University of Wisconsin–Madison

Founders on the Founders

“It has been the political career of this man [John Adams] to begin with hypocrisy, proceed with arrogance, and finish in contempt.”
–Thomas Paine on John Adams

“Mr. Henry’s ravenous avarice [was] the only passion paramount to his love of popularity.”
Thomas Jefferson on Patrick Henry

“Our August President is a singular example of modesty and diffidence. He has a dignity which forbids Familiarity mixed with an easy affability which creates Love and Reverence.”
Abigail Adams on George Washington

The Founders’ achievements often cloud their personalities. Two centuries after the Founding era, the Founders are shrouded in myth, but to their contemporaries they were ordinary men and women with talents, foibles, and defects. CSAC has selected a few quotations on fifteen Founders that reveal how they appeared to their friends and rivals. These quotations reveal the Founding generation to be poignant, prickly, humorous, and respectful.

These selected quotations are taken from The Founders on the Founders: Word Portraits from the American Revolutionary Era edited by John P. Kaminski.

Contemporary Descriptions of