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What did our founding fathers do for a living?

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Plantation owners and farmers, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen-all included in the variety of Founding Father occupations. Below are a sampling of the occupations from our best known Founding Fathers. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, six individuals were major land speculators, including Robert Morris and Wilson. In addition to these land speculators, twelve Founding Fathers such as Mason and Washington owned or managed slave-operated plantations or large farms. Madison also owned slaves. Franklin, Robert Morris, and Sherman had jobs working with securities.


Thirteen people were businessmen, merchants, or shippers, including Robert Morris, Sherman, and Wilson. Two of the less known Fathers, Broom and Few, were small farmers. Supplementing his other employment, Franklin was known as a scientist. Although not as well know, McClurg, McHenry, and Williamson were physicians, and Johnson was a university president.


Madison studied theology and thirty-five Founding Fathers had legal training as lawyers.


Most of the Founding Fathers were employed in more than one type of occupation. Just as the occupations differed, so did the economic status of these men.


Most of the Founding Fathers incomes ranged from good to excellent.


Washington and Robert Morris ranked among the nation's most prosperous men. Although all of the Founding Fathers managed to live comfortably, among those with the most difficult economic statuses were Madison and Sherman. Madison received a major part of his income from public office. Riches came to Gouverneur Morris, Randolph, and Washington by being born into leading families. Others like Franklin, Hamilton, and Sherman were self-made men who had risen from humble beginnings.
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