This book was written to explore the contribution of Revolutionary War veterans to the founding of the American republic. By veterans, we mean all those who served in the Continental and state forces, on land or sea. Twenty-three of those veterans were among the men who signed the Constitution in Philadelphia on 17 September 1787. That document, as the eminent American historian Samuel Eliot Morison put it, is "a work of genius, since it set up what every earlier political scientist had thought impossible, a sovereign union of sovereign states. This reconciling of unity with diversity, this practical application of the federal principle, is undoubtedly the most original contribution of the United States to the history and technique of human liberty."
We fully agree with Admiral Morison's eloquent assessment, and the following pages attempt to demonstrate how the Founding Fathers, especially those who had fought to gain the nation's independence, produced this singular work of genius. A central element of that genius was evident in the Constitution's careful delineation of the functions of the military in a democratic republic. In stark contrast to the actions of soldiers in many other revolutions, America's military leadership never sought to usurp power. We hope that this volume sheds some light on that phenomenon.
The creation of a new government did not end with the ratification of the Constitution. Most of the twenty-three veterans who signed that document, along with hundreds of their comrades, went on to serve their country and states at the highest political levels. Their careers provided us with the general thesis of our work: that the veterans of the Revolutionary War formed a human bridge between the promise of independence and the realization of representative government.
At the heart of this book are biographical studies of the twenty-three Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Twenty-two signed as delegates; the twenty-third was the secretary of the Convention. Previously published in separate brochures by the Center of Military History as part of the Army's celebration of the Bicentennial, these brief biographies are included here with only minor editorial change. They are preceded by a general narrative survey of the period and are followed by summaries of the careers of the other signers of the Constitution. Obviously, no survey of the early republic would be complete without an account of the equally critical contributions of men such as James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and William Paterson, but we must leave a fuller study of their role to others. We have in addition included a selection of documents, many from the pens of our Soldier-Statesmen, that outline the formation of America's military establishment, an unfolding event of singular interest and concern to the Founding Fathers. Except for minor deletions, as indicated, because of space limitations, these documents appear without any historical editing on our part. For those specialists who desire to consult the complete texts, we have included a list of the printed primary sources we used.
We have appended an account of the important Annapolis Convention of 1786. This study was also previously published as a separate Army contribution to the Bicentennial. This account is followed by a number of items, including charts and tables, that provide specific information on the political careers of the Revolutionary veterans.
Although two names appear on the spine of this volume, the work was more accurately
a collaborative effort that used the special talents of four others as well.
We want to acknowledge the important contribution of John W. Elsberg, Editor
in Chief, who edited and coordinated the design of the volume; Lt. Col. Richard
O. Perry, Chief, Histories Division, who supervised the project and served as
a most exacting reader; Arthur S. Hardyman, senior Visual Information Specialist,
who selected and placed the art work; and Ricardo Padron, Junior Fellow, who
researched and drafted a significant part of the Other Signers section. We want
to thank Joycelyn M. Canery, Barbara H. Gilbert, Catherine A. Heerin, Cheryl
A. Morai, Rae T. Panella, Linda M. Cajka, and Marshall T. Williams for their
careful assistance. The final draft of this work was read and critiqued by two
renowned students of the period, and we acknowledge our debt and gratitude to
Dr. Richard H. Kohn, the Chief of Air Force History, and Dr. Robert W. Coakley,
the former Deputy Chief Historian of the Army. Finally, we want to add a special
thanks to Col. Patrick Holland, Deputy Chief of Military History, for his unflagging
support during the months this volume was aborning.
5 February 1987
ROBERT K. WRIGHT, JR.