Sunday, May 30, 2010

Law and the Founding Fathers

This information was compiled by a friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous. I found it very interesting and well worth a read.

Many of the voters this election season have wistfully been wishing for "citizen legislators", "the way it used to be--like the Founding Fathers". There also seems to be a prevalent anti-lawyer sentiment. It may be worth noting that a great number of the Founding Fathers actually studied law prior to becoming involved in the fight for American independence.

John Adams studied law at Harvard, was admitted to the bar in 1761, and gave up many years of his private practice for service to his country. He was concerned about payment for this service to country due to the fact that he could not pursue his law practice and thereby provide for his family.

Jefferson received a classical education from William and Mary, later read law with George Wythe and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767. He was considered a political philosopher and a man of the Enlightenment. James Madison studied political philosophy and law at College of New Jersey (now Princeton). According to accounts, Madison was never admitted to the bar, but some historians relate that he practiced law prior to serving on the Virginia state legislature. The fact that Madison practiced law is disputed by some historians.

Alexander Hamilton, born in the British West Indies, attended King's College (now Columbia University). His studies included military history, and he became a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army, serving under George Washington. After leaving the army, he was admitted to legal practice in New York.

"Well before his 30th birthday, then, Hamilton had had a distinguished military career, knew intimately most of the leaders of the American Revolution, had achieved high social standing, and was recognized as one of the leading lawyers in the country."(The American Revolution)

John Jay attended King's College (now Columbia University). After reading law and being admitted to the bar of New York in 1769, John Jay established his own law office in 1771.

George Washington had what he considered "insufficient education", and his formal education apparently was finished by age 15. He excelled in mathematics and learned the rudiments of surveying, probably at a school near his home.

Patrick Henry, who failed at business and did not apply himself initially to his studies, later studied for six weeks and took the bar exam, which he passed, and begin work as a lawyer. In 1764 he moved to Louisa county, Virginia, where, as a lawyer, he argued in defense of broad voting rights (suffrage) before the House of Burgesses.The following year he was elected to the House.

Although the backgrounds and education of the Founding Fathers were diverse, many had formal educations, many were lawyers, and a great number had served in some capacity in their local governing bodies, state legislative bodies, or House of Burgesses prior to their service in shaping the new United States of America. In writing the Charters of Freedom, they drew upon the philisophical writings of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and the Baron Charles de Montesquieu.

This disparate group of revolutionary thinkers came together at aunique time in history to forge the necessary bonds that were to become the new United States of America.

No comments:

Post a Comment