On July 4th, 1776 the 13 United States unanimously confirmed their support of a declaration dissolving a long-standing relationship with Great Britain.  Amongst the many grievances listed in the Declaration, the founders found it especially pertinent to note the implications related to commerce—specifically direct taxes and trade embargoes that restricted innovation, economic expansion, and the free market.  On that day, our Founders expressed their recognition of the importance of economic freedom to the development of a young nation, and thereby gave birth to American Entrepreneurship.

During the 18th century, almost everyone was an entrepreneur.  The most common business within the colonies was in farming, but there were also tanners, merchants, blacksmiths, printers, and other specialty trades, all of which would be categorized today as “small businesses.”  In fact, very few businesses had more than several employees and most were either family-run or owned/operated by a single person.

The importance of the concept of economic freedom, which would allow businesses the ability to freely innovate and create, was not overlooked by our own Founding Fathers.  The reason behind their understanding and respect for small business came from their own ties to entrepreneurship:  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and several others were landowners who managed their respective farms, John Adams was an attorney who had a private practice, Benjamin Rush started a prominent medical practice, Benjamin Franklin founded a print shop and became a prolific writer, John Hancock was a successful merchant in the shipping industry, and the list goes on.  Their personal sources of income were quite reflective of the times, when most members of society were small business owners who understood the potential impact of restrictive policies on the American economy.

Without the colonial vise that was Great Britain’s regulatory and taxation structure, America’s ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit would be uninhibited, permitting the possibility for commercial prosperity.  Since each of the Founders also had a personal financial stake in entrepreneurship and recognized its importance in colonial American society, they knew that eliminating the oppressive hold Great Britain had on American commerce was vital to our success.

By listing several points related to the idea of economic freedom in The Declaration of Independence, the Founders were in fact demonstrating their understanding of the necessity to have the freedom to pursue entrepreneurial ventures.  Although most suffered financial setbacks during the Revolution, some to the point of losing their entire fortunes or livelihoods, they never gave up their pursuit of economic freedom and eventually won this objective at the end of the war in 1783.

The Founders had extraordinary political and economic foresight.  We as American entrepreneurs should be grateful for the sacrifices that were made by these “founding entrepreneurs” who made it possible for all of us to have access to the incredible opportunities that are available in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

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