Skip to comments.Did You Know that Half the Declaration's Signers Had Divinity School Training?
Posted on 05/30/2005 12:47:24 PM PDT by LS
Did You Know that Half the Declaration's Signers Had Divinity School Training?
by Larry Schweikart
No phrase has been more egregiously misapplied than Thomas Jeffersons infamous wall of separation between church and state, a line he used in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802.This line, along with references to the supposed lack of Christian faith among the Founders, has for decades fed the fires of the American leftists in their drive to excise any references to God and/or Christ from the public square. Yet how ir-religious were these Founders?
It is worth beginning at the beginning and to note that entire colonies were established precisely to serve as religious sanctuaries for various denominations of the Christian church, with Pennsylvania a Quaker state, Maryland a Catholic state, and Massachusetts a Puritan state. Moreover, the supposedly deistic Jefferson wrote Virginias Sabbath law, and far from wishing to move America away from her Christian roots, Jeffersons Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1786 was expressly designed to move the nation toward a less-Anglican, more Protestant base. These words hardly sound like those of a man committed to atheism or even deism: Almighty God hath created the mind free, and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind . . . . Jefferson wanted to extend the Gospel by its influence on reason alone, not coercion. Nevertheless, that hardly supports the notion that Jefferson lacked faith in God, or, for that matter, the Gospels.
What is completely ignored in the debates about religious freedom is that every one of the groups fighting the tax assessments for public funding of ministers desired religious freedom within a Christian tradition, and none, in their wildest dreams, would have suspected the concept of religious freedom would be used to justify the removal of Christian crosses from public squares, the elimination of prayers in school, or the removal of copies of the Ten Commandments from courtrooms. In the minds of these groups, the threat of tyranny by an Anglican Church would have been a far lesser evil than the complete removal of Christianity from the public square.
There was certainly no separation of church from our Founding statesmen. Half the Declarations signers had some sort of divinity school training, and while John Adams was the most overtly pious, even the supposed non-believers among the Founders, such as Benjamin Franklin, found the need to turn to God in times of trouble. During the Constitutional Convention's most contentious moments, it was Franklin who not only offered a prayer but who added:
Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance [emphasis added].
Do these words sound like those of a deist who thinks human ability sufficient for the challenges of the day? Franklin not only went on to quote scripture a la Adams, but stated flatly that God governs the affairs of men (emphasis Franklins).
Modern historians, steeped in the feelings and emotions of people, demand more evidence of the inner man from the Founders. But faith, to all of them, was a deeply private issue, lest one come up short against another. Whether or not George Washington prayed in the snow, or whether or not declarations such as Franklins were for public consumption, it is abundantly obvious that these men spoke of God, the Creator, the Lord, the Divine (capital D) relentlessly. Even if it were true that, initially, such pronouncements were intended for the ears of others, it nevertheless bespeaks a Biblical law that Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17). By constantly speaking faith, they consistently built up their own. Non-believers might see hypocrisy; believers would see confession and optimism, whereby one calls those things which do not exist as though they did. (Romans 4:17).
The omnipresence of Christianity in America provided an undergirding to everything the Founders said and did. It was so common that most people, aside from an ultra-pious man like John Adams, did not delve deeply into the implications of their faith for every daily interaction. Yet how can one escape the fact that virtually all of the Republics early universities were founded by denominations with the intent of advancing the cause of Christ---and not some generic Creator? How does one reconcile the evidence of a long and tortured spiritual journey of Abraham Lincoln, who only surrendered all after Gettysburg? How can the divinity school training of so many early giants---and many later presidents, who studied theology formally---be cavalierly swept aside? And all this in a young nation in which the path to power and fame was anything but the clergy!
Jeffersons wall of separation between church and state clearly did not apply to a wall separating church and statesmen, for it was assumed by all that men of poor character could not govern. The unstated assumption beneath that was that character came from God, and faith, not from mans own works. They spoke of character without ceasing: Alexander Hamilton stated that he would willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station. But of course, Hamilton had gotten that training from a New Jersey minister, who funded his education. Jefferson wrote in his Bible, I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator. Jefferson, we might add, was the chairman of the American Bible Society. Patrick Henry, in 1776, stated, It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here. The First Continental Congress authorized the purchase of 20,000 Bibles in 1777 from Holland---a fact that anti-religious websites deliberately misrepresent. Indeed, the most common argument against the faith of the Founders is an argument from silence. Yet that speaks more about their view of what was properly discussed in public---even in private letters---than it does their lack of Christian faith.
Had the Founders been subject to the incessant polling we suffer from today, three things are clear: 1) They would have overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, characterized the United States as a Christian nation (leaving aside what each interpreted that to mean); 2) They would have overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, thought it imperative that leaders display the type of character that sprang from Christianity; and 3) They would have almost certainly unanimously agreed that the wall of separation was to prevent one Christian denomination from dominating, and was never intended to be a wedge between the government and Christianity. Even the so-called Deists among them would be horrified at the actions taken under the guise of protecting religious liberty, when in fact they are usually efforts to attack religion. Id wager that had they seen the perversions of their intended protection of Christianity, more than a few would have uttered, Oh, my God!
Why does the list of religious affiliation posted by kabar differ from the list posted by you? There are many more lists that could be posted that differ from the two posted by you and kabar.
There is no historical documentation that factually lists these men by religious affiliation and for good reason. In colonial times your religion was the religion of the colony you lived in. Most of the states at the time of the Constitutional Convention, did not allow confessed Deists to hold public office.
Among our founders was a famous Jew and a famous Atheist, yet you don't see a Jew or an Atheist on the list. That was changed by the separation of church and state. Do you really believe that separation of church and state would have been overwhelmingly supported if all those guys were Christian and wanted a Christian America?
Read what the Founding Fathers said about this subject:
James Madison (Architect of the U.S. Constitution & Co-Author of the Federalist Papers)
"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
(also From his notes)
"Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ."
"Religion [is] the basis and Foundation of Government."
Patrick Henry (...as for me, give me liberty or give me death!)
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased a 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!"
Benjamin Rush (signer...Declaration of Independence)
"By removing the Bible from schools we would be wasting so much time and money in punishing criminals and so little pains to prevent crime. Take the Bible out of our schools and there would be an explosion in crime."
"I have alternately been called an Aristocrat and a Democrat. I am neither. I am a Christocrat."
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
"Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world."
"If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may ovenvhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity."
"Finally, let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary.
"If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy, If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; If the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end."
In 1832, Noah Webster published his History of the United States, in which he wrote:
"The brief exposition of the constitution of the United States, will unfold to young persons the principles of republican government; and it is the sincere desire of the writer that our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.
"The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free Constitutions of Government.
"The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all of our civil constitutions and laws....All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.
"When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God. The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty;
"If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made not for the public good so much as for the selfish or local purposes;
"Corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded.
"If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws."
"Corruption of morals is rapid enough in any country without a bounty from government. And...the Chief Magistrate of the United States should be the last man to accelerate its progress."
Laws and rights based on the Christian religion results in an unquestionable legitimacy...to believers.
If we 'cleaned house' of ALL government laws, statutes, including the U.S. Constitution of anything based on Judeo-Christian morals and values, what rights would we the people have left?
At the end of the day - most of ours laws are based on a MORAL vrs. IMMORAL code that is rooted in religious beliefs. If laws and rights are not based in a large part on religion - which results in an unquestionable legitimacy, all laws and rights would flow from only the opinion of the most powerful.
Katherine & Van Jenerette
Self-deception is the worst. LOL
"Did You Know that Half the Declaration's Signers Had Divinity School Training?"
Did you know that almost all of those who will eventually destroy the Declaration of Indepence have had no Divinity School training?
You offered up Calvinism...How does Unitarian differ from Deist? How does Calvinist show evidence of Christianity?
I was honest enough to point out that some of the Calvinist listings were biased even though Calvinism is closer to Deism than it is to Christianity.
How does Deist equate to God hater and Calvinist (Unitarian) does not?
I wouldn't think such prose possible of such an age, either, but remember, children of 200 years ago---who were educated---were educated in letters and math to a FAR greater degree (given what they could be taught) than today. I've seen a state of NJ high school ENTRANCE test from 1891 that would stagger most college graduates.
Lessee, what was that about church and state?
Lol. Go to the actual site of my piece, www.historynewsnetwork.com, and look at some of the comments! They are already out!
And the fact that, as one poster said above, that you were of the faith of your colony/state, well, that's significant: it says PRECISELY that there was a union of church and state. Maybe not of church and the federal government, but certainly church and each state.
ping to self for later pingout.
That's the thing. Especially the institutions of higher learning.
On my way. hehehe
Great article. Thanks for posting it here.
Since you posted a thread yesterday (Jefferson/Madison/Franklin Hated God ! ?), I thought this might interest you.
Exactly, and the "personal witness/born again" approach of the Baptists like Billy Sunday and Smith Wigglesworth (I know, he wasn't a Baptist) and Billy Graham was a phenomena that didn't really appear until the mid-1800s in most places.
As I indicated previously - I think your "confusion" is a deliberate smokescreen. Nobody could be THAT clueless. LOL