These Truths Characters

The main characters in These Truths include George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

  • George Washington became the first president of the United States after serving as the commander of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War.
  • John Adams was the second president of the United States and played a central role in the drafting of the Constitution. He favored a strong federal government.
  • Thomas Jefferson succeeded Adams as president and drafted the Declaration of Independence. He favored individual states’ rights.
  • Abraham Lincoln served as president during the Civil War and famously issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Characters

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Last Updated on May 13, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 739

George Washington 

George Washington was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolution and the first president of the United States. He established precedents such as creating a cabinet and leaving office peacefully. Though a slave owner, Washington understood that slavery was wrong, even considering whether to free...

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George Washington 

George Washington was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolution and the first president of the United States. He established precedents such as creating a cabinet and leaving office peacefully. Though a slave owner, Washington understood that slavery was wrong, even considering whether to free his slaves before he entered office. He failed to do so, however.

John Adams 

John Adams was the second president of the United States and very influential in drafting the Constitution. He feared the tyranny of a minority over a majority and preferred to err in the direction of a more powerful executive branch, even if it verged on monarchy. As president, he became somewhat tyrannical, attempting to legislate the opposition out of existence. His desire for a strong federal government to keep the states in order became a lifelong debate between him and Thomas Jefferson, his successor in office.

Thomas Jefferson 

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and drafter of the Declaration of Independence, was a slave owner and, therefore, a strong believer in states’ rights. He did not want the federal government to become too powerful, and of the branches of government, he wanted the legislature to be stronger than the executive, in contrast to Adams. Jefferson wanted the new nation to acquire more territory, to accommodate its expanding population and spread “civilization” throughout the American continent.

Abraham Lincoln 

Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War. He was a thoughtful man and a skilled debater, and he believed that Black people were human beings who deserved civil rights. He did not want them to be socially equal to white people, but he wanted them to be free. He tried to keep the Union together, but when the South seceded to preserve slavery, he led the North in war. Partway through the war, Lincoln created the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring many slaves in the South free. Lincoln, assasinated just after the war ended, did not live to see the slow process of emerging from slavery.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was president during the Great Depression and World War II. He created the New Deal, a comprehensive system of social programs to help the poor. These reforms included the establishment of Social Security. Leading the country through the war, he held the people together and inspired them. But Black people were left out of that “together” and out of the New Deal, which did not provide for civil rights.

Lyndon Johnson 

Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) was president in the 1960s. He created the Great Society, social programs that expanded the New Deal through different forms of economic relief, including healthcare for the poor and elderly in the forms of Medicare and Medicaid. However, LBJ also cut taxes in the belief that it would help unemployment. When he needed more money for the Vietnam War, which was becoming increasingly expensive, he took that money from his own social programs instead of raising taxes, making the social programs much less effective and undermining LBJ. From the perspective of the book’s focus on civil rights, LBJ’s most important accomplishment was passing the Civil Rights Act, finally following through on the principle that all human beings have certain natural rights that the government should protect and not take from them.

Richard Nixon 

Richard Nixon, LBJ’s successor, was a skilled diplomat who was strong against communism but primarily used domestic issues to divide the electorate and consolidate his power and that of his party. He is most remembered for his role in covering up the burglary his reelection campaign perpetrated at the Democratic National Convention Headquarters. Faced with impeachment for the cover-up, Nixon chose to resign. The incident, known as Watergate, undermined American confidence in the government.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan, a former Hollywood actor, rose to prominence as the governor of California, where he ran on a basis of law and order during the riots of the 1960s. As his party shifted on issues like abortion, Reagan followed it, even though he had signed an abortion rights law as governor. Charming and optimistic, Reagan promised a presidency that would get the government out of the people’s way. Yet he instead expanded the federal government and tripled the national debt, forcing conservatives to shift tactics and use gun rights to activate their base, contributing to the polarization that Lepore diagnoses as destructive to the United States.

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