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.
I hope you have a Great 4th!
But have to say, I have no idea what you are talking about.
I don't mean that in a bad way. I still don't get your point.
Gotta go see fireworks now. out
So we agree then no national denomination and that the founding fathers were God worshiping men whom believed in Jesus Chris as their savior.
It is good to see we both agreed on these facts.
founders bump for later........
Which author, David Barton or Hugh A. Garland (1860)?
Garland’s book is online, I just googled and found it, read his letter of his conversion to Key.
Which “historians” per wiki?
I just read Randolph’s letter to Key (online) telling about his conversion,so that tells me that he was converted from something other than a “Christian” denomination, since he spoke of being reconciled to God through Christ. I think he became a REAL Christian.
I don’t have time to look for the Muslim reference, but it is cited as: Hugh A. Garland, “The life of John Randolph of Roanoke” (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1853) Vol. II, p. 102, to Dr. Brockenbrough, Sept. 25, 1818.
Unitarianism in the United States followed essentially the same development as in England, and passed through the stages of Arminianism, Arianism, to rationalism and a modernism based on an acceptance of the results of the comparative study of all religions. In the early 18th century Arminianism presented itself in New England, and sporadically elsewhere. This tendency was largely accelerated by a backlash against the “Great Awakening” under Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. Before the War of Independence Arianism showed itself in individual instances, and French influences were widespread in the direction of deism, though they were not organized into any definite utterance by religious bodies.
As early as the middle of the 18th century Harvard College represented the most advanced thought of the time, and a score or more of clergymen in New England preached what was essentially Unitarianism. The most prominent of these men was Jonathan Mayhew (17201766), pastor of the West Church in Boston, Massachusetts from 1747 to 1766. He preached the strict unity of God, the subordinate nature of Christ, and salvation by character. Charles Chauncy (17051787), pastor of the First Church from 1727 until his death, the chief opponent of Edwards in the great revival, was both a Unitarian and a Universalist. Other Unitarians included Ebenezer Gay (16981787) of Hingham, Samuel West (17301807) of New Bedford, Thomas Barnard (17481814) of Newbury, John Prince (17511836) and William Bentley (17581819) of Salem, Aaron Bancroft (17551836) of Worcester, and several others.
The first official acceptance of the Unitarian faith on the part of a congregation was by King's Chapel in Boston, which settled James Freeman (17591853) in 1782, and revised the Prayer Book into a mild Unitarian liturgy in 1785. The Rev. William Hazlitt (father of the essayist and critic), visiting the United States in 17831785, published the fact that there were Unitarians in Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston, Pittsburgh, Hallowell, on Cape Cod, and elsewhere. Unitarian congregations were organized at Portland and Saco in 1792 by Thomas Oxnard; in 1800 the First Church in Plymouththe congregation founded by the Pilgrims in 1620accepted the more liberal faith. Joseph Priestley emigrated to the United States in 1794, and organized a Unitarian Church at Northumberland, Pennsylvania, the same year and one at Philadelphia in 1796. His writings had a considerable influence.
Thus from 1725 to 1825, Unitarianism was gaining ground in New England, and to some extent elsewhere
What this list shows me is that America's religious makeup has gone thur vast changes since this nation was founded. Anglicians (then the largest of adherents) and Congregationalists are now only a small percentage of Americans. Catholics, Baptists, and Lutherans are now major influences in the United States. In the 1700s, their presence was marginal.
Just one more comment before going to bed...
No National denomination (establishment of religion) is far different than Elected officials making statements about Their religious beliefs and Us Christians electing such person’s.
James Madison, Letter of Madison to William Bradford (September 25, 1773)
“I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way. “
And a good night to all
Either one, historians never bought into it.
Too vague for me to accept...
There's no smoking gun, but there's very strong evidence for it, certainly given the church he and his wife attended and the things he signed unto. And his wife stated unequivocally in writing that she was Unitarian:
President John Adams was a devout Unitarian, which was a non-trinitarian Protestant Christian denomination during the Colonial era.
He was identified as a Congregationalist by The Congregationalist Library. 1995 Information Please Almanac was cited as the source stating he was a later a Unitarian. (Source: Ian Dorion, “Table of the Religious Affiliations of American Founders”, 1997).
From: Peter Roberts, “John Adams” page in “God and Country” section of “Science Resources on the Net” website (http://www.geocities.com/peterroberts.geo/Relig-Politics/JohnAdams.html; viewed 23 November 2005):
Adams was raised a Congregationalist, but ultimately rejected many fundamental doctrines of conventional Christianity, such as the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, becoming a Unitarian. In his youth, Adams’ father urged him to become a minister, but Adams refused, considering the practice of law to be a more noble calling. Although he once referred to himself as a “church going animal,” Adams’ view of religion overall was rather ambivalent.
John Adams, the second U.S. President rejected the Trinity and became a Unitarian. It was during Adams’ presidency that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Tripoli, which states in Article XI that:
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 arrising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. (Charles I. Bevans, ed. Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776-1949. Vol. 11: Philippines-United Arab Republic. Washington D.C.: Department of State Publications, 1974, p. 1072).
John and Abigail Adams were active members of the First Parish Church in Quincy, which was already unitarian in doctrine by 1753. Although she did not sign the membership book (John did), she attended the church, supported it, and showed active concern and care for its ministry. She is a celebrated figure in her congregation's tradition. Abigail's theology is clearly stated in her correspondence. Writing to her son, John Quincy Adams, on May 5, 1816, she said,
“I acknowledge myself a unitarian — Believing that the Father alone, is the supreme God, and that Jesus Christ derived his Being, and all his powers and honors from the Father.” “There is not any reasoning which can convince me, contrary to my senses, that three is one, and one three.” On January 3, 1818, writing to her daughter-in-law, Louisa, Abigail wondered “when will Mankind be convinced that true Religion is from the Heart, between Man and his creator, and not the imposition of Man or creeds and tests?”
Like many early Unitarians she discounted sectarian claims and was “assured that those who fear God and work righteousness shall be accepted of him, and that I presume of what ever sect or persuasion.”
What is vague is suddenly discovering in 2007 that John Randolph was Muslim.
“Unitarian tendencies” existed - that is, various doctrinal deviations within the Congregational church - but these various tendencies didn’t all emerge, nor were they all held by individuals (as opposed to individuals holding perhaps one or two of them), until well after 1776.
Unitarianism didn’t even emerge as a movement at the earliest until 1805 when an important chair of theology at Harvard was filled by a Congregationalist with some Unitarian tendencies. It didn’t coalesce into a denomination until 1825, although William Ellery Channing’s sermon at the investiture of Jared Sparks in 1819 marked the point where all the Unitarian heresies were self-consciously presented as an alternative to orthodox Congregationalism. So, intellectually, 1819 is a clear starting point for Unitarianism, while institutionalally 1825 would be the date.
No signer of the Declaration was a Unitarian or a Universalist. There may have been a couple of signers who had some affinity theologically for some element or other of Unitarianism or Universalism, but that doesn’t mean that they were Unitarians or Universalists any more than by agreeing with a plank or two of the Communist Manifesto you become a Communist.
The vagueness is in your reply to me about “historians”... either one.”
I asked you “which historians,” meaning which historians do you mean, like WHO, didn’t buy into “that claim by that author,” and which author? The original author, Hugh A. Garland, who wrote the biography in 1853 and quoted Randolph’s letter? Or David Barton’s citation of Randolph’s conversion using Garland’s book as the basis of his comments?
“The Southern Baptists of today are mostly Calvinists.”
Not even close - even 20% would be a stretch. I would say, however, that with Al Mohler (Calvinist) as President of Southern Theological Seminary that the percentage of calvinist Baptists will increase. As a whole, though, the SBC is overwhelmingly arminian.
The salient issues of today that touch on SOCAS are things like prayers and Bibles at public educational institutions. Since I believe public schools (ie. gov't money) to be as unConstitutional as public religion, it's not a big quandry for me. Abolish them both!
Regarding the existence of historical monuments of a religious nature that some want to ban (being offensive to atheists and non-Protestant religions), since they are a part of our history, they don't violate religious freedom because they do not advocate for any religion. If someone can't stand looking at our history, too bad. Same with the Confederate flag. People have a right to display it, just don't try flying it over the Stars and Stripes.
I think your critics are being rather harsh on you, Hank, and in return you are being over-harsh on them. I don't see how any of the posters here are dragging us down the collectivist statist socialist rat-hole. As long, at least, as all they want is the right to pray voluntarily in school, bring a Bible to class, or preserve an historical monument that contains religious words and imagery.
An interesting point not mentioned (that I have noticed) on this thread is that Madison was speaking only about separation of religious institutions from the Federal government, as being offensive to the Constitution. The states had the right (and still do!) to establish a formal religion unless their own state constitution forbids it. Of course, Madison is clearly in favor of the states following what is Constitutionally required of the Federal government, but he would probably have been considered quite looney to argue that the relaxation and final abolition of official religion in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware was Constitutionally required.
The words "Congress shall make no law..." are rather disinclusive. It leaves a lot of room for recognition of religion in general and our Christian heritage in particular by government at all levels. For one example, I fail to see how declaring a 'National Day of Prayer' would violate "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" The defining questions for me are:
Is it funded with government money? And
Is it compelling in nature?
NO problem, it’s probably online over at http://books.google.com
I’d simply never heard anything about the old Virginia Randolph family being muslim, so I was very curious.
I think the burden is on you and your goofy claim, and your goofy authors, do you accept that Abraham Lincoln was black?
"It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign." - James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance
I’m forever thankful for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, without that, I’d be French right now.
Randolph was a man of high standing, and so he belonged. That's how it was. Dissent was not well tolerated, as the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians among others knew quite well, settling in remote Shenandoah Valley if they remained in Virginia at all, specifically in order to be beyond the reach of those who would use the power of the State to smother dissent. I have a Baptist ancestor who was forced to leave Goochland County for this very reason. He came to NC, as did many in a similar situation. Others continued on up the valley into what later became Tennessee, or went further into the hills into what later became Kentucky.
George Washington, too, belonged to the established church. He played a large role in disestablishing that church, though. By the same weird backflip of revisionist logic, what would that make Washington? He continued to attend the church he literally designed and built, Pohick Church. Virginians called it Anglican, not Episcopalian. The question of any presumed "conversion" of Randolph, from what, to what and when, can be answered similarly. The when is particularly important because of the establishment and then disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Virginia.
For those unfamiliar, Anglican = Episcopalian = Church of England.