Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Abraham Baldwin

                    Abraham Baldwin  is considered to be one of our Founding Fathers because he signed the United States Constitution.  He  was also an American politician and patriot, a Georgia representative in the Continental Congress, a member of the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and the founder of the University of Georgia.

                    The man known as Abraham Baldwin was born on November 22, 1754, in North Guilford, ConnecticutHis parents were Michael Baldwin (a blacksmith) and Lucy Dudley Baldwin.  His father had twelve children by two wives. 

Abraham attended a local village school and then his father borrowed money to send him to Yale College in nearby New Haven, Connecticut (later became Yale University).  He studied theology to prepare for a career as a minister and graduated from Yale in 1772.  He became a minister and then a tutor at the college three years later.  He left Yale in 1779 in order to serve as a chaplain in the Connecticut Contingent of the Continental Army, but he did not see combat while serving there.

During his military service, Baldwin associated with "men of diverse social and economic backgrounds," and these associations "broadened his outlook on the future of the colonies."  After the end of the Revolutionary War, he was offered the prestigious teaching of professor of divinity at Yale two years later.  He declined the offer in order to study law and was admitted to the bar at Fairfield in 1783.

Lyman Hall, Governor of Georgia, persuaded Baldwin to "accept the responsibility of creating an educational plan for both secondary and higher education in the state.  Baldwin strongly believed that education was the key to developing frontier states like Georgia."  Baldwin moved to Augusta, Georgia, in 1784; there he began practicing law and became active in politics. 

After being elected to the Georgia state legislature, Baldwin mediated between the rougher frontiersman and the aristocratic planter elite living on the coast.  He was "one of the most prominent legislators" and pushed "significant measures such as the education bill through the sometimes split Georgia.  He "developed a comprehensive educational plan that ultimately included land grants from the state to fund the establishment of the University of Georgia" in Athens.  Through his efforts, the state approved a charter for the university in 1785.  From 1785 to 1801, he served as the first president of the University of Georgia during its initial planning phase.  Franklin College, the first college of UGA, opened to students in 1801, and Josiah Meigs succeeded Baldwin as president.  Yale, Baldwin's alma mater, was the architectural model for the school.

 While serving as president of the University of Georgia, Baldwin remained active in politics and continued to hold his seat in the Georgia Assembly until 1789.  While in that position, he was elected in 1785 to the Confederation congress and as one of four Georgia delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  The other four delegates were William Few, Jr., William Houston, and William Pierce, but only Baldwin and Few signed the Constitution. 

Baldwin was instrumental in bringing about the compromise that established representation in each house of Congress - equal representation in the Senate and apportionment based on population in the House - because he changed his vote.  He considered his role in the Great Compromise to be his greatest public service.

After being elected in 1789, Baldwin served five consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1789-99) and two consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate (1799-1807); he served one term as president pro tem.  "As a member of Congress, Baldwin was an avid supporter of limited nationalist policies and was widely perceived as the leader of the moderate wing of the Democratic-Republican Party.  Throughout his political career, Baldwin was a consistent ally of both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and a staunch opponent of Alexander Hamilton's policies."

Baldwin is remember in modern Georgia mainly for his "statewide educational program that created a state university and provided state funds for that institution.  Highlighting his own education principles, Baldwin once stated that Georgia must `place the youth under the forming hand of Society, that by instruction they may be moulded to the love of Virtue and good Order.'  He believed that no republic was secure without a well-informed constituency."

Abraham Baldwin never married, but he assumed custody of six of his younger half-siblings upon the death of his father.  He reared, housed, and educated them at his own expense.

Baldwin was only fifty-two years old on March 4, 1807, when he died while serving as a U.S. Senator from Georgia.  His remains are interred at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.  A eulogy of this great statesman first appeared in a Washington, D.C., newspaper and was later reprinted in the Savannah Republican and Savannah Evening Ledger:  "He originated the plan of the University of Georgia, drew up the charter, and with infinite labor and patience, in vanquishing all sorts of prejudices and removing every obstruction, he persuaded the assembly to adopt it."

Baldwin was honored by the United States Postal Service with a seven-cent Great Americans series postage stamp.  He also had the honor of having the following properties named after him:  Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia; Baldwin County, Georgia; Baldwin County, Alabama; Abraham Baldwin Middle School in Guilford, Connecticut; and Baldwin Street in Madison, Wisconsin and Athens, Georgia.

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