Sons of the Founding Fathers

Do you remember career day in elementary school? Do you recall how you admired the fireman telling his exhilarating stories of extinguishing ravenous fires while saving lives? Perhaps you recall your pride in sharing with friends what your parents did for a living?  

Let your mind now wander back to late 1700s America for a moment. Put yourself in an eighteenth century school house in Massachusetts for the annual career day. Imagine the conversation that may have taken place after a young boy, following his Dad sharing the riveting tales of his blacksmithing duties, proudly stated:

“So, what does YOUR Dad do?”

Now imagine if the boy being asked that question was Philip Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton, first United States Secretary of the Treasury. With great pride, Philip’s answer would have likely been:

“Being a blacksmith sounds fun, but MY DAD was a founding father of the United States of America”. 

Or, what if that boy was William Jay, son of John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His answer to that question may have gleefully been: 

“Well, MY DAD was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Tell me again, what does YOUR Dad do?”

Insert mic drop moment! 

Let’s take a few moments to meet a few of the sons of the founding fathers. You have to wonder what pressure these boys were under to follow in their father’s footsteps. So, how exactly do you top being a founding father of the United States or a signer of the Declaration of Independence?  

“Though the argument is frequently made that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant, and that it is only the ability of a person which propels them through society, it is foolish to ignore the effects that a name can have how a person is judged by society—for better or worse.”1

Ryan Nadeau, The Gettysburg Compiler (2016)

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)

The son of a founding father that perhaps best followed in his father’s footsteps was John Quincy Adams. Why? Well, John Quincy Adams served as the sixth President of the United States from 1825-1829. And his father, John Adams, was the second President of the U.S. from 1797 to 1801.

John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767 in Braintree, Massachusetts. Braintree was the town my 9th great-grandfather, Edward Spalding, first settled in when he arrived in Massachusetts in the 1630s.

In 1775, at age eight, John Quincy watched the Battle of Bunker Hill in the early days of the American Revolution from the top of Penn’s Hill above the family farm.2

Let’s go back to an imagined elementary school career day during in the heat of the American Revolution. Perhaps the eight year old John Quincy Adams would have boasted:

“MY DAD is going to be president of our country, and someday I will be too!”

Surely a prophetic statement such as that would have generated jeers from John’s classmates. But that day ultimately came true on March 4, 1825, the day of John Quincy Adams’ presidential inauguration. 

On February 21, 1848, two decades after his presidency, now U.S. House of Representatives member, John Quincy Adams, suffered a stroke and collapsed at his desk on the floor of the House. Fellow House Representatives carried Adams to the Rotunda for fresh air and then to the Speaker’s Room. John Quincy Adams lapsed into a coma and died two days later at age eighty.3

Paul Joseph Revere (1832-1863)

Paul Joseph Revere was the grandson and namesake of American patriot, Paul Revere, best known for his “midnight ride” to alert the colonial militia of the march of British Forces toward Lexington and Concord in 1775.

Major Revere served with the 20th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War. In October 1861, he was wounded and taken prison by Confederate forces at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in Loudoun County, Virginia. Seven months later, he was back with the Union after a prisoner exchange.4 Major Revere was wounded again at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. Tragically, Dr. Edward Revere, another grandson of Paul Revere, was killed while caring for a wounded soldier on that same battlefield at Antietam.5 

Paul Joseph Revere was promoted to Colonel prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, on July 2, 1863, Colonel Revere was struck in the throat by a shell fragment. He lingered on, now fighting for his life, for two days, before dying a hero’s death at age thirty.1 Surely American Patriot, Paul Revere, would have been proud of the sacrifice of his two grandsons for the country he helped establish.

William Franklin (1730-1813)

William Franklin was the son of writer, inventor, diplomat, founding father, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin. William wins the award for least likely to follow in his father’s footsteps. Why? Well, you’d think with a resume like his father, Ben Franklin, William would be “all in” for the cause for freedom and independence from Great Britain. This, however, was not the case. William Franklin was a steadfast British Loyalist throughout the American Revolution. 

William was born on February 22, 1730. Benjamin Franklin publicly acknowledged the birth of his illegitimate son William and raised him in his household. William’s biological mother’s identity remains unknown.6

In 1763, William Franklin was appointed as the Royal Governor of New Jersey. He was the last governor of New Jersey put in place by the British government. He remained in office from 1763 to 1776. When Benjamin decided to take up the Patriot cause, he tried to convince his son William to join him, but he refused. So now, with Benjamin’s role as a founding father, and William’s loyalty to Britain, their relationship slowly deteriorated.6

William was ousted in 1776 by the American revolutionary government of New Jersey and placed under house arrest. After the Declaration of Independence was signed, William was formally taken into custody by order of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey. He was later incarcerated in Connecticut for two years and eventually released in a prisoner exchange with the British in 1778.6

Following the surrender of British troops to General Washington at Yorktown in 1781, William departed for Britain, never to return to the United States. William Franklin died in 1813 at age 83 and is buried in London.6

Philip Hamilton (1782-1801)

Philip Hamilton was the oldest child of Alexander Hamilton whose accolades were many. Alexander was a major general in the American Revolution, founding father of the United States, and trusted member of President George Washington’s cabinet, serving as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

Phillip Hamilton was born on January 22, 1782, one year prior to the end of the American Revolution. During an Independence Day speech on July 4, 1801, New York lawyer, George Eacker, made an accusation about Philip’s father implying that he would not be opposed to overthrowing Jefferson’s presidency. Four months later, Phillip confronted Eacker on that insult and formally challenged Eacker to a duel.7

Alexander advised his son Phillip to engage in a “delope”, the practice of deliberating firing the first shot into the ground in an attempt to avoid a fatal conflict. The duel took place on November 23, 1801 in Weehawken, New Jersey. Philip took his father’s advice, and refused to raise his pistol at Eacker. For the first minute, both men faced each other refusing to shoot. Then Eacker raised his pistol, and Philip did the same. Eacker shot first, striking Philip above his right hip. Phillip’s shot, as he fell to the ground, missing Eacker. Phillip died from his wound the next morning. He was just nineteen.7

Sound familiar? It should, as Phillip’s father, Alexander Hamilton, was mortally wounded in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burn three years later on July 11, 1804. Oddly enough, the Hamilton-Burr duel occurred at the same site in New Jersey as his son’s duel with Eacker.8 Want one more strange coincidence? Dr. David Hosack, the physician who attempted to save the life of Phillip, was the same doctor to attend to Alexander after his duel with Burn. Like his son Phillip, Alexander Hamilton died the following day from the gunshot wound received during his duel. Isn’t in interesting how history sometimes repeats itself?

What About Washington and Jefferson?

After reading this post, you may have wondered about the sons of the other, perhaps more famous, founding fathers. Names like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. 

George Washington married Martha Custis in 1759. George and Martha did not have children. There were, however, children present at their home at Mount Vernon. George helped raise Martha’s two children and her four grandchildren from her previous marriage to Daniel Custis who died in 1757.9

Thomas Jefferson married Martha Skelton in 1772. Together they had six children, however, only two, Martha and Mary, survived to adulthood. Thomas’ wife Martha Jefferson died a few months after childbirth in September of 1782.10

Thomas and Martha’s oldest child, Martha married Thomas Randolph in 1790 and had eleven children. After Thomas Jefferson’s retirement from public office, his daughter Martha and her children primarily resided at Monticello while her husband Thomas Randolph was serving in Richmond as Governor of Virginia.11

Today’s Desendants of the Founding Fathers

Did you know that descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are still alive today? The Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence is an active society, first founded in 1907, that is dedicated to upholding the memory and works of their ancestors in founding the United States of America. Learn more HERE

In today’s post, we shared the stories of just a few of the sons of our founding fathers of the United States. Stories of how these sons rode onto the national stage as their fathers began to retire to their farms. Some rose to greatness. Some lived a full life. Others, tragically, died so very young.

Fortitude Book

If you love U.S. history, and enjoy stories of ordinary, faithful, patriotic and hardworking people, you may be interested in my book:

Fortitude: Preserving 400 Years of an American Family’s Faith, Patriotism, Grit and Determination

Fortitude is an action-packed journey through history through the eyes of an American family that lived it. From ancient ancestral roots in England, to over 400 hundred years in America, Fortitude brings our forebears alive as it immerses the reader in the historical context of the day. Learn about the book HERE.


  1. Nadeau, R. (2016) Sons of our Founding Fathers: Men of Renewed Lineage and the American Civil War. The Gettysburg Compiler. Accessed from on January 18, 2023. 
  2. The White House. John Quincy Adams. Accessed from on January 20, 2023. 
  3. History, Art & Archives. The Death of Representative John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts. Accessed from on January 20, 2023. 
  4. Wikipedia. Paul Joseph Revere. Accessed from  on January 18, 2023. 
  5. Antietam on the Web. Assistant Surgeon Edward Hutchinson Robbins Revere. Accessed from on January 18, 2023.
  6. Wikipedia. William Franklin. Accessed from  on January 21, 2023. 
  7. Wikipedia. Philip Hamilton. Accessed from on January 23, 2023. 
  8. National Park Service. Hamilton-Burr Duel. Accessed from on January 23, 2023. 
  9. Raised by the Washingtons. Accessed from  on January 24, 2023. 
  10. Encyclopedia Virginia. Jefferson, Thomas and His Family. Accessed from on January 25, 2023. 
  11. Martha Jefferson Randolph. Accessed from on January 25, 2023. 


  1. Featured Image: Trumbull, J. (1819). Signing of the Declaration of Independence is in the public domain and was accessed from,_by_John_Trumbull.jpg  on January 30, 2023. 
  2. Sully, T. (1824). Portrait of John Quincy Adams is in the public domain and was accessed from  on January 30, 2023. 
  3. Painter unknown. Portrait of Paul Joseph Revere was accessed from on January 30, 2023. 
  4. Brown, M. (circa 1790). Portrait of William Franklin is in the public domain and was accessed from on January 30, 2023. 
  5. Source unknown. Drawing of Philip Hamilton originally published in Allan McLane Hamilton’s, The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton, was accessed from on January 30, 2023.  

Published by Dale Spaulding

Family historian and author of Fortitude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: