Ages as of July 4, 1776
Here are the ages of some key figures that the site lists:
- Marquis de Lafayette, 18
- James Monroe, 18
- Gilbert Stuart, 20
- Aaron Burr, 20
- Alexander Hamilton, 21
- Betsy Ross, 24
- James Madison, 25
It is boggling to the mind when you consider the timeless ideals associated with the American Revolution, only to then realize that some of these may have come from the minds of people who would be unable to purchase alcohol today.
But doing some further digging, I found that not all of the American Founding Fathers were on board the youth train. George Washington was a more “respectable” age of 44 in 1776, Samuel Adams was 54, John Hancock was 39, Thomas Jefferson was 33, Patrick Henry was 37, Robert Morris was 42, John Adams was 41, and Roger Sherman was 55 (as a side note, Sherman has the distinction of being the only person, as far as I can tell, who signed all four of the major founding documents – Continental Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and U.S. Constitution). Skimming through a number of other Founding Fathers, I noticed that most of them were over the age of 35 by 1776. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the American Founding Fathers were in middle age and older.
Oh, and one last person who needs to be mentioned is Benjamin Franklin, who was 70 years old at the time of the signing.
A lesson about youth?
I think the same general rules hold true today as they did during the time of the Revolution: with age comes wisdom, and with youth comes idealism. Leadership requires both of these, but in proper balance. Too much youthful thought can lead to rash decision, while too much elderly thought can lead to excessive caution and inability to act when needed. I think the best formula requires a heavier dose of older, experienced thought with a smaller dose of youthful idealism in order for leadership to be effective. And if there’s one thing most historians will likely agree on, it’s that the leadership of the American Founding Fathers was pretty effective.