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Topic: Founding Fathers' Fortunes - Need a Historian
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 27, 2012 02:15PM)
I heard on the radio the other day that almost all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were nearly broke when they died. I have searched the internet and have found conflicting stories.

Is there a U.S. historian on here who knows the real story?

(To be fair, though, this person also thought that George Washington was one of the signers...)
Message: Posted by: Slide (Jul 27, 2012 02:29PM)
Well, Jefferson was a very well known spend thrift and he was always in debt due to his love of luxury, clothes, and nice houses. I believe he died massively in dept. John Adams never had a lot of money to begin and certainly wasn't rich by any standards when he died, whether he was broke or not, I don't know. Benjamin Franklin always seemed to have his dough. I'd be very surprised if he died broke because he was one of our first entrepreneurs and his image was well known.
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Jul 27, 2012 02:43PM)
Paine died a pauper.
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jul 27, 2012 02:50PM)
Ben Franklin was successful but didn't make money off a number of his endevours because that was his way and he retired to do what he pleased in his 40s. I wouldn't call him rich he was alright though. Many of the signers were very wealthy and had their properties destryed or taken from them and often locked up. Most died broke having. Never recovering from the punishments they went through.
Message: Posted by: critter (Jul 27, 2012 02:54PM)
This is difficult to calculate. As you know, there were no dead Presidents at the time of the Nation's founding. Because of this, there was no way to manufacture a US currency. Instead, they used horehound candies and rock candy. There wasn't reliable record keeping yet, as these candies were simply stored in candy jars which have since been dispursed amongst the Nation's population of Grandmothers. Surprisingly, much of this candy still exists in very close to its original state.
Message: Posted by: Payne (Jul 27, 2012 02:59PM)
There was an extreme shortage of hard currency in the eighteenth century in the Americas. Most of one's wealth was tied up in property and posessions. Much was bought on credit. It's a common theme in a lot of eighteenth and nineteenth century literature of shop owners trying to get their customers to pay the outstanding sums owed to them.

so I could easily see how mostr of the founding fathers would have died broke and in debt.
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 27, 2012 03:36PM)
Some of the sources I have read address things such as having posessions taken or destroyed by the British army, but I guess that the fact there was no true, "valuable" monetary standard contributed greatly to this. Regardless of how wealthy you might be, your Continentals were not worth... well... a Continental.
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jul 27, 2012 08:22PM)
Rush Limbaugh's father wrote a very famous essay about the sufferings of the signers. I am not sure if it is 100% correct, however.

Paine was not a signer.
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 27, 2012 08:39PM)
Seems like I once read that Thomas Paine wrote a version of the Declaration of Independence, or one of the other founding documents.
Message: Posted by: ed rhodes (Jul 27, 2012 10:59PM)
Might Paine have had something to do with the Articles of Confederation?
Message: Posted by: balducci (Jul 27, 2012 11:28PM)
Franklin left a couple of bequests (to Boston and Philly, I think) that grew to several million dollars ...took a while, though.
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jul 27, 2012 11:34PM)
Thomas Paine is a founding father because he wrote Common Sense which motivatedd the reevolution.
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jul 28, 2012 07:49AM)
"Common Sense" did not motivate the Revolutionary War, it expressed the sentiments of the people who were in favor of independence, and it did that very well.

There were actually several cohorts of "Founders," though the term is usually used, unless I am mistaken, to refer to the men who sat in Philadelphia and debated the issues that resulted in the Constitution. The men who wrote and signed the Declaration were quite a different group, although Robert Morris, Benj Franklin, George Clymer, James Wilson, George Read, and Roger Sherman were in both groups.

An article debunking the article that claims that the signers all suffered during the Revolutionary War can be found [url=http://hnn.us/articles/860.html]here,[/url] if you are interested.
Message: Posted by: Mr. Mystoffelees (Jul 28, 2012 09:38AM)
Well, now my curiosity is up - where is that historian?

Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Jul 28, 2012 10:04AM)
As the highly influential author of "Common Sense" and "The American Crisis" at the start of the American Revolution, Paine became one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. See: Bernstein, Richard B. (2009). The Founding Fathers Reconsidered. Oxford University Press US. p. 36. ISBN 0-19-533832-4.

From "The American Crisis," the stirring passage that Washington read to his soldiers to inspire them:

[quote]These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.[/quote]

See also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Jul 28, 2012 10:14AM)
The signers are pictured on the back of the two dollar bill.


PS. On second thought, the painting on the bill only shows 42 of the 56 signers of the Declaration.
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Jul 28, 2012 11:02AM)
Count their legs and divide by two.

Seriously, though, the signing scene on the back of the bill is not a perfect duplicate of the John Trumbull painting. Five figures were knocked off the edges to make it fit the bill. So that only leave nine signers still unaccounted for.

The fact is, though, that the Declaration was not signed by all of the signers at the same date and time.

[quote]On July 4, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, and as a result the date is celebrated as Independence Day. Nearly a month would go by, however, before the actual signing of the document took place. First, New York’s delegates didn’t officially give their support until July 9 because their home assembly hadn’t yet authorized them to vote in favor of independence. Next, it took two weeks for the Declaration to be “engrossed”—written on parchment in a clear hand. Most of the delegates signed on August 2, but several—Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean and Matthew Thornton—signed on a later date. (Two others, John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston, never signed at all.) [/quote]

Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jul 28, 2012 12:50PM)
Woland if it makes you feel better I wrote a longer response abuot Paine and hit the wrong button so I shortened it. Obviously a number of factors came into play it was Paine who put words together which drew many including John Adams to go for it.
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Jul 28, 2012 07:51PM)
Bob, speaking of the two dollar bill:

A hobby of mine is selling/buying currency on ebay. I have a good stack of uncirculated 1976 through 2003 two dollar bills,
the ones with the signers on the back. So I have handled a good many of these bills but it wasn't until recently that someone
told me something strange about the group of people on the back. One of them is a black man. Now I'm certainly not one to
ask about history, but that just didn't sound right to me.

So I got one of the bills out and sure enough there he was, sitting right in the middle of the group is a black man.
All these years and I had never noticed it. I just thought Wow.

Well no not really, there is a shadow that causes one man's face to appear black. But he's not, it's just a shadow,
and I think its something to do with the ink too. You need the bill in hand to really see it and the more you look
the more deceiving it is. Hard to see it with the online picture.

But anyway, it's a good way to show solid prove that the first President was indeed a black man. :)

Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Jul 28, 2012 07:54PM)
Yes, Tom, I heard that it is because of really tight lines on the engraving. He does look black, though.

I also heard, but I can't check because I don't have a two dollar bill, that the number of feet don't add up right.


Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jul 28, 2012 08:01PM)
About the recent Two Dollar Bills - there is some discussion online and it's not difficult to find the painting which served as model for the engraving.
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Jul 28, 2012 08:03PM)
Well you can't really see everybody's feet, so it would be hard to count.

But I have heard something about it showing Jefferson stepping on somebody's foot because he didn't like him.
But then it was explained that it just looked that way.

Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jul 28, 2012 08:05PM)
The black fellow on the two dollar bill (how the heck did you not know about that?) Has a bottle of Mad Dog in his pocket. Now I have to count legs.

The revolution is a facinating part of history and those founders were right on.
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Jul 28, 2012 08:05PM)
He was supposedly stepping on Adams's foot.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jul 28, 2012 08:06PM)
A few minutes of looking later... here's a site with the image ... and not too much about conspiracies, UFOs and racism... I hope

Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Jul 28, 2012 08:12PM)
On 2012-07-28 21:06, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
A few minutes of looking later... here's a site with the image ... and not too much about conspiracies, UFOs and racism... I hope


It's the big guy sitting in the middle with book in hand. His faced looks red on the picture, but on the bill it looks black.

It really is weird.

Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jul 28, 2012 08:46PM)
Maybe it was one of Jeffersons kids.
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Jul 28, 2012 09:02PM)
On 2012-07-28 21:46, MagicSanta wrote:
Maybe it was one of Jeffersons kids.


But you may be right.

I did find some top secret stuff on it:

Message: Posted by: Woland (Jul 28, 2012 11:47PM)
I feel better. Thanks, Santa.
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (Jul 29, 2012 08:41AM)
So--is this to say that our economy is returning to the roots set forth by the Founding Fathers? ;)
Message: Posted by: Harry Murphy (Jul 29, 2012 09:29AM)
There is a popular "history" about the Signers of the Declaration of Independence of the English Colonies from England that has them dying broke from supporting the founding of the country. This is something that has been floating around the Internet for years. It is inaccurate and misleading!

The Signers of the Declaration of Independence knew they could have been targeted by the British as Traitors. They showed tremendous courage and bravery by willingly putting their names on a document that could bring about their deaths. They were remarkable men. We do not need to embellish the truth!

NO signer was killed outright by the British, and only ONE, Richard Stockton, was imprisoned solely for having signed the Declaration of Independence. The others were captured while fighting in the army and were treated as Officers (all were officers) and Prisoners of War (harshly to be sure!) they were NOT tortured.

Of the 56 signers, 17 held commissions in the army or did medical duty during the war. Many of those whose property was looted or destroyed managed to re-establish themselves financially after the war.

Carter Braxton, a signer from Virginia, did suffer financial hardships because of the British, but he retained other holdings. Mr. Braxton sold much of his property and loaned the money to the Congress to help finance the revolution. The debt was NEVER REPAID! He lost his lands after the war as a result! The US caused his finical ruin not the British. He never in his life complained. That is a true patriot!

Thomas McKean did NOT die in poverty. In fact, he was quite wealthy when he died at the age of 83 in 1817 after serving as Governor of Pennsylvania for 9 years.

No one knows for sure if Thomas Nelson’s home was fired upon (the source of the story seems to be family legend), but he heard the home was turned into a tourist attraction after the war, and additional cannonball holes were added for “authenticity.”

Three were born in Ireland, two in England, one in Wales, and one in Scotland. The rest were born in the colonies.

Button Gwinnett a signer from Georgia died in 1777 as a result of a duel with a political opponent! Thomas Lynch, Jr. a signer from South Carolina, and his wife left this country to live in the West Indies and sort of disappear from history!

A family member murdered George Wythe a signer from North Carolina in 1806 when he was 80 years old. He was killed because he had willed some of his property to former slaves.

By and large the majority of these men ended up well off,

The majority of the signers survived the war and rebuilt their fortunes. Many served in the federal government or in their state governments.

Three served as Vice Presidents of the US and two of those became President of the United States, at least three became Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States and several more served in Federal Judgeships. About one forth of the signers went on to become the Governors of their respective states and several served as Senators in their home states.

The son of one signer, Benjamin Harrison from Virginia became the 9th president.

The majority were men of substance, position, and wealth following the war. Yet all men were of unquestionable courage.

For those interested in biographies of these men go to:


The actual history and accomplishments of these men before, during, and after the war is fascinating!

Of final note, Charles Carroll a signer from Maryland was the last surviving member of those who signed the Declaration. He died a wealthy man, in 1832 at the age of ninety-six.
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jul 30, 2012 09:40AM)
Thanks for reminding us about the facts, Mr. Murphy, and about Charles Carroll of Carrollton. He was born in Baltimore, and at the age of 9 was sent to France where he could attend a Catholic school. He never saw his mother again. At one time, he was considered the wealthiest man in America, but the family forture appears to have been dissipated over the course of the XIXth Century.
Message: Posted by: Mr. Mystoffelees (Jul 30, 2012 09:47AM)
Fascinating, Harry- I add my thanks!

Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (Jul 30, 2012 09:55AM)
Thanks, Harry. I know there was someone here who knew the "rest of the story".
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Jul 30, 2012 05:51PM)
How do you know it is accurate?