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Episode One Character Descriptions

JOHN ADAMS (1735-1826).Delegate from Massachusetts. The most outspoken advocate for independence in the Second Continental Congress, he was “obnoxious, suspected and unpopular” by his own admission and was viewed by his colleagues as impetuous, vain, and highly opinionated. Nevertheless, he commanded respect for his integrity and intellect. While deferential to fellow delegates Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, he was openly contemptuous of John Dickinson.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-1790).Delegate from Pennsylvania. Wise in the ways of courts and empires, he was the most famous man in America. Supported by a cane, his long hair trailing over his shoulders, he personified philosophic tranquility. After spending a decade as the colonies’ agent to the Court of St. James, his inclination toward compromise conflicted with his renewed identity as an American. In Congress he served as intermediary (usually without success) between John Adams and John Dickinson.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (1743-1826). Delegate from Virginia. Elected to Congress as a replacement for his mother’s cousin, he was an unknown when he arrived in Philadelphia. Soft-spoken and modest, he was neither an effective speaker nor a political heavyweight. Throughout his tenure in Congress, it was his wish to return home and tend to his ailing wife. Yet time and circumstances conspired to secure his place in history as the author of the Declaration of Independence.

JOHN DICKINSON (1732-1808). Delegate from Pennsylvania. The opposite of John Adams in personality and temperament and his chief rival in Congress, the “farmer from Pennsylvania” sought to the end to mend fences with the Mother Country. Adams called him a “piddling genius”. More charitable colleagues thought of him as well-meaning if wrong-headed. No matter. The unfortunate Mr. Dickinson, by refusing to sign the Declaration of Independence, was to find himself on the wrong side of history.

Episode Two Character Descriptions

JAMES MADISON (1751-1836).Delegate from Virginia. Today we remember him as the Father of the Constitution more than as the fourth president of the United States. Slight-of-build, high-strung and persnickety, he had an obsession to detail that proved to be a good thing: His handwritten journal is the most complete record we have of the Constitutional Convention. Of all the delegates he was the most politically astute. His Virginia Plan became largely the model for the new Constitution.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1755?-1804). Delegate from New York. John Adams called him “the bastard brat of a Scottish peddler.” Born out of wedlock, he left his native West Indies as a teenager to seek his fortune in North America. Ambitious and highly intelligent, he reveled in the Revolution and rose through the military ranks to become General Washington’s aide-de-camp. In the Convention his prickly disposition and outspoken fondness for British monarchy alienated many of his fellow delegates.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-1790). Delegate from Pennsylvania. Supported by a cane, his long hair trailing over his shoulder, he personified philosophic tranquility. His wisdom and wit often eased tensions among the delegates. Notes historian Richard Beeman: “Franklin’s contributions to the debates…were often quirky, but his final speech, urging the delegates to put the need for a harmonious union above their own interests…marked a decisive moment in the process of making the Constitution.”

GOUVERNEUR MORRIS (1752-1816). Delegate from Pennsylvania. Born into a family of wealth and privilege, Morris had the demeanor of an aristocrat and the life style of a rogue. He was fond of spirits and pleasures of the flesh; he walked with a wooden leg, the consequence of a romantic tryst. At the Constitutional Convention he spoke more often— and more bombastically—than any other delegate. Yet he was a gifted writer. Few people today know that it was he who wrote the final draft of the Constitution.

GEORGE WASHINGTON (1732-1799). President of the Convention (surprise cameo). Having reluctantly agreed to attend the Convention and skeptical of its outcome, Washington did not miss a single day of the proceedings. Although he barely uttered a word during the debates, his charismatic presence and evenhandedness in presiding over the deliberations cemented his reputation as America’s “indispensable man.”

Episode Three Character Descriptions

THOMAS JEFFERSON (1743-1826).Champion of the Bill of Rights. While conspicuously absent from the Constitutional Convention and the ratification debates (he was Minister to France at the time), he nagged James Madison and others from across the Atlantic on the need to add a bill of rights to the Constitution.

JAMES MADISON (1751-1836). Father of the Constitution. Slight-of-build, high-strung and persnickety, he worked harder than any other Founder to frame a government for the new nation. Then, with Alexander Hamilton, he helped sell it to the American people. While initially opposed to adding a bill of rights, he eventually became its author.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1755?-1804). Principal author of the Federalist Papers. While disappointed in the outcome of the Constitutional Convention—he had in fact proposed a monarchy on the British model—he became with James Madison the Constitution’s most articulate spokesperson. Only recently has history given him his due.

PATRICK HENRY (1736-1799). Orator of the Revolution. While his fiery speeches stirred his fellow Virginians to rebel against the British, he stubbornly resisted a federal constitution. Next to his “Liberty or Death” speech calling for arms, his “We the People, We the States” speech opposing ratification is perhaps his best remembered.