Re: Laus Deo & Washington Monument.
According to several debunking websites, this email began circulating in 2002. While some of the material it cites as facts are correct, quite a bit of it is not.
It would be nice if the original person or persons emailing this had stuck to the facts, if they actually wanted to give a history lesson, but I dont think that was actually their purpose. They seem to be concerned with the religious implications of the monument, which is fine, but twisting the truth is lying and Jesus taught us that lying is sinful.
My Opinion: I guess I dont really see much uproar about removing the Ten Commandments and I personally believe in God, so I believe in the Ten Commandments. I do also believe in separation of church and state, because otherwise I think we run the risk of a theocracy, which is what religious extremists want and what the original settlers in this country were running from. No one religion should ever govern or be imposed upon this country or we will have forsaken the freedom our founding fathers fought for. I also have no problem with people who do not believe in God, that is their choice and one they have the right to make. I believe that free human beings should have the choice to believe in whatever they choose to believe in, anything less I believe is an insult to our Heavenly Father who gave us free will. I love God, not because someone tells me I have to, or because some religious leader tells me I will be damned otherwise. I believe in and love God, because something in my heart tells me he is with me and because when I look at the beauty and complexity of life and creation, how could I not believe.
The facts: It is true that the words "Laus Deo" are inscribed on one face of the aluminum point which crowns the apex of the Washington Monument. Actually, all four sides of the point bear inscriptions, as follows:
SETTING OF CAPSTONE.
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
W. W. CORCORAN, Chairman.
M. E. BELL.
Act of August 2, 1876.
CORNER STONE LAID ON BED OF FOUNDATION
JULY 4, 1848.
FIRST STONE AT HEIGHT OF 152 FEET LAID
AUGUST 7, 1880.
CAPSTONE SET DECEMBER 6, 1884.
CHIEF ENGINEER AND ARCHITECT,
THOS. LINCOLN CASEY,
COLONEL, CORPS OF ENGINEERS.
GEORGE W. DAVIS,
CAPTAIN, 14TH INFANTRY.
BERNARD R. GREEN,
P. H. MCLAUGHLIN.
Facts concerning the motivation for the monument: Alone among the Founders of the United States, George Washington earned the title "Father of the Country in recognition of his leadership in the cause of American independence. Appointed commander of the Continental Army in 1775, he molded a fighting force that won independence from Great Britain. In 1787, as President of the Constitutional Convention, he helped guide the deliberations to form a government that has lasted for more than 200 years. Two years later he was unanimously elected the first President of the United States. He established precedents that successfully launched the new government on its course. He refused the trappings of power and veered from monarchical government and traditions and twice, despite considerable pressure to do otherwise, gave up the most powerful position in the Americas. When the Revolutionary War ended, no man in the United States commanded more respect than George Washington. Americans celebrated his ability to win the war despite limited supplies and inexperienced men, and they admired his decision to refuse a salary and accept only reimbursements for his expenses. Their regard increased further when it became known that he had rejected a proposal by some of his officers to make him king of the new country. Though many people wanted him to stay for a third term as President, Washington retired in 1797 to Mount Vernon and sadly died suddenly two years later. As early as 1783, Congress discussed a memorial to Washington, but it took many years to decide what kind of memorial and where it would be placed.
The facts: Excavation for the foundation of the Washington Monument began in the spring of 1848. Speeches that day showed that the country continued to revere Washington. Construction continued until 1854, when donations ran out. One memorial stone that started the events that stopped the Congressional appropriation and ultimately construction altogether. In the early 1850s, Pope Pius IX contributed a block of marble. In March 1854, members of the anti-Catholic American Partybetter known as the "Know-Nothings"(Protestants, that hated Catholics)stole the Pope's stone as a protest and supposedly threw it into the Potomac. Then, in order to make sure the Monument fit their definition of "American," the Know-Nothings conducted a fraudulent election so they could take over the entire Society. The Know-Nothings retained control of the Society until 1858. Then came the Civil War, then disagreements about the design and construction, therefore construction did not resume until 1879. In fact, when construction resumed the work that the Know-Nothings had done, had to be removed, because it was of such poor quality.
The facts: As described by the National Park Service, architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant's original 1791 plan for the U.S. national capital was a Baroque plan that features ceremonial spaces and grand radial avenues, while respecting natural contours of the land. The result was a system of intersecting diagonal avenues superimposed over a grid system. The avenues radiated from the two most significant building sites that were to be occupied by houses for Congress and the President. While L'Enfant's plans did eventually create a "cross" in a literal sense, that shape was a byproduct of a symmetrical design laid out along two major north-south and east-west axes; there's no evidence that L'Enfant had any religious significance in mind. Moreover, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials were not conceived until the 20th century, and decisions about where to locate them were not reached without some debate.
The facts: About 193 memorial stones adorn the landings throughout the Washington Monument contributed by each state (and territory) as well as by other countries, U.S. cities and counties, fire departments, fraternal organizations (such as the Masons, the Sons of Temperance, and the Odd Fellows), military units, Native American tribes, and other groups. The memorial stone contributed by Chinese Christians from Ningo, Chekiang Province, China is on the 220th landing not the 20th. The inscription on the stone is not a prayer, but a eulogy for George Washington. The two memorial stones from children of the Sunday School groups are on the 260th landing not the 24th and they say the following:
1. THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED.
THE CHILDREN OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOLS
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
CITY OF NEW YORK
Feb. 22ND 1855
2. FROM THE SABBATH SCHOOL CHILDREN
OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE
CITY & DISTRICTS OF PHILADELPHIA. JULY 4TH 1853.
A PREACHED A FREE
WE REVERE HIS MEMORY
The Facts: The Founding Fathers rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy, although they supported the free exercise of any religion. Most of them believed in deism (a system of natural religion affirming the existence of God) and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, "Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom." Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscious. Masonry welcomed anyone from any religion or non-religion, as long as they believed in a Supreme Being. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hamilton, Lafayette, and many others were Freemasons. Much of the myth of Washington's alleged Christianity came from Mason Weems influential book, "Life of Washington." The story of the cherry tree comes from this book and it has no historical basis. Weems, a Christian minister portrayed Washington as a devout Christian, yet Washington's own diaries show that he rarely attended Church. Washington revealed almost nothing to indicate his spiritual frame of mind, except that he did believe in God. In his thousands of letters, the name of Jesus Christ never appears. He rarely spoke about his religion, but his Freemasonry experience points to a belief in deism. After Washington's death, Dr. Abercrombie, a friend of his, replied to a Dr. Wilson, who had interrogated him about Washington's religion replied, "Sir, Washington was a Deist."
The Facts: The prayer is not Washingtons prayer for America, they are words that are inscribed on a bronze tablet adjoining the Washington pew in St. Paul's chapel in New York City. They are taken from the last paragraph of a circular letter dated June 8, 1783, addressed to the governors of the thirteen states by General Washington upon his disbanding of the Continental Army. Although Washington's letter did contain references to God, the paragraph cited has been removed from its original context and modified to make it sound as if it were composed as a stand-alone prayer. (In Washington's time the term "earnest prayer" meant "earnest wish," not a prayer in a literal sense.)
Washingtons words from his original letter are as follows (notice how they were modified):
Now I make it my earnest prayer that God would have you and the State over which you preside, in His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens and the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field, and finally, that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were 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. I have the honor to be, with much esteem and respect, Sir, your Excellency's most obedient and most humble servant. George Washington.
The Facts: One last point to clear up a misleading impression you might have after reading about Laus Deo & the Monument, although many of the inscriptions associated with the Washington Monument do indeed include religious references and sentiments, they reflect the tenor of public thought in mid-19th century America, not the America of George Washington's time. Washington died in 1799, and the country he helped found was a very different place half a century later.
Some information on the time period surrounding the build up to the Civil War to the final completion of the Washington Monument:
A heavily Protestant religious movement began around this time period, with Protestant religious leaders discontented with the fact that our countrys founders failed, in their opinion, to enshrine God in the Constitution. Also, most Protestant religious leaders were slave owners and they exalted slavery, such as J. H. Thornwell, one of the most vigorous defenders of slavery. These religious leaders felt that because of the separation of church and state that our founders created, abolitionism (a political movement that sought to end the practice of slavery and the worldwide slave trade) was on the rise and was leading to war. In fact, they repeatedly made claims that abolitionists were atheists, communists, socialists, etc., which of course, they were not. Once the civil war started they were convinced it was a fulfillment of the Reverend John Mason's 1793 prediction that a godless constitution would one day impel the Divinity to "crush us to atoms in the wreck." They felt the only way to stop the destruction was to amend the Constitution's preamble and finally acknowledge not only God but Jesus Christ as the source of all just governmental power. In 1863, the entirely Protestant, National Reform Association was founded for the specific purpose of lobbying Congress to put God into the Constitution. Today's Christian conservatives frequently use the slogan "Let's put God back into the Constitution," thereby implying that "secular humanists" have managed to overturn what was originally intended to be a marriage of church and state. Nineteenth-century clerics were, at least, honest about their desire to reverse what they regarded as the founders' erroneous decision to separate church and state.
Some statements from our founders:
George Washington, our first President, also known as the Father of our Country.
Quote: Every man ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." ..George Washington, 1789
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence, the third President of the United States, and a primary architect of the American tradition of separation of church and state.
Quotes: Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. .Thomas Jefferson, 1802.
The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man. ..Thomas Jefferson, 1800.
James Madison (1751-1836) is popularly known as the "Father of the Constitution." More than any other framer he is responsible for the content and form of the First Amendment. His understanding of federalism is the theoretical basis of our Constitution. He served as President of the United States between 1809-1817.
Quotes: Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and & Government in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history ..James Madison, 1820
Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together. James Madison, 1822
Few men had more influence on the shaping of our Constitution than George Mason (1725-1792). As a member of Constitutional Convention, Mason was an outspoken advocate for federalism and limited government. As a member of the Virginia ratifying convention, he proposed a set of amendments that later served as a model for our Bill of Rights.
Quote: (His response to a bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian religion)
We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, "that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence." The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.
The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.
Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation. .George Mason,1785.
More evidence that our Founding Fathers intended the United States Government to be secular:
An insight from at a little known but legal document written in the late 1700s explicitly reveals the secular nature of the United States to a foreign nation. Officially called the "Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," most refer to it as simply the Treaty of Tripoli. In Article 11, it states:
"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 tranquillity, 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."
Preliminary signing was during George Washingtons second term on November 4, 1796. It was later forwarded U.S. legislators for approval in 1797. Timothy Pickering, the secretary of state, endorsed it and John Adams concurred (during his presidency), sending the document on to the Senate. The Senate approved the treaty on June 7, 1797, and officially ratified by the Senate with John Adams signature on June 10, 1797. All during this multi-review process, the wording of Article 11 never raised the slightest concern. The treaty even became public through its publication in The Philadelphia Gazette on June 17, 1797.
A reminder: Aren't we trying to avoid Iraq becoming a Theocracy, like Iran, and want them to have a secular democracy, which respects all religions. Would it not be hypocrisy for us to make our government a Theocracy and put one religion in control? Religious extremism is dangerous in all forms and our Founding Fathers knew this. Were we not attacked on September 11th by religious extremists, committing a terrorist act in the name of God?
For example, in your post there is this statement: Founding FAthers....Most of them believed in deism (a system of natural religion affirming the existence of God)
That is grossly inaccurate, and demonstrably so. (See below) Pick any name that is signatory to any of our founding documents, and you will discover that that person was a member of a church, was a member in good standing, and they had left a paper trail demonstrating the reality of the faith.
Even Jefferson, who was a deist, was not a modern deist. He was a Judeo-Christian deist. He even has a translation of the bible, and he referred to it and studied it quite seriously.
This Laus Deo poem is first of all a poem. Second, there is the question of whether or not it is accurate that Laus Deo does or does not appear on the Washington Monument.
So, to debunk the debunkers and their liberal tendencies, let us go to the pinnacle of the Washington Monument and determine whether or not the inscription is or is not there.
Well....is it or isn't it?
| Related Pages:
- Religious Affiliation of First U.S. Congress
- Religious Affiliation of the Modern U.S. Congress
- Religious Affiliation of U.S. Presidents
- Religious Affiliation of the U.S. Supreme Court
Ennumerating the Founding Fathers
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.)
All 55 delegates who participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 are regarded as Founding Fathers, in fact, they are often regarded as the Founding Fathers because it is this group that actually debated, drafted and signed the U.S. Constitution, which is the basis for the country's political and legal system. Only 39 delegates actually signed the document, however, meaning there were 16 non-signing delegates - individuals who were Constitutional Convention delegates but were not signers of the Constitution.
There were 95 Senators and Representatives in the First Federal Congress. If one combines the total number of signatures on the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution with the non-signing Constitutional Convention delegates, and then adds to that sum the number of congressmen in the First Federal Congress, one obtains a total of 238 "slots" or "positions" in these groups which one can classify as "Founding Fathers" of the United States. Because 40 individuals had multiple roles (they signed multiple documents and/or also served in the First Federal Congress), there are 204 unique individuals in this group of "Founding Fathers." These are the people who did one or more of the following:
- signed the Declaration of Independence
- signed the Articles of Confederation
- attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787
- signed the Constitution of the United States of America
- served as Senators in the First Federal Congress (1789-1791)
- served as U.S. Representatives in the First Federal Congress
The religious affiliations of these individuals are summarized below. Obviously this is a very restrictive set of names, and does not include everyone who could be considered an "American Founding Father." But most of the major figures that people generally think of in this context are included using these criteria, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and more.
of U.S. Founding Fathers
|Dutch Reformed/German Reformed||6||3.7%|
NOTES: The table above counts people and not "roles," meaning that individuals have not been counted multiple times if they appear on more than one of the lists above. Roger Sherman, for example, signed all three foundational documents and he was a Representative in the First Federal Congress, but he has been counted only once.
In the table above, some people have been counted more than once because they changed religious affiliation from one denomination to another. Thus, the individual amounts added together total more than 100%. This method is used because it results in accurate numbers for each individual religious affiliation. For example, a total of 7 Quakers are shown in the table above. There were indeed 7 Quakers who were in this group. (However, not all of these were life-long Quakers.) For the most part, very few Founding Fathers switched denomination during their lifetime (less than 8%), so double-counting has occurred only rarely in this table. Quakers, in fact, are more likely to have switched denominations than members of any other religious denomination. Along with taking up arms and supporting military action against the British, a large proportion of Quaker Founding Father officially renounced or were expelled from the ardently pacifistic denomination they had been raised in and joined another denomination (usually Episcopalianism).
Also, note that the proportions shown (percentage of each religious affiliation out of the total group of Founding Fathers) is the proportion out of Founders whose religious affiliation is known. The religious affiliation of a significant number of signers of the Articles of Confederation is not known, but if that information was available, it is expected that such information would not change the overall proportions signifcantly.
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...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:
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.
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.
From: Robert G. Ferris (editor), Signers of the Constitution: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Constitution, published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service: Washington, D.C. (revised edition 1976), page 138:
Most of the [signers of the Constitution] married and fathered children. Sherman sired the largest family, numbering 15 by two wives... Three (Baldwin, Gilman, and Jenifer) were lifetime bachelors. In terms of religious affiliation, the men mirrored the overwhelmingly Protestant character of American religious life at the time and were members of various denominations. Only two, Carroll and Fitzsimons, were Roman Catholics.