The Most Influential American You’ve Never Known?

by Jonathan Hamilton

…or at least, if you’re average, you’ve never known. History buffs will certainly guess this one long before we get to the answer, but I suspect the ordinary American hasn’t run across him.

Reading on early America, his is a name that pops up nearly everywhere. Whether its theology, medicine, culture, the Revolution, the Founding Fathers, the Continental Congress, the esteemed place of Philadelphia in the early Republic . . . this man is there. He had the respect, and often the ears, of the most noted statesmen in American history.

A few of his accomplishments:

-Nearly single-handedly repaired the deep rift between his friends John Adams and Thomas Jefferson after the bitterly fought presidential campaign of 1800 (if you think bitter presidential campaigns are new, you haven’t read U.S. history)

-Appealed for the use of Scripture as a school textbook

-Was a signer of the Declaration of Independence

-Provided the title, Common Sense, for Thomas Paine’s treatise and assisted in its publishing

-Was a member of the American Philosophical Society

-Studied medicine in London and Edinburgh

-Elected to Continental Congress as part of the Pennsylvania Delegation

-Served as Treasurer of the U.S. Mint

-Boldly stayed in the city and treated patients through the yellow fever epidemic

-Upon his sudden death, John Adams said, “I know of no character living or dead who has done more real good for his country.”



Who was he? Philadelphia physician and patriot, Benjamin Rush

1. Mark A. Noll: “America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln”
2. David McCullough: “John Adams”