Founding Fathers and the American Civil War

I was reading an article and was wondering if there is anything out there to indicate that the Founding Fathers saw the potential for conflict regarding these specific points:

  1. Economic and social differences between the North and the South.
  2. States versus federal rights.

Is there any evidence to indicate that during and after the Revolutionary War (the time frame during which the United States was being formed into its own country), some of the Founding Fathers saw the potential for future conflicts that might lead to national dispute?

Is there any evidence that would suggest certain Founding Fathers warned that such issues could lead to a Civil War?

Is there any evidence to suggest that any were aware that such a dispute had a high chance of happening, but decided to forge ahead with the confidence that the newly formed government could resolve such issues over time?

I do not think that there exists evidence to show that the founding fathers anticipated a civil war would break out over the issue of slavery. The founding fathers were largely against the institution of slavery, but the southern delegates (where the economy was completely dependent upon slavery) were for the institution.

There were some steps taken to mitigate the effects of slavery. There is no mention of the word "slave," or "slavery" in the Constitution. The importation of slaves was to become illegal by 1808, so the founders had in place a system to limit the increase via importation. Southern states wanted slaves to be counted as full people for appropriation purposes, but that was eventually narrowed down to 3/5ths. The reality was that the founders didn't think they could make the US work without the support of the Southern states and as such they punted on the slavery issue, but managed to sneak in the power to regulate slavery with the importation ban.

The discussions of the Constitutional Convention show a desire to do away with the institution, but nothing about potential war resulting from allowing the institution to persist.

For further reading:

There are lengthy discussions on the topic of factions and mitigating the risks of insurrection in the Federalist Papers and in the responses written by anti-Federalists. The most notable paper on this subject was Federalist No. 10.


Pauline Maier "Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution" is an excellent source for both of these questions.

With respect to your first question about economic differences, consult any discussion of the Bank of the United States, the arguments between Hamilton (who argued for a commercial country) and Jefferson (who argued for a pastoral anti-commercial country). Southern states were nearly hysterical in their fear of "Northern Stock Jobbers". Or consult the controversy over the Jay treaty that almost sunk the country before it started (briefly, Northern states were willing to trade away the Mississippi in exchange for commerce, while Southern states were horrified that we would make any compromise with Great Britain.

State vs Federal rights. This was one of the chief impediments to the passage of the constitution. One of the centers of opposition in all states was by people who feared what would happen if the constitution were passed without a bill of rights limiting the power of the Federal Government. Pauline Maier's book, and Jack Rackove's lectures on iTunes are another excellent source.

Your question ignores several obvious sources of evidence. Look at the compromises needed to found the country - each of these were issues where the two sides were willing to fail rather than give in to the other.

  • Bicameral legislature - The legislature could not be formed on the basis of population nor on states. This is a key source for "states rights", but it is based in part on population counts vs development & commerce. Virginia argued for a legislature based on population, while the North pursued the Connecticut plan based on state representation. Randolph and Madison propoosed the compromise, but both sides were eager to walk from the table rather than to allow the country to be formed on the principles of the opposition.
  • The 3/5 compromise - another "walk from the table" where both sides were very aware that compromise could imperil their way of life. There is a reason for Section 9 of the constitution which forbids consideration of halting the external slave trade until 1808; they knew that this was an issue that would fracture the Republic if considered too early.
  • Location of the Capitol. The first two capitols were in the North (Philadelphia, and New York) The South wanted the Capitol in the South. Jefferson and Hamilton reached an agreement that the Capitol would be established in a Federal District near the boundary between North & South. (technically teh boundary was the Mason Dixon Line, but Virginia has always considered itself not just the center of the country, but the center of the Universe).

There is ample evidence that the founding fathes saw the potential for future conflicts. You extended the question to ask whether they foresaw civil war. That's a bit more subtle, and I'm not sure what you mean. They had seen Shay's rebellion (over the rights of rural farmers against commercial interests), the government held hostage in Philadelphia by soldiers. They had to force Rhode Island to join the Union (not by force of arms, but I think it is relevant). Within a few years Burr led a seccessionist conspiracy, one of the other Northern states tried to secede, and Jefferson was created West Point because he feared the military might of the Northern states.

Yes, they foresaw the country splitting back up into states, and that would very likely engender conflict (in the short or long term, low intensity or high intensity conflict).

There does not appear to be any reliable empirical evidence suggesting that The U.S. Founding Fathers ever anticipated The American Civil War. James Madison, was probably the last of the Founding Fathers generation and passed away in 1836, nearly 25 years before the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. Madison, in a way, was the last of the Founding Fathers generation, though there seems to be no significant evidence that I am aware of which indicates that James Madison anticipated The Civil War.

The best foreshadowing example I can think with regard to the bitter and contentious division between the Founding Fathers, is the Jefferson-Hamilton division. Thomas Jefferson was a Governor, a Tobacco Farmer, as well as a Slave Owner who believed in the principles of small government-(i.e. a small federal government), whereas Alexander Hamilton-(future Secretary of the Treasury), was an emigre to New York City and in a way, was the earliest Founder of American Liberalism-(i.e. a Large Centrally empowered Federal Government). Jefferson and Hamilton despised each other; their ideological and philosophical feuding, perhaps was an early indicator of the deeply rooted cultural divisions-(especially regarding slavery) within the Northern and Southern United States. Admittedly, it is a stretch of the historical imagination to say that the Jefferson-Hamilton feud presaged/foretold The U.S. Civil War, though such a division did exist generations before Fort Sumter.

The Founding Fathers

When the Founding Fathers embarked on a grand experiment to create a government for a fledgling nation, they likely never anticipated how successful their experiment would be.

Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History

Washington at the Constitutional Convention

Before becoming the the United States' first president, George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, which established the nation's Constitution. "Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention" was painted by Junius Brutus Stearn.

Photograph by Ian Dagnall/Alamy Stock Photo

In the 1760s and 1770s, growing discontent with British rule caused its American colonists to begin to discuss their options. In 1774, leaders of the various colonies came together in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at what has since become known as the First Continental Congress. Shortly after hostilities broke out between British troops and American colonists at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, these men met once again. The Second Continental Congress declared independence from Britain and later drafted the Articles of Confederation, which would dictate how the newly independent states were to be governed. Many of these same men were sent to Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation. In early discussions, the delegates determined that the Articles needed more than just revisions and set about writing a new Constitution&mdashthe Constitution that continues to rule the United States to this day. These men were responsible for forging a new nation. Collectively, they are often referred to as the Founding Fathers.

Who Were the Founding Fathers?

Historians have varied opinions about exactly who should be included on the list of Founding Fathers, or how large this list should be. Some names&mdashGeorge Washington, James Madison, and John Adams&mdashare obvious, but others may be more debatable. Fifty-five delegates attended the Constitutional Convention, each of whom had an important part to play. There were also men&mdashThomas Jefferson, most notably&mdashwho were not at the Constitutional Convention but who nonetheless played a critical role in the foundation of the country. Jefferson not only wrote the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, but also provided counsel to the Constitutional Convention from Paris, France, where he was serving as the minister to France.

The Founding Fathers were, relatively speaking, a diverse group. They were doctors and lawyers, merchants and farmers. Each brought his own unique knowledge, experiences, and ideas. Most of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had experience in politics and/or government. With the Revolutionary War behind them, they looked to the future. They agreed that they wanted liberty, but they did not all agree on the best course of action for the country, the appropriate role of government, or the optimal governmental structure that would balance liberty with order.

Roles and Responsibilities

By definition, the Founding Fathers played key roles in the founding of the country, but some played particularly critical parts. As with any group, their strength was often gained from their differences. Without the fiery tempers of Bostonians John Adams and Samuel Adams, the colonies may have decided to appease Parliament and back down from demanding their rights. Instead, the persuasive voices of patriots like journalist Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry gave credence to their cause and contributed to a sense of patriotism that swept the colonies. John Hancock, best remembered for his large looping signature as the first signer of the Declaration of Independence, also served as the president of the Continental Congress.

The Founding Fathers served one another well during these challenging and unstable times. During the American Revolution, George Washington led the Continental Army to victory over a much larger and better equipped British army. As president of the Constitutional Convention, Washington was instrumental in ensuring that all opinions were heard and in keeping discussions on track. As Washington presided, fellow Virginian James Madison took copious notes on the proceedings. Not just any Founding Father, Madison is often called the Father of the Constitution.

At 81 years of age, Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was hampered by ill health, yet missed just a few sessions&mdasheven when he was so weak he had to be carried in the sessions. By then, Franklin had already earned a name in the history books for his role in drafting the Declaration of Independence and negotiating the 1783 Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War.

The Founding Fathers did not just craft the new government, they also ensured its success. After the Constitutional Convention, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote a series of 85 articles and essays under the pseudonym &ldquoPublius&rdquo to urge states to ratify the historic document. In what were later published as the &ldquoFederalist Papers,&rdquo these three Founding Fathers painstakingly set about describing the features of the government and explaining its advantages. To address concerns that a strong national government might encroach on the rights of citizens, Madison also wrote a series of amendments outlining the rights of the people, which were added to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights in 1791.

The Grand Experiment

The Founding Fathers often viewed their new government as an experiment, but this was an experiment they desperately wanted to succeed. Where differences arose, the Founding Fathers hammered out compromises, working together for more than four months to &ldquoform a more perfect union,&rdquo as described in the preamble to the Constitution.

Their experiment resulted in a constitutional republican form of government that has withstood both internal and external threats, including a bloody Civil War, and has led the United States to become the most powerful country in the world. In the end, the legacy of the Founding Fathers is the promise of liberty and justice, not only for Americans, but for any people willing to invest in democratic self-government.

Before becoming the the United States' first president, George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, which established the nation's Constitution. "Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention" was painted by Junius Brutus Stearn.

Founding Fathers and Slaveholders

Americans in great numbers are rediscovering their founding fathers in such best-selling books as Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers, David McCullough’s John Adams and my own Undaunted Courage, about Lewis and Clark. There are others who believe that some of these men are unworthy of our attention because they owned slaves, Washington, Jefferson, Clark among them, but not Adams. They failed to rise above their time and place, though Washington (but not Jefferson) freed his slaves. But history abounds with ironies. These men, the founding fathers and brothers, established a system of government that, after much struggle, and the terrible violence of the Civil War, and the civil rights movement led by black Americans, did lead to legal freedom for all Americans and movement toward equality.

Related Content

Let’s begin with Thomas Jefferson, because it is he who wrote the words that inspired subsequent generations to make the heroic sacrifices that transformed the words "All men are created equal" into reality.

In 1996 I was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin. The History Club there asked me to participate in a panel discussion on "Political Correctness and the University." The professor seated next to me taught American political thought. I remarked to her that when I began teaching I had required students to read five or six books each semester, but I had cut that back to three or four or else the students would drop my course. She said she had the same problem. She had dropped Thomas Jefferson’s writings from the required reading list.

"You are in Madison, being paid by the citizens of Wisconsin to teach their children American political thought, and you leave out Tom Jefferson?"

"Yes," she replied. "He was a slaveholder." More than half the large audience applauded.

Jefferson owned slaves. He did not believe that all were created equal. He was a racist, incapable of rising above the thought of his time and place, and willing to profit from slave labor.

Few of us entirely escape our times and places. Thomas Jefferson did not achieve greatness in his personal life. He had a slave as mistress. He lied about it. He once tried to bribe a hostile reporter. His war record was not good. He spent much of his life in intellectual pursuits in which he excelled and not enough in leading his fellow Americans toward great goals by example. Jefferson surely knew slavery was wrong, but he didn’t have the courage to lead the way to emancipation. If you hate slavery and the terrible things it did to human beings, it is difficult to regard Jefferson as great. He was a spendthrift, always deeply in debt. He never freed his slaves. Thus the sting in Dr. Samuel Johnson’s mortifying question, "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?"

Jefferson knew slavery was wrong and that he was wrong in profiting from the institution, but apparently could see no way to relinquish it in his lifetime. He thought abolition of slavery might be accomplished by the young men of the next generation. They were qualified to bring the American Revolution to its idealistic conclusion because, he said, these young Virginians had "sucked in the principles of liberty as if it were their mother’s milk."

Of all the contradictions in Jefferson’s contradictory life, none is greater. Of all the contradictions in America’s history, none surpasses its toleration first of slavery and then of segregation. Jefferson hoped and expected that Virginians of Meriwether Lewis’ and William Clark’s generation would abolish slavery. His writing showed that he had a great mind and a limited character.

Jefferson, like all slaveholders and many other white members of American society, regarded Negroes as inferior, childlike, untrustworthy and, of course, as property. Jefferson, the genius of politics, could see no way for African-Americans to live in society as free people. He embraced the worst forms of racism to justify slavery.

In Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson describes the institution of slavery as forcing tyranny and depravity on master and slave alike. To be a slaveholder meant one had to believe that the worst white man was better than the best black man. If you did not believe these things, you could not justify yourself to yourself. So Jefferson could condemn slavery in words, but not in deeds.

At his magnificent estate, Monticello, Jefferson had slaves who were superb artisans, shoemakers, masons, carpenters, cooks. But like every bigot, he never said, after seeing a skilled African craftsman at work or enjoying the fruits of his labor, "Maybe I’m wrong." He ignored the words of his fellow revolutionary John Adams, who said that the Revolution would never be complete until the slaves were free.

Jefferson left another racial and moral problem for his successors, the treatment of Native Americans. He had no positive idea what to do with or about the Indians. He handed that problem over to his grandchildren, and theirs.

The author of the Declaration of Independence threw up his hands at the question of women’s rights. It is not as if the subject never came up. Abigail Adams, at one time Jefferson’s close friend, raised it. But Jefferson’s attitude toward women was at one with that of the white men of his age. He wrote about almost everything, but almost never about women, not about his wife nor his mother and certainly not about Sally Hemings.

So it is of particular irony to admit that Jefferson was as remarkable a man as America has produced. "Spent the evening with Mr. Jefferson," John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary in 1785, "whom I love to be with. You can never be an hour in the man’s company without something of the marvelous." And even Abigail Adams wrote of him, "He is one of the choice ones of the earth."

Jefferson was born rich and became well educated. He was a man of principle (except for slaves, Indians, and women). His civic duty was paramount to him. He read, deeply and widely, more than any other president of the United States except, possibly, Theodore Roosevelt. He wrote well and with more productivity and skill than any other president except, perhaps, Theodore Roosevelt. Wherever Jefferson sat was the head of the table. Those few who got to dine with him around a small table always recalled his charm, wit, insights, queries, explanations, gossip, curiosity, and above all else his laughter.

Jefferson’s range of knowledge was astonishing. Science in general. Flora and fauna specifically. Geography. Fossils. The classics and modern literature. Languages. Politicians of all types. Politics, state by state, county by county. International affairs. He was an intense partisan. He loved music and playing the violin. He wrote countless letters about his philosophy, observations of people and places. In his official correspondence, Jefferson maintained a level of eloquence not since equaled. I’ve spent much of my professional life studying presidents and generals, reading their letters, examining their orders to subordinates, making an attempt to judge them. None match Jefferson.

In spite of these rare abilities, Jefferson was not a hero. His great achievements were words. Except for the Louisiana Purchase, his actions as president fall short. But those words! He was the author of the Declaration of Independence. The second paragraph begins with a perfect sentence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Those words, as the historian Samuel Eliot Morison has said, "are more revolutionary than anything written by Robespierre, Marx, or Lenin, a continual challenge to ourselves, as well as an inspiration to the oppressed of all the world." Eventually, with Lincoln, who articulated and lived these truths, and slowly afterward, the idea made its progress.

Jefferson was the author of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, a doctrine that spread throughout the United States. He is the father of our religious freedom. It is, next to the words of our independence, his greatest gift, save only perhaps our commitment to universal education, which also comes to us via Jefferson.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was based on Jefferson’s "Report of a Plan of Government for the Western Territory" written three years earlier. In it, he made certain that when the populations of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan were large enough, these and other territories would come into the Union as fully equal states. They would have the same number of senators and representatives as the original thirteen. They would elect their own governors, and so on. He was the first who had the thought that colonies should be equal to the thirteen original members of the Union. No one before him had proposed such a thing. Empires were run by the "mother country," with the king appointing the governors. It was Jefferson who decided that we wouldn’t do it that way in the United States. The territories would be states. He applied the principles of the Northwest Ordinance to the Louisiana Purchase territories, and by later extension to the West Coast. It was Jefferson who envisioned an empire of liberty that stretched from sea to shining sea.

Washington and Jefferson were both rich Virginia planters, but they were never friends. Washington did not have Jefferson’s IQ. He was not anywhere near as good a writer. He was not as worldly. He had less formal education than any subsequent president, except Abraham Lincoln. He towered over his contemporaries, literally so. He was a six-foot-three general his soldiers averaged five-foot-eight. He was not a good general, or so his critics say. His army lost more battles than it won.

But Washington held the Continental Army together, "in being" as the military expression puts it, and he had a masterly judgment of when and where and how to strike the British in order to raise morale among his soldiers and throughout his country—perhaps most symbolic was his crossing the Delaware River at Christmastime in 1776, when in a lightning week of campaigning he picked off the British garrisons at Trenton and Princeton, taking many prisoners and valuable supplies. The next winter he spent with his soldiers in a freezing Valley Forge. From there, he directed the strategy of the war, turned the Revolutionary army from a ragtag collection into a solid regular army, forced the politicians in Congress to support him, and emerged as the one who would lead the nation through the Revolutionary War.

Washington’s character was rock solid. At the center of events for 24 years, he never lied, fudged, or cheated. He shared his army’s privations, though never pretended to be "one of the men." Washington came to stand for the new nation and its republican virtues, which was why he became our first president by unanimous choice and, in the eyes of many, including this author, our greatest.

Washington personifies the word "great." In his looks, in his regular habits, in his dress and bearing, in his generalship and his political leadership, in his ability to persuade, in his sure grip on what the new nation needed (above all else, not a king), and in his optimism no matter how bad the American cause looked, he rose above all others. He established the thought, "We can do it," as an integral part of the American spirit. He was indispensable, "first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." Abigail Adams, again, so insightful in her descriptions, quoted John Dryden to describe Washington: "Mark his majestic fabric. He’s a temple sacred from his birth and built by hands divine."

Of the nine presidents who owned slaves, only Washington freed his. He resisted efforts to make him a king and established the precedent that no one should serve more than two terms as president. He voluntarily yielded power. His enemy, George III, remarked in 1796, as Washington’s second term was coming to an end, "If George Washington goes back to his farm, he will be the greatest character of his age." As George Will wrote, "the final component of Washington’s indispensability was the imperishable example he gave by proclaiming himself dispensable."

Washington was a slaveholder. In New Orleans, in the late 1990s, George Washington Elementary School was renamed Charles Richard Drew Elementary School, after the developer of blood-banking. I don’t see how we can take down the name of the man whose leadership brought this nation through the Revolutionary War and who turned down a real chance to be the first king of the nation.

"But he was a slaveholder," students sometimes say to me.

"Listen, he was our leader in the Revolution, to which he pledged his life, his fortune, and his honor. Those were not idle pledges. What do you think would have happened to him had he been captured by the British Army?

"I’ll tell you. He would have been brought to London, tried, found guilty of treason, ordered executed, and then drawn and quartered. Do you know what that means? He would have had one arm tied to one horse, the other arm to another horse, one leg to yet another, and the other leg to a fourth. Then the four horses would have been simultaneously whipped and started off at a gallop, one going north, another south, another east and the fourth to the west.

"That is what Washington risked to establish your freedom and mine."

Our nation’s capital abounds with commemorations of our president heroes, including the Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR memorials. The one that stands out is the WashingtonMonument, the tallest, most superbly designated, and most immediately recognized. It is our tribute to the man who won the Revolutionary War and who, as our first president, did more than anyone to create the republic. Jefferson extended it from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. Lincoln preserved it. Franklin Roosevelt led it to triumph in the greatest war ever fought. But it was George Washington who set the republican standard. So long as this republic lasts, he will stand first.

The Mall that stretches out from Washington’s monument has been the scene of controversy, protest, and persuasion, as it should be in a democracy. There, our national discord has been on display, and our national step-by-step progress demonstrated for. There, Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke the words that characterized and led the way to civil rights for African-Americans and all other Americans: "I have a dream." There, citizens, including my wife and I, gathered in huge numbers to protest the Vietnam War.

The WashingtonMonument and the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials remind us that greatness comes in different forms and at a price. Jefferson, by his words, gave us aspirations. Washington, through his actions, showed us what was possible. Lincoln’s courage turned both into reality.

Slavery and discrimination cloud our minds in the most extraordinary ways, including a blanket judgment today against American slave owners in the 18th and 19th centuries. That the masters should be judged as lacking in the scope of their minds and hearts is fair, indeed must be insisted upon, but that doesn’t mean we should judge the whole of them only by this part.

In his last message to America, on June 24, 1826, ten days before he died on July 4 (the same day that John Adams died), Jefferson declined an invitation to be in Washington for the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote, "All eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them."

He died with hope that the future would bring to fruition the promise of equality. For Jefferson, that was the logic of his words, the essence of the American spirit. He may not have been a great man in his actions, or in his leadership. But in his political thought, he justified that hope.

Willie Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow became celebrities in France, where they were befriended by the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, and actress Maria Schneider, who had co-starred with Marlon Brando in The Last Tango in Paris. Eventually, however, Cathy dumped Willie in 1977, telling him she was going to Switzerland to get some new fake documents, and never came back.

FBI agents escorting Willie Roger Holder off an Air France plane in New York&rsquos JFK Airport after his voluntary return to America. Associated Press

Willie eventually agreed to face justice in America, returned in 1986, and did two years in a federal prison. Upon his release, he struggled to find his place in society, and made a living mostly as a day laborer, before dying in 2012 at age 62. As for Cathy, she never resurfaced after vanishing into Switzerland in the 1970s.

The Welsh in America – American Presidents of Welsh Descent

For such a small country, Wales has certainly punched above its weight in terms of its contribution to one of the most powerful nations of the modern era – you could even call it our most successful colony! In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries large numbers of Welsh settlers made their way to ‘the New World’ in search of a better life, mostly for religious and economic reasons. Given the number of Welsh settlers in America, it is perhaps then no surprise that there is a significant number of American Presidents of Welsh descent – who knows, perhaps you are distantly related to one of them?

Founding Father and Early Presidents

Did you know the Welshman William Penn actually wanted to call Pennsylvania New Wales? Unfortunately he wasn’t allowed to , but I can tell you that an amazing five out of six of the first presidents of America were of Welsh descent – this is an amazing statistic, and shows just how much influence little old Wales had on the founding of America.

John Adams – 2nd President (1735 – 1826)

One of the official Founding Fathers of the United States of America, John Adams became the 2nd President in 1797 (after serving as the first Vice-President) and the first one to live in what is now called the White House. He was a vocal advocate for American independence from Great Britain, and served on the committee which drafted the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams’ ancestors originated from Carmarthenshire – from Drefach, Felindre and Penbanc Farm near Llanboidy to be exact.

Adams died on the 4th of July 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and the same day as Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson – 3rd President (1743 – 1826)

Another founding father, Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State for America. However, he is probably most well-known for being the author of the Declaration of Independence, the statement that declared the then 13 American states as sovereign states in their own right and not subject to British rule.

We have Jefferson’s own written word to confirm his Welsh ancestry. When he was 77 years old he wrote in one of his diaries ‘The tradition in my father’s family is that their ancestors came to this country from Wales, from the region of Snowdon, highest mountain in Great Britain’. Jefferson’s father also named the family plantation in Virginia Snowdon after their homeland.

Thomas Jefferson also read, spoke, and wrote Welsh – this is evidenced by his correspondence with his principal aid and fellow Welshie icon Merriwether Lewis, who corresponded with Jefferson in Welsh in all his dispatches.

James Madison – 4th President (1751 – 1836)

Also known as ‘the father of the constitution’, founding father Madison was pivotal in drafting and promoting (surprise, surprise) the US Constitution. He also sponsored the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the constitution) and co-authored the Federalist Papers.

One of his maternal great-great grandfathers, Daniel Gaines, was born to Welsh parents.

James Monroe – 5th President (1758-1831)

Another ‘official’ founding father, Monroe served two terms as President, from 1817 to 1825. He is also the only person in American history to hold two cabinet posts at once – he held the positions of both Secretary of State and Secretary of War in Madison’s cabinet.

Monroe’s mother, Elizabeth Jones, was born in Virginia after her father, James Jones, emigrated there from Wales. Unfortunately, we don’t know where in Wales Jones came from, but we do know he was an architect.

Eerily, Monroe also passed away on the 4th of July 1831 – five years after Adams and Jefferson had died on the same day

John Quincy Adams – 6th President (1767 – 1848)

Quincy Adams was son of the second President and founding father John Adams, and – until George W Bush – the only son of a former President to take on the role as well. However, it is generally agreed by historians that his real achievements took place in his pre-presidential years when he was a diplomat and Secretary of State. He is widely recognised as one of American’s greatest ever diplomats.

19th Century

William Henry Harrison – 9th President (1773 – 1841)

You may not have heard of William Harrison as, unfortunately, he holds the title for the shortest presidency at 31 days. He died on April the 4th 1841 from pneumonia after delivering his inaugural address in a heavy rainstorm exactly one month earlier. He also holds the record for the longest inaugural address – which he delivered with no hat or coat, hence the pneumonia! Harrison was also the last American President to be born a British subject.

Harrison was a descendent of Sir Thomas Harrison, a general in Oliver Cromwell’s army. His great-grandfather was born Henry Harris, a smallholder from Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire. Henry’s son (another Henry) moved first to Wrexham, than to Nantwich, Cheshire, before changing the family surname from Harris to Harrison. It was Henry Jr.’s son Benjamin who ended up emigrating to America, signing the Declaration of Independence and siring little William Henry along the way.

Abraham Lincoln – 16th President (1809 – 1865)

Probably one of the most famous American Presidents, Abe Lincoln led the United States successfully through the American Civil War, preserving the Union and abolishing slavery along the way.

This great man had Welsh ancestry by the bucket load. Lincoln’s great-great-grandfather, John Morris, was a farmer in Ysbyty Ifan in North Wales. His daughter, Ellen, emigrated to the United States with a group of Quakers. There, she married Cadwalader Evans.

Cadwalader was born in Ucheldre, a small hamlet near Bala in 1664. His father, Evan Lloyd Evans, was buried in nearby Llanfor and it appears as if Cadwalader’s grandfather, Evan ap Robert ap Lewis, moved to the area from Ysbyty Ifan, Denbighshire.

Ellen and Cadwalader had a daughter Sarah who, in 1711, married a John Hanks. Their granddaughter Nancy was Abraham’s mother.

It seems Lincoln was fully aware of the number and prominence of the Welsh in America – in 1860, he had 100,000 Welsh language election pamphlets printed for an election campaign.

Lincoln was famously assassinated on a trip to the theatre in Washington D.C. on the 14th of April 1865 by Confederate supporter John Wilkes Booth.

James Abraham Garfield – 20th President (1831 – 1881)

Garfield is the only sitting member of the Senate in American history to be elected as president. Some people who knew him recorded that Garfield had stated in conversation his father had emigrated from Caerphilly.

He was subject to an assassination attempt on the 2nd of July 1881, after only a few months in office, by a disgruntled lawyer and writer. He was shot with a gun, but not fatally – he eventually died on the 19th of September due to an infection bought about by his doctors not properly cleaning their hands.

Presidents of the 20th and 21st Century

Richard Nixon – 37th President (1913 – 1994)

Nixon is one of those infamous presidents who everyone is aware of, even if you are interested in politics or not. He is most well-known for being the first (and so far only) American President to resign from office. This was because he was almost certainly going to be impeached for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

Nixon has Welsh ancestry several times over, including some early settlers – ancestors include Howell Griffiths from Carmarthenshire, who emigrated to Philidelphia in 1690, and Huw Harris from Montgomershire, who emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1689. His great-grandmother was descended from a Thomas Price who emigrated to America from Wales in 1634, just 14 years after the Mayflower landed. Other ancestors came from Merionethshire and Narbeth in Pembrokeshire.

Barack Obama – 44th President (1961 – present)

Yes, even Barack Obama has Welsh ancestry! His six times great-grandparents Henry and Margaret Perry emigrated to Ohio from Anglesey at the beginning of the 19th century.

First Ladies

While the first president of the United States, George Washington, may not have been of Welsh extraction, his wife Martha Washington (1731 – 1802) was. Born Martha Dandridge, her mother Frances was the daughter of a Welsh clergyman, the Reverend Orlando Jones.

Former First Lady and recent Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton (1947 to present) also has Welsh ancestry. Her great-grandfather was John Jones, a miner from Llangynidr, and her great-grandmother was Mary Griffiths, from Abergavenny. They moved to Pennsylvania in 1879.

Founding Fathers and the American Civil War - History

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

- Letter from President Abraham Lincoln to the
Editor of the New York Times, Horace Greeley

The reason being, American Cotton supplied 75% of the World's Cotton.

Nevertheless, the Civil was not about "Evils of Slavery" as the Slaves did really well and all of their basic needs were met as Cotton was King. That is, in 300 years of Slavery, the starting 388,000 slaves grew to become 4,000,000 slaves working side by side and raising healthy families generation after generation. Moreover, if the Slaves actually wanted to run away, it should be asked that if absentee plantation landowners existed before the Civil War, then the "masters" were never at the plantation. Hence, the slaves had ample time to run away.

But isn't the Civil War about *not* creating another Africa or Europe where there are constant wars between the countries, or this case the States? In the Bigger Picture of History, a million dead from the American Civil War is nothing compared to many wars that had been going on in Europe and Africa for the past thousand years and also the foreseeable future.

While the North had Manufacturing, the South had a far greater control of the North American Eastern coastline and also the bottom portion of the Mississippi River. The South also had warmer climates and hence the ability to grow crops almost year round. This is an extremely important point, as back then, they lived from Harvest to Harvest. [2]

If the South were allowed to secede and if there was a long Winter, there could easily be famine in the North where the North would pay massive prices for goods to be shipped up North. You could see chaos, rioting and mass migration like you see in Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria if food were in short supply.

Armys could not move and roads were impassible and so on. Armies basically encamped during the winter.

Or put another way, the same death tolls of

(a) 25% of the White military males of the Confederacy who died during the Civil War

(b) 25% of the Slaves who died of Starvation immediately afterwards from a completely decimated agricultural industry and transportation system

What needs to be said, or better, what needs to be asked is,

The North had to do everything it could to economically destroy The South's agricultural power and that meant blockade of all the Southern ports and taking over all the plantations. And if that didn't work, it also meant ending Slavery to cause possible social unrest and dissension between Slaves and their Masters.

The North abolished Slavery not "before" the Civil War started, but "during" the Civil War when battles were won or lost hence the common wisdom that the Civil War was fought on moral grounds is false.

#1 - To The Children of The South:
When the South rises again, do not let your greed overwhelm you (both Free and Slave, both White and Black, and both Rich and Poor) as it did with your forefather, King Cotton, or your Brothers from The North again will come down again and make war with you over food, water, coastlines, rivers and New Orleans as it did before.

#2 - To The Children of The North:
Honor the War Dead of the South as you would in any game of sport where you are the victor. Do not dance on their graves (schadenfreude) for they are your brothers and sisters of the South. You do not have to honor their succession from the union, but you should honor how bravely they fought and the sacrifices they made.

#3 - To Children of The South and Children of The North:
Do make annual inroads, in both business and pleasure, with your brothers and sisters and work together using water, land and the rivers that connect you to create peace and prosperity for all of America. If need be, make laws to finance and promote a North and South business partnership and personal friendship that achieves peace and prosperity for a United States of America.

Please contact us if you would be interested in purchasing a Founding Fathers.ORG
T-shirt (or Polo shirt) in the future.

Once enough interest is generated, an e-mail will be sent indicating a run
of T-shirts (or Polo shirts) has been made available for purchase.

Why is America haunted by its past?

US history tends to neglect the fact that the American Revolution was also a civil war – and that the American Civil War also encompassed a revolution. Adam IP Smith explains why ignoring difficult truths about the causes and legacies of those wars helps to fuel enduring tensions

This competition is now closed

Published: June 15, 2020 at 4:02 pm

It is insufficiently appreciated that there has been not one American Revolution (1) but two. The first was the one about which we all know: the successful rebellion against the British empire in the 1770s and 80s that resulted in the creation of a new republic. The second was the revolutionary refounding of the republic in the 1860s in the wake of a failed rebellion led by Southern slaveholders. That rebellion caused the deaths of up to three quarters of a million people and destroyed slavery, hitherto an institution sewn into the cultural and political fabric of the republic. It also led to a new constitutional settlement in which everyone born in the United States (except Native Americans, but including former slaves) was, for the first time, guaranteed citizenship and, in theory, equal rights.

Unlike the first revolution, however, the second was incomplete, its meaning ambiguous – so much so that most Americans don’t recognise it as a truly revolutionary moment at all. The first revolution remains America’s defining moment, the Founding Fathers (2) still near-sanctified figures in US public culture – bewigged Enlightenment gentlemen who bequeathed to future generations a nation conceived in liberty. To most Americans today, as in the past, the Civil War is remembered not so much as ushering in a new beginning for the country as reaffirming the meaning of the first revolution.

1: American Revolution

Tensions over the relationship between the leaders of British North America’s colonial society and the imperial government in London led to armed confrontations, which escalated into full-scale rebellion in 1775. In 1781, with French military support, rebel colonists forced the British to accept defeat. The independence of the United States of America was declared on 4 July 1776, and self-rule achieved after British troops left in 1783.

2: Founding Fathers

The men who wrote the US Constitution in 1787, plus a few others – such as Thomas Jefferson – who played a key role in the nation’s creation. They aimed to create a confederation strong enough to withstand external pressure but which acknowledged the rights of individual states. Leading figures included George Washington, elected the republic’s first president two years later.

Since Donald Trump became president, we have been forcibly reminded of the ways in which an unresolved past can haunt the present. Tensions that have long lain below the surface have been exposed by the emotionally wrenching transition from an African-American president to one endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. We see them in the battle between those who would remove statues to the leaders of the slaveholders’ rebellion and those who would celebrate them in the incomprehension of so many white people in the face of African-American protests about police brutality and in the judicial struggles over voting rights. At stake is the total failure of American society as a whole to reach consensus over the meaning of the Civil War. This failure stands in stark contrast to the privileged status of the ‘first’ revolution in public culture.

Listen: Everything you ever wanted to know about the civil rights movement, but were afraid to ask

Both American revolutions were civil wars, but the first American revolution doesn’t feel that way. Nineteenth-century historians told the story of a patriotic people rising as one against a foreign oppressor. “The people of the continent obeyed one general impulse, as the earth in spring listens to the command of nature and without the appearance of effort bursts into life,” George Bancroft wrote in his bestselling multi-volume history of the US, published in the mid-19th century.

In some ways, popular histories of the American Revolution are not so different today. The complex tug of loyalties and the internal divisions within colonial American society described by academic historians have no part in this story. For this was a revolution that was, and is, imagined to be a natural, divinely ordained flowering of a long-seeded passion for freedom. “The Americans,” wrote Bancroft, “seized as their peculiar inheritance the traditions of liberty.” And unlike in France, where liberty had led to anarchy and autocracy, in America liberty was accompanied by order and stability. No Reign of Terror came to America, because the Americans did not rush headlong, surging with emotion, into their revolution but embraced it in a spirit of maturity and moderation.

There was little resistance to this telling of the national origin story because the losers were not around to contest it. Tens of thousands of loyalists had fled to other parts of the British empire, especially to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The many more who stayed put pragmatically accepted the new dispensation, as did the even greater number of colonists who had weathered the storm of revolution with ambivalent feelings about which side was right.

In the second American revolution, the apparent losers were white Southerners. In 1861, 11 slave states launched a military rebellion against the United States in a self-conscious effort to re-enact the first American revolution. As with their forebears 80 years earlier, Southerners said that they were fighting for liberty against tyranny. As with George Washington, whose image adorned the symbols of the new Confederate States of America (3), Southerners’ definition of liberty was consistent with slavery for black people. However, to an even greater extent than was true for the Founding Fathers of the 1770s – who disagreed among themselves about the wisdom and ethics of enslaving black people –the protection of slavery was the singular aim of the rebels of 1861. As Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens notoriously put it, the new Confederacy was designed with slavery as its “cornerstone”. In the declaration of the causes of secession published by South Carolina’s legislature, the central argument was the “increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the Institution of Slavery”.

The forgotten revolution

To the leaders of this revolt, it seemed a reasonable bet that they would be able to establish their independence, through force of arms if necessary. But it was a gamble that, after four years of war and the loss of more than one in five white Southern men of military age, spectacularly backfired. Had it not been for secession in 1861, there is plenty of reason to believe that some sort of system of legally sanctioned unfree labour would have continued for decades. As it was, slaveholders provoked a backlash that destroyed their world.

Or did it? To be sure, those Southern slaveholders lost millions of dollars of ‘property’. They no longer had such easy access – through buying and selling human beings – to the cheap and flexible labour force that had, by the eve of the Civil War, enabled the American South to become the world’s near-monopoly supplier of cotton. The slave system had given white people near-total immunity from any legal or social constraints when it came to deciding what forms of brutality would best maintain the subjugation of black people. In the wake of emancipation, however, black people were given citizenship, which was (in theory, at least) protected by the federal government. Yet, for all that, Southern white people did not behave like a defeated population – nor did Northerners treat them that way. Unlike the loyalists of the 1780s, white Southerners were still very much around to tell their side of the story.

And this is where we come to the core problem with the place of history in American culture and memory. For though the first revolution has a more-or-less-agreed narrative in public life, the second – the Civil War and its aftermath – does not. Not only did the defeated rebels of the 1860s, unlike the loyalists of the 1770s, remain present in American life, but they were able to shape the way in which the war was remembered. They did this with the willing collusion of white Northerners but at the expense of African-Americans. A war that had come about because of slavery, and which resulted in its abolition, was reframed as a noble struggle among white Americans over the perpetuity of the Union – a far less unsettling story. And the ultimate evidence of how effectively the losers have shaped the memory of the second American revolution is that it is not remembered as a revolution at all.

But it should be. Not because the attempt to break up the Union succeeded – obviously it did not – but because the slaveholders’ revolt of 1861 triggered waves of revolutionary change that fundamentally, if incompletely, reshaped the American constitutional order. Each political convulsion in France since 1789 has resulted in a formal re-naming the current French state is the Fifth Republic (4). In contrast, America appears to have been blessed, if that is the right word, by constitutional continuity.

3: Confederacy

The Confederate States of America was the name adopted by 11 slave states that signed an alternative constitution ratified in 1861. It represented an attempt by Southerners to secede from the Union and ‘refound’ the republic on explicitly pro-slavery grounds. The North’s actions to thwart the bid, and the South’s military responses, escalated into a four-year civil war that claimed the lives of more than 600,000.

4: France’s Fifth Republic

The current system of French government, established by Charles de Gaulle (above) in 1958. The First Republic, founded in 1792 during the French Revolution, lasted just 12 years and was marred by the Reign of Terror – systematic government violence against perceived counter-revolutionaries.

The first revolution is the touchstone, and the supposed views of the Founding Fathers are reverently sought on every constitutional question. But three amendments to the United States Constitution passed as a result of the Civil War – the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments – amount to such a profound reconfiguration of the political order that they deserve to be thought of as the practical equivalent of a new, second founding.

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. The Fifteenth tried to ensure that race could not be used to deny any man the vote. The Fourteenth Amendment, sitting between the two and ratified in 1868, was the keystone of the edifice. It defined a national community for the first time, and did so in a deliberately inclusive way by saying that if you’re born in America, you’re an American:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

The ambition of those who framed this amendment was astonishing, given the prevailing racist views of the time. Black people – most of whom had, just three years earlier, been legally recognised as ‘property’ – were given equal political status with the white people who claimed to own them. And the amendment then did something equally dramatic in the context of US history up to that point: it gave Congress in Washington the responsibility for ensuring that state governments did not undermine citizens’ rights (or, in the language of the amendment, “abridge the privileges and immunities”). For the first time, citizenship was not just defined in an inclusive way – it was nationalised.

White southerners denounced the Fourteenth Amendment as a power grab by the federal government, and on this point they were right. The first American Revolution had created a constitutional order in which the states had effective sovereignty, even to the point where national politicians in Washington, however much some of them despised slavery, had no power to prevent state law from recognising it. With the second American revolution, that changed.

The Civil War era was revolutionary because of the previously unimaginable scale of destruction in a war that had no parallel in the western world until 1914, and also as a war that finally brought to an end, as Abraham Lincoln put it, “250 years of unrequited toil” by enslaved black people. But it was revolutionary, too, because of the attempt to build a new kind of nation in its wake.

In the end, the revolutionary intent behind the Civil War amendments was thwarted. Black people in the South did exercise the vote for a few years after 1868, and hundreds served in elective office, including in the House and Senate of the United States. But the mass of white Southerners who had been defeated on the battlefield fought tenaciously to deny freed slaves the political rights they had so recently gained. Between 1868 and the late 1870s, former Confederate army officers formed paramilitary white supremacist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan (5), that used violence and terrorism to regain political control. At the time – and, astonishing as it may seem, in history books published today – this counter-revolution was referred to as the ‘redemption’ of the South.

The Civil War myth

Within a decade of the defeat of their attempt to create a separate nation, white Southerners were back in positions of national power in Washington. The Supreme Court effectively nullified the Fourteenth Amendment, allowing southern states to disenfranchise black people and build the Jim Crow system (6) of racial segregation. At the same time, the myth of the ‘lost cause’ took hold. Nurtured especially by women’s organisations such as the Daughters of the Confederacy, this was a comforting narrative in which slavery had been an essentially benevolent institution, a burden for white men that at least ‘civilised’ and Christianised Africans.

5: Ku Klux Klan

The most prominent white supremacist organisation in the US, originally founded in 1865 or 1866. Local branches across the Southern states used violence to intimidate Republican leaders and damage black schools and churches. Revived in 1915, membership peaked in the 1920s at around four million people, and enjoyed a resurgence in the 1950s in opposition to the civil rights movement.

6: Jim Crow laws

Legislation enacted in the late 19th century in Southern former slave states to enforce a purportedly ‘separate but equal’ system in schools, transport and other public facilities, in concert with suppression of black voting rights. This racial discrimination and disenfranchisement was challenged by the civil rights movement from the 1950s but not reversed until 1965.

The war, then, was a noble struggle to preserve the self-rule of a traditional Christian society, and brave Southerners lost only because they were confronted by overwhelming numbers. This compelling but entirely dishonest story was sufficiently attractive to white Northerners that by the 1930s it formed the predominant public memory of the war on a national level. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and, especially, Robert E Lee were bizarrely elevated to the pantheon of national heroes alongside Washington. Such was the romantic appeal of this myth that statues to these rebel leaders were commissioned in public spaces even in states where there had never been slavery.

The Southern ‘lost cause’ is far from the only instance in history of a failed rebellion being retrospectively glamorised. A strikingly similar example is the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 (7), which posed for a while a serious military threat to the Hanoverian British state, but which within decades was the subject of countless romantic songs and stories. Queen Victoria – whose ancestor would have been deposed had Bonnie Prince Charlie succeeded – performed Jacobite tableaux with Prince Albert in the drawing room at Balmoral Castle. Rebellions that failed have, it seems, an unfailingly romantic allure.

However, similar as it was in impetus and aesthetics, the romanticisation of the slaveholders’ rebellion had more pernicious consequences than latter-day Jacobitism. It validated the counter-revolution, obliterating in public memory the postwar effort to incorporate black people into the American polity as equals. As a result, American memory of the Civil War remained stunted. The heroism of the soldiers was lauded, but the political meaning of the overthrow of slavery was downplayed. When President Woodrow Wilson spoke at the Gettysburg battlefield in 1913, on the 50th anniversary of that clash, he said it would be “an impertinence” in front of veterans of both sides to speak about what the battle “signified”. Better instead simply to honour their struggle.

The foundational moment

Beginning in the 1950s, as the civil rights movement gathered force, the complacent white consensus about the Civil War was challenged. For decades now, school textbooks, films and TV documentaries have tried to convince Americans that slavery was at the root of the war. But so long as there is racial inequality in America, the memory of the Civil War will matter. A majority of white Americans tell pollsters that they do not think the war was about slavery. And the romanticisation of rebel leaders has, until very recently, scarcely been challenged.

The first American revolution, meanwhile, has retained its status as the foundational moment. The hit Broadway musical Hamilton (8), for example, tells a tale of a united people rising up for freedom – one to which George Bancroft would have nodded along.

So long as everything about American politics can be traced back to the 18th century, the rupture of the 1860s can be glossed over. Conservative lawyers who insist that the Constitution should always be interpreted with reference to the (imagined) “original intent” of its framers seldom pay as much attention to the intentions of the radical Republicans who framed the post-Civil-War amendments as they do the gentlemen at Philadelphia in 1787. This is in spite of the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment, in particular, is at stake in multiple battles in American political life today, from immigration and gay rights to violations of the right to vote.

7: Jacobite rebellion of 1745

Attempt by Charles Edward Stuart (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’) to claim the thrones of Scotland and England lost by his grandfather, James II and VII, during the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688. After initial successes – taking Edinburgh and advancing far into England – his forces were finally defeated at Culloden in 1746.

8: Hamilton: An American Musical

Hit show recounting the life and career of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, first performed in 2015. Its casting of black and Hispanic actors in lead roles, and use of song and rap to explain key issues, contributed to critical and commercial success. However, its multiculturalism belies what is otherwise a traditional telling of the Revolution as a national uprising by an oppressed people.

If America has had just one revolution, it follows that the past 250 years have been marked largely by a comforting and virtuous continuity. Such a narrative is only possible because the upheaval of the 1860s was domesticated and drained of its disruptive meaning.

The African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass saw this happening as early as 1871. “We are sometimes asked,” he said, “in the name of patriotism to forget the merits of this fearful conflict and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it – those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.” But Douglass was having none of it: “May my right hand forget its cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I forget the difference between the parties to that terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.”

Despite decades of work by historians, many Americans remain determined to see the Civil War as a struggle among noble white folk with little or no implications for the state of race relations today. Like Queen Victoria dressing up in tartan, they have clothed themselves in rebel garb. As long as they continue to do so, American history will be inseparable from the politics of the present.

Adam IP Smith is senior lecturer at University College London, specialising in American history. He also writes and presents programmes for BBC Radio.

March 28 th , 1979, began as any other humdrum day. It ended as one of the country&rsquos more momentous days, when reactor number 2 of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, experienced an accident. First, the plant&rsquos non-nuclear secondary systems experienced some problems, then a relief valve in the primary system got stuck open.

Between mechanical failures, poor personnel training, and human errors, there was a partial meltdown, leading to a radiation leak. However, it took two days before government officials informed nearby residents to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows tightly shut to avoid inhaling potentially contaminated air. As seen below, the accident effectively doomed the future of nuclear energy in the US.