Our Founding Fathers did not intend for the citizens of this country to live in a secular society but in a good and virtuous society, as defined by the Judeo-Christian religion.
Because American history is mainly being taught by Secular Humanist in our public schools, there is a popular perception that America’s Founding Fathers were atheists, agnostics, and Deists. The names of Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are often pointed to as supportive proof.
The problem, is that of the approximately two hundred and fifty Founding Fathers, these three are exalted to represent all the rest, and that is not true, or fair. Whatever questions and concern some of the Founding Fathers had with miracles in an Age of Reason, no one completely denied a Supreme Being, who ruled over, or guided the affairs of men. The Bible was appealed to in support of many political positions.
Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809), the son of a Quaker tenant farmer, and a devout Anglican mother, in his famous work, Common Sense (January 10, 1776), says that it was a sin for the Jews of old to have appointed a king from the “heathens” around them. Man is not to recognize any king besides God Himself. Scripture is cited by Paine to support his argument, that having earthly kings is sinful.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1788) was sympathetic to religion and Christianity. He supported the ministry of George Whitefield by publishing his sermons, and contributing to his orphanage in Georgia. Franklin did not ridicule people of faith, or try to bludgeon Christianity to death. He believed in the providential care of God, for he wrote, “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.”
Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826) was not as hostile to God, or Christian ideas, as is often presented, especially at the end of his life. In a letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823, Jefferson wrote, “I join you cordially, and await his [God’s] time and will with more readiness than reluctance. May we meet there again, in Congress, with our ancient Colleagues, and receive with them the seal of approbation `Well done, good and faithful servants.’” [A Quote from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verse 21]
With that being noted, attention must be turned to the other Founding Fathers, because, so many were men of great faith, and committed to Christian piety. A Founding Father may be identified as someone who had a substantial impact on the birth, and establishing of America as a nation. A good place to start would be the forty-one men on board the Pilgrim ship, Mayflower, who, on November 11, 1620 signed the Mayflower Compact. That became one of the most historic documents in American history.
Next, a study should be made of the fifty-six men who actually signed the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
Then, there are the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention, also known as the Constitutional Convention, which took place in 1787 from May 25 to September 17.
Thirty-eight of the convention’s fifty-five delegates would later sign the Constitution of the United States in 1787.
Also, to be noted are the nine framers of the Bill of Rights.
In addition, there are individuals who did not sign any of the major documents, but had a huge influence on the shaping of the ideas of America’s Founding Fathers.
There was John Jay (1743 – 1829) who, along with Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, wrote a collection of 85 articles and essays, called The Federalist Papers, promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. The papers were published from October 27, 1787 – May 28, 1788. Jay later become the First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
There was Patrick Henry (1736 – 1799) who tremendously influenced Virginia politics and promoted the fight for freedom in the Revolutionary War. Though he did oppose the ratification of the United States Constitution, because he did not want a strong federal government, Henry’s influence cannot be dismissed as a man who shaped America’s character and destiny.
The practical problem is that Americans have be taught to recognize two or three prominent names, and pass over the many other Founding Fathers filled with wisdom, faith, and courage.
The contributions of Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745 – 1813), who served as a Surgeon General of the Continental Army, are not well known. Dr. Rush signed the Declaration of Independence, and was a leader in Pennsylvania’s ratification of the Constitution in 1788. He was a leader in many social reforms, especially in the areas of medicine and education. He personally trained over 3,000 medical students, and is known as the Father of American Medicine. He opposed slavery, advocated free public schools, and sought improved education for women, and a more enlightened penal system. He was one of the founders of American psychiatry.
There was James Wilson (1742 – 1798), one of the Founding Fathers, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. While a delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, Wilson served on the Committee of Detail which proposed the Three-Fifths Compromise, and the Electoral College. In 1789, Wilson became one of the first Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.
There was Stephen Hopkins (1707 – 1785), Rhode Island governor, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
There was Richard Henry Lee (1732 – 1794), a Founding Father from Virginia best known for the Lee Resolution, the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies to become independent from Great Britain. His “resolution for independency” of June, 1776 led to the United States Declaration of Independence, which he signed.
The larger point is that because a few of the Founding Fathers struggled with the Christian faith, many others were orthodox Christians whose faith shaped their political views, and influenced those who were not devout believers, such as Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.
History once credited the influence of Christianity in shaping the foundation of America. For example, a textbook printed in 1848, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (Benson J. Lossing, [1813-1891]), This eminent 19th century historian provided an honest assessment of all 56 signers of the Declaration, not just a selective few who were biased against the Christian faith.
On February 29, 1892, the Supreme Court declared, in Holy Trinity v. United States, that the historical record of America overwhelmingly demonstrated that the United States “… is a Christian nation.” As America entered into the twentieth century, the historical narrative started to change with the rise of Secular Humanism in the public schools, and skepticism in institutions of higher education. Because evil is militant, the attempt to dismiss God from America’s consciousness has made inroads in every part of society.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of Christianity in the establishment of America, men, such as professor and author Steven Morris, boldly asserted in an article which appeared in the Los Angeles Times, “THE FOUNDING FATHERS WERE NOT CHRISTIANS”.
Writing for the Sun Herald, a U. S. newspaper based in Biloxi, Mississippi, Bob Massey wrote an article, “AUTHORS OF THE DECLARATON WERE ENEMIES OF CHRIST”.
While trying to prove the Christian Right is trying to rewrite history, it is actually the Radical Left which is assaulting America’s heritage.
The Founding Fathers often made statements that recognized the existence of God, and the source of their morality being founded in Judeo-Christian tradition. The influence of Christianity on American law and culture is indisputable. Consider the evidence.
Samuel Adams. “A general dissolution of Principles and Manners will more surely overthrow the Liberties of America than the whole Force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous, they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader . . . If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security.” Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed., Harry Alonzo Cushing (G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1908), Vol. 4, p. 124.
Fisher Ames. “Should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples, captivating and noble. In no book is there so good English, so pure and so elegant; and by teaching all the same book, they will speak alike, and the Bible will justly remain the standard of language as well as of faith.” Fisher Ames: Author of the First Amendment
Patrick Henry. “We shall not fight alone. God presides over the destinies of nations, and will raise up friends for us. The battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave . . . Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Patrick Henry, in a speech March 23, 1775.
“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.” Patrick Henry, Wirt Henry’s, Life, vol. II, p. 621
John Jay. “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers. And it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” First Chief Justice of Supreme Court John Jay to Jedidiah Morse February 28, 1797
John Marshall. “The American population is entirely Christian, and with us Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it.” John Marshall, in a letter to Jasper Adams, May 9, 1833, JSAC, p. 139. Marshall was Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801-1835.
Roger Sherman. “I believe that there is only one living and true God – – – That the scriptures of the old and new testaments are a revelation from God and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.” Lewis Henry Boutell, The Life of Roger Sherman (Chicago: A.C. McClurg and Co., 1896), pp. 272-273 David Barton, Original Intent (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilders, 2000) Ch. 6 p. 138
Noah Webster. “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His Apostles…. This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.” Noah Webster http://www.errantskeptics.org…
When people are told today that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, were the least religious of the political figures of their day, it should also be told they were more religious than most political figures of our generation.
It was Benjamin Franklin who called for the establishment of chaplains, and daily prayer at the Constitutional Convention. It was Benjamin Franklin, who recommended that Christianity be taught in the public schools in Pennsylvania. It was Franklin, who worked to raise church attendance across the state. When Thomas Paine published The Age of Reason assaulting Christianity and the Bible, Benjamin Franklin made a forceful defense of Christianity.
As President, Thomas Jefferson provided funds for Christian missionaries to the Indians, with whom he signed peace treaties. When writing official government documents, Jefferson signed his letters with the words written out, “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1804,” etc.
People think they know Jefferson and Franklin. They think they know they are the least religious signers of the Declaration of Independence, and yet people do not know how religiously inclined they really were, and how sympathetic to the Judeo-Christian faith. Using their own original documents, the modern-day impression would recharacterize them as conservative Biblical evangelicals.
In November, 1800, the United States capitol was moved into. One of the first acts of Congress was to use the capitol as a Church building. Who made this possible? The Speaker of the House was John Trumbull. The President of the United States was Thomas Jefferson. The Church met in the Hall of the House of Representative. Jefferson then instructed the band for the US Marines to come and play music for the worship services. So much for separation of Church and State.
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson signed the Treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians. One interesting provision of the treaty was for “the United States to give annually, for seven years one hundred dollars towards the support of a priest of that religion, who will engage to perform for the valid tribe the duties of his office, and also to instruct as many of their children as possible in the rudiments of literature. And the United States will further give the sum of three hundred dollars to assist the tribe in the erection of a church.”
While Jefferson had questions about the divinity of Christ, he was still evangelistic in promoting the Christian faith and church, with government funds.
The truth of the matter, is that many of the Founding Fathers believed that the center of society should not be secular, but spiritual, and that spirituality was to be guided by the Judeo-Christian faith.