphan, a victim and hero of the war for independence.

It was that kind of courage and heroism that kept a patriot army in the field. Meanwhile the Congress went ahead and attempted to establish a new government. But the members faced a seemingly insurmountable problem: how to create a federal system that established a central government embracing thirteen sovereign state governments. How to construct a system that would distribute authority and power without causing repeated collisions between the two sets of government. What they produced--the Articles of Confederation--went a long way toward solving this federal problem, but it was imperfect. The Articles lacked adequate revenue-raising powers and had to rely on the states to provide necessary funds to operate the government. And the states did not always honor the requests. Nor could the Congress enforce its decrees. It simply lacked police powers to execute its directives. Worse, it could not amend the document without the consent of all the states, and that proved impossible.

After independence was won, thanks in large measure to help from the French and the formation of the League of Armed Neutrality against Great Britain by many European nations, the Articles still failed to meet the ongoing challenges of a republican society. Granted, it enacted the Northwest Ordinance, which provided a formula for the admission of future states into the Union, supported education and outlawed slavery, but the unrelenting depression, the rivalry among the several states over trade, and Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts, among other things, finally brought about the summoning of a convention in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles. When the delegates assembled they realized the need to write an entirely new document, so they disregarded their instructions and fashioned the Constitution.

James Madison is recognized today as the father of the Constitution, and rightly so. Better than anyone else, he understood why the Articles had failed and what needed to be done to correct it. He understood that unlike the Revolutionary period, when states could be relied on to pursue the national interest,namely independence, once independence had been achieved the states pursued their own special interests.

What the Constitution succeeded in providing was a central government with authority to legislate directly on its citizens. Moreover, to protect liberty and individual rights, that authority was to be exercised by a representative body held accountable to its constituents. And that body would consist of a bicameral legislature with the two houses separate from each other. By establishing two houses, each one could check the other in the event that either tended toward tyranny, thus providing better protection for the freedom and independence of the American people. In addition, representation had to be based on something other than the equality of states, as had been the case under the Articles. After considerable debate and a number of compromises, the delegates finally agreed to base representation in the House on population and give each state equal standing in the Senate. The conflicting concerns of small versus large states, north versus south, free versus slave, trade versus commerce, industry versus agriculture--all these clashing interests among the delegates were resolved in compromise, something the founders needed to learn if they were ever able to write an acceptable Constitution and then make it work in practice.

What they devised, as Fisher Ames later said, was “a government over governments.” They erected a government whose authority was supreme, but whose powers were enumerated and limited. So anxious were these framers to affirm legislative supremacy in the new government that they failed to flesh out the executive and judicial branches. With respect to the executive branch, they explained the qualifications for the office and method of election for the President; made him commander in chief of armed forces, and gave him the appointive power with the advice and consent of the Senate; but that is about the extent of it. It says that he may receive reports from executive departments but fails to identify those departments.

As for the judiciary, they decreed a Supreme Court--of indeterminate number--and such inferior courts as Congress shall from time to time establish. They left the tasks of completing these two branches to Congress, thereby assuring that the legislature would retain control of the structure and authority of both these branches. The vagueness of the relationship between the executive and legislative branches in the Constitution did not particularly disturb Madison. “In our government,” he later remarked, it was “less necessary to guard against the abuse in the Executive Department . . . because it is not the stronger branch of the system, but the weaker.” Little did he know what the future would bring.

After the Constitution was ratified and national elections held, the members of the First Congress convened in New York City only to be faced with the awful truth that there were few among them who could provide guidance and leadership in completing the establishment of the federal government. Even James Madison, the one genuine genius among them, was described by Ames as “little and ordinary . . . a little too much a book politician, and too timid in his politics.”

Ordinary. Most of them were ordinary individuals as far as the record shows, yet they performed heroically. And they deserve to be called heroes because they set aside their local and regional differences, their economic and personal prejudices, in their effort to make the Constitution succeed and thereby establish an enduring union. They had many disagreements, but they resolved them in compromise. And they did it for the sake of showing the world that a republican government was a viable instrument for the protection of liberty and betterment of its citizens. “There is no intrigue, no caucusing, little of clanning together, little asperity in debates, or personal bitterness out of the House,” wrote Fisher Ames. Their ultimate success, as it turned out, he claimed, was attributable to the basic lack of politics in their deliberations and decisions. “There is less party spirit,” Ames continued, “less of the acrimony of pride when disappointed of success, less personality, less intrigue, cabal, management, or cunning that I ever saw in a public assembly.” Even more astounding, the members took their responsibilities very seriously by showing up each day and on time. There was “the most punctual attendance of the members at the hour of meeting. Three or four have had leave of absence, but every other member actually attends daily, till the hour of adjourning.”

True, their local and regional differences would later surface and result in the creation of political parties, but at the start of this government, the members put them aside in a remarkable show of harmony and concern for the common goal of establishing a union.

Because the Constitution was vague and ambiguous about a lot of things, the first session of the First Congress was put to the test of filling in the gaps and finding solutions to potentially explosive issues. The members understood that it was “proper for the legislature to speak their sense upon those points on which the Constitution is silent.”

Once they completed the housekeeping chores required to run a representative body--in the House, for example, the members elected a speaker and appointed a sergeant at arms, doorkeeper, and chaplain, and agreed on rules of procedure--they turned to their most pressing need: money. The government had absolutely nothing but a debt that ran to more than fifty million dollars, a debt accumulated since the Revolution. They had to find a way to fund the debt and establish the credit of the United States. That meant levying taxes. We must, said James Madison, “revive those principles of honor and honesty that have long been lain dormant.” Because of various state prejudices and fears, the members disagreed about how to raise money, but in the end they passed a series of revenue bills that began the process. They enacted an Impost bill; a Tonnage bill; and a Collection bill. The latter bill called for the appointment of one hundred federal officials with powers of search and seizure to collect tariff duties. At long last the federal government now began to enforce its laws.

Next, Congress expanded the executive department. Under the Articles of Confederation there were executive departments but the Constitution did not include any provision for them. On May 19 Madison proposed the formation of departments of foreign affairs (repeating the name used by the government under the Articles), treasury, and war, each to be headed by a secretary appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, and removable by the president. Later that summer it also changed the name of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of State. During the discussion there was even a proposal to limit this department to one or two years. Some representatives seemed to think that American involvement abroad would gradually decline and finally end. They argued that in a short time there would be no need for such a department. What wishful thinking!

The bills to create the Treasury and War Departments won easy approval. With the Treasury there was some discussion about having a board of three--secretary, comptroller, and auditor--instead of a single secretary, such as they had under the Articles of Confederation. Presumably such a board would prevent any one individual from acquiring absolute financial control. Again Madison argued convincingly that a single head was preferable in that the comptroller and auditor could keep a check on the secretary, which would be unlikely with a three-headed board. Both houses agreed. Since all revenue bills originated in the House, another concern centered on whether the secretary should have direct access to Congress and make his reports in person and even draft legislation. In the final bill, the secretary was directed to prepare reports and give information to both houses in person or in writing “as he may be required.” Drafting the necessary legislation would remain a prerogative of the lower chamber.

As for the judiciary branch, the Constitution established the Supreme Court and stated its original jurisdiction, but then declared that Congress could create such inferior courts as necessary. It was all very vague. The Judiciary Act as passed by Congress during its first session and signed by the president on September 24, 1789, provided for a Supreme Court consisting of a chief justice and five associate justices. It also created district courts with a single judge for each state in the Union and three circuit courts of appeal for the northern, middle, and southern states, composed of two Supreme Court justices and the justice of the district court in which the case was being heard. The jurisdictions of the district and circuit courts were also defined and the office of Attorney General was established. This basic structure has remained in place to the present day, although the number of circuit and district courts has increased tremendously. The number of members of the Supreme Court has varied from time to time and today seems finally set at nine.

Floor manager James Madison stirred up a potential controversy when on May 4, 1789, he announced on the floor of the House of Representatives that he intended to introduce amendments to the Constitution that would constitute a Bill of Rights. The framers of the Constitution had considered including such a bill in the document, but decided against it for the simple reason that the proposed government exercised only delegated powers and therefore would not concern itself with personal rights. Besides, in preparing such a list how could they possibly make it comprehensive? How many rights were there? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty? If one was overlooked and realized later, did that mean the Congress had the power to legislate on it?

But the failure to include a Bill of Rights almost resulted in the rejection of the Constitution. Anti-Federalists--those who opposed ratification of the document--hammered away at this omission and called for another convention to write a proper frame of government. They felt the central authority under the Constitution was too powerful and that it weakened the states. They hoped another convention would write a document that would reassert the rights of the states. Madison, who originally opposed the idea of such a bill, found his constituents decidedly in its favor, and they expected him to carry their wishes to Congress and win passage of the necessary amendments. Thomas Jefferson added his voice and reminded Madison that the American people had endured a revolution, and expected a written statement confirming their rights and placing restraints on the ability of the central government to legislate on them. Most states had such limitations and it was important to restrict the federal government as well.

The arguments, and especially the wishes of his constituents, convinced Madison and he pledged to introduce the necessary amendments. But it turned out to be what many in the House considered an intrusion on the important work before the members. Both the Federalists, who supported the Constitution, and the Anti- Federalists were annoyed, if not angered, by this action. The Federalists argued that such a bill had no place in a document that simply describes the mechanics of government and gives it limited powers; and the Anti-Federalists feared that such amendments would prevent the calling of another convention by which they could correct the imbalance that they felt now existed between the central and state governments.

Madison realized that if the new government was to be protected from emasculation or replacement he would have to prepare a list of changes that would appease both the friends and enemies of the Constitution. As one Federalist declared, the amendments “should not be trash, such as would dishonor the Constitution.” Madison also realized that by allowing amendments that protected individual liberties he would safeguard the basic structure of the government. Once converted, Madison convinced Washington to include a call for such amendments in his inaugural address. Indeed he helped write the address--as well as Congress’s response to it. Having the president as an ally provided enormous help in trying to convince Madison’s colleagues to act immediately and accept these changes.

Madison had on hand more than two hundred amendments submitted by the states over the preceding two years, many of which altered the fundamental structure of the government by restoring important authorities to the states. So he had his work cut out for him. He had a solid basis in George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, which listed sixteen rights. On June 8 he “introduced his long expected amendments,” wrote Fisher Ames. “They are the fruit of much labor and research. He has hunted up all the grievances and complaints of newspapers, all the articles of conventions, and the small talk of their debates.” There were nineteen amendments and Madison wanted them woven into the text of the Constitution, and a preface which emphasized the sovereignty of the people and stated the principles of republican government.

The matter was turned over to a select committee of eleven in the House. The referral, according to the New York Daily Gazette, stirred up “a long argument, in which the whole day was consumed.” On July 28 the committee returned with its recommendations favoring what Madison had introduced, but not until August 24 did the House members finally complete their arguments for and against the proposals. They passed seventeen of them. Although many of them felt that a Bill of Rights did not belong in the Constitution they understood the wisdom of adding it; but they deleted Madison’s preface and statement of republican principles. The seventeen amendments were sent to the Senate where through combinations and deletions--such deletions as a guarantee of protection of the right of conscience and a statement on the separation of powers--their number was reduced totwelve. A joint committee ofthe two houses agreed and on September 28, the day before this first session of the First Congress ended, they were submitted to the states for ratification.

On a motion from Roger Sherman the amendments were grouped together at the end of the Constitution, rather than incorporating them into the text itself. Thus Congress created an actual “Bill of Rights.” Not until December 15, 1791, did the states ratify ten of the twelve. Amendments regarding congressional salaries and the apportionment of House seats failed to pass. However, the congressional salaries amendment proposed in 1789 was finally ratified in 1992 as the Twenty-seventh Amendment to the Constitution.

As we know, but the founders did not, the Constitution did succeed, and it succeeded in large measure because of the heroic efforts of the members of this First Congress. They disagreed at times, but never to the point of creating irreconcilable factions within Congress. When everything had been thrashed out in debate, they willingly set aside their differences for the greater good. This cooperation and harmony, despite sectional and economic differences, would not last long. But it was essential in the beginning. The members knew it and therefore worked together to provide a proper start to this new experiment in freedom.

What they in fact accomplished was the further unification of people and states, a union they hoped would be perpetual. “I wish to have every American think the Union so indissoluble and integral,” wrote Ames, “that the corn would not grow, nor the pot boil, if it should be broken.” They and all the other persons who constitute the founders our republic succeeded beyond anything they could imagine. For the most part, with at least one notable exception in the House, they were not shining geniuses. Just ordinary individuals. But they set about the difficult task of establishing for themselves and for their posterity a government that would protect individual liberty and advance the well-being of all. The courage, the determination, the sacrifice, and the tribulations they endured were truly heroic. It was heroism on a gigantic scale--often by ordinary folk--that brought this Republic into being.