Finders Keepers

It is a widely believed notion that the Founding Fathers of America were mainly Atheists, Agnostics, and Deists.  So widely believed that the idea is taught in most major universities.  This “fact” about the Founders usually makes it’s way to the discourse when the phrase “Christian Nation” makes it’s way to public discussion.  But is this “fact” true, were the vast majority of the Founders Atheists, Agnostics, and Deists?  What information are proponents of a “secular founding” using to come to their conclusion?  And how could one actually know the religious nature of the founding era and of the Founders themselves?  Fortunately for us, the Founders were prolific writers, both in private and public arenas.

Critics say when the Founders wrote the Constitution, they intentionally included: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article 6, section 3).  And that nowhere in the Constitution does it ever mention religion, except excluding uses, the terms “Christianity, Bible, Jesus Christ,or God” even once.

Of the three major foundational documents of the United States of America are the Declaration of Independence (July 1776), the Articles of Confederation (drafted 1777, ratified 1781) and the Constitution of the United States of America (1789), there are a total of 143 signatures on these documents, representing 118 different signers. (Some individuals signed more than one document.)

It is important to define who and what makes one a Founding Father. There were 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 48 signers of the Articles of Confederation, and the 55 delegates who participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 (though not all signed) are regarded as Founding Fathers by historians, also those in significant Military positions as well as a few others considered pivotal to the formation of the States.

Citing the U.S. Constitution as prohibiting religious tests and mentioning  Christianity, Bible, Jesus Christ,or  God” opponents of a Christian foundation attempting to conclude that the founders in no way intended Christian theism to influence or be the overriding factor in the formation of America.  Well, this is and isn’t true.  As the independent states came together under the heading of one banner, the United States, they had specific intentions for the federal government.  We see the Bill of Rights is a list of negative rights, what cannot be done by the Federal Government, using terms like shall not, and cannot in reference to the Federal Government.  The reason for this was the desire for the States to preserve the right to govern themselves and let the Federal Government handle foreign affairs.  There was no need to inject religion and specifically Christianity into the Constitution since it was not a religious document.  Religion was to be considered a local issue.  Whether there were or weren’t specific religions or tests were to be for the states to decide.  Looking at the original State’s Constitutions confirms this.


ART. 22. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the execution of his office, shall take the following oath, or affirmation, if conscientiously scrupulous of taking an oath, to wit:  ” I, A B. will bear true allegiance to the Delaware State, submit to its constitution and laws, and do no act wittingly whereby the freedom thereof may be prejudiced.”

And also make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: ” I, A B. do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”  – Constitution of Delaware; September 21, 1776 (1) (emphasis added)

ART. VI. The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county, who shall have resided at least twelve months in this State, and three months in the county where they shall be elected; except the freeholders of the counties of Glynn and Camden, who are in a state of alarm, and who shall have the liberty of choosing one member each, as specified in the articles of this constitution, in any other county, until they have residents sufficient to qualify them for more; and they shall be of the Protestant religion, and of the age of twenty-one years, and shall be possessed in their own right of two hundred and fifty acres of land, or some property to the amount of two hundred and fifty pounds. – Constitution of Georgia; February 5, 1777 (2) (emphasis added)

XXXIII. That, as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to him; all persons, professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate on account of his religious persuasion or profession, or for his religious practice; unless, under colour of religion, any man shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others, in their natural, civil, or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain any particular place of worship, or any particular ministry; yet the Legislature may, in their discretion, lay a general and equal tax for the support of the Christian religion; leaving to each individual the power of appointing the payment over of the money, collected from him, to the support of any particular place of worship or minister, or for the benefit of the poor of his own denomination, or the poor in general of any particular county. (emphasis added).

In Article 33 of the Constitution of Maryland we see the State did not allow compulsion to go to church or give money to a particular church, unless obliged by contract to do so.  But the State could tax the citizens for the specific purpose of supporting the Christian religion.  This is quite explicit approval of Christianity, that the state would write into law specific support for a particular religion.  The Constitution goes on to say:

XXXV. That no other test or qualification ought to be required, on admission to any office of trust or profit, than such oath of support and fidelity to this State, and such oath of office, as shall be directed by this Convention or the Legislature of this State, and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion. – Constitution of Maryland, November 11, 1776(3), (emphasis added)

XXXII.(5) That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State. – Constitution of North Carolina, December 18, 1776(4)

SECT. 10 …And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz:  I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.
And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this State. – Constitution of Pennsylvania – September 28, 1776(5)

Section IX …And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. ” I ____ do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Diverse, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the scriptures of the old and new testament to be given by divine inspiration, and own and profess the protestant religion.” – Constitution of Vermont – July 8, 1777(6)

It is painfully obvious that it was not the over all intention for the Founders of America to reject religion and Christianity from government, since nearly all the first State Constitutions required an affirmation of not only religious belief in God, but specifically Christianity.  The omition in the Federal Constitution was by design, to allow the individual states the right to govern themselves without Federal interferance.  As Thomas Jefferson wrote:

I consider the government of the United States [the federal government] as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion [the First Amendment], but from that also which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the United States [the Tenth Amendment]. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in any religious discipline has been delegated to the General [federal] Government. It must then rest with the States
If we go back even further to the original charters, the official governing documents of the settlers, we see laid out their intentions upon arrival.  What do the founding documents say in regards to the religious intentions of those who first settled here?

…whereby Our said People Inhabitants there, may be so religiously, peaceably and civilly governed, as their good Life and orderly Conversation may win and invite the Natives of the Country to the Knowledge and Obedience of the only true GOD, and He Saviour of Mankind, and the Christian Faith. – Charter of Connecticut – 1662 (7)

BECAUSE no People can be truly happy, though under the greatest Enjoyment of Civil Liberties, if abridged of the Freedom of their Consciences, as to their Religious Profession and Worship: And Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience, Father of Lights and Spirits; and the Author as well as Object of all divine Knowledge, Faith and Worship, who only doth enlighten the Minds, and persuade and convince the Understandings of People, I do hereby grant and declare, That no Person or Persons, inhabiting In this Province or Territories, who shall confess and acknowledge One almighty God, the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the World; and professes him or themselves obliged to live quietly under the Civil Government, shall be in any Case molested or prejudiced, in his or their Person or Estate, because of his or their conscientious Persuasion or Practice, nor be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious Worship, Place or Ministry, contrary to his or their Mind, or to do or suffer any other Act or Thing, contrary to their religious Persuasion. AND that all Persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World, shall be capable (notwithstanding their other Persuasions and Practices in Point of Conscience and Religion) to serve this Government in any Capacity, both legislatively and executively, he or they solemnly promising, when lawfully required, Allegiance to the King as Sovereign, and Fidelity to the Proprietary and Governpr, and taking the Attests as now established by the Law made at Newcastle, in the Year One Thousand and Seven Hundred, entituled, An Act directing the Attests of several Officers and Ministers, as now amended and confirmed this present Assembly. – Charter of Delaware – 1701(8)

XXII. And if, peradventure, hereafter it may happen, that any Doubts or Questions should arise concerning the true Sense and Meaning of any Word, Clause, or Sentence, contained in this our present Charter, We will charge and command, That Interpretation to be applied always, and in all Things, and in all Courts and Judicatories whatsoever, to obtain which shall be judged to be the more beneficial, profitable, and favorable to the aforesaid now Baron of Baltimore, his Heirs and Assigns: Provided always, that no Interpretation thereof be made, whereby God’s holy and true Christian Religion, or the Allegiance due to Us, our Heirs and Successors, may in any wise suffer by Change, Prejudice, or Diminution – The Charter of Maryland : 1632(9)

…We according to our princely Inclination, favouring much their worthy Disposition, in Hope thereby to advance the in Largement of Christian Religion, to the Glory of God Almighty,…- The Charter of New England : 1620(10)

will give the best and greatest security to sovereignetye, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to true loyaltye: Now know bee, that wee beinge willinge to encourage the hopefull undertakeinge of oure sayd lovall and loveinge subjects, and to secure them in the free exercise and enjovment of all theire civill and religious rights, appertaining to them, as our loveing subjects; and to preserve unto them that libertye, in the true Christian ffaith and worshipp of God, – Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations – July 15, 1663(11).  Note: early english was much different than modern english we know now and the spellings here in are correct spellings at the time it was written.

We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government: DO, by these our Letters Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires. – The First Charter of Virginia; April 10, 1606(12)

“In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another…” Mayflower Compact 1620(13)


I believe the misrepresentation of the intent and wording of the Constitution is intentional.  Not so much for the average denier of the Founders Christianity since they are usually parroting what they have been taught by college professors and popular authors.  It is these professors and authors who know how to research this information, and as part of their duty in writing and teaching history, have an obligation to include all the information, not just that which supports their agenda.  These documents are all readily available online with simple search terms such as: “original state constitutions”.  Most people are comfortable repeating what they heard somewhere from someone who appeared authoritative, and have little motivation to investigate.  After all when you think you are correct, how much more investigating do you do?

The Treaty of Tripoli is generally the the last resort for the proponent of a Christian-less Nation.  The treaty was negotiated during the “Powers of Barbary Conflict”.  The Barbary Conflict continued through the three presidencies of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams.  The Muslim Barbary Powers of Tripoli, Morocco, Algiers, and Tunis were warring against what they considered to be the “Christian” nations of England, Denmark, France, Spain, and the United States. In 1801, the nation of Tripoli declared war on the United States, initiating America’s first official war as an independent nation.  During the conflict, the Barbary Powers regularly attacked the defenseless U.S. merchant ships. The Barbary Powers were capturing and enslaving “Christian” crew members, and their cargo, in retaliation for what had been done to them by Christians of centuries prior (Crusades and the expulsion of Muslims from Granada, for example).  Attempting to secure a release of captured American crew members and a guarantee of unhindered passage in the Mediterranean region, President Washington dispatched ships to negotiate treaties with the Barbary nations.  The American envoys negotiated a number of treaties with the Muslim Barbary nations for the protection of U.S. commercial ships passing through the region. Unfortunately, the terms of the treaty were usually unfavorable to America, requiring the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in “tribute” (a warship to Tripoli, a frigate to Algiers, $525,000 in ransom paid for captured American crew members from Algiers) to the Muslim nations. The 1797 treaty with Tripoli was one of many treaties in which the countries would officially recognize the religion of the other attempting to prevent further possibility of a Holy War between Muslims and Christians.  The oft quoted Article 11 reads in part, “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…”.  On its face this seems to be an open and shut case.  Unless you keep reading for the context, the entire Article reads:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Reading the Article in its full text reveals that America was intending to differentiate itself from other nations which held an inherent hatred toward Muslims.  It assured the Muslims that the United States was not a Christian nation like the nations of previous centuries which sought out war with the Muslim nations, and would not provoke a religious war against them.  Additionally, This Treaty is written in the context of the Federal Government, and as such in this historical and legal way, to declare this country is not in any way a Christian nation is correct.  In that the Federal Government was not Christian in the same way Muslim governments are Muslim.

Next advocates for the Atheist, Agnostic, Deist Founders continue by citing some Founding Fathers with personal quotations made throughout their lives.  There is nothing wrong with quoting someone with their own words, after all who better to know what a person believes than the person himself?  Unfortunately, only the few actual Atheist, Agnostic, and Deist founders are quoted.  Yes, some were, but they could be counted on two hands.  To get the overall consensus of the religious beliefs of the Founders, one must not be sparse in their citation, after all there were 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, and 40 who signed the U.S. Constitution, 39 Delegates and the Secretary.  However the Founders quoted is usually confined to, James Madison, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine (who was not a Founding Father), and Ethan Allen.  So what do the rest of the Founding Fathers have to say?


I anticipate nothing but suffering to the human race while the present systems of paganism, deism, and atheism prevail in the world. BENJAMIN RUSH, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(14)

You have . . . received a public education, the purpose whereof hath been to qualify you the better to serve your Creator and your country. . . . Your first great duties, you are sensible, are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer. Let these be ever present to your minds, and exemplified in your lives and conduct. WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION(15)

Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.  GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, PENMAN AND SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION(16)

[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.  BENJAMIN RUSH, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(17)

In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. . . . No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people. NOAH WEBSTER(18)

[The] liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most
agreeable to His will [is] a liberty deemed in other countries
incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience
to be its best support. THOMAS JEFFERSON(19)

I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of
inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the
States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine
Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New
Testament. BENJAMIN RUSH, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(20)

The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never
invented a more effectual means of extirpating [extinguishing]
Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was
improper to read the Bible at schools. [T]he Bible, when not read
in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life. . . . [It]
should be read in our schools in preference to all other books from
its containing the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which
is calculated to produce private and public temporal happiness.
BENJAMIN RUSH, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(21)

[Why] should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school
book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. The
reverence for the Sacred Book that is thus early impressed lasts
long; and probably if not impressed in infancy, never takes firm
hold of the mind. FISHER AMES,
AUTHOR OF THE HOUSE LANGUAGE FOR THE FIRST AMENDMENT(22)

Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for
their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by
the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia, what a Paradise
would this region be. I have examined all [religions] . . . and the
result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more
of my little philosophy than all the libraries I have seen. JOHN ADAMS(23)

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches
us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore
to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts. JOHN JAY,
ORIGINAL CHIEF-JUSTICE OF THE U. S. SUPREME COURT(24)

Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot
pursue wicked courses. JAMES MCHENRY, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION(25)

I have always considered Christianity as the strong ground of
republicanism. . . . It is only necessary for republicanism to ally
itself to the Christian religion to overturn all the corrupted political
and religious institutions in the world. BENJAMIN RUSH, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(26)

However gradual may be the growth of Christian knowledge and
moral reformation, yet unless it be begun, unless the seeds are
planted, there can be no tree of knowledge and, of course, no fruit.
The attempt to Christianize the heathen world and to produce
peace on earth and goodwill towards men is humane, Christian,
and sublime. WILLIAM ELLERY, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(27)

History will also afford frequent opportunities of showing the
necessity of a public religion . . . and the excellency of the Christian
religion above all others, ancient or modern. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN(28)

[T]o the free and universal reading of the Bible in that age, men
were much indebted for right views of civil liberty. The Bible is . . .
a book which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own
dignity, and his equality with his fellow man. DANIEL WEBSTER(29)

[T]he Christian religion is superior to every other. . . . But there is
not only an excellence in the Christian morals, but a manifest
superiority in them to those which are derived from any other
source. JOHN WITHERSPOON, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION(30)

[T]he Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence. NOAH WEBSTER(31)

[T]he Holy Scriptures. . . . can alone secure to society, order and
peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government,
purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase
penal laws and draw entrenchments [protections] around our
institutions. JAMES MCHENRY, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION(32)

[T]he rights essential to happiness. . . . We claim them from a
higher source—from the King of kings and Lord of all the earth.
JOHN DICKINSON, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION;
GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA(33)

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It
is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. JOHN ADAMS(34)

From the day of the Declaration, the people of the North American
Union and of its constituent states were associated bodies of civilized
men and Christians. . . . They were bound by the laws of God, which
they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all,
acknowledged as the rules of their conduct. The Declaration of
Independence cast off all the shackles of this dependency. The United
States of America were no longer Colonies. They were an
independent nation of Christians. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS(35)

The promulgation of the great doctrines of religion, the being,
and attributes, and providence of one Almighty God; the
responsibility to Him for all our actions, founded upon moral
accountability; a future state of rewards and punishments; the
cultivation of all the personal, social, and benevolent virtues;—
these never can be a matter of indifference in any well-ordered
community. It is indeed difficult to conceive how any civilized
society can well exist without them.JOSEPH STORY, U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE; FATHER OF AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE(36)

And, at all events, it is impossible for those who
believe in the truth of Christianity as a Divine revelation, to doubt
that it is the especial duty of government to foster and encourage it
among all the citizens and subjects. It yet remains a problem to
be solved in human affairs whether any free government can be
permanent where the public worship of God and the support of
religion constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any
assignable shape. JOSEPH STORY, U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE;
FATHER OF AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE(37)

The real object of the [First A]mendment was not to countenance,
much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity by
prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian
sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which
should give to a hierarchy [a denominational council] the exclusive
patronage of the national government JOSEPH STORY, U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE;
FATHER OF AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE(38)


Below is a list of private affiliations the Founders held.

___________________________

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS: Vice-President of the American Bible Society; member of the Massachusetts Bible Society.

ABRAHAM BALDWIN (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): Chaplain in the American Revolution for two years.

JOEL BARLOW (DIPLOMAT UNDER WASHINGTON AND ADAMS): Chaplain in the American Revolution for three years.

JOSEPH BLOOMFIELD (GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY): Member of the New Jersey Bible Society.

ELIAS BOUDINOT (PRESIDENT OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS):
Founder and first President of the American Bible Society; President of the New Jersey Bible Society; member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; member of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

JAMES BOWDOIN (GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS): Member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.

JOHN BROOKS (GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS; REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL): President of Middlesex County Bible Society.

JAMES BROWN (U. S. SENATOR; DIPLOMAT): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

JAMES BURRILL, JR. (CHIEF-JUSTICE OF RHODE ISLAND SUPREME COURT; U. S. SENATOR): President of the Providence Auxiliary Bible Society.

DEWITT CLINTON (GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK; U. S. SENATOR; INTRODUCED THE TWELFTH AMENDMENT): Manager and Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

FRANCIS DANA (MEMBER OF CONTINENTAL CONGRESS; CHIEFJUSTICE OF MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME COURT; U. S. MINISTER TO RUSSIA): Member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.

JOHN DAVENPORT (REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; U. S. CONGRESS): Member of the Missionary Society of Connecticut.

SAMUEL DEXTER (SECRETARY OF WAR UNDER ADAMS; U. S. CONGRESSMAN; U. S. SENATOR): Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.

JONAS GALUSHA (GOVERNOR OF VERMONT): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

WILLIAM GASTON (CHIEF-JUSTICE OF NORTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT; U. S. REPRESENTATIVE): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

CHARLES GOLDSBOROUGH (GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND; U. S. REPRESENTATIVE): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

WILLIAM GRAY (LT. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS; U. S. SENATOR): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

FELIX GRUNDY (U. S. ATTORNEY GENERAL; U. S. SENATOR; U. S. CONGRESSMAN): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): Proposed formation of the Christian Constitutional Society to spread Christian government to other nations.

JOHN HAMILTON (MAJOR-GENERAL IN THE REVOLUTION; U. S. CONGRESS): Member of the New Jersey Bible Society.

JOHN JAY (ORIGINAL CHIEF-JUSTICE OF THE U. S. SUPREME COURT): President of the American Bible Society; member of American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

WILLIAM JONES (GOVERNOR OF RHODE ISLAND): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (ATTORNEY; AUTHOR OF “THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER”): Manager and Vice-President of the American Sunday School Union.

RUFUS KING (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): Selected as manager of the American Bible Society.

ANDREW KIRKPATRICK (CHIEF-JUSTICE OF NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT): Vice-President of the New Jersey Bible Society; Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE (REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL): Member of the American Sunday School Union.

JOHN LANGDON (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

BENJAMIN LINCOLN (REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL; LT. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS): Member of the Society for the Propagating of the Gospel among the Indians and Others.

JOHN LOWELL (REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; MEMBER OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS): Member of the Society for the Propagating of the Gospel among the Indians and Others.

GEORGE MADISON (GOVERNOR OF KENTUCKY): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

JOHN MARSHALL (CHIEF-JUSTICE OF THE U. S. SUPREME COURT; SECRETARY OF STATE; REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL): Vice-President of the American Bible Society; officer in the American Sunday School Union.

JAMES MCHENRY (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): President of the Baltimore Bible Society.

DAVID LAWRENCE MORRIL (GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE; U. S. SENATOR): Vice-President of the American Bible Society; Manager in the American Sunday School Union.

JOSEPH NOURSE (REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; U. S. TREASURY): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

ROBERT TREAT PAINE (SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION): Military Chaplain.

ALBION PARRIS (GOVERNOR OF MAINE): Manager of the American Sunday School Union.

WILLIAM PHILLIPS (LT. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS FOR 11 TERMS):
President of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians; President of the Massachusetts Bible Society; a member of the American Board of Foreign Missions; Vice-President of the American Bible Society; President of the American Society for Educating Pious Youth for the Gospel Ministry.

CHARLES COTESWORTH PINCKNEY (SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION): President of the Charleston Bible Society;  Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

THOMAS POSEY (REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; GOVERNOR OF INDIANA; U. S. SENATOR): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

RUFUS PUTNAM (REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL; FEDERAL JUDGE): President of the Ohio Bible Society.

BENJAMIN RUSH (SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION): Founder and manager of the Philadelphia Bible Society.

ISAAC SHELBY (REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; GOVERNOR OF KENTUCKY): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

JOHN COTTON SMITH (GOVERNOR OF CONNECTICUT; U. S. CONGRESSMAN): President of the Litchfield County Foreign Missionary Society; first President of the Connecticut Bible Society; President of the American Bible Society; President of the American Board of Foreign Missions.

CALEB STRONG (CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION; U. S. SENATOR; GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

JAMES SULLIVAN (GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS; U. S. CONGRESSMAN): Member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.

INCREASE SUMNER (GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS): Member of the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others.

WILLIAM TILGHMAN (FEDERAL JUDGE; CHIEF-JUSTICE OF PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.

SMITH THOMPSON (U. S. SUPREME COURT; SECRETARY OF NAVY): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

DANIEL TOMPKINS (GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK; VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE U. S.): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

JOHN TREADWELL (GOVERNOR OF CONNECTICUT; MEMBER OF CONTINENTAL CONGRESS): Member of the Missionary Society of Connecticut.

ROBERT TROUP (FEDERAL JUDGE; SECRETARY OF WAR): Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

PETER VROOM (GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY; U. S. CONGRESSMAN): Vice-President of the American Bible Society; member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

BUSHROD WASHINGTON (U. S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE): Vice-President of the American Bible Society; Vice-President of the American Sunday School Union.

WILLIAM WIRT ( U. S. ATTORNEY-GENERAL UNDER TWO PRESIDENTS): Manager of the American Sunday School Union; Vice-President of the American Bible Society.

THOMAS WORTHINGTON (GOVERNOR OF OHIO; U. S. SENATOR): Original Officer of the American Bible Society.


After seeing a list like this it is no wonder the advocates for a Christian-less founding would be so sparse in their selection of quotation.  The list above of the positions held in private affairs by the Founding Fathers helps shed light on their Christian beliefs.  Bible Societies were responsible for printing and distributing bibles, a pretty unusual affiliation for an atheist.

Just among the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and only 3 deists, Franklin, Williamson, and Wilson.  How do we know this?  The people of the time of the founding era kept records, everything was documented.  However, unlike today, one did not simply belong to a church like we do today where you come and go as your personal tastes direct.  In the founding era, you were required to take a sworn oath to believe and uphold the doctrines and theology of the church to which you belonged.

Unfortunately even quotes attributed to Jefferson and Adams are taken out of context, either that or explicit statements such as:

Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes? There were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants, and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists, and Protestants “qui ne croyent rien.” Very few, however, of several of these species; nevertheless, all educated in the general principles of Christianity, and the general principles of English and American liberty.

Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No. The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. I could, therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles. In favor of these general principles, in philosophy, religion, and government, I could fill sheets of quotations from Frederic of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, as well as Newton and Locke; not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame(John Adams, Works, Vol. X, to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813)

means Adams was simply revising the current state of affairs of the nation, and had no idea what was going on around him.

This collection of the earliest documents should easily serve as more than adequate to demonstrate the Christian intentions and founding of our nation. Far much more can be said and quoted in support of the Founding Fathers and the Christian influence and foundation of America, but neither time or space allows. There will always be those nay sayers who care not what the actual representative beliefs of the foundation are, and will always fall back on the few out-of-context and misrepresented phrases and quotes.

________________________________

  1. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/de02.asp
  2. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/ga02.asp
  3. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ma02.asp
  4. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/nc07.asp
  5. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/pa08.asp
  6. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/vt01.asp
  7. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ct03.asp
  8. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/de01.asp
  9. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ma01.asp
  10. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/mass01.asp
  11. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ri04.asp
  12. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/va01.asp
  13. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/mayflower.asp
  14. Rush, Letters, Vol. II, p. 799, to Noah Webster on July 20, 1798
  15. Edwards Beardsley, Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1886), pp. 141-142
  16. Jared Sparks, The Life of Governeur Morris (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1832), Vol. III, p. 483, from his “Notes on the Form of a Constitution for France.”
  17. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), p. 8, “On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic.”; Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 294, to John Armstrong on March 19,1783; see also James Henry Morgan, Dickinson College: The History of One Hundred and Fifty Years 1783-1933 (Carlisle, PA: Dickinson College, 1933), p. 11
  18. Noah Webster, A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary, and Moral Subjects (New York: Webster and Clark, 1843), p. 291, from his “Reply to a Letter of David McClure on the Subject of the Proper Course of Study in the Girard College, Philadelphia. New Haven, October 25, 1836.”
  19. Jefferson, Writings (1904), Vol. XVI, p. 291, to Captain John Thomas on November 18, 1801
  20. Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 475, to Elias Boudinot on July 9, 1788
  21. Rush, Letters, Vol. 1, p. 521, to Jeremy Belknap on July 13, 1789; Benjamin Rush, Essays, pp. 94, 100, “A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book.”
  22. Fisher Ames, Works of Fisher Ames (Boston: T. B. Wait & Co., 1809), pp. 134-135
  23. John Adams, Works, Vol. II, pp. 6-7, diary entry for February 22, 1756.
    John Adams, Works, Vol. X, p. 85, to Thomas Jefferson on December 25, 1813.
  24. John Jay, John Jay: The Winning of the Peace. Unpublished Papers 1780-1784, Richard B. Morris, editor (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980), Vol. II, p. 709, to Peter Augustus Jay on April 8, 1784
  25. Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14
  26. Rush, Letters, Vol. II, pp. 820-821, to Thomas Jefferson on August 22, 1800
  27. Jared Sparks, Lives of William Pinkney, William Ellery, and Cotton Mather (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1860), from The Library of American Biography, Vol. VI, pp. 138-139
  28. Benjamin Franklin, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvaina (Philadelphia, 1749), p. 22
  29. Daniel Webster, Address Delivered at Bunker Hill, June 17, 1843, on the Completion of the Monument (Boston: T. R. Marvin, 1843), p. 31; see also W. P. Strickland, History of theAmerican Bible Society from its Organization to the Present Time (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1849), p. 18
  30. Witherspoon, Works (1815), Vol. VIII, pp. 33, 38, “On the Truth of the Christian Religion,” Lecture IV
  31. K. Alan Snyder, Defining Noah Webster: Mind and Morals in the Early Republic (New York: University Press of America, 1990), p. 253, to James Madison on October 16, 1829
  32. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14
  33. John Dickinson, The Political Writings of John Dickinson (Wilmington: Bonsal and Niles, 1801), Vol. I, p. 111
  34. John Adams, Works, Vol. IX, p. 229, to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts on October 11, 1798
  35. John Quincy Adams, An Address Delivered at the Request of the Committee of Arrangements for the Celebrating the Anniversary of Independence at the City of Washington on the Fourth of July 1821 upon the Occasion of Reading The Declaration of Independence (Cambridge: Hilliard and Metcalf, 1821), p. 28
  36. Story, Familiar Exposition, p. 260, §442
  37. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hillard, Gray, and Company, 1833), Vol. III, pp. 722-723, § 1865
    Story, Commentaries, Vol. III, p. 727, § 1869
  38. Story, Commentaries, Vol. III, p. 728, §1871

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Related Article: Why Did The Atheist Cross The Road?

Comments

  1. One more document for consideration is the 110th U.S. Congress House Resolution: H. Res. 888. The resolution did not pass, but this should serve as a chronicle of events which support a Christian foundation.

    Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `American Religious History Week’ for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.

    Whereas religious faith was not only important in official American life during the periods of discovery, exploration, colonization, and growth but has also been acknowledged and incorporated into all 3 branches of American Federal government from their very beginning

    The entire document can be found at Thomas.loc.gov website. The resolution chronicles the religious foundation of the U.S. government.

    The resolution concludes as follows:

    Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives—-

    (1) affirms the rich spiritual and diverse religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history, including up to the current day;

    (2) recognizes that the religious foundations of faith on which America was built are critical underpinnings of our Nation’s most valuable institutions and form the inseparable foundation for America’s representative processes, legal systems, and societal structures;

    (3) rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s public buildings and educational resources; and

    (4) expresses support for designation of a `American Religious History Week’ every year for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.

  2. Well done, John.

    • Thanks Dale, I tried to be thorough. Strangely its not thorough enough for revisionists. The couple founding fathers who were atheist or agnostic seem to trump the 95% who weren’t, and the one citation in a private letter by Jefferson trumps all the official government documents above, go figure.

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