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America Relies on God: Public Days of Fasting and Thanksgiving During the American Revolution

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on November 24, 2016

god_bless_americaAs America has humbled herself before God and been obedient to His commandments, He has poured out His blessings upon this nation in innumerable ways. It was by God’s hand and for His purposes that America came into being as the world’s first Christian republic, but it was through the people who covenanted themselves with God that He was able to do His work. Almost all the people who colonized America, though they were from different denominations and Christian persuasions, embraced the Puritan doctrine of Divine Providence, seeing God in history as “directly supervising the affairs of men, sending evil upon the city . . . for their sins, . . . or blessing his people when they turn from their evil ways.”1 Looking to the Scriptures for the source of their law, both personal and civil, they firmly believed God’s blessings would come upon those who obey His commands and curses would come upon the disobedient (see Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26). This is why during times of calamity or crisis both church and civil authorities would proclaim days of fasting and prayer; and when God responded with deliverance and blessing, they would proclaim days of thanksgiving and prayer. From 1620 until the American Revolution at least 1000 such days were proclaimed by governments at all levels, and many more by various churches.2 This continued during our struggle for independence, through our first century as a nation, and, in some measure, even up until today.

The First Great Awakening Beginning in the late 1730s and continuing for about two decades, a great awakening occurred in America. This revival of Christianity set on fire the hearts of the people all over the colonies, which in turn produced a greater morality and godliness than before existed in this nation. This was quite phenomenal for virtue had always permeated America.

One example of this is attested to by historian James Truslow Adams, who said, “I have found only one case of a colonial traveler being robbed in the whole century preceding the Revolution.”3 The Great Awakening had such an impact upon the colonies that in some towns almost the entire populace was converted to Christ. Benjamin Franklin wrote of this time period that “it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”4 This revival of Christianity in the hearts of the people had “expression not merely in church attendance, but in all the activities of life.”5

Universities such as Princeton, Rutgers, Dartmouth and Brown were founded in order to supply all the colonies with learned and influential clergy. These universities produced not only Godly clergy but Godly leaders in civil government, business, and every other aspect of life. Providentially, this awakening occurred while our future Founding Fathers were young men. The men who won the Revolutionary War, formed our Constitutional Republic, and set our nation properly on course were thus equipped with the virtue, morality, self-government, and Biblical worldview necessary for their future stations.

Even the non-Christians, as Franklin and Jefferson, were affected in this way. Franklin said he “never doubted . . . the existence of the Deity; that He made the world, and governed it by His Providence;. . . that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.”6 The ideas upon which our nation was birthed — the right of man to life, liberty, and property— had their origin in God. As they originated in God, they were also secured due to His blessings upon this nation. He blessed not only individuals, but the entire nation. As America humbled herself before God by obedience to His Word and acknowledgment of her dependence upon Him for success in the Revolutionary War and the formation of the new nation, God not only provided wise and virtuous leaders, but also supernaturally intervened on behalf of the American army on many occasions. From the initial conflict with Britain, the American Colonies relied upon God.

George Washington’s words to his wife upon departure to take command of the Continental army, reflected the heart of the American people: “I shall rely . . . confidently on that Providence, which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me.”7

To punish Massachusetts for its action at the Boston Tea Party, England closed the Boston port on June 1, 1774. The response of the colonies revealed in Whom they looked for help. The Virginia House of Burgesses, in resolves penned by Jefferson, “set apart the first day of June as a day of fasting and prayer, to invoke the divine interposition to give to the American people one heart and one mind to oppose by all just means every injury to American rights.”8 On that day large congregations filled the churches. This occurred not only in Virginia but throughout the colonies. Action followed this prayer as the colonists began to voluntarily provide aid and encouragement to Boston as that city’s commerce was cut off by the British blockade. This voluntary and universal action revealed that “beneath the diversity that characterized the colonies, there was American unity.”9 The American people recognized this unity came from a common Christian bond among the people of all the colonies.

In response to the charity that flowed into the city, the Boston Gazette of July 11, 1774, responded by writing, “my persecuted brethren of this metropolis, you may rest assured that the guardian God of New England, who holds the hearts of his people in his hands, has influenced your distant brethren to this benevolence.”10 A few months later, in September of 1774, the first Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia. The first act of the first session of the Congress was to pass a resolution calling for the opening of Congress the next day with prayer by Rev. Duché. The next morning Rev. Duché did pray and read from the thirty-fifth Psalm, as Washington, Henry, Lee, Jay and others knelt and joined with him in prayer. John Adams wrote about this scene in a letter to his wife: “I never saw a greater Effect upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that Morning. . . . It has had an excellent Effect upon every Body here.”11

God’s involvement in the founding of America is again seen on April 19, 1775. This day marked the battle of Lexington, of which Rev. Jonas Clark proclaimed: “From this day will be dated the liberty of the world.”12 It was his parishioners who shed the first blood of the Revolution, and it was on his church lawn that it occurred. God made certain that on this day His people had proper support, for on April 19, the entire colony of Connecticut was fasting and praying. On March 22, when the Governor of Connecticut, Jonathan Trumbull, proclaimed April 19 as a “Day of publick Fasting and Prayer,” he probably did not realize the significance of that date; but the One who rules heaven and earth and directs the course of history undoubtably knew and was able to direct the humble hearts of the colonists to pray. In part, Trumbull’s proclamation asked, “that God would graciously pour out His Holy Spirit on us, to bring us to a thorough Repentance and effectual Reformation, that our Iniquities may not be our Ruin; that He would restore, preserve and secure the Liberties of this, and all the other British American Colonies, and make this Land a mountain of Holiness and habitation of Righteousness forever.”13

Connecticut was not the only colony to lay the foundations of the War for Independence in prayer, for on April 15, 1775, Massachusetts officially proclaimed May 11 to be set apart as a “Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” — a day where all their confidence was to be “reposed only on that God who rules in the Armies of Heaven, and without whose Blessing the best human Counsels are but foolishness — and all created Power Vanity.”14 America continued to humble herself before God and show her reliance upon Him throughout the war. Frequent days of prayer and fasting were observed, not only by individuals and local churches, but also by the Continental Army, and all the newly united States of America.

Immediately after the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, they appointed chaplains to Congress as well as ordering chaplains to be provided for the army. These chaplains were paid with public funds. As God’s people and the nation humbled themselves and prayed, He moved mightily on their behalf. He gave wisdom to America to know when and how to respond to the injustices of Britain. He worked Christian character into the American people, her leaders, and her army so they could endure many hardships and not give up their fight for liberty, even in seemingly hopeless situations. He also controlled the weather and arranged events to assure eventual victory for the new nation.

One such miraculous event occurred during the summer of 1776. During the Battle of Long Island, Washington and his troops had been pushed back to the East River and surrounded by the much larger British army. Washington decided to retreat across the wide East River, even though it appeared doomed to fail. If it did fail, this probably would have marked the end of the war. Yet the God in Whom Washington and the nation trusted came to their aid. He caused a storm to arise which protected the American army from the enemy, then stopped it so as to allow the Americans to escape. He also miraculously brought in a fog to cover the retreat. In addition, He directed a servant, sent to warn the British, to those soldiers who would not understand him— German-speaking mercenaries. Thanks to God, 9000 men with all their supplies had miraculously retreated to New York. Here we see, as American General Greene said, “the best effected retreat I ever read or heard of.” This event was so astonishing that many (including General Washington) attributed the safe retreat of the American army to the hand of God.15

On October 17, 1777, British General Burgoyne was defeated by Colonial forces at Saratoga. Earlier, General Howe was supposed to have marched north to join Burgoyne’s 11,000 men at Saratoga. However, in his haste to leave London for a holiday, Lord North forgot to sign the dispatch to General Howe. The dispatch was pigeon-holed and not found until years later in the archives of the British army. This inadvertence, plus the fact that contrary winds kept British reinforcements delayed at sea for three months, totally altered the outcome at Saratoga in favor of America.16 In response to the victory, the Continental Congress proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and praise to God. In part, they stated, “Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God, . . . and it having pleased Him in His abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of His common providence, but also to smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war for the defence and establishment of our inalienable rights and liberties, particularly in that He hath been pleased . . . to crown our arms with most signal success: it is therefore recommended . . . to set apart Thursday, the 18th day of December, for solemn thanksgiving and praise.” They recommended for everyone to confess their sins and humbly ask God, “through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance” and thus He then would be able to pour out His blessings upon every aspect of the nation.17

This is the official resolution of our Congress during the Revolutionary War! No wonder the blessings of God flowed upon this nation. Similar resolutions were also issued by the Commander of the American army, George Washington. When Benedict Arnold’s treason was providentially discovered in September of 1780, both Congress and Washington acknowledged it was by the Hand of God.

Congress declared December 7, 1780, a day of Thanksgiving in which the nation could give thanks to God for His “watchful providence” over them. In a letter to John Laurens, Washington wrote, “In no instance since the commencement of the War has the interposition of Providence appeared more conspicuous than in the rescue of the Post and Garrison of West Point from Arnold’s villainous perfidy.”18 In Washington’s official address to the Army announcing Arnold’s treason, he stated, “The providential train of circumstances which led to it [his discovery of Arnold’s treason] affords the most convincing proof that the liberties of America are the object of Divine protection.”19

This Divine protection of the liberties of America was seen over and over again during the Revolution — at Trenton and the crossing of the Delaware; during the winter at Valley Forge; in France becoming America’s ally; during the miraculous retreat of the Americans from Cowpens; and at the Battle of Yorktown.20 Throughout all these events America consistently gave thanks to Almighty God, humbled herself before Him, and sought to obey Him in all spheres of life. This released the blessings and grace of God upon this nation which enabled America to be victorious in her struggle for freedom.

Some years later, God’s grace provided wisdom to establish the United States Constitution, and in so doing provide a Christian form of government through which the Christian spirit of this nation would effectively flow. For America to continue to be a citadel of liberty and prosperity, we must continually humble ourselves before Him who gave birth to this nation and acknowledge with George Washington in his first inaugural speech of April 30, 1789, that “no people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished, by some token of providential agency.”21

In 1787, a committee of all the states of the United States of America, gratefully looking back over all the preceding years, set apart October 19, 1787, “as a day of public prayer and thanksgiving” to their “all-bountiful Creator” who had conducted them “through the perils and dangers of the war” and established them as a free nation, and gave “them a name and a place among the princes and nations of the earth.” In that official proclamation they wrote that the “benign interposition of Divine Providence hath, on many occasions been most miraculously and abundantly manifested; and the citizens of the United States have the greatest reason to return their most hearty and sincere praises and thanksgiving to the God of their deliverance, whose name be praised.”22 God is the One who laid the foundation for America and the One Who assured her birth and growth as a nation. Apart from His continued influence, we cannot expect our nation to be maintained.

Stephen McDowell

End Notes 1. W. DeLoss Love, Jr., The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895), 41.

2. See Love, pp. 464–514 for a list.

3. James Truslow Adams, A History of American Life, Vol. III, Provincial Society, 1690-1763 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1927), 161.

4. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1932), 217.

5. Adams, p. 284.

6. The Autobiography of Franklin, p. 182.

7. William J. Johnson, George Washington the Christian (Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976, reprint), 69.

8. The Christian History of the Constitution, Verna M. Hall, compiler (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1980), 336.

9. Ibid., pp. 338-339.

10. Ibid.

11. The Book of Abigail and John, Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975), 76.

12. They Preached Liberty, Franklin P. Cole, editor (Indianapolis: Liberty Press), 39.

13. Copy of proclamation in The Christian History of the American Revolution, Consider and Ponder, Verna M. Hall, compiler (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1976), 495.

14. The Christian History of the Constitution, p. Id.

15. See Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell, America’s Providential History (Charlottesville: Providence Foundation, 1991), 158-161.

16. America, Great Crises in Our History Told by Its Makers, A Library of Original Sources, Vol. III, Issued by Americanization Department, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Chicago, 1925, p. 211.

17. B. F. Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), 531.

18. Beliles and McDowell, 163-164.

19. America, p. 285.

20. See Beliles and McDowell, America’s Providential History, Chapter 11.

21. A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, James D. Richardson (Washington: Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1910), vol. 1.

22. B.F. Morris, 542-543.

 

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George Washington Turning Over in his Grave as Pentagon Celebrates Sodomy

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on June 15, 2012

On March 14, 1778, George Washington, then Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, approved the sentencing of LT Enslin on attempted sodomy of another soldier.  General Washington called it an infamous crime to be viewed “with Abhorrence and Detestation”.  He ordered Enslin “to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return.”

Morality in the military is changing.

This week, Pentagon officials announced they will participate in June’s Gay Pride month and host a first-ever event honoring gay and lesbian troops.  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta feels it is important to recognize the service of gays in the armed forces. Details of the Pentagon event have not been released.

Since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), homosexual activists have accelerated advances of their homosexual agenda within the Armed Forces, including recognition of gay marriages, performance of marriages in military chapels, and gay pride celebrations at U.S Military academies.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented, “We will continue our fight to overturn the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and are ready to represent those chaplains who refuse to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds.  This new law will ultimately destroy unit cohesion and morale, reduce the number of heterosexual volunteers, and considerably degrade the ability of the military to defend our nation, their first responsibility.”

Since November 2010, the Thomas More Law Center has submitted 41 Freedom of Information Act requests to all branches of the Armed Forces, including the Inspector General’s Office, to assist in overturning the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Allowing open homosexuality in the Armed Forces had nothing to do with enhancing the combat effectiveness of our military, and everything to do with pandering to the homosexual lobby.  To accomplish this political objective, Pentagon officials utilized rigged military opinion polls, leaks of false information and muzzling of combat commanders who opposed the repeal.

In its findings supporting the 1993 Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law, Congress affirmed:

  • there is no constitutional right to serve in the armed forces;
  • military life is fundamentally different from civilian life;
  • the prohibition against homosexual conduct is a long-standing element of military law;
  • the presence of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards or morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.

Concluded Thompson, “Those findings have not changed, but the law has.  Our military men and women, our sons and daughters, should not be subjected to an involuntary social experiment which will damage our national security. That’s why we will continue our efforts to oppose this immoral law.”

Courtesy of Thomas More Law Center: Copyright © 2012 Thomas More Law Center, All rights reserved.

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Did George Washington Actually Say “So Help Me God” During His Inauguration?

Posted by faithandthelaw on December 19, 2011

By David Barton 1

In December 2008 following the election of Barack Obama as president, noted atheist Michael Newdow filed suit to prohibit religious acknowledgments or activities from being part of the inaugural ceremonies, specifically seeking to halt the inclusion of “So help me God” as part of the presidential oath as well as halt inaugural prayers by clergy. 2

Newdow has an established record of bringing suits to eradicate long-standing public religious practices, including to:

  • remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance 3
  • eliminate “In God We Trust” (the National Motto) from coins and currency 4
  • prohibit California textbooks from mentioning Biblical events found in Genesis 1-3 5
  • exclude clergy prayers from presidential inaugurations 6
  • reverse the time-honored tax exemptions for housing provided by churches to clergy 7
  • abolish chaplains hired by Congress 8

Newdow insists that his quest for a completely secular public square is based on constitutional mandates, Founding Fathers’ intent, and American history. Regarding the latter, in his 2008 lawsuit, Newdow claimed that the use of the phrase “So help me God” in presidential oaths was of relatively recent origin – that George Washington had not used the phrase and that it did not become part of legal oaths, especially for presidents, until the inauguration of President Chester A. Arthur in 1881. 9 Although courts and scholars have routinely rejected Newdow’s preposterous historical assertions, this specific one, for some inexplicable reason, gained traction among some media and academics, pitting them against many distinguished historical authorities.

The Chief Historian of the United States Capitol Historical Society, the Library of Congress, the U. S. Supreme Court (and numbers of its Justices), the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the Architect of the Capitol, and other notables have affirmed that “so help me God” is a traditional practice dating back to George Washington. Significantly, for almost two centuries, it was universally accepted that “So help me God” had actually been said as part of the official oathtaking process, but Newdow and his fellow travelers insist that everyone except themselves has been wrong for the past two centuries. 10

One of those who agrees with Newdow is Matthew Goldstein, a regular writer for atheist and secularist sites. To help prove his case, he cites with approval an article by USA Today claiming that there is “no eyewitness documentation he [Washington] ever added ‘so help me God’.” 11 (So USA Today is now an authoritative historical source? Really?) Other secularist voices have joined the chorus, including attorney/writer Jim Bendat, who claims that George Washington’s use of “So help me God” is a “legend”; 12 Professor Peter Henriques of George Mason University calls it a “myth,” adding that any such claim to the contrary “is almost certainly false”; 13 and Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center says that not only is it a “popular myth” but also that it’s time to completely get rid of “So help me God” as part of the oath. 14

What is the historical basis for claiming that George Washington did not say “So help me God” as part of the presidential oath? According to Newdow and other critics, no records of the day specifically show Washington reciting the phrase, therefore he did not say it.

Numerous historical documents and practices disproving Newdow’s claim will be shown below, but first consider the historical unreasonableness of claiming that someone did not do something unless it is specifically written that he did so. Even Wikipedia characterizes this type of logic as an “appeal to ignorance” – an approach asserting that something is false only because it has not been proven true – that the lack of evidence for one view is substitutionary proof that another view is true. 15

Consider all the inaugural absurdities that can be “proven” under the approach taken by Newdow. For example, since there is no detailed record that President James Monroe did not launch into a string of profanities at his inauguration, then he certainly must have done so; and since no one wrote on Inauguration Day 1825 that the sun rose in the east and set in the west, then it must have been otherwise. These scenarios are ridiculous, but they illustrate the inherent fallacies in the methodology used by Newdow.

Three specific strands of historical evidence will be presented below that demonstrate the absurdity of the modern claims. First, at least seven different religious activities were part of the first inauguration, thus the proceedings were indisputably heavily religiously-permeated. Second, the entirety of American legal practice at that time, including the specific stipulations of statutory law, required the phrase “So help me God” be part of any oath administered by or to government officials. Third, Washington himself, and numerous other Founding Fathers, repeatedly affirmed that an oath of office was a religious act; they explicitly rejected any notion that an oath was secular.

1. RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES AT GEORGE WASHINGTON’S INAUGURATION

Constitutional experts abounded in 1789 at America’s first presidential inauguration. Not only was the inauguree a signer of the Constitution but one fourth of the members of the Congress that organized and directed his inauguration had been delegates with him to the Constitutional Convention that produced the Constitution. 16 Furthermore, this very same Congress also penned the First Amendment and its religious clauses. Because Congress, perhaps more than any other, certainly knew what was constitutional, the religious activities that were part of the first inauguration may well be said to have had the approval and imprimatur of the greatest congressional collection of constitutional experts America has ever known.

That inauguration occurred in New York City, which served as the nation’s capital during the first year of the new federal government. The preparations had been extensive; everything had been well planned.

The papers reported on the first inaugural activity:

[O]n the morning of the day on which our illustrious President will be invested with his office, the bells will ring at nine o’clock, when the people may go up to the house of God and in a solemn manner commit the new government, with its important train of consequences, to the holy protection and blessing of the Most High. An early hour is prudently fixed for this peculiar act of devotion and . . . is designed wholly for prayer. 17

As subsequent activities progressed, things seemed to be proceeding smoothly, but as the parade carrying Washington by horse-drawn carriage to the swearing-in was nearing Federal Hall, it was realized that no Bible had been obtained for administering the oath, and the law required that a Bible be part of the ceremony. Parade Marshal Jacob Morton therefore hurried off and soon returned with a large 1767 King James Bible.

The ceremony was conducted on the balcony at Federal Hall; and with a huge crowd gathered below watching the proceedings, the Bible was laid upon a crimson velvet cushion held by Samuel Otis, Secretary of the Senate. New York Chancellor Robert Livingston then administered the oath of office. (He was one of the five Founders who drafted the Declaration of Independence, but had been called back to New York to help guide his state through the Revolution before he could affix his signature to the document he had helped write. Because Livingston was the highest ranking judicial official in New York, he was chosen to administer the oath of office to President Washington.)

Standing beside Livingston and Washington were many distinguished officials, including Vice President John Adams, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, Generals Henry Knox and Philip Schuyler, and several others. The Bible was opened (at random) to Genesis 49; 18 Washington placed his left hand upon the open Bible, raised his right, took the oath of office, then bent over and reverently kissed the Bible. Chancellor Livingston proclaimed, “It is done!” Turning to the crowd assembled below, he shouted, “Long live George Washington – the first President of the United States!” That shout was echoed and re-echoed by the crowd. Washington and the other officials then departed the balcony and went inside Federal Hall to the Senate Chamber where Washington delivered his Inaugural Address.

In that first-ever presidential address, Washington opened with a heartfelt prayer, explaining that . . .

it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect – that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes. 19

Washington’s inaugural address was strongly religious, and he called his listeners to remember and acknowledge God:

In tendering this homage [act of worship] to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of Providential Agency. . . . [and] we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious [favorable] smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained. 20

Having finished his address, Washington offered its closing prayer:

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave – but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication [prayer] that . . . His Divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this government must depend. 21

The next inaugural activities then began – activities arranged by Congress itself when the Senate directed:

That after the oath shall have been administered to the President, he – attended by the Vice-President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives – proceed to St. Paul’s Chapel to hear Divine service. 22

The House had approved the same resolution, 23 so the president and Congress thus went en masse to church as an official body. As affirmed by congressional records:

The President, the Vice-President, the Senate, and House of Representatives, &c., then proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel, where Divine Service was performed by the chaplain of Congress. 24

The service at St. Paul’s was conducted by The Right Reverend Samuel Provoost – the Episcopal Bishop of New York, who had been chosen chaplain of the Senate the week preceding the inauguration. 25 He performed the service according to The Book of Common Prayer, including prayers taken from Psalms 144-150 and Scripture readings and Bible lessons from the book of Acts, I Kings, and the Third Epistle of John. 26

(Significantly, in his lawsuit Newdow claimed not only that “So help me God” was of recent derivation but also that the “practice of including clergy to pray at presidential inaugurations began in 1937.” 27 That claim, like so many of his others, is obviously wrong: the Rev. Provoost had offered clergy-led prayers during Washington’s inaugural activities a century-and-a-half before Newdow claimed they began.)

Significantly, seven distinctly religious activities were included in this first presidential inauguration that have been repeated in whole or part in every subsequent inauguration: (1) the use of the Bible to administer the oath; (2) solemnifying the oath with multiple religious expressions (placing a hand on the Bible, saying “So help me God,” and then kissing the Bible); (3) prayers offered by the president himself; (4) religious content in the inaugural address; (5) the president calling on the people to pray or acknowledge God; (6) church inaugural worship services; and (7) clergy-led prayers.

2. THE LEGAL STATUS OF OATHS AT THE TIME OF WASHINGTON’S INAUGURATION

Significantly, long before and long after the adoption of the Constitution, the legal requirements for oathtaking specifically stipulated that “So help me God!” be part of the official oath of all legal process, whether the oaths were taken by elected officials, appointed judges, jurors, or witnesses in a court of law.

This fact is readily demonstrated by a survey of existing laws at the time – such as those of CONNECTICUT (which will be seen were reflective of what was typical in the other states). Connecticut’s original 1639 legal code governing its very first election required that elected officials were to “swear by the great and dreadful name of the everliving God . . . so help me God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” 28 When new oath laws were subsequently passed in 1718, 1726, 1731, 1742, etc., all retained the same general form, including the mandatory use of “So help me God.” Those same provisions were retained long after the federal Constitution was adopted. 29

GEORGIA required that elected officials, judges, jurors, and witnesses take their oath “in the presence of Almighty God . . . so help me God,” and not only that they take their oath on the Bible but specifically “on the holy evangelists of Almighty God.” 30 (Like the other states, this provision was the same long before and after the adoption of the federal Constitution.)

NORTH CAROLINA required “the party to be sworn to lay his hand upon the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God . . . and after repeating the words, ‘So help me God,’ shall kiss the Holy Gospels.” 31 In SOUTH CAROLINA, officials were also required to take their “oath on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God.” 32

Other states had similar requirements, but consider those in place in NEW YORK when President Washington was sworn in by the state’s top judicial official. At that time, New York law required that “the usual mode of administering oaths” be followed (i.e., “So help me God”) and that the person taking the oath place his hand upon the Gospels and then kiss the Gospels at the conclusion of the oath. 33 (Like the other states, these provisions remained the legal standard long after the inauguration. 34 )

Standard oath forms, both state and federal, still in use even decades after Washington’s inauguration, retained those phrases. See some examples below – and notice that each is from a period decades prior to the time that Newdow claims the practice began:


(These are just a few of the many original oath-related documents personally owned by the author; countless others are found in the records of the Library of Congress)

Clearly, using the phrase “So help me God” (as well as placing one’s hand on and then kissing the Bible) was established legal practice throughout the Founding Era.

No one disputes that Washington placed his hand on the Bible or that he kissed it, so why is it now claimed that he did not say “So help me God”? Are critics saying that Washington would not have done the easiest of the three legally required parts of oathtaking? Or would they prefer that officials stop saying “So help me God” but kiss the Bible instead? Their argument is ludicrous. Furthermore, the omission of “So help me God” from the oathtaking ceremony in the Founding Era would have been a clear and obvious aberration from established legal practice of the day, therefore it is the omission of that phrase rather than its inclusion that would have been particularly noticed and commented upon by observers; but such an omission was never mentioned by any witness.

3. THE FOUNDING FATHERS’ VIEWS: WERE OATHS INHERENTLY RELIGIOUS OR INHERENTLY SECULAR?

Five locations in the U. S. Constitution address oaths to be taken by federal officials. As has already been shown, oath clauses were not a unique or original innovation of the federal Constitution but were already in use in each of the states and the national Congress long before the Constitution was written and remained in force long thereafter.

Significantly, every existing law or legal commentary from before, during, and after the writing of the Constitution unanimously affirmed that the taking of any oath by any public official was always an inherently religious activity; and numerous Framers and early legal scholars agreed (emphasis added in each quote):

[An] oath – the strongest of religious ties. 35 JAMES MADISON, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION

[In o]ur laws . . . by the oath which they prescribe, we appeal to the Supreme Being so to deal with us hereafter as we observe the obligation of our oaths. The Pagan world were and are without the mighty influence of this principle which is proclaimed in the Christian system. 36 RUFUS KING, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION, FRAMER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS

Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. 37 JOHN ADAMS, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION, FRAMER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS

An oath is an appeal to God, the Searcher of Hearts, for the truth of what we say and always expresses or supposes an imprecation [calling down] of His judgment upon us if we prevaricate [lie]. An oath, therefore, implies a belief in God and His Providence and indeed is an act of worship. . . . In vows, there is no party but God and the person himself who makes the vow. 38 JOHN WITHERSPOON, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION

The Constitution enjoins an oath upon all the officers of the United States. This is a direct appeal to that God Who is the avenger of perjury. Such an appeal to Him is a full acknowledgment of His being and providence. 39 OLIVER WOLCOTT, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION, GOVERNOR

According to the modern definition [1788] of an oath, it is considered a “solemn appeal to the Supreme Being for the truth of what is said by a person who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being and in a future state of rewards and punishments . . .” 40 JAMES IREDELL, RATIFIER OF THE CONSTITUTION, U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE APPOINTED BY GEORGE WASHINGTON

The Constitution had provided that all the public functionaries of the Union not only of the general [federal] but of all the state governments should be under oath or affirmation for its support. The homage of religious faith was thus superadded to all the obligations of temporal law to give it strength. 41 JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, PRESIDENT

“What is an oath?” . . . [I]t is founded on a degree of consciousness that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues or punish our vices. . . . [O]ur system of oaths in all our courts, by which we hold liberty and property and all our rights, are founded on or rest on Christianity and a religious belief. 42 DANIEL WEBSTER, “DEFENDER OF THE CONSTITUTION”

There are many other similar declarations. 43 And America’s leading legal authorities and reference sources likewise affirmed that taking an oath was a religious activity. For example, in 1793, Zephaniah Swift, author of America’s first law book, declared:

An oath is a solemn appeal to the Supreme Being that he who takes it will speak the truth, and an imprecation of His vengeance if he swears false. 44

In 1816, Chancellor James Kent, considered to be one of the two “Fathers of American Jurisprudence,” noted that an oath of office was a “religious solemnity” and that to administer an oath was “to call in the aid of religion.” 45

In 1828, Founding Father Noah Webster, an attorney and a judge, defined an “oath” as:

A solemn affirmation or declaration made with an appeal to God for the truth of what is affirmed. The appeal to God in an oath implies that the person imprecates [calls down] His vengeance and renounces His favor if the declaration is false, or (if the declaration is a promise) the person invokes the vengeance of God if he should fail to fulfill it. 46

In 1834, a popular judicial handbook declared:

Judges, justices of the peace, and all other persons who are or shall be empowered to administer oaths shall . . . require the party to be sworn to lay his hand upon the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God in token of his engagement to speak the truth as he hopes to be saved in the way and method of salvation pointed out in that blessed volume; and in further token that if he should swerve from the truth, he may be justly deprived of all the blessings of the Gospels and be made liable to that vengeance which he has imprecated on his own head; and after repeating the words, “So help me God,” shall kiss the holy Gospels as a scale of confirmation to said engagement. 47

In 1839, Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, considered one of America’s most popular law dictionaries (and still widely used by courts even today), stated that an oath was:

[A] religious act by which the party invokes God not only to witness the truth and sincerity of his promise but also to avenge his imposture or violated faith. . . . . Oaths are taken in various forms; the most usual is upon the Gospel by taking the book [the Bible] in the hand; the words commonly used are, “You do swear that,” &c., “so help you God,” and then kissing the book. . . . Another form is by the witness or party promising, holding up his right hand while the officer repeats to him, “You do swear by Almighty God, the searcher of hearts, that,” &c., “And this as you shall answer to God at the great day.” 48

In 1854, the House Judiciary Committee affirmed:

Laws will not have permanence or power without the sanction of religious sentiment – without a firm belief that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues and punish our vices. 49

Early legal historian James Tyler penned an extensive work on the historical and legal nature and form of oaths and concluded:

The object of the form of adjuration [oath] should be to point out this: to show that we are not calling the attention of God to man, but the attention of man to God. . . . [T]he mode now universally adopted among us is imprecatory – the invoking of God’s vengeance in case we do not fulfill our engagement to speak the truth, or perform the specific duty, “So help me God.” 50

Significantly, courts had agreed with the conclusions of the Founding Fathers and early legal authorities, issuing numerous declarations making the same affirmations. 51 Even school textbooks in that day taught students that in the American constitutional process, an oath was always a religious act. 52

Additional sources could be cited, but the evidence is unequivocal that the taking of an oath was universally considered to be a religious activity. For this reason a secular oath was not admissible before a court of law, 53 and well into the latter half of the twentieth century, even the U. S. Supreme Court continued to reaffirm the religious nature of oaths. 54 After all, as one early court noted, to remove the religious meaning of oaths and to exclude the Bible on which they were sworn would make “an oath . . . a most idle ceremony.” 55

Returning to Washington’s inauguration, he took the presidential oath of office as prescribed in Article II of the Constitution – an oath he had helped write:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Why was the phrase “So help me God” not specifically included in the Constitution as part of the prescribed wording? Because to have added it would have been redundant: that phrase, as well as placing one’s hand on and then kissing the Bible, was already standard legal practice; there was no reason to duplicate in the Constitution what was already universally required both by law and tradition.

Significantly, Washington was so concerned that the oathtaking process remain inherently religious that in his famous Farewell Address at the end of his presidency, he pointedly warned Americans to never let it become secular:

[W]here is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths . . . ? 56

— — — ◊ ◊ ◊ — — —The evidence is clear that the legal requirements for the performance of oaths long before and after the adoption of the Constitution stipulated that “So help me God!” be part of the legal process. In the critics’ attempts to weaken the religious nature of the oath by suggesting the absence of “So help me God” from Washington’s inauguration, they have actually strengthened the case that the phrase was indeed used by providing the opportunity to unequivocally demonstrate that (1) the laws and legal practices at that time required that religious acknowledgment and phraseology be part of the oathtaking process, and (2) George Washington and the other Founders saw an oath as inherently religious and would have reprobated any attempt to make it secular.


Endnotes

1. David Barton is the President of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage. Barton is the author of numerous best-selling books, with the subjects being drawn largely from his massive library of tens of thousands of original writings from the Founding Era. His exhaustive research has rendered him an expert in historical and constitutional issues. He serves as a consultant to state and federal legislators, has participated in several cases at the Supreme Court, was involved in the development of History/Social Studies standards for public schools in numerous states, and has helped produce history textbooks now used in schools across the nation. David has received numerous national and international awards, including multiple Who’s Who in Education, DAR’s Medal of Honor, and the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. (Return)

2. Newdow v. Roberts, 603 F.3d 1002, Ct. of Appeals, Dist. of Columbia (2010) (online at: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13559298291193146253). (Return)

3. Elk Gove Unified School District v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1 (2004) (online at: http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2003/2003_02_1624(Return)

4. Newdow v. Lefevre, 598 F.3d 638, Ct. of Appeals, 9th Cir. (2010) (online at: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=753698042392989497&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr). (Return)

5. “Michael Newdow Joins CAPEEM’s Legal Team,” Capeem.org, December 17, 2007 (at: http://www.capeem.org/pressroom.php?item2=1). (Return)

6. Newdow v. Roberts, 603 F.3d 1002, Ct. of Appeals, Dist. of Columbia (2010) (online at: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13559298291193146253). (Return)

7. “FFRF v. Geithner Parsonage Exemption,” Freedom from Religion Foundation (at: http://ffrf.org/legal/challenges/ffrf-v-geithner-parsonage-exemption/) (accessed on November 23, 2011). (Return)

8. Newdow v. Eagen, 309 F. Supp. 2d 29, Dist. Court of Columbia (2004) (online at: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13174569001560146686&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholar). (Return)

9. See, for example, Newdow v. Roberts, Complaint 1:08-cv-02248-RBW (2008). See also Cathy Lynn Grossman, “No proof Washington said ‘so help me God’ – will Obama,” USA Today, January 9, 2009 (at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-01-07-washington-oath_N.htm). (Return)

10. “So Help Me God in Presidential Oaths,” nonbeliever.org (at: http://www.nonbeliever.org/commentary/inaugural_shmG.html) (accessed on November 23, 2011). (Return)

11. Cathy Lynn Grossman, “No proof Washington said ‘so help me God’ — will Obama?” USA Today, January 9, 2009 (at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-01-07-washington-oath_N.htm). (Return)

12. Jim Bendat, Democracy’s Big Day: The Inauguration of our President 1789-2009 (New York: iUniverse Star, 2008), p. 21. (Return)

13. Peter R. Henriques, “ ‘So Help Me God’: A George Washington Myth that Should Be Discarded,” History News Network, January 12, 2009 (at: http://hnn.us/articles/59548.html). (Return)

14. Charles C. Haynes, “Inside the First Amendment: Are ‘so help me God,’ inaugural prayer still appropriate?” First Amendment Center, January 18, 2009 (at: http://archive.firstamendmentcenter.org/commentary.aspx?id=21121). (Return)

15. “Argument from Ignorance,” Wikipedia (at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance) (accessed on November 23, 2011).(Return)

16. Significantly, many of the U. S. Senators at the first Inauguration had been delegates to the Constitutional Convention that framed the Constitution including William Samuel Johnson, Oliver Ellsworth, George Read, Richard Bassett, William Few, Caleb Strong, John Langdon, William Paterson, Robert Morris, and Pierce Butler; and many members of the House had been delegates to the Constitutional Convention, including Roger Sherman, Abraham Baldwin, Daniel Carroll, Elbridge Gerry, Nicholas Gilman, Hugh Williamson, George Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimmons, and James Madison. (Return)

17. The Daily Advertiser, New York, Thursday, April 23, 1789, p. 2. (Return)

18. Clarence W. Bowen, The History of the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington (New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1892), p. 52, Illustration; Library of Congress, “Bibles and Scripture Passages Used by Presidents in Taking the Oath of Office” (at: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/pihtml/pibible.html). (Return)

19. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, p. 27. See also George Washington, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, James D. Richardson, editor (Washington, D.C.: 1899), Vol. 1, pp. 44-45, April 30, 1789. (Return)

20. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, pp. 27-29, April 30, 1789. (Return)

21. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, pp. 27-29, April 30, 1789. (Return)

22. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, p. 25, April 27, 1789. (Return)

23. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, p. 241, April 29, 1789. (Return)

24. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, p. 29, April 30, 1789. (Return)

25. Clarence W. Bowen, The History of the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington (New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1892), p. 54; “Chaplain’s Office,” United States Senate (at: http://www.senate.gov/reference/office/chaplain.htm) (accessed on November 29, 2011). (Return)

26. Book of Common Prayer (Oxford: W. Jackson & A. Hamilton, 1784), s.v., April 30th. (Return)

27. Newdow v. Roberts, Complaint 1:08-cv-02248-RBW (2008). (Return)

28. R.R. Hinman, A.M., Letters From the English Kings and Queens, Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne, George II, &C., To the Governors of the Colony of Connecticut, Together With the Answers Thereto, From 1635 to 1749; And Other Original, Ancient, Literary and Curious Documents, Compiled From Files and Records in the Office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut (Hartford: John B. Eldredge, Printer, 1836), pp. 26-28. (Return)

29. See The Public Statute Laws of the State of Connecticut (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1808), pp. 535, Title CXXII: Oaths, Ch. 1, Sec. 6, law passed in May, 1742; 540, Title CXXII: Oaths, Ch. 1, Sec. 25, law passed in May, 1726; 541, Title CXXII: Oaths, Ch. 1, Sec. 30 & 32, law passed in May, 1718. (Return)

30. Oliver H. Prince, A Digest of the Laws of the State of Georgia (Milledgeville: Grantland & Orme, 1822), p. 3, “An Act for the case of Dissenting Protestants, within this province, who may be scrupulous of taking an oath, in respect to the manner and form of administering the same,” passed December 13, 1756. (Return)

31. John Haywood, A Manual of the Laws of North Carolina (Raleigh: J. Gales, 1814), p. 34, “Oaths and Affirmations. 1777.” (Return)

32. Joseph Brevard, An Alphabetical Digest of the Public Statue Law of South Carolina (Charleston: John Hoff, 1814), Vol. II, p. 86, “Oaths-Affirmations.” (Return)

33. Laws of the State of New- York (New York: Thomas Greenleaf, 1798), p. 21, “Chap. XXV: An Act to dispense with the usual mode of administering oaths, in favor of persons having conscientious scruples respecting the same, Passed 1st of April, 1778”; James Parker, Conductor Generalis: Or the Office, Duty and Authority of the Justices of the Peace (New York: John Patterson, 1788), pp. 302-304, “Of oaths in general.” (Return)

34. George C. Edward, A Treatise on the Powers and Duties of Justices of the Peace and Town Officers, in the State of New York (Ithaca: Mack, Andrus & Woodruff, 1836), p. 91, “Of the proceedings on the trial.” (Return)

35. James Madison, The Writings of James Madison, Gaillard Hunt, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1901), Vol. 2, p. 367, observations by Madison on the vices of the political system of the United States, April 23, 1787. (Return)

36. Reports of the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 1821, Assembled for the Purpose of Amending The Constitution of the State of New York (Albany: E. and E. Hosford, 1821), p. 575, Rufus King, October 30, 1821. (Return)

37. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, in an letter “To the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts,” on October 11, 1798. (Return)

38. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. VII, pp. 139, 142, from his “Lectures on Moral Philosophy,” Lecture 16 on Oaths and Vows. (Return)

39. Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Washington: Printed for the Editor, 1836), Vol. II, p. 202, Oliver Wolcott on January 9, 1788. (Return)

40. Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Washington: Printed for the Editor, 1836), Vol. IV, p. 196, James Iredell on July 30, 1788. (Return)

41. John Quincy Adams, The Jubilee of the Constitution (New York: Samuel Colman, 1839), p. 62. (Return)

42. Daniel Webster, Mr. Webster’s Speech in Defense of the Christian Ministry and in Favor of the Religious Instruction of the Young, Delivered in the Supreme Court of the United States, February 10, 1844, in the Case of Stephen Girard’s Will (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1844), pp. 43, 51. (Return)

43. See, for example, Zephaniah Swift, A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut (Windham: John Byrne, 1796), Vol. II, p. 238; Jacob Rush, Charges and Extracts of Charges on Moral and Religious Subjects (Philadelphia Geo Forman, 1804), pp. 34-35, 37, 40; Daniel Webster, Mr. Webster’s Speech in Defence of the Christian Ministry and in Favor of the Religious Instruction of the Young, Delivered in the Supreme Court of the United States, February 10, 1844, in the Case of Stephen Girard’s Will (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1844), pp. 43, 5; From an original document in our possession, executed by John Hart on March 24, 1757; Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, 11 S. & R. 394 (Sup. Ct. Pa. 1824); City Council of Charleston v. S.A. Benjamin, 2 Strob. 508, 522-524 (Sup. Ct. S.C. 1846). (Return)

44. Zephaniah Swift, A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut (Windham: John Byrne, 1796), Vol. II, p. 238. (Return)

45. James Kent, Memoirs and Letters of James Kent, William Kent, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1898), p. 164. (Return)

46. Noah Webster, A Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. “oath.” (Return)

47. James Coffield Mitchell, The Tennessee Justice’s Manual and Civil Officer’s Guide (Nashville: Mitchell and C. C. Norvell, 1834), pp. 457-458. (Return)

48. John Bouvier, A Law Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America, and of the Several States of the American Union (Philadelphia: T. & J. W. Johnson, 1839), s.v. “oath” (online at: http://www.constitution.org/bouv/bouvier.htm). (Return)

49. Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854), p. 8, “Rep. No. 124. Chaplains in Congress and in the Army and Navy,” March 27, 1854. (Return)

50. James Endell Tyler, B.D., Oaths; Their Origin, Nature, and History (London: John W. Parker, 1834), pp. 14, 57. (Return)

51. See, for example, People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns 545, 546 (1811); Commonwealth v. Wolf, 3 Serg. & R. 48, 50 (1817); City Council of Charleston v. S.A. Benjamin, 2 Strob. 508, 522-524 (Sup. Ct. S.C. 1846); and many others. (Return)

52. William Sullivan, The Political Class Book (Boston: Richardson, Lord, and Holbrook, 1831), p. 139, §392. (Return)

53. Alexis de Tocqueville, The Republic of the United States of American and Its Political Institutions, Reviewed and Examined, Henry Reeves, trans. (Garden City, NY: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1851), Vol. I, p. 334, 344n. See also Daniel Webster, Mr. Webster’s Speech in Defence of the Christian Ministry and in Favor of the Religious Instruction of the Young, Delivered in the Supreme Court of the United States, February 10, 1844, in the Case of Stephen Girard’s Will (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1844), pp. 43; Joseph Story, Life and Letters of Joseph Story, William W. Story, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. II, pp. 8-9; Zephaniah Swift, System of Laws (Windham: John Byrne, 1796), Vol. II, pp. 238. (Return)

54. Abington v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963). (Return)

55. Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, 11 S. & R. 394 (Sup. Ct. Pa. 1824). (Return)

56. George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge, 1796), p. 23. (Return)

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Contrary to University of Chicago Professor’s Rant: U.S. History includes our Faith

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 17, 2010

University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone recently wrote an op-ed titled “The crazy imaginings of the Texas Board of Education,” which sought to warn an unsuspecting America that there is “a coterie of Christian evangelicals who are attempting to infiltrate our educational system to brainwash our youth.” His fretful missive was prompted by the Texas Board of Education’s efforts to restore balance to the teaching of American history after decades of successful “progressive” efforts to erase from history and the minds of children the place of Christianity in the founding of America.

The Chicago Tribune decided to publish this piece on Easter. I can only ask: Really — on Easter Sunday?

It has become so commonplace to read denigrating comments about Christians that the offensiveness of such comments barely registers on our tolerance meters. Imagine hearing these words come from the mouth of a professor at a leading American university on Passover: “a coterie of Reform Jews is attempting to infiltrate our educational system to brainwash our youth.” Or imagine these words appearing in the Trib on Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic celebration that concludes Ramadan: “a coterie of Muslims is attempting to infiltrate our educational system to brainwash our youth.”

Stone’s words almost sound bigoted and intolerant. When you look around at our leftist-dominated educational system, his words are laughable.

In the service of bolstering his thesis that America was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles, Stone could be accused of cherry-picking his quotes. For example, Stone recounts that Jefferson “condemned the details of Christian dogma as ‘dross,’ ‘abracadabra,’ ‘insanity,’ ‘a hocus-pocus phantasm,’ and a ‘deliria of crazy imaginations.’ ”

Stone’s apparent concern for historical accuracy might be more credible had he included these quotations:

“The fundamental truths reported in the four gospels as from the lips of Jesus Christ … are settled and fixed moral precepts with me.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. “

John Jay, co-author of the Federalist Papers; first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel.”

Benjamin Franklin

“Is it not that in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon the earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?”

John Quincy Adams

Stone in all his paranoid hand-wringing about the “infiltration” of education by a coterie — or did he mean “cabal” — of Christian evangelicals is apparently unconcerned about the use in public schools of Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States” to teach American history, a book that is roundly criticized for its bias.

Dr. Gary Scott Smith, chair of the Grove City College history department and author of “Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush,” offers a different view from Stone’s:

“Two recent books, edited by Daniel Dreisbach, Jeffry Morrison and Mark David Hall … explained that many who played leading roles in the nation’s Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress, and the devising and ratification of the Constitution were devout Christians, as evident in their church attendance, commitment to prayer and Bible reading, belief in God’s direction of earthly affairs, and conduct. … virtually all the founders maintained that morality depended on religion (which for them meant Christianity)…. While we must be careful not to overstate the role of religion in the founding of our nation and the Christian convictions of the founders in textbooks or public discourse, the tendency in many scholarly circles has been to ignore or discount these matters.”

With a coterie of “critical pedagogy” proselytes having successfully infiltrated schools of education decades ago, Stone need not fear the 15 Texas school board members.

Laurie Higgins is the Illinois Family Institute’s director of the division of school advocacy.

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Was George Washington a Christian?

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 11, 2010

This is a question often asked today, and it arises from the efforts of those who seek to impeach Washington’s character by portraying him as irreligious. Interestingly, Washington’s own contemporaries did not question his Christianity but were thoroughly convinced of his devout faith–a fact made evident in the first-ever compilation of the The Writings of George Washington, published in the 1830s.

That compilation of Washington’s writings was prepared and published by Jared Sparks (1789-1866), a noted writer and historian. Sparks’ Herculean historical productions included not only the writing of George Washington (12 volumes) but also Benjamin Franklin (10 volumes) and Constitution signer Gouverneur Morris (3 volumes). Additionally, Sparks compiled the Library of American Biography (25 volumes), The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution (12 volumes), and the Correspondence of the American Revolution (4 volumes). In all, Sparks was responsible for some 100 historical volumes. Additionally, Sparks was America’s first professor of history–other than ecclesiastical history–to teach at the college level in the United States, and he was later chosen president of Harvard. 

QUOTE
By 1778, George Washington had so often witnessed God’s intervention that on August 20, he wrote Thomas Nelson that:

The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations. [1]

Jared Sparks’ decision to compile George Washington’s works is described by The Dictionary of American Biography. It details that Sparks began… 

…what was destined to be his greatest life work, the publication of the writings of George Washington. … In January 1827, Sparks found himself alone at Mount Vernon with the manuscripts. An examination of them extending over three months showed that years would be required for the undertaking; and with the owner’s consent, Sparks carried off the entire collection, eight large boxes, picking up on the way to Boston a box of diplomatic correspondence from the Department of State, and the [General Horatio] Gates manuscripts from the New York Historical Society. Not content with these, he searched or caused to be searched public and private archives for material, questioned survivors of the Revolution, visited and mapped historic sites. In 1830, for instance, he followed [Benedict] Arnold’s [1775] route to Quebec. The first of the twelve volumes of The Writings of George Washington to be published (vol. II) appeared in 1834 and the last (vol. I, containing the biography) in 1837.

In Volume XII of these writings, Jared Sparks delved into the religious character of George Washington, and included numerous letters written by the friends, associates, and family of Washington which testified of his religious character. Based on that extensive evidence, Sparks concluded:

To say that he [George Washington] was not a Christian would be to impeach his sincerity and honesty. Of all men in the world, Washington was certainly the last whom any one would charge with dissimulation or indirectness [hypocrisies and evasiveness]; and if he was so scrupulous in avoiding even a shadow of these faults in every known act of his life, [regardless of] however unimportant, is it likely, is it credible, that in a matter of the highest and most serious importance [his religious faith, that] he should practice through a long series of years a deliberate deception upon his friends and the public? It is neither credible nor possible.

One of the letters Sparks used to arrive at his conclusion was from Nelly Custis-Lewis. While Nelly technically was the granddaughter of the Washingtons, in reality she was much more.

When Martha [Custis] married George, she was a widow and brought two young children (John and Martha–also called Patsy) from her first marriage into her marriage with George. The two were carefully raised by George and Martha, later married, and each had children of their own. Unfortunately, tragedy struck, and both John and Patsy died early (by 1781). John left behind his widow and four young children ranging in age from infancy to six years old.

At the time, Washington was still deeply involved in guiding the American Revolution and tried unsuccessfully to convince Martha’s brother to raise the children. The young widow of John was unable to raise all four, so George and Martha adopted the two younger children: Nelly Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, both of whom already were living at Mount Vernon.

Nelly lived with the Washingtons for twenty years, from the time of her birth in 1779 until 1799, the year of her marriage and of George Washington’s untimely death. She called George and Martha her “beloved parents whom I loved with so much devotion, to whose unceasing tenderness I was indebted for every good I possessed.”

Nelly was ten years old when Washington was called to the Presidency, and she grew to maturity during his two terms. During that time, she traveled with Washington and walked amidst the great foreign and domestic names of the day. On Washington’s retirement, she returned with the family to Mount Vernon. Nelly was energetic, spry, and lively, and was the joy of George Washington’s life. She served as a gracious hostess and entertained the frequent guests to Mount Vernon who visited the former President.

Clearly, Nelly was someone who knew the private and public life of her “father” very well. Therefore, Jared Sparks, in searching for information on Washington’s religious habits, dispatched a letter to Nelly, asking if she knew for sure whether George Washington indeed was a Christian. Within a week, she had replied to Sparks, and Sparks included her letter in Volume XII of Washington’s writings in the lengthy section on Washington’s religious habits. Of that specific letter, Jared Sparks explained:

I shall here insert a letter on this subject, written to me by a lady who lived twenty years in Washington’s family and who was his adopted daughter, and the granddaughter of Mrs. Washington. The testimony it affords, and the hints it contains respecting the domestic habits of Washington, are interesting and valuable.

Woodlawn, 26 February, 1833Sir,I received your favor of the 20th instant last evening, and hasten to give you the information, which you desire.

Truro Parish [Episcopal] is the one in which Mount Vernon, Pohick Church [the church where George Washington served as a vestryman], and Woodlawn [the home of Nelly and Lawrence Lewis] are situated. Fairfax Parish is now Alexandria. Before the Federal District was ceded to Congress, Alexandria was in Fairfax County. General Washington had a pew in Pohick Church, and one in Christ Church at Alexandria. He was very instrumental in establishing Pohick Church, and I believe subscribed [supported and contributed to] largely. His pew was near the pulpit. I have a perfect recollection of being there, before his election to the presidency, with him and my grandmother…

He attended the church at Alexandria when the weather and roads permitted a ride of ten miles [a one-way journey of 2-3 hours by horse or carriage]. In New York and Philadelphia he never omitted attendance at church in the morning, unless detained by indisposition [sickness]. The afternoon was spent in his own room at home; the evening with his family, and without company. Sometimes an old and intimate friend called to see us for an hour or two; but visiting and visitors were prohibited for that day [Sunday]. No one in church attended to the services with more reverential respect. My grandmother, who was eminently pious, never deviated from her early habits. She always knelt. The General, as was then the custom, stood during the devotional parts of the service. On communion Sundays, he left the church with me, after the blessing, and returned home, and we sent the carriage back for my grandmother.

It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o’clock where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He always rose before the sun and remained in his library until called to breakfast. I never witnessed his private devotions. I never inquired about them. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray, “that they may be seen of men” [Matthew 6:5]. He communed with his God in secret [Matthew 6:6].

My mother [Eleanor Calvert-Lewis] resided two years at Mount Vernon after her marriage [in 1774] with John Parke Custis, the only son of Mrs. Washington. I have heard her say that General Washington always received the sacrament with my grandmother before the revolution. When my aunt, Miss Custis [Martha’s daughter] died suddenly at Mount Vernon, before they could realize the event [before they understood she was dead], he [General Washington] knelt by her and prayed most fervently, most affectingly, for her recovery. Of this I was assured by Judge [Bushrod] Washington’s mother and other witnesses.

He was a silent, thoughtful man. He spoke little generally; never of himself. I never heard him relate a single act of his life during the war. I have often seen him perfectly abstracted, his lips moving, but no sound was perceptible. I have sometimes made him laugh most heartily from sympathy with my joyous and extravagant spirits. I was, probably, one of the last persons on earth to whom he would have addressed serious conversation, particularly when he knew that I had the most perfect model of female excellence [Martha Washington] ever with me as my monitress, who acted the part of a tender and devoted parent, loving me as only a mother can love, and never extenuating [tolerating] or approving in me what she disapproved of others. She never omitted her private devotions, or her public duties; and she and her husband were so perfectly united and happy that he must have been a Christian. She had no doubts, no fears for him. After forty years of devoted affection and uninterrupted happiness, she resigned him without a murmur into the arms of his Savior and his God, with the assured hope of his eternal felicity [happiness in Heaven].

Is it necessary that any one should certify, “General Washington avowed himself to me a believer in Christianity?” As well may we question his patriotism, his heroic, disinterested devotion to his country. His mottos were, “Deeds, not Words”; and, “For God and my Country.”

With sentiments of esteem,

I am, Nelly Custis-Lewis

George Washington’s adopted daughter, having spent twenty years of her life in his presence, declared that one might as well question Washington’s patriotism as question his Christianity. Certainly, no one questions his patriotism; so is it not rather ridiculous to question his Christianity? George Washington was a devout Episcopalian; and although as an Episcopalian he would not be classified as an outspoken and extrovert “evangelical” Founder as were Founding Fathers like Benjamin Rush, Roger Sherman, and Thomas McKean, nevertheless, being an Episcopalian makes George Washington no less of a Christian.

 Yet for the current revisionists who have made it their goal to assert that America was founded as a secular nation by secular individuals and that the only hope for America’s longevity rests in her continued secularism, George Washington’s faith must be sacrificed on the altar of their secularist agenda.

QUOTE
After researching Washington’s life, Dr. Tim LaHaye wrote: “Our first President was a godly man of humble character and sterling commitment to God. William White reports of his sincere piety in ‘Washington Writings’:

‘It seems proper to subjoin to this letter what was told to me by Mr. Robert Lewis, at Fredricksburg, in the year 1827. Being a nephew of Washington, and his private secretary during the first part of his presidency, Mr. Lewis lived with him on terms of intimacy, and had the best opportunity for observing his habits. Mr. Lewis said that he had accidentally witnessed his private devotions in his library both morning and evening; that on those occasions he had seen him in a kneeling posture with a Bible open before him, and that he believed such to have been his daily practice.’” [2]

At the end of the Revolutionary War, when the announcement of official peace arrived in America, George Washington issued his final sentiments. In his circular letter to the States on June 8, 1783, even though Washington gratefully acknowledged that we had won the war, he urged them to recall something of much greater importance and to remember…

…the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. [3]

From George Washington’s first official order through his last, he displayed a Christian emphasis.

QUOTE
While encamped on the banks of a river, Washington was approached by Delaware Indian chiefs who desired that their youth be trained in American schools. In Washington’s response, he first told them that “Congress… will look on them as on their own children.” [4] That is, we would train their children as if they were our own. He then commended the chiefs for their decision: 

You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention. [4]

According to George Washington, what students would learn in American schools “above all” was “the religion of Jesus Christ.”

For much more on George Washington and the evidences of his strong faith, examine the following sources…

  • George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Ferdinand Andrews, Publisher, 1838), Vol. XII, pp. 399-411.
  • George Washington, The Religious Opinions of Washington, E. C. M’Guire, editor (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1836).
  • William Johnson, George Washington The Christian (1917).
  • William Jackson Johnstone, How Washington Prayed (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1932).
  • James D. Richardson, editor, The Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Published by the Authority of Congress, 1899), Vol. I, pp. 51-57 (1789), 64 (1789), 213-224 (1796), etc.
  • George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States, Late Commander in Chief of the American Army, to the People of the United States, Preparatory to his Declination (Baltimore: George & Henry S. Keatinge, 1796), pp. 22-23.
  • George Washington, The Maxims of Washington (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1855).

REFERENCES

  1. George Washington’s letter of August 20, 1778 to Brig. General Thomas Nelson, in John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. XII (Washinton: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 343.
  2. Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1987), p. 103.
  3. George Washington’s Circular to the States, June 8, 1783, in John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. XXVI (Washinton: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 496.
  4. George Washington’s Speech to Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779, in John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. XV (Washinton: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 55.

Courtesy of http://www.christiananswers.net/q-wall/wal-g011.html

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