Over the years many have asked, “How is it that such an amazing array of extraordinary leaders was brought together at just the right time and place to lay the foundation of America?” It was indeed a miracle! Our founders were men of great character, courage, intellect, and talent.
In the words of Edmund S. Morgan:
“What was extraordinary about the Revolution was the talent it generated, the number of men of genius who stepped out of farmyards and plantations, out of countinghouses and courtrooms, to play a leading role in winning the war and then in building a national government.
"People noticed this from the beginning. Already in the summer of 1775 members of the Continental Congress were observing that ‘Times like these call up Genius, which slept before and stimulate it in action to a degree, that eclipses what might before have been fixed as a Standard.’
"Fourteen years later, looking back on the crowded events that had followed, David Ramsay of South Carolina reflected that the Revolution had ‘not only required, but created talents.’...And indeed if one were to make a list of the great men of American history, by whatever standards one chooses to measure greatness, an astonishingly large proportion would be found whose careers began or culminated in the Revolution. It would be hard to find in all the rest of American history more than two or three men to rank with Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, or John Adams.
"To say this does not bring us any closer to an explanation of why the Revolution created such an array of talent. If we knew what the conditions were for generating talent of this kind, we ought all to be busy trying to reproduce them, for we certainly need it now. Unfortunately I do not know how the Revolution generated talent.” (Morgan, Genius of George Washington, 3-4.)
Perhaps George Washington suggests one explanation in a letter he wrote to his wife, Martha (whom he affectionately refers to as “Patsy.”) Dated June 19, 1775, the letter tells Patsy his feelings about being appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army:
"But as it has been a kind of destiny, that has thrown me upon this service, I shall hope that my undertaking is designed to answer some good purpose....I shall rely, therefore confidently on the Providence, which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you.”
The example of the Father of Our Country offers a powerful prescription for our time:
- George Washington prepared well.
- Then, even though he felt inadequate, he went forward in faith and relied confidently on the providence of God to make him equal to his challenges and opportunities.
- He sacrificed his own comfort and desires for a cause greater than himself.
- When his abilities were not enough, he exercised faith in God, and relied on Him to make up the difference.
- And he always humbly attributed his success to God: “To that superintending Power alone is our retraction from the brink of ruin to be attributed.” (Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers, 77.)
Great leaders were not an accident of history. Children were born into ordinary homes. Mothers and fathers sacrificed to give their children the best education they could. As these children grew, they recognized and rose up to meet the extraordinary challenges of their day. They chose to pay the price of liberty. They struggled, and sometimes staggered, under the burden. But they had faith in God, pled for His help, and He made them equal to the challenge.
Our Founding Fathers and Mothers, famous and forgotten, were valiant in the great cause of liberty. Together they created a heritage that has blessed countless millions with unprecedented freedom, peace, and prosperity.
Their character, courage, and sacrifice are a powerful example for us. We owe it to them, to our children, and to our God, to recognize and rise up to the challenges of our day. And, with the help of God, we will pass on the great legacy of liberty.