A prominent Boston lawyer who first became famous for defending the British soldiers accused of murdering five civilians in the Boston Massacre. At the Continental Congresses, Adams acted as a delegate from Massachusetts and rejected proposals for self-governance within the British Empire. He served as vice president to George Washington and then as president from 1797–1801.
A second cousin of John Adams and a failed Bostonian businessman who became an ardent political activist in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. Samuel Adams organized the first Committee of Correspondence and was a delegate to both Continental Congresses in 1774 and 1775.
A brilliant New York lawyer and statesman who, in his early thirties, was one of the youngest delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. An ardent Federalist, Hamilton supported the Constitution during the ratification debates even though he actually believed that the new document was still too weak. He helped write the Federalist Papers, which are now regarded as some of the finest essays on American government and republicanism. He served as the first secretary of the treasury under George Washington and established the first Bank of the United States.
A former governor of Indiana Territory and brigadier general in the U.S. Army who rose to national stardom when he defeated the Northwest Confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Harrison went on to be elected president in 1840.
A fiery radical who advocated rebellion against the Crown in the years prior to the American Revolution, as in his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Later, Henry was a die-hard Anti-Federalist who initially opposed ratification of the Constitution.
A hero of the War of 1812and the Creek War who later entered the national political arena and became president in 1829. Jackson, nicknamed “Old Hickory,” was the first U.S. president to come from a region west of the Appalachians.
A coauthor of the Federalist Papers, which attempted to convince Anti-Federalist New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution. Jay served as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and became one of the most hated men in America after he negotiated Jay’s Treaty with Britain in 1794.
A Virginia planter and lawyer who in 1776 drafted the Declaration of Independence, which justified American independence from Britain. Jefferson went on to serve as the first secretary of state under George Washington and as vice president under John Adams. He then was elected president himself in 1800 and 1804.
A Virginia Federalist who advocated for the ratification of the Constitution, coauthored the Federalist Papers, and sponsored the Bill of Rights in Congress. After ratification, he supported southern and western agrarian interests as a Democratic-Republican. After a brief retirement, he reentered politics and was elected president in 1808 and 1812. As president, Madison fought for U.S. shipping rights against British and French aggression and led the country during the War of 1812.
A Virginia officer, lawyer, and Democratic-Republican who was elected president in 1816 and inaugurated the Era of Good Feelings. An excellent administrator, Monroe bolstered the federal government and supported internal improvements, and was so popular in his first term that he ran uncontested in 1820. The “good feelings” ended, however, during the Missouri Crisis that split the United States along north-south lines. Monroe is most famous for his 1823Monroe Doctrine, which warned European powers against interfering in the Western Hemisphere.
A member of the Shawnee tribe who, along with his brother Tenskwatawa (often called the Prophet), organized many of the tribes in the Mississippi Valley into the Northwest Confederacy to defend Native American ancestral lands from white American settlers. Even though the tribes had legal rights to their lands under the Indian Intercourse Acts of the 1790s, expansionist War Hawks in Congress argued the need for action against Tecumseh, and eventually William Henry Harrison was sent to wipe out the Confederacy. Tecumseh’s forces were defeated at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.
A Virginia planter and militia officer who led the attack that initiated the French and Indian War in 1754. Washington later became commander in chief of the American forces during the American Revolution and first president of the United States in 1789. Although he lost many of the military battles he fought, his leadership skills were unparalleled and were integral to the creation of the United States. In his noteworthy Farewell Address, Washington warned against factionalism and the formation of political parties, believing they would split the nation irreparably.