Skip to comments.Religious Affiliation of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence
Posted on 07/04/2010 4:53:44 PM PDT by NoLibZone
Religious Affiliation of the Signers of the
Declaration of Independence
The signers of the Declaration of Independence were a profoundly intelligent, religious and ethically-minded group. Four of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were current or former full-time preachers, and many more were the sons of clergymen. Other professions held by signers include lawyers, merchants, doctors and educators. These individuals, too, were for the most part active churchgoers and many contributed significantly to their churches both with contributions as well as their service as lay leaders. The signers were members of religious denominations at a rate that was significantly higher than average for the American Colonies during the late 1700s.
These signers have long inspired deep admiration among both secularists (who appreciate the non-denominational nature of the Declaration) and by traditional religionists (who appreciate the Declaration's recognition of God as the source of the rights enumerated by the document). Lossing's seminal 1848 collection of biographies of the signers of the Declaration of Independence echoed widely held sentiments held then and now that there was divine intent or inspiration behind the Declaration of Independence. Lossing matter-of-factly identified the signers as "instruments of Providence" who have "gone to receive their reward in the Spirit Land."
From: B. J. Lossing, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, George F. Cooledge & Brother: New York (1848) [reprinted in Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, WallBuilder Press: Aledo, Texas (1995)], pages 7-12:
From no point of view can the Declaration of American Independence, the causes which led to its adoption, and the events which marked its maintenance, be observed without exciting sentiments of profound veneration for the men who were the prominent actors in that remarkable scene in the drama of the world's history...
The signing of that instrument was a solemn act, and required great firmness and patriotism in those who committed it... neither firmness nor patriotism was wanting in that august body...
Such were the men unto whose keeping, as instruments of Providence, the destinies of America were for the time intrusted; and it has been well remarked, that men, other than such as these,--an ignorant, untaught mass, like those who have formed the physical elements of other revolutionary movements, without sufficient intellect to guide and control them--could not have conceived, planned, and carried into execution, such a mighty movement, one so fraught with tangible marks of political wisdom, as the American Revolution...
Their bodies now have all returned to their kindred dust in the grave, and their souls have gone to receive their reward in the Spirit Land.
From: Robert G. Ferris (editor), Signers of the Declaration: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service: Washington, D.C. (revised edition 1975), pages 27-28:
Liberally endowed as a whole with courage and sense of purpose, the signers [of the Declaration of Independence] consisted of a distinguished group of individuals. Although heterogeneous in background, education, experience, and accommplishments, at the time of the signing they were practically all men of means and represented an elite cross section of 18th-century American leadership. Everyone one of them of them had achieved prominence in his colony, but only a few enjoyed a national reputation.
The signers were those individuals who happened to be Delegates to Congress at the time... The signers possessed many basic similarities. Most were American-born and of Anglo-Saxon origin. The eight foreign-born... were all natives of the British Isles. Except for Charles Carroll, a Roman Catholic, and a few Deists, every one subscribed to Protestantism. For the most part basically political nonextremists, many at first had hesitated at separation let alone rebellion.
You and your communist friends are obviously bent on turning the country into some kind of socialist theocracy bent on burning at the stake anyone like me defending Christian freedom and liberty, for all Christians, not just those that belong to your particular cult. Please take your hateful anti-American anti-Christian screeds elsewhere.
It’s always interested me that the New England branch of Calvinism so quickly morphed into Unitarianism and Transcendentalism (basically Eastern mysticism), while the southern branch kept more true to its roots. Maybe it’s because the New Englanders were able to set up a theocracy, while the Scotch-Irish remained outsiders. It’s been said that the more the church is persecuted, the purer it is. Establishment—the unification of religion with the secular state—is ruinous to faith.
The very idea of equality under the law is rooted in Christianity, for we are all one in Christ Jesus, we are all equal in God’s eyes. You may condemn the whole history of Christian western civilization as oppressive and evil, but I do not. I think Christianity was a positive development. Christianity may represent oppression to you, but to me and to the founders of this nation under God, it represented freedom.
Communists are the ones who support banning God from our schools, from our money, from our pledge of allegiance, and smashing the crosses off our war memorials. Godless Communists are the one who changed the meaning of our Constitution in the sixties into something it never was in order to attack and destroy the Christian foundations our nation and our legal system.
“You may condemn the whole history of Christian western civilization as oppressive and evil, but I do not.”
Where do you get off saying things like this? Do you have no conscience? Do think it is good to “bare false witness.” Last time I read my Bible, that is condemned in the Ten Commandments. Do you think your God does not know your motives?
I do not care what you think of me (why should I care what a liar thinks).
You will never find in anything I’ve ever written or said that condemns anything in Christianity, except of course for things like the inquisition, and burning witches at the stake—things which I’m sure you believe are just ducky.
The only thing I want is for all individuals to be free to believe and worship as they choose. You, apparently, would prefer to enslave people and compel them to worship according the tenants of your own cult. If you are a represenetative of today’s Christianity, no wonder it is in such bad straights.
Well you can see from my post #70 ( http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2546951/posts?page=70#70
that Abigail Adams self-identifies as "Unitarian" in an 1816 letter. Granted, this is long after the declaration of independence and also after her husband's Presidency, but it is prior to the 1819 date that Achilles cited for Unitarians seeing themselves as a seperate movement.
The basic point for me that it appears the Adams' church parish adopted a Unitarian philosophy by the 1750s, and that both John and Abigail were registered members of that parish and financially supported it and agreed with the church's teachings.
As for whether specific Unitarian idealogy developed later, I can't say. While I don't mean to insult anyone on FR, though, it seems to me the only "dististive" belief that Unitarianism has is that they DON'T have any specific beliefs!
It is my understanding that a buddhist, an agnostic, a Christian, and maybe even an atheist could join a Unitarian church and become members in good standing with their beliefs. Unitarians profess that they don't have the answers, only that they reject the idea that traditional Christian teachings are certain truth. Some Unitarians still self-identify as "Christian" (as in the "Jesus is my role model in life" sense), but even many of them would probably say they don't accept the traditional Christian beliefs of the trinity, resurrection, etc.
It appears to me that the Adams', while nominally "believers" in Jesus, rejected the idea that he was divine and the rest of mainstream Christian beliefs. That makes their church "Unitarian" in my eyes as well as theirs. Traditional Christianity -- mainstream Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodoxy, wouldn't consider Unitarianism to be Christian. And it certainly isn't related to Mormonism or anything else that has a distinctive set of ideas about Jesus. The fact Unitarians are silent on religious questions and tell members they can believe whatever they want is the core basis of Unitarianism, in my view. It's why they were no longer accepted as a part of traditional protestant churches.
The Green Party may not be "socialist" on paper, but an overview of their platform makes it clear to anyone that reads it that they subscribe to a socialist idealogy.
So we can debate over the details of exactly how and when the Unitarian church was established as a separate denomination, but it seems clear to me that the Adams' family believed in Unitarianism.
LOL, that post pretty much says it all about your lack of sanity.
“Communists are the ones who support banning God from our schools, from our money, from our pledge of allegiance, and smashing the crosses off our war memorials. Godless Communists are the one who changed the meaning of our Constitution in the sixties into something it never was in order to attack and destroy the Christian foundations our nation and our legal system.”
A Communist. I see, I mean, you are describing your own views, I assume. It must be your views since I never supported banning God from anything, or ever participated in vandalism of any kind, or had anything to do with the interpretation of the Constitution by those you no doubt voted for.
I’m sure you are not accusing me of any of those things, which would be the vilest slander. I know a good Christian would not do that.
“LOL, that post pretty much says it all about your lack of sanity.”
Thanks. I was just pretending to be you and using your style. Now you know what it looks like.
My only contact with the Unitarian “church” (other than a girlfriend of many years ago) came when I visited a church sale of theirs. I was struck by the distinctive “look” of most of the people there, which I can’t put my finger on. They didn’t look like stereotypical hippies or leftists, but they didn’t look like typical suburban middle-class Americans either.
It's clear that you have a negative view of Christianity, so I have not falsely accused you of anything. I think that Constantine's toleration of Christianity was a good thing. I think the rise of Christian civilization and the downfall of the evil oppressive pagan Roman empire was a good thing, not a bad thing. You may bemoan the destruction of the evil Aztec cult and the crusades against evil oppressive mohammedan heresy, but I do not. The USA needs to finish the job the Crusades started and advance the cause of freedom, Christian freedom.
You are conflating various views that eventually became “Unitarianism” with the word “unitarianism”. Unitarianism combined several heretical doctrines besides having a similar sort of Christology as, say Arians. Unitarians, for example, rejected the notion of original sin. But one of the biggest mistakes people make is that they somehow think that what passes for Unitarianism today is what it was originally.
Unitarians claimed that they were Christian, and the arguments that others had with them were over matters of systematic theology that historically fell within Christian boundaries. It was only a very long time later that Unitarianism morphed into essentially nothing (”What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Unitarian? Someone who knocks on your door but isn’t quite sure why.”)In fact, the early Unitarians were very Old Testament oriented compared to modern evangelicals.
John Adams was a Bible thumping Christian (just read what he has to say about God and the Bible). He may have had a low Christology by 1800, but there is no evidence at all that he rejected Original Sin, etc. Again, there were no Unitarian signers of the Declaration - not Unitarian in the original meaning of the term, and certainly not in the modern meaning of the term.
Regarding the list...I should also add that identifying anybody as an Episcopalian/Congregationalist is an absurdity. These are exactly opposite ecclesiologies. As for claiming Jefferson in 1776 was a “Deist”, I don’t know of any evidence for it in 1776. Those who argue Jefferson was a deist usually claim that it was the result of his time in France, which was well after the Declaration.
Thanks for your informative post. I had a powerful hunch that the Unitarianism of today was not akin to that attributed (rightly or wrongly) to John Adams, a Founder whom I greatly esteem and who has not received the respect I think he is due, while Jefferson, who could be very sneaky and duplicitous, outranks him in the esteem of many FReepers. What others have posted here about Adams and his wife shows to me that Jesus would consider them “not far from the kingdom of God.” I.e. not quite there, but sincere in their beliefs. I know quite well that Adams believed that republican govt. would only survive in the context of a pious and reverent populace.
The Anglican (Episcopal) church was born out of the lusts and dynastic wishes of Henry VIII, combined in a bizarre synthesis with the ideals of the Reformation. It was always a mixed bag. That’s why there were “high church” and “low church” Episcopalians. Since the Anglican church was the only legal religion in England, many disparate elements resided therein. Some were crypto-catholic, while others were clearly Protestant. The important thing is that all were Christian.
In this present evil age, please support groups, like the Voice of the Martyrs, which tirelessly work to help our persecuted brethren.
“The USA needs to finish the job the Crusades started and advance the cause of freedom, Christian freedom.”
What is “Christian freedom,” as opposed to just “freedom,” or “individual liberty?”