The First Nine

What three characteristics do the first nine presidents of the U.S. have in common? One, they were all born before September 3rd, 1783, which means they came into this world as British subjects.

Two, each made a difference by serving this country. For the record, besides being elected president, they were (this is a partial list of Federal government positions):

  1. George Washington – Commanding General of the Continental Army
  2. John Adams – Vice President, Ambassador to three countries, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and is a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
  3. Thomas Jefferson –Vice President, Secretary of State, Ambassador to France, member of the Continental Congress, member of the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence and also signed the document
  4. James Madison –Secretary of State, member of the Continental Congress, signer of the Constitution
  5. James Monroe –Secretary of State, Secretary of War, Ambassador to France, Ambassador to Great Britain, Senator from Virginia, member of the Continental Congress
  6. John Quincy Adams –Senator, member of the House of Representatives,
  7. Andrew Jackson – Senator, member of the House of Representatives, Federal Military Commissioner of Florida
  8. Martin Van Buren – Vice President, Secretary of State, Ambassador to the United Kingdom
  9. William Henry Harrison – Ambassador to Columbia, Senator, member of the House of Representatives

The above list provides common characteristic three, i.e., that for the first 58 years the United States was in existence, its leaders all shared a common experience – the trial known as the American Revolution and the difficulties in founding a country that violated all the accepted precedents of the time. Many risked their lives in combat and understood that if we lost, all would have been hung as traitors by the British.

It also means they all shared the same vision for an independent republic. Despite their differences, which were often bitter, they came together to create what many pundits thought was a country doomed to failure. As presidents, they had moments when they made brilliant decisions, and all had failures.

Two quotes from Winston Churchill best describe what has evolved over the past 241 years. In 1947, Britain’s leader said, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

And specifically about the United States, Churchill said, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.”

Given that the United States is about to have another presidential election at time when it is facing domestic crises and enemies who would like to destroy us. Therefore, it would behoove us to remember that what made us great as a nation was our ability to solve internal problems and be united when we face our enemies. There are great lessons from these nine men who risked everything to create a country that became successful like no other. In doing so, the U.S. has fulfilled and will continue to fulfill the dreams of its founders. We just need to learn from our country’s founders.

Coat of Arms for the United States engraved for the September 1786 issue of Columbia Magazine.

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