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Richard Brent (politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard Brent
Richard Brent.jpg
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
March 4, 1809 – December 30, 1814
Preceded byAndrew Moore
Succeeded byJames Barbour
Member of the Virginia Senate from Prince William and Fairfax Counties
In office
1808–1809
Preceded byJohn C. Hunter
Succeeded byWilliam Tyler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 17th district
In office
March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1803
Preceded byLeven Powell
Succeeded byThomas Claiborne
In office
March 4, 1795 – March 3, 1799
Preceded byRichard B. Lee
Succeeded byLeven Powell
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Prince William County
In office
1800–1801
In office
1793–1795
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Stafford County
In office
1788–1789
Personal details
Born1757
Stafford County, Virginia
DiedDecember 30, 1814 (aged 57)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican

Richard Brent (1757 – December 30, 1814) was an American planter, lawyer, and politician from Stafford County, Virginia. He represented Virginia in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

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  • ✪ The Founding Fathers of 1787: Lessons in Political Leadership | Richard R. Beeman
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Transcription

>>WHAT A THRILLING LIFE AWAITS YOU. >>THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE IS A SACRED ACTIVITY. >>A TRULY EDUCATED MAN NEVER CEASES TO LEARN. >>THE FUTURE IS IN YOUR HANDS. THE OUTCOME IS UP TO YOU. >>THIS BYU FORUM ADDRESS WITH RICHARD BEEMAN WAS GIVEN ON SEPTEMBER 24, 2013. >>GOOD MORNING. I'M PLEASED TO WELCOME YOU HERE THIS MORNING FOR TODAY'S FORUM ASSEMBLY. MY NAME IS BRENT WEBB AND PRESIDENT SAMUELSON HAS ASKED ME TO CONDUCT. TODAY WE ARE DELIGHTED TO WELCOME TO CAMPUS DR. RICHARD R. BEEMAN, A JOHN WELSH CENTENNIAL PROFESSOR OF HISTORY EMERITUS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA. HIS TALK TODAY IS ENTITLED, "THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF 1787: LESSONS IN POLITICAL LEADERSHIP." DR. RICHARD R. BEEMAN, THE JOHN WELSH CENTENNIAL PROFESSOR OF HISTORY EMERITUS, HAS BEEN A MEMBER OF THE FACULTY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA FOR 45 YEARS. HE IS A HISTORIAN OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY ERA AND HAS WRITTEN SEVEN BOOKS AND SEVERAL DOZEN ARTICLES ON ASPECTS OF AMERICA'S POLITICAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY IN THE 18TH AND EARLY 19TH CENTURIES. HIS BOOK, PLAIN HONEST MEN, THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION, WAS THE WINNER OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BOOK PRIZE AND THE LITERARY AWARD OF THE PHILADELPHIA ATHENAEUM. HIS ANNOTATED EDITION OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AND U.S. CONSTITUTION, THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, WAS PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN PRESS IN AUGUST 2010. PROFESSOR BEEMAN HAS ALSO RECENTLY COMPLETED A SIX-VOLUME EDITION OF "CIVIC CLASSICS," AGAIN PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN IN AUGUST OF 2012. HIS NEWEST BOOK, OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES AND OUR SACRED HONOR: THE FORGING OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE 1774-1776, WAS RELEASED THIS MAY. THAT BOOK TELLS THE STORY OF THE DRAMA THAT PLAYED OUT WITHIN THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 1774 AND JULY 4, 1776 AS AMERICA'S POLITICAL LEADERS DEBATED AND ULTIMATELY AGREED ON THE DECISION TO DECLARE THEIR INDEPENDENCE FROM GREAT BRITAIN. DR. BEEMAN HAS RECEIVED NUMEROUS AWARDS, INCLUDING FELLOWSHIPS FROM THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES, THE ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION, THE INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, AND THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY. HE HAS SERVED AS A FULBRIGHT PROFESSOR IN THE UNITED KINGDOM AND AS VYVIAN HARMSWORTH DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN HISTORY AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY. WE ARE EAGER TO HEAR HIS REMARKS TODAY. WOULD YOU PLEASE JOIN ME IN GIVING A WARM WELCOME TO DR. RICHARD BEEMAN. [APPLAUSE] >>THANK YOU SO MUCH. I AM ENORMOUSLY HONORED TO BE INVITED TO SPEAK TO A LARGE PORTION OF THE COMMUNITY OF THIS VERY DISTINGUISHED AND INDEED UNIQUE UNIVERSITY. BECAUSE THE TIME I HAVE AVAILABLE TO ME IS LIMITED, I'M GOING TO GET RIGHT DOWN TO BUSINESS AND BEGIN. THE PORTRAIT ON THE SCREEN BEFORE IS OF THE 39 MEN WHO WERE GATHERED IN THE ASSEMBLY ROOM OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE HOUSE ON SEPTEMBER 17, 1787, 226 YEARS AND ONE WEEK AGO TO SIGN THE U.S. CONSTITUTION, THE PRODUCT OF NEARLY FOUR MONTHS OF DIFFICULT, OCCASIONALLY ACRIMONIOUS DEBATE. DEBATE ON ISSUES FAR MORE CHALLENGING, FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THOSE WHICH SEEM TO HAVE PARALYZED THE MEMBERS OF OUR BITTERLY DIVIDED CONGRESS TODAY. I'LL CONFESS THAT IT'S MY FRUSTRATION OVER THE CURRENT DYSFUNCTION OF THAT BRANCH OF OUR GOVERNMENT, A BRANCH THAT OUR FOUNDING FATHERS PLACED INTENTIONALLY IN ARTICLE I OF THE CONSTITUTION. IT'S MY FRUSTRATION THAT HAS PROVIDED THE FRAMEWORK FOR MUCH OF WHAT I HAVE TO SAY THIS MORNING. SO I'LL NOW MOVE DIRECTLY TO THE MAIN QUESTION BEFORE US. HOW WAS IT THAT THE 55 MEN GATHERED IN PHILADELPHIA IN THE SUMMER OF 1787? EXTRAORDINARILY DIVERSE IN THEIR CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS, REPRESENTING OFTEN WIDELY VARYING INTEREST, MERCHANTS, LAWYERS, FARMERS, SLAVE-OWNERS, NON-SLAVE-OWNERS, PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANT INDIVIDUALS CLINGING TENACIOUSLY TO THEIR PRIMARY IDENTITIES AS REPRESENTATIVES OF INDEPENDENT AND SOVEREIGN STATES. HOW WAS IT THAT THEY WERE ABLE TO CREATE A DOCUMENT IN THE PHRASE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON, "SO LITTLE LIABLE TO WELL-FOUNDED OBJECTIONS." I'VE COME UP WITH THREE EXPLANATIONS. THE FIRST LIES IN THE FACT THAT THEY MET IN SECRET AND WERE ABLE TO A REMARKABLE EXTENT TO ENFORCE THAT SECRECY ALL THAT SUMMER. A DISTINCTLY UNDEMOCRATIC, UN-TRASPARENT WAY OF DOING BUSINESS, INDEED UNTHINKABLE IN TODAY'S WORLD. BUT IT ALLOWED THE DELEGATES TO ENGAGE IN GENUINE CONVERSATION, TO FLOAT TRIAL BALLOONS, AND WHEN THEY FOUND THEMSELVES IN DISAGREEMENT, AS THEY OFTEN DID, TO REPAIR AT THE END OF THE DAY TO PHILADELPHIA'S CITY TAVERN TO SHARE A MEAL USUALLY COPIOUS QUANTITIES OF ALCOHOL. AND THEN AFTER A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP TO PUT THE DISAGREEMENTS OF THE PREVIOUS DAY BEHIND THEM AND TRY ONCE AGAIN TO REACH CONSENSUS ON THE ISSUES BEFORE THEM. I REALLY DO WANT TO EMPHASIZE THAT I GENUINELY DO NOT BELIEVE THAT ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION IS ESSENTIAL, EITHER TO CONVIVIAL RELATIONSHIPS OR TO POLITICAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS. BUT IN THIS 18TH CENTURY WORLD, IT WAS THE CASE THAT THEY DID SPEND A LOT OF TIME LUBRICATING THEIR RELATIONSHIPS WITH SOME FORM OF THAT SUBSTANCE. I CAN'T RESIST READING TO YOU THE CONTENTS OF A BILL THAT THEY RECEIVED FROM CITY TAVERN ON THE NIGHT OF FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, JUST A FEW DAYS BEFORE THEY CAME TOGETHER TO SIGN THE CONSTITUTION. THE 55 MEN GATHERED THERE THAT EVENING, MOST OF THEM, BUT NOT ALL OF THEM, MET THE DELEGATES OF THE CONVENTION. 55 MEN CONSUMED 54 BOTTLES OF MADEIRA, 60 BOTTLES OF CLAIRAULT, 50 BOTTLES OF OLD STOCK, MULTIPLE CASKS OF BEER AND PORTER, AND SEVERAL LARGE BOWLS OF RUM PUNCH. THE BILL THEY RECEIVED ALSO INCLUDED AN EXTRA CHARGE OF THREE-POUND STERLING FOR BREAKAGE, APPARENTLY TOWARD THE END OF THE EVENING THEY STARTED THROWING THEIR GLASSES AROUND THE ROOM. NOW ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ASIDE, THE ATMOSPHERE OF COLLEGIALITY AND COOPERATION AMONG THE FRAMERS OF OUR CONSTITUTION WAS DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT FROM THAT IN OUR CURRENT POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT. INDEED I THINK WE CAN ALL IMAGINE THE DIFFERENCE IF WE WERE TO HOLD THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION TODAY. THE PUBLIC POSTURING, THE STAKING OUT OF POSITIONS ON THE CONVENTION FLOOR, AND THEN AT THE END OF THE DAY DELIVERING SOUND BITES TO THE TELEVISION CAMERAS FROM CNN, MSNBC, FOX NEWS, AND SO ON. WITH THE CONSEQUENCE BEING THAT POSITIONS TAKING ON THE CONVENTION FLOOR WOULD BECOME EVEN MORE STRIDENT, MORE INFLEXIBLE. THE SECOND EXPLANATION CLOSELY RELATED TO THE FIRST WAS THE EXTRAORDINARY INTIMACY OF THE SPACES IN WHICH THE DELEGATES DID THEIR WORK. AT 40 FEET BY 40 FEET, THE ASSEMBLY ROOM OF INDEPENDENCE HALL, TO SAY THE LEAST, IS A LOT SMALLER THAN THIS BUILDING. IT WOULD'VE BEEN DIFFICULT EVEN TO WHISPER TO A NEIGHBOR IN THIS SPACE WITHOUT BEING OVERHEARD. SINCE THESE POLITICIANS WERE OPERATING IN AN 18TH CENTURY CULTURE, IN WHICH CIVILITY WAS PERHAPS MORE HIGHLY VALUED THAN IT IS IN OUR OWN, THE INTIMACY OF THEIR WORKING SPACE REALLY DID SERVE TO ENFORCE COLLEGIALITY AMONG THEM. AGAIN, AFTER THE DAY'S OFFICIALS WORK WAS DONE, DINING TOGETHER AROUND A COMMON TABLE, LODGING TOGETHER AT ONE OF THE CITY'S BOARDING HOUSES, INDEED THE THREE DELEGATES FROM THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT ACTUALLY HAD TO SHARE THE SAME ROOM IN THEIR BOARDING HOUSE. ALL OF THAT INTIMACY FOSTERED AN IMPULSE TOWARD CONSENSUS NOT EASILY REPLICATED TODAY. I AM OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER A TIME WHEN IT WAS COMMONPLACE AMONG OUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS THE THOUGHT OF DURING RONALD REAGAN'S PRESIDENCY, WHEN PRESIDENT REAGAN AND THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TIP O'NEILL WOULD OFTEN DISAGREE VOCIFEROUSLY PUBLICLY ON A VARIETY OF ISSUES, BUT THEN THEY'D MANAGE TO GET TOGETHER BEHIND THE SCENES AND WORK OUT A WAY TO ACHIEVE A COMPROMISE THAT WOULD BENEFIT ALL OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. INDEED I SUSPECT THAT AT LEAST ONE OF UTAH'S SENATORS, ORRIN HATCH, HAS SERVED IN THE SENATE LONG ENOUGH, NOT ONLY TO REMEMBER THAT MORE CONVIVIAL ATMOSPHERE, BUT TO HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THOSE BIPARTISAN GATHERINGS HIMSELF. THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH OUR CONGRESS PEOPLE TODAY ARE DOING THEIR WORK ARE SO DIFFERENT. THE DEMANDS OF FUNDRAISING FOR THEIR PERPETUAL ELECTION CAMPAIGNS DON'T EVEN ALLOW OUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO HAVE MUCH TIME TO SPEND WITH ONE ANOTHER. BUT IT DOES SEEM TO ME THAT THE FOSTERING OF CONVIVIAL RELATIONSHIPS AMONG OUR POLITICAL LEADERS IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT TO OUR POLITICAL PROCESS AND NEARLY ENTIRELY ABSENT ALAS FROM OUR CURRENT CONGRESS. THE THIRD EXPLANATION ON WHICH I WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF MY TIME THIS MORNING SEEMS TO ME THE MOST IMPORTANT, AND I DO SPEAK OF LEADERSHIP, AND OF THE VARIETIES OF LEADERSHIP AT THE CONVENTION. OVER THE COURSE OF THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS AS I'VE LIVED WITH THESE 55 DELEGATES WHO ATTENDED THE CONVENTION, I'VE BECOME MORE AND MORE IMPRESSED BY THE IMPORTANCE OF INDIVIDUAL LEADERS IN THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION, BUT EVEN MORE STRIKINGLY IMPRESSED BY THE IMPORTANCE OF COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP. HOWEVER TALENTED MANY OF THE 55 DELEGATES MAY HAVE BEEN, ALL THAT TALENT MIGHT WELL HAVE WORKED IN COUNTERPRODUCTIVE WAYS, HAD THEY NOT POSSESSED AN UNDERSTANDING THAT COOPERATION, FORBEARANCE, AND ULTIMATELY COMPROMISE WERE EVERY BIT AS IMPORTANT AS INDIVIDUAL BRILLIANCE IN THE BUSINESS OF CONSTITUTION MAKING. THERE WERE TO BE SURE SOME AMONG THE 55 DELEGATES WHOSE CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE FINISHED DOCUMENT WERE NEGLIGIBLE. THERE WERE PERHAPS AS MANY AS A DOZEN WHO WERE NOTED PRIMARILY FROM THEIR EXTENDED ABSENCES FROM THE CONVENTION THAT SUMMER, AND AT LEAST A FEW, THIS IS GUNNING BEDFORD OF DELAWARE, A CORPULENT FLORID-FACED MAN GIVEN TO OUTBURSTS, ACCUSING THE LARGE STATE DELEGATES OF ATTEMPTING TO DESTROY HIS TINY STATE. AT ONE POINT HE THREATENED TO ALLY HIS STATE WITH A FOREIGN POWER IF DELAWARE WAS NOT GIVEN EQUAL REPRESENTATION IN THE CONGRESS. HERE IS LUTHER MARTIN OF MARYLAND, DESCRIBED BY ONE DISTINGUISHED HISTORIAN AS HAVING BEEN "SOBER ON ONLY A HALF DOZEN OCCASIONS IN HIS LIFE, NONE OF THEM DURING THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION." IN LATE JUNE HE DELIVERED A DAY AND A HALF LONG ALCOHOL-FUELED SPEECH DENOUNCING ON NEARLY EVERY ASPECT OF THE CONVENTION'S PROCEEDINGS, AND HE EVENTUALLY LEFT THE BODY ALTOGETHER. THESE MEN, AND THERE WAS AT LEAST ONE CERTIFIABLE CURMUDGEON IN THE CONVENTION. THIS IS ELBRIDGE GERRY OF MASSACHUSETTS, AFTER WHICH THE REGRETTABLE PRACTICE OF GERRYMANDERING HAS BEEN NAMED. THAT, I'M AFRAID, IS A STORY FOR ANOTHER DAY. HE PRETTY MUCH HATED EVERY MINUTE OF HIS SUMMER IN PHILADELPHIA. AND OVER THE COURSE OF THE CONVENTION'S PROCEEDINGS, HE COMPLAINED ABOUT NEARLY EVERY FEATURE OF THE DOCUMENT THEY WERE DRAFTING, ULTIMATELY REFUSING TO SIGN THE COMPLETED CONSTITUTION. BUT ON THE WHOLE, IT'S HARD NOT TO BE IMPRESSED BY THE WAY IN WHICH MOST OF THE MEN PRESENT THAT SUMMER WERE ABLE TO CHECK THEIR EGOS AT THE DOOR AND TO TAKE SERIOUSLY THE BUSINESS OF CREATING THAT MORE PERFECT, NOT PERFECT, BUT MORE PERFECT UNION. THE QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP PRESENT IN THE CONVENTION WERE ENORMOUSLY VARIED AND I WANT TO OFFER YOU JUST A FEW GLIMPSES OF THE DELEGATES WHOM I THINK MADE THE MOST IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS. I BEGIN WITH A MAN WHO PROVIDED THE GUIDING INTELLECTUAL FORCE BEHIND FIRST THE MOVEMENT TO CALL A CONVENTION, AND THEN THE EFFORT TO CRAFT A PROPOSAL THAT AMOUNTED TO WHAT I'VE CALLED A LITERAL REVOLUTION IN THE NATURE OF THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT. JAMES MADISON WAS BY ALL ACCOUNTS ONE OF THE MOST PHYSICALLY UNIMPOSING MEN PRESENT AT THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. A 37-YEAR OLD BACHELOR AT THE TIME STANDING ONLY AN INCH OVER FIVE FEET TALL AND PREMATURELY BALDING. MADISON FREQUENTLY BRUSHED THE FEW REMAINING WISPS OF HAIR AT THE TOP OF HIS HEAD DOWNWARD TO HIDE HIS BALD SPOT IN WHAT TODAY I THINK WE'D CALL A COMB OVER, CHRONICALLY SUFFERING FROM A COMBINATION OF POOR PHYSICAL HEALTH AND HYPOCHONDRIA, PAINFULLY AWKWARD IN ANY FORM OF PUBLIC SPEECH. HE TENDED NOT SO MUCH TO SPEAK AS TO MUMBLE. MADISON CAME ACROSS AS NEITHER A COMMANDING NOR A SELF-CONFIDENT FIGURE. BUT HE MORE THAN MADE UP FOR THOSE DEFICIENCIES BY THE FORCE AND PERSISTENCE OF HIS INTELLECT. HE ARRIVED IN PHILADELPHIA ON MAY 3, 1787, 11 DAYS BEFORE THE CONVENTION WAS DUE TO BEGIN AND 22 DAYS BEFORE IT ACTUALLY BEGAN. ALONE AMONG THE DELEGATES HE HAD SPENT MANY MONTHS DURING THE WINTER AND EARLY SPRING OF 1787 PREPARING HIMSELF BOTH INTELLECTUALLY AND POLITICALLY FOR THE UPCOMING GATHERING. IMAGINE THEN HIS DISAPPOINTMENT WHEN HE DISCOVERED THAT ON THE DAY THE CONVENTION WAS DUE TO BEGIN, MAY 14, 1787, THAT THE ONLY DELEGATES FROM OUTSIDE OF PENNSYLVANIA, ALL OF WHOSE DELEGATES LIVED IN PHILADELPHIA, SO THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO TRAVEL ANYWHERE, THE ONLY DELEGATES FROM OUTSIDE OF PENNSYLVANIA TO SHOW UP WERE HE AND GEORGE WASHINGTON. THIS FAILURE OF THE DELEGATES TO SHOW UP ON TIME. IT TOOK ANOTHER 11 DAYS BEFORE EVEN A BARE QUORUM OF SEVEN OF 13 STATE DELEGATIONS MADE IT TO PHILADELPHIA REALLY IS QUITE REMARKABLE. WOULDN'T ALL OF YOU, IF YOU'D BEEN ELECTED DELEGATES TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, HAVE MANAGED TO SHOW UP ON TIME? THE CONCLUSION I DRAW FROM THIS IS THIS. THE SUCCESS OF THIS ENTERPRISE, FAR FROM BEING INEVITABLE OR DIVINELY ORDAINED, WAS IN FACT IMPROBABLE. TRULY THE CHALLENGE FACING THE DELEGATES, THE APATHY, THE PROVINCIALISM OF MANY, IF NOT MOST, OF THE POLITICAL LEADERS OF THE AMERICAN STATES. THAT CHALLENGE WAS FORMIDABLE INDEED. BUT MADISON PUT THE 11-DAY HIATUS TO GOOD USE. WORKING CLOSELY WITH THE DELEGATES FROM PENNSYLVANIA, MADISON WAS THE PRINCIPAL ARCHITECT OF WHAT CAME TO BE CALLED THE VIRGINIA PLAN, THE PROPOSAL THAT CALLED FOR THE SCRAPPING OF THE EXISTING FORM OF GOVERNMENT, THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, AND THE CREATION OF A SUPREME NATIONAL GOVERNMENT. A GOVERNMENT WITH A SUPREME LEGISLATURE, EXECUTIVE, AND JUDICIARY. NOW INDEED THE DOCUMENT THAT EMERGED FROM THE CONVENTION ON SEPTEMBER 17TH WAS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM THE PLAN MADISON AND THE PENNSYLVANIANS CRAFTED DURING THAT WEEK IN MAY. BUT MADISON'S CAREFUL PLANNING AND HIS METICULOUSLY WELL-PREPARED DEFENSE OF A STRONG CENTRAL GOVERNMENT DID SET THE CONVENTION ON A REVOLUTIONARY COURSE. MADISON'S TWO STRONGEST SUPPORTERS IN THIS EFFORT WERE TWO PENNSYLVANIANS. JAMES WILSON AND GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, TWO INDIVIDUALS WHO MOST AMERICANS HAVE NEVER HEARD OF, BUT WHO INDEED ARE REALLY ALMOST IMPORTANT AS MADISON AND GEORGE WASHINGTON IN THE CRAFTING OF THE CONSTITUTION. JAMES WILSON, LIKE MADISON, SEEMED TO MANY OBSERVERS AWKWARD, SOMEWHAT UNCOMFORTABLE IN HIS OWN SKIN. ALTHOUGH PERHAPS HE DIDN'T INTEND, HE TOOK SUCH PRIDE IN HIS INTELLECT THAT HE WAS SOMETIMES UNABLE TO HIDE HIS FEELINGS OF SUPERIORITY OVER THOSE ORDINARY CITIZENS AROUND HIM. THIS PORTRAIT HERE IN WHICH HE APPEARS WITH A PRIM WHITE WIG AND THICK-LENSED GLASSES CONVEYS THE IMPRESSION, AT LEAST TO ME, OF A MAN WHO'S LOOKING DOWN HIS NOSE AT THOSE AROUND HIM. YET WILSON, MORE THAN ANY MAN IN THE CONVENTION, ENVISIONED AN AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, AND AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT, MUCH LIKE THOSE WE HAVE TODAY. VIGOROUS AND POWERFUL, BUT BASED FIRMLY AND DIRECTLY ON THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE. REACTING TO THE INABILITY OF THE CONFEDERATION GOVERNMENT TO SPEAK WITH A SINGLE VOICE, THAT GOVERNMENT LACKED AN EXECUTIVE BRANCH ALTOGETHER, WILSON ARGUED THAT ONLY A PRESIDENT ELECTED DIRECTLY BY THE PEOPLE OF THE NATION AT LARGE COULD GIVE THE NECESSARY ENERGY AND DIRECTION TO THE NEW GOVERNMENT. HE WAS, ALAS, A MINORITY OF ONE IN THE CONVENTION AND HIS PROPOSAL FOR DIRECT POPULAR ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT WAS NEVER EVEN PUT TO A VOTE. BUT THROUGHOUT THE CONVENTION HE REMINDED THE DELEGATES THAT ONLY A GOVERNMENT BASED SOLIDLY ON THE WILL OF WE THE PEOPLE, AND HE WAS THE FIRST DELEGATE TO USE THAT PHRASE, BOTH IN HIS SPEECHES AND IN HIS WRITTEN DOCUMENTS. ONLY A GOVERNMENT BASED ON WE THE PEOPLE COULD FULFILL THE NEEDS OF THIS STILL FRAGILE NATION. WE CAN ALSO GIVE CREDIT TO WILSON FOR THE PECULIAR COMPROMISE PROPOSAL BY WHICH WE NOW ELECT OUR PRESIDENT, THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE, ALTHOUGH HE CONTINUED TO FAVOR DIRECT POPULAR ELECTION, WILSON PROPOSED THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE AS THE BEST ALTERNATIVE TO THAT. ANOTHER DELEGATE FROM PENNSYLVANIA, GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, HE'S THE GENTLEMAN THAT'S KIND OF SLOUCHED IN THE CHAIR. THE GENTLEMAN STANDING NEXT TO HIM, ROBERT MORRIS, IS HIS SORT OF BEST PAL. HAPPENS ALSO TO BE THE WEALTHIEST MERCHANT OF AMERICA. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS HAD A PERSONALITY AND CHARACTER THAT WERE ALTOGETHER FROM THOSE OF EITHER WILSON OR MADISON. WHEREAS MADISON HAD IMMERSED HIMSELF IN THE STUDY OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AT PRINCETON, JAMES WILSON DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF AS AN OUTSTANDING STUDENT OF THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY AT ST. ANDREW'S IN HIS NATIVE SCOTLAND. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS WAS WRITING HIS BACHELOR'S AND MASTER'S DEGREE ESSAYS AT KING'S COLLEGE, LATER COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, ON WIT AND BEAUTY AND LOVE. WHEREAS MADISON'S LOVE LIFE BOTH AS A COLLEGE STUDENT AND FOR MANY YEARS THEREAFTER UNTIL HE GOT LUCK IN THE MID-1790S AND MARRIED DOLLY MADISON, WHEREAS MADISON'S LOVE LIFE RESEMBLED THAT OF A MEDIEVAL MONK, MORRIS' INTEREST IN TOPICS SUCH AS WIT, BEAUTY AND LOVE, WAS NOT PURELY CEREBRAL. AS A YOUNG MAN AND INDEED WELL INTO EXTENDED BACHELORHOOD, MORRIS NEVER PASSED UP AN OPPORTUNITY FOR AMOROUS ADVENTURE. HE ACTUALLY BEGAN HIS CAREER IN NEW YORK, BUT AFTER LOSING FAVOR WITH MANY OF THE LEADING POLITICIANS OF THAT STATE, HE MOVED TO PHILADELPHIA. SHORTLY AFTER HIS ARRIVAL THERE, HE SUFFERED A SERIOUS SETBACK OF ANOTHER KIND. IN 1780, MORRIS' LEFT LEG WAS CAUGHT IN THE WHEEL OF A CARRIAGE, DISLOCATING HIS ANKLE JOINT. HIS REGULAR PHYSICIAN WAS TEMPORARILY OUT OF TOWN AND ACTING ON THE ADVICE OF OTHERS, HE AGREED TO HAVE THE LEG AMPUTATED. WHEN MORRIS' OWN PHYSICIAN RETURNED, HE WAS APPALLED AT THE DECISION. BELIEVE ME, IN THE 21ST CENTURY THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN A PERSONAL LIABILITY CASE IN THE MAKING. BUT THE DEED WAS DONE, AND FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE, MORRIS WOULD WALK WITH A SIMPLE OAK PEG ATTACHED TO THE STUMP OF HIS LEG JUST BELOW THE KNEE. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS DID NOT SHY AWAY FROM COMBAT. ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS HE MADE IT CLEAR THAT HE WOULD NOT BE AT ALL UNHAPPY IF THE STATE GOVERNMENTS WERE ABOLISHED ALTOGETHER, AND ON OTHER OCCASIONS HE CONFRONTED OPPONENTS OF THE PRINCIPLE OF PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION FROM THE SMALLER STATES, MEN LIKE DELAWARE'S GUNNING BEDFORD, LETTING THEM KNOW THAT IF THEY REFUSED TO JOIN A UNION INCLUDING POWERFUL STATES LIKE HIS, THEY WOULD PAY A HEAVY PRICE INDEED. SO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS WAS NOT A MODEL OF BIPARTISAN OR CONCILIATORY POLITICS. BUT WHEN IT CAME TIME TO PULL TOGETHER ALL OF THE MANY PROPOSALS INTO A SINGLE ELEGANT DRAFT OF A COMPLETED CONSTITUTION, IT WAS GOUVERNEUR MORRIS WHO PROVIDED WHAT JAMES MADISON ACKNOWLEDGED WAS THE FINISH GIVEN TO THE STYLE AND ARRANGEMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION. AS CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE OF STYLE, A COMMITTEE CREATED DURING THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF THE CONVENTION, MORRIS TOOK THE 23 ARTICLES OF AN EARLIER DRAFT OF THE CONSTITUTION, REDUCED THAT NUMBER TO SEVEN MORE ARTFULLY WORDED ARTICLES, HELPING TO CREATE THE MOST CONCISE CONSTITUTION IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD BY FAR. I'VE DONE A LITTLE INVESTIGATION OF THIS, CALIFORNIA'S STATE CONSTITUTION'S ABOUT 800 PAGES, THE EUROPEAN UNION'S SO CALLED CONSTITUTION IS 1,250 PAGES AND STILL GROWING. THE STATE OF UTAH'S CONSTITUTION IN 1895 WAS, IN ITS HANDWRITTEN VERSION, ABOUT 70 PAGES. I COULDN'T ACTUALLY FIND OUT HOW LONG IT IS TODAY. BUT MORRIS ALSO REPLACED THE CLUNKY WORDING OF THE PREAMBLE DRAFTED EARLIER WHICH BEGAN, "WE THE PEOPLE OF THE STATES OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, MASSACHUSETTS, RHODE ISLAND, CONNECTICUT, NEW YORK," AND SO ON AND SO FORTH, WITH A DECIDEDLY MORE ELEGANT BEGINNING. "WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, IN ORDER TO FORM A MORE PERFECT UNION TO ESTABLISH JUSTICE, ENSURE DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY, PROVIDE FOR THE COMMON DEFENSE, PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE, AND SECURE THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY TO OURSELVES AND OUR POSTERITY, DO ORDAIN AND ESTABLISH THIS CONSTITUTION." MORRIS' REVISION WAS NOT MERELY MORE ELEGANT, BUT IT SUGGESTED THAT THE NEW GOVERNMENT WOULD BE FOUNDED ON THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE OF THE CAPITAL U CAPITAL S UNITED STATES. NOT ON THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL STATES. A FINE POINT PERHAPS, AND ONE WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN DISPUTED BY MANY IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION AND INDEED IS STILL DISPUTED BY MANY AMERICANS TODAY. BUT IN SOME IMPORTANT SENSES, IT WAS THE POINT WHICH GAVE ABRAHAM LINCOLN HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RATIONALE FOR INSISTING THAT THE SOUTHERN STATES HAD NO RIGHT TO SECEDE FROM THE UNION IN 1861. THIS RATHER PLAIN LOOKING MAN, WHO I'D LIKE TO SAY MORE ABOUT, BUT I DON'T HAVE TIME, IS ROGER SHERMAN, A DELEGATE FROM CONNECTICUT. HE WAS IN HIS BACKGROUND APPEARANCE AND PERSONALITY UTTERLY UNLIKE ANYONE IN THE CONVENTION. HIS GEORGIA DELEGATE COLLEAGUE WILLIAM PIERCE CALLED HIM THE "ODDEST SHAPED CHARACTER I'VE EVER MET WITH." BUT SHERMAN WAS THE MOST CONSISTENT VOICE FOR COMPROMISE IN THE CONVENTION. HE WAS THE FIRST DELEGATE TO PRESENT WHAT WOULD BECOME KNOWN AS THE CONNECTICUT COMPROMISE, THE PROPOSAL THAT FINALLY BROKE THE STALEMATE IN THE CONVENTION BETWEEN THE SO CALLED LARGE STATES, THE MOST POPULOUS STATES IN THE NATION WHO WANTED REPRESENTATION IN BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS TO BE APPORTIONED ACCORDING TO POPULATION, AND THE SMALL STATES WHO WANTED REPRESENTATION TO BE APPORTIONED EQUALLY AMONG EACH STATE. THIS WAS A DEBATE THAT UTTERLY DEADLOCKED THE DELEGATES FOR SIX WEEKS THREATENING TO CAUSE THE CONVENTION TO DISBAND AND ADMIT THEIR EFFORTS OF FAILURE BY MID JULY OF 1787. SHERMAN'S SOLUTION, WHICH YOU ALL KNOW, PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE, EQUAL REPRESENTATION IN THE SENATE, NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. I THINK IF I GAVE ANY OF YOU LIKE TWO MINUTES TO COME UP WITH A COMPROMISE, YOU COULD COME UP WITH THAT COMPROMISE. SHERMAN'S CLAIM TO LEADERSHIP RESTS, I THINK, NOT SO MUCH WITH FIRST PRESENTING THE IDEA TO THE CONVENTION, BUT WITH A PATIENT, PRAGMATIC AND ESSENTIALLY UN-SELF INTERESTED WAY IN WHICH HE CHAMPIONED THE PROPOSAL IN AND OUT OF DOORS. ONCE AGAIN, PLACES LIKE THE PHILADELPHIA CITY TAVERN BECAME AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE BUSINESS OF CONSTITUTION MAKING. THERE WERE AT LEAST TWO OTHER INDIVIDUALS PRESENT AT THE CONVENTION WHO HAD ALREADY ESTABLISHED TRULY DISTINGUISHED REPUTATIONS AS LEADERS. ONE OF THOSE WAS THE MAN WHO SAT AT A SMALL TABLE ON THE RAISED DAIS IN THE FRONT OF THE ROOM. GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON HAD BEEN LUXURIATING IN HIS RETIREMENT AT MOUNT VERNON. AND EVEN AS HE WAS RECEIVING ANGUISHED LETTERS FROM FRIENDS DECRYING THE PERILOUS STATE OF THE NATION UNDER THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, HE TRIED MIGHTILY TO RESIST THEIR CALLS FOR RETURN TO PUBLIC LIFE. THIS PORTRAIT OF WASHINGTON PAINTED BY THE PHILADELPHIA ARTIST CHARLES WILSON PEALE WAS ACTUALLY PAINTED DURING JULY OF 1787 DURING A TEMPORARY ADJOURNMENT OF THE CONVENTION. WASHINGTON WAS 55 YEARS OLD AT THE TIME AND I THINK IF YOU LOOK AT THAT PORTRAIT, HE'S BEGINNING TO SHOW HIS AGE. HE WAS THEN TOO OLD TO ENGAGE IN THE FOX HUNTING VENTURES THAT HE LOVED TO ENGAGE IN, ALTHOUGH HE WAS NOT TOO OLD TO ENGAGE IN BALLROOM DANCING WITH EVERY BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE ROOM. HE WAS AN OUTSTANDING DANCER. BUT HERE WAS WASHINGTON'S DILEMMA. HE KNEW THAT HIS PRESENCE WAS ESSENTIAL IF A MOVEMENT FOR A NEW CONSTITUTION WAS TO BE SUCCESSFUL. BUT HE HAD NO CONFIDENCE THAT HIS MERE PRESENCE WOULD GUARANTEE SUCCESS FOR SUCH A MOVEMENT. WASHINGTON WAS A MAN OF GREAT PRIDE. DID HE REALLY WISH TO PUT HIS REPUTATION, HARD EARNED OVER SEVERAL DECADES, DID HE WISH TO PUT HIS REPUTATION ON THE LINE FOR THIS VERY RISKY ADVENTURE WHICH HAD NO EVEN LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS? BUT FINALLY RESPONDING TO PLEAS FROM VIRGINIA'S GOVERNOR EDMUND RANDOLPH AND FROM JAMES MADISON, WASHINGTON RELENTED AND AGREED TO ATTEND THE CONVENTION. EARLY IN THE MORNING ON MAY 9 HE GOT INTO HIS CARRIAGE AND MADE THE ARDUOUS FIVE-DAY TRIP TO PHILADELPHIA. HIS RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS PROTESTING EVERY BUMP ALONG THE WAY. FINALLY ARRIVING ON MAY 13, GREETED IN THE CITY BY HUGE CROWDS, CHURCH BELLS RINGING, CANNONS FIRING, THE CITY LIGHT HORSE TROOP GATHERED TO MEET HIM. AND THEN IMAGINE HIS ANNOYANCE, HIS FURY TO DISCOVER THE FOLLOWING DAY ON MAY 14 THAT HE AND MADISON WERE THE ONLY TWO DELEGATES FROM OUT OF STATE TO ARRIVE. HAD HE DONE THIS ALL IN VAIN? WASHINGTON ATTENDED EVERY SINGLE SESSION OF THE CONVENTION. IF WE WERE TO RELY ONLY ON THE RECORD OF DEBATES, WE MIGHT BE INCLINED TO REGARD HIM AS A MERE FIGUREHEAD. HE SEEMS TO HAVE MADE ONLY ONE BRIEF UNEXCEPTIONAL SPEECH THE WHOLE OF THAT SUMMER, BUT THE RECORD OF THE CONVENTION IS INCOMPLETE AND ELOQUENT SPEECHES ARE HARDLY THE SOLE CRITERION BY WHICH TO MEASURE QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP. WASHINGTON, WHO WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE CONVENTION ON THE FIRST DAY OF BUSINESS, WASHINGTON PRESIDED. AND THAT'S WHAT THE WORD PRESIDENT MEANT THERE, PRESIDING OVER A GATHERING. IT WAS WASHINGTON WHO ON THE FIRST SUBSTANTIVE DAY OF BUSINESS OF THE CONVENTION MADE THE DECISION TO FIRST CALL UPON EDMUND RANDOLPH, THE MAN DESIGNATED TO PRESENT THE VIRGINIA PLAN. A DECISION THAT WOULD LAUNCH THE REVOLUTIONING GOVERNMENT SO CAREFULLY PLANNED BY MADISON, WILSON, AND GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. IT WAS WASHINGTON DAY IN AND DAY OUT WHO REGULATED THE FLOW OF DEBATE. WHEN IT APPEARED THAT THE DELEGATES HAD REACHED AN IMPASSE ON ONE SUBJECT, HE SEEMED TO KNOW WHEN TO CALL ON THE APPROPRIATE DELEGATE TO CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF THE DEBATE TO ANOTHER SUBJECT. HIS FORCE OF PERSONALITY, THE VERY FORCE OF HIS PRESENCE, CAUSED DELEGATES TO TEMPER THEIR REMARKS, TO MAINTAIN CIVILITY, EVEN WHEN THE STRENGTH OF THEIR FEELINGS MIGHT HAVE LED THEM TO INCIVILITY. ON THOSE FEW OCCASIONS WHEN A DELEGATE DID ALLOW HIS PASSIONS TO GET THE BETTER OF HIM, WASHINGTON KNEW WHEN TO RECOGNIZE SOME OTHER MORE CONCILIATORY SPEAKER. NOWHERE WAS THIS MORE APPARENT NOR MORE IMPORTANT THAN IN THE DEBATE ON THE CHARACTER AND POWERS OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT. A VEXED SUBJECT WHICH CONFOUNDED THE DELEGATES NEARLY THE WHOLE OF THE SUMMER. I GUESS IT'S STILL CONFOUNDS US EVEN TODAY. ALTHOUGH THE DEBATES ON THAT SUBJECT OFTEN BECAME HEATED WITH SOME DELEGATES RISING TO WARN OF THE DANGERS OF AN ELECTIVE MONARCHY, EVERYONE IN THE ROOM KNEW THAT THE FUTURE FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, IF THERE SHOULD BE A UNITED STATES, THE FUTURE FIRST PRESIDENT WAS SITTING IN THAT CHAIR ON THE RAISED DAIS IN FRONT OF THEM. THE FRAMERS WERE UNITED IN THEIR DESIRE TO AVOID AN ELECTIVE MONARCH AND OVERLY POWERFUL EXECUTIVE. BUT THE FACT THAT THEY WENT AS FAR AS THEY DID IN GRANTING TO THE PRESIDENT AT LEAST LIMITED EXECUTIVE POWER, OWES, I BELIEVE, TO THEIR CONFIDENCE IN THE INHERENT VIRTUE AND SELF RESTRAINT OF GEORGE WASHINGTON. TRULY NO DELIBERATIVE BODY IN AMERICAN HISTORY HAS HAD A PRESIDING OFFICER WITH AS COMMANDING A PRESENCE AS GEORGE WASHINGTON. MY BRIEF SNAPSHOT OF SOME OF THE KEY INDIVIDUALS AT THE CONVENTION CONCLUDES, I THINK APPROPRIATELY, WITH MY PHILADELPHIA HOMETOWN HERO, BEN FRANKLIN. FOR IT WAS FRANKLIN MORE THAN ANY OTHER DELEGATE WHO RECOGNIZED THAT ACTS OF COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP WERE ULTIMATELY MORE IMPORTANT THAN FEATS OF INDIVIDUAL BRILLIANCE. IN TRUTH, FRANKLIN'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE DEBATES WERE, TO PUT IT CHARITABLY, UNEVEN. HE WAS GETTING ON IN AGE. THERE WERE MOMENTS WHEN THE DELEGATES MUST HAVE SIMPLY ROLLED THEIR EYES HEAVENWARD WHEN HE PUT FORWARD SOME OF HIS PROPOSALS. AT ONE POINT, FOR EXAMPLE, HE PROPOSED THAT JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT BE SELECTED BY A VOTE AMONG ALL OF THE COUNTRY'S LAWYERS WHO WOULD, HE REASONED, VOTE FOR THE ABLEST AMONG THEM IN ORDER TO GET RID OF THEIR COMPETITION, AND THEN SHARE THEIR PRACTICES AMONG THEMSELVES. WE HAVE ENOUGH DIFFICULTY TODAY NOMINATING AND CONFIRMING SUPREME COURT JUSTICES, BUT CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF WE GAVE THE JOB TO OUR 7 TRILLION LAWYERS IN THE COUNTRY. BUT WHEN FRANKLIN WAS GOOD, HE WAS VERY GOOD. AND AT NO POINT WAS HE BETTER THAN ON THE FINAL DAY OF THE CONVENTION. ON SEPTEMBER 17, HE ROSE WITH A SPEECH IN HIS HAND TO GIVE THE LAST IMPORTANT SPEECH THAT HE WOULD MAKE IN HIS LIFE. LOOKING BACK OVER THE NEARLY FOUR MONTHS OF DEBATE, DISAGREEMENT, AND OCCASIONAL OUTBURSTS OF ILL TEMPER, FRANKLIN OBSERVED, AND I TRULY BELIEVE THAT THESE WORDS SHOULD BE CARVED IN THE WALLS OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TODAY. HE OBSERVED THAT WHENEVER YOU ASSEMBLE A NUMBER OF MEN TO HAVE THE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR JOINT WISDOM, YOU INEVITABLY ASSEMBLE WITH THOSE MEN ALL THEIR PREJUDICES, THEIR PASSIONS, THEIR ERRORS OF OPINION, THEIR LOCAL INTEREST, AND THEIR SELFISH VIEWS. IT'S SO TRUE. FROM TIME IN MEMORIAL, THAT'S BEEN THE NATURE OF ALL BODIES POLITIC. "FROM SUCH AN ASSEMBLY," FRANKLIN ASKED, "CAN A PERFECT PRODUCTION EVER BE EXPECTED?" HE ADMITTED THAT THERE WERE STILL SOME PARTS OF THE CONSTITUTION OF WHICH HE DID NOT APPROVE, BUT HE SAID "THE OLDER I GROW, THE MORE APT I AM TO DOUBT MY OWN JUDGMENT, AND PAY MORE RESPECT TO THE JUDGMENT OF OTHERS." HE THEN ASKED THOSE DELEGATES WHO MAY STILL HAVE OBJECTIONS TO HIS CONSTITUTION, "TO DOUBT A LITTLE OF YOUR OWN INFALLIBILITY AND AFFIX YOUR SIGNATURES TO THE DOCUMENT IN SPITE OF YOUR OBJECTIONS." 39 OF THE 42 DELEGATES PRESENT THAT DAY, MANY OF THEM WITH SERIOUS RESERVATIONS ABOUT FEATURES OF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION, 39 OF THEM CAME FORWARD TO SIGN THE DOCUMENT AND DID SO IN PRECISELY THE SPIRIT OF FALLIBILITY AND CONCILIATION, WHICH FRANKLIN HAD URGED UPON THEM. AS WE LOOK BACK ON THEIR ACTIONS FROM THE VANTAGE POINT OF OUR AGE TODAY, IT DOES INDEED SEEM THAT ALL OF US HAVE MUCH TO LEARN FROM THE COLLECTIVE WISDOM AND HUMILITY DISPLAYED BY THOSE MEN WHO SPENT THAT SUMMER IN PHILADELPHIA. AS THE AMERICAN NATION CONFRONTS SUCH A DAUNTING ARRAY OF CHALLENGES, BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD, WE CAN ONLY HOPE THAT OUR POLITICAL LEADERS MIGHT ABSORB THAT PARTICULAR LESSON IN LEADERSHIP, IN HUMILITY, THE ABILITY TO DOUBT A LITTLE THEIR OWN IN SENSE OF INFALLIBILITY, THE WISDOM NOT TO ALLOW THE PERFECT TO BECOME THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD. WE CAN ONLY HOPE THAT OUR POLITICAL LEADERS TODAY MIGHT ABSORB THAT PARTICULAR LESSON IN LEADERSHIP FROM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, THE OLDEST OF OUR FOUNDING FATHERS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING TODAY AND FOR YOUR ATTENTION. I APPRECIATE IT VERY MUCH. THANK YOU. [APPLAUSE] >>THIS BYU FORUM ADDRESS

Biography

Brent was born in 1757, the eldest son of William Brent (1732-1782), from the same family as Margaret Brent, and Eleanor Carroll, sister of the future Archbishop John Carroll, at his father's estate, 'Richland' on the Potomac River in Stafford County, Virginia.[1][2] He pursued an education in law and was admitted to the bar and subsequently entered practice. Brent was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates representing Stafford County in 1788 and was elected to represent Prince William County, Virginia in 1793, 1794, 1800 and 1801.

Brent was elected in 1794 to the United States House of Representatives representing Virginia's 17th congressional district for the 4th and 5th Congresses, where he served from March 1795 to March 1799, when he returned to the Virginia House of Delegates. Brent was elected again to the U.S. House and served one two-year term during the 7th Congress from March 1801 to March 1803. He served in the Virginia State Senate from 1808 to 1810.[3][4]

Following his service in the Virginia State Senate, fellow delegates elected Brent to the United States Senate, where he served from March 1809 until his death in Washington, D.C., on December 30, 1814.

See also

References

  1. ^ Daniel M. French, Brent Family: the Carroll Families of Colonial Maryland (Alexandria, Va 1981) pp. 73. Eleanor Carroll was the sister of the future Archbishop John Carroll. However, this Richard Brent's brother, Daniel Carroll Brent (1759-1815), inherited 'Richland' and bequeathed it to his family, perhaps because Richard Brent never married.
  2. ^ Virginia Biographical Dictionary, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Somerset Publishers, 1999)
  3. ^
    • United States Congress. "Richard Brent (id: B000802)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  4. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Brent". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Richard B. Lee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 17th congressional district

March 4, 1795 – March 4, 1799
Succeeded by
Leven Powell
Preceded by
Leven Powell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 17th congressional district

March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1803
Succeeded by
Thomas Claiborne
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Andrew Moore
 U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Virginia
March 4, 1809 – December 30, 1814
Served alongside: William B. Giles
Succeeded by
James Barbour
This page was last edited on 22 September 2019, at 13:45
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