We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 3
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Howard Chandler Christy, Signing of the Constitution, Architect of the Capitol, House wing, east stairway
Lesson 6 Biographies

William Dawes (1745-1799) Dawes was a tradesman and was active in the Revolutionary movement in Boston. He gave the warning, with Paul Revere, before the battles of Lexington and Concord. Dawes served in the Continental Army.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Franklin was the oldest delegate to the Philadelphia Convention. With the possible exception of George Washington, Franklin was the best-known man in America. Born into a poor family, Franklin became an inventor, scientist, diplomat, and publisher. His Poor Richard's Almanac was read nationwide. His career in public service was long and varied, and included service as ambassador to England and France and as governor of Pennsylvania. At the Philadelphia Convention, Franklin was a compromiser, using wit to bring delegates together. A staunch advocate of colonial rights, he helped draft the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Paris (1783). He played an important role in creating the Great Compromise. He favored a strong national government and argued that the Framers should trust the judgment of the people. Although he was in poor health in 1787, he missed few sessions, being carried to and from the meeting place in a special chair. Although he did not agree with everything in the Constitution, he believed that no other convention could come up with a better document.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States. He was a scientist, philosopher, diplomat, and architect. He supported the revolutionary cause and served as governor of Virginia. Between June 11 and June 28, 1776, Jefferson wrote the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence, which was amended by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin and submitted to Congress. Jefferson supported the Constitution but was critical of its lack of a bill of rights. He was the first secretary of state in Washington's cabinet and the leader of the Republican Party. Jefferson was elected vice president in 1796 and was chosen president four years later. He was reelected to the presidency in 1804.

John Locke (1632-1704) John Locke, a physician and philosopher, worked with famous scientists, including Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. In contrast to Hobbes, Locke used state of nature and social contract theory to justify limited government and the preservation of individual rights, particularly life, liberty, and property. Locke is sometimes called "America's philosopher" because his Second Treatise of Government (1690) was widely read by the colonists and important ideas found in it (as well as in works of English republican writers) are found in the Declaration of Independence, especially his theories of natural rights and his defense of violent revolution after "a long train of abuses" of power by rulers. Two verbatim phrases of Locke's are found in the Declaration.

James Otis (1725-1783) James Otis was born in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, in 1725. He was the brother of Mercy Otis Warren. He had once been an advocate general in the vice admiralty courts charged with prosecuting smugglers, but resigned his post to represent Boston merchants in the effort to prevent general writs from being reissued. Otis argued that general writs violated the colonists? natural rights and that any act of Parliament contrary to those rights was void. Otis lost the case and the writs were reissued. John Adams, then a young lawyer, later said that Otis's argument was the first act of colonial resistance to British policies. Otis became an instant celebrity and was elected to the Massachusetts legislature (called the general court). He played a prominent role in revolutionary politics until 1769, when a British customs official beat him on the head with a cane in retaliation for a newspaper article Otis had written. Otis's head injuries left him mentally unstable and ended his political career.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) Author and political theorist. Born in England, he came to America in November, 1774. In early 1776, he published the pamphlet Common Sense which stirred many Americans to the revolutionary cause. During the war, his pamphlet, The Crisis, helped support the Revolution and encouraged the soldiers in the Continental Army.

Paul Revere (1735-1818) Silversmith and revolutionary patriot. Leader of the Boston Sons of Liberty. Principal express rider for the Boston Committee of Safety, spreading news of revolutionary activities, including his famous ride of April 18, 1775, warning of the forthcoming attack of British troops.

Lesson 6      Why Did American Colonists Want to Free Themselves from Great Britain?
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