Revolutionary War Era Documents and Speeches
“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”
— John Adams
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Revolutionary War Era Era Documents
James Otis - Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved - 1764
“Has it any solid foundation, any chief cornerstone but what accident, chance, or confusion may lay one moment and destroy the next? I think it has an everlasing foundation in the unchangeable will of GOD, the author of nature, whose laws never vary. …The end of government being the good of mankind points out its great duties: it is above all things to provide for the security, the quiet, and happy enjoyment of life, liberty, and property. There is no one act which a government can have a right to make that does not tend to the advancement of the security, tranquillity, and prosperity of the people. If life, liberty, and property could …
The sum of my argument is: that civil government is of God that the administrators of it were originally the whole people; that they might have devolved it on whom they pleased; that this devolution is fiduciary, for the good of the whole; that by the British constitution this devolution is on the King, Lords and Commons.”
William Blackstone - Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England - 1765
“This law of nature, being co-
“No laws are binding on the human subject which assault the body or violate the [liberty of ] conscience.”
“Blasphemy against the Almighty is denying his being or providence, or uttering contumacious [rebellious] reproaches on our Savior Christ. It is punished, at common law by fine and imprisonment, for Christianity is part of the law of the land.” –
John Dickinson - Letters from "A Farmer" - 1768
“Let us consider our, selves as men—freemen—Christian freemen—separated from the rest of the world, and firmly bound together by the same rights, interests and dangers. … for posterity, to whom, by the most sacred obligations, we are bound to deliver down the invaluable inheritance; … you may surely, without presumption, believe, that Almighty God himself will look down upon your righteous contest with gracious approbation. You will be a “band of brothers,” cemented by the dearest ties, and strengthened with inconceivable supplies of force and constancy, by that sympathetic ardor, which animates good men, confederated in a good cause. Your honor and welfare will be, as they now are, most intimately concerned; and besides, you are assigned by divine providence, in the appointed order of things, the protectors of unborn ages, whose fate depends upon your virtue. Whether they shall arise the generous and indisputable heirs of the noblest patrimonies, or the dastardly and hereditary drudges of imperious task-
Samuel Adams - The Rights of the Colonists - 1772
“Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-
The Minute Man Oath - 1773
“We trust in God that, should the state of our affairs require it, we shall be ready to sacrifice our estates and everything dear in life, yea, and life itself, in support of the common cause.” ———————————————— Sign your name here?
Excerpt: Lexington Memorial …. On the morning of the ever memorable 19th of April, 1775, the die was cast!!! The blood of the martyrs, in the cause of God and their country, was the cement of the Union of these States, the Colonies and gave the spring to the spirit, firmness and resolution of their fellow citizens. They rose as one man, to revenge their brethren’s blood and at the point of the sword, to assert and defend their native rights. They nobly dared to be free!! The contest was long, bloody and affecting. Righteous heaven approved the solemn appeal: victory crowned their arms and the peace, liberty and independence of the United Sates of America was their glorious reward. –
Dr. Benjamin Rush - To His Fellow Countryman: On Patriotism' - 1773
There is no virtue or character but what have had their counterfeits; but these, like false coin, prove the reality of their originals. Patriotism and patriots have suffered much for this quarter…
Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families. The Amor Patriae is both a moral and a religious duty. It comprehends not only the love of our neighbors but of millions of our fellow creatures, not only of the present but of future generations. This virtue we find constitutes a part of the first characters of history.
The holy men of old, in proportion as they possessed a religious were endowed with a public spirit. What did Moses forsake and suffered for his countrymen! What of the shining example of patriotism do we hold Joshua, Samuel, Maccabeus, and all the Jews! St. Paul almost wishes himself accursed for his countrymen and kinsmen after the flesh. Even our Saviour himself gives a sanction to this virtue. He confined his miracles and gospel at first to his own country. …
The social spirit is the true selfish spirit, and men always promote their own interest most in proportion as they promote that of their neighbors and their country. As well might the apostasy of Julian or the fictions of Voltaire sully the character of the author of our religion, or the licentious manners of the age destroy the reality of a future state of rewards and punishments, as the defections of patriots or the opinions of the enemies of society destroy the existence of real patriotism. Faith will be most precious when it is hardly found on earth; so this exalted virtue when it is most rare shall possess most strength and luster. Its sincerity shall be distinguished, like sincerity in religion, by its steady perseverance in opposition to every difficulty, temptation, and reproach. …
Remember, my countrymen, the present era—perhaps the present struggle—will fix the constitution of America forever. Think of your ancestors and your posterity.
The Suffolk Resolves - 1774
… That it is an indispensable duty which we owe to God, our country, ourselves, and posterity, by all lawful ways and means in our power to maintain, defend, and preserve those civil and religious rights and liberties, for which many of our fathers fought, bled, and died, and to hand them down entire to future generations.
The “Suffix Resolves” were delivered by courier Paul Revere to the Massachusetts delegates at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia September 16, 1774. John Adams wrote in his diary.
“This was one of the happiest days of my life. In Congress we had generous, noble sentiments, and manly eloquence. This day convinced me that America will support Massachusetts or perish with her.”
Samuel Williams - A Discourse on the Love of our Country - 1774
“… And here it is to be observed, that love to our country supposes that there is a proper community, or public society formed. … As our Maker designed us for such a state, he has given us nature adapted to, and tending towards it. … In a despotic government, the only principle by which the tyrant who is to move the whole machine, means to regulate and manage the people, is fear; by a servile dread of his power. But a free government, which of all others is far the most preferable, cannot be supported without virtue. This virtue is the love of our country. And after all the devices that sound policy or the most refined corruption have, or can suggest; this is the most efficacious principle to hold the different parts of an empire together, and to make men good members of the society to which they belong. …
Let us praise God’s holy name for the blessings we yet enjoy in it. … Let us return then to the Almighty, that he may build us up. Let us return to that sober sense of piety and religion, which animated and encouraged our fathers in that noblest enterprise of public virtue, laying the foundation of these colonies. Then shall we have reason to expect that heaven and earth will once more join to remove our difficulties and fears, and to make us a free, a grateful, and a happy people. To this then, repentance and reformation, we are now called by all that is holy in religion, by all that is important to our country, and by all that is valuable to mankind. And may God arise and have mercy upon Zion: May the time to favour her, yea, may the set time now come.” –
— Samuel Williams (1743-
John Joachim Zubly - The Law of Liberty - 1775
“The gospel is called a law of liberty, because it bears a most friendly aspect to the liberty of man; it is a known rule …the gospel makes no alteration in the civil state; it by no means renders man’s natural and social condition worse than it would be without the knowledge of the gospel. … the gospel is a law of liberty in a much higher sense; by whomsoever a man is overcome, of the same he is brought into bondage; but no external enemy can so completely tyrannize over a conquered enemy, as sin does over all those who yield themselves its servants; vicious habits, when once they have gained the ascendancy in the soul, bring man to that unhappy pass, that he knows better things and does worse; sin, like a torrent, carries him away against knowledge and conviction, while conscience fully convinces him that he travels the road of death, and must expect, if he so continues, to take up his abode in hell … till the grace of God brings salvation, when he would do good, evil is present with him; in short, instead of being under a law of liberty, he is under the law of sin and death; but whenever he feels the happy influence of the grace of the gospel, then this “law of liberty makes him free from the law of sin and death:” it furnishes him with not only motives to resist, but with power also to subdue sin; sin reigns no longer in his mortal body, because he is not under the law, but under grace. By this law of liberty he is made free from sin, and has his fruit unto holiness, and the end of it eternal life.” –
Samuel Langdon - Government Corrupted by Vice - 1775
We have rebelled against God. We have lost the true spirit of Christianity, though we retain the outward profession and form of it. We have neglected and set light by the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His holy commands and institutions. The worship of many is but mere compliment to the Deity, while their hearts are far from Him. By many the gospel is corrupted into a superficial system of moral philosophy, little better than ancient Platonism. And after all the pretended refinements of moderns in the theory of Christianity, very little of the pure practice of it is to be found among those who once stood foremost in the profession of the gospel. In a general view of the present moral state of Great Britain it may be said: There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, their wickedness breaks out; and one murder after another is committed, under the connivance and encouragement even of that authority by which such crimes ought to be punished, that the purposes of oppression and despotism may be answered. As they have increased, so have they sinned, therefore God is changing their glory into shame. The general prevalence of vice has changed the whole face of things in the British government.
Battle of Sullivan Island - Fort Moultrie - William Moultrie - June, 1775
Moultrie successfully led a repulsive of the British at Port Royal in February 1779. That spring when Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln took the bulk of the American force towards Augusta, Georgia, Moultrie was stationed at Black Swamp with a small contingent to watch the British on the other side of the Savannah River. When the British suddenly crossed the Savannah en mass and tried to move on Charleston, Moultrie managed a skillful tactical retreat across the Coosawhatchie and the Tullifiny Rivers and all the way back to Charleston where he held off a short siege.
Revend Jacob Duche - The Duty of Standing Fast in Our Spiritual and Temoral Liberties - July 7, 1775
… If spiritual liberty calls upon its pious votaries to extend their views far forward to a glorious hereafter, civil liberty must at least be allowed to secure, in a considerable degree, our well-
From what hath been said under my first head of discourse, I think it must appear, that liberty, traced to her true source, is of heavenly extraction, that divine Virtue is her illustrious parent, that from eternity to eternity they have been and must be inseparable companions, and that the hearts of all intelligent beings are the living temples, in which they ought to be jointly worshiped. –
A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America - John Hancock- 1775
… Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable.—We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves. …
With an humble confidence in the mercies of the supreme and impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, we most devoutly implore his divine goodness to protect us happily through this great conflict, to dispose our adversaries to reconciliation on reasonable terms, and thereby to relieve the empire from the calamities of civil war.
Thomas Paine - Common Sense - 1776
“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”
“I have always considered the independancy of this continent, as an event which sooner or later must arrive.”
“Until an independance is declared, the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.” –
John Jay - Address at the New York Convention - April, 1776
“Under the auspices and direction of Divine Providence, your forefathers removed to the wilds and wilderness of America. By their industry, they made it fruitful-
It is a well known truth, that no virtuous people were ever oppressed; and it is also true, that a scourge was never wanting to those of an opposite character. Even the Jews, those favourites of Heaven, met with the frowns, whenever they forgot the smiles of their benevolent Creator … tyrants themselves, when they had executed the vengeance of Almighty God, their own crimes bursting on their own heads, received the rewards justly due to their violation of the sacred rights of mankind. …
Do your duty like men; and be persuaded that Divine Providence will not permit this western world to be involved in the horrors of slavery. Consider, that from the earliest ages of the world, religion, liberty, and reason have been bending their course towards the setting sun. The holy gospels are yet to be preached in these western regions; and we have the highest reason to believe that the Almighty will not suffer slavery and the gospel to go hand in hand. It cannot, it will not be. “But if there be any among us, dead to all sense of honour, and love of their country; if deaf to all the calls of liberty, virtue, and religion; if forgetful of the magnanimity of their angestors, and the happiness of their children; if neither the examples nor the success of other nations-
the future blessings or curses of their children-
Samuel West - Right to rebell against the Governors - 1776
“The most perfect freedom consists in obeying the dictates of right reason, and submitting to natural law. When a man goes beyond or contrary to the law of nature and reason, he becomes the slave of base passions and vile lusts; he introduces confusion and disorder into society, and brings misery and destruction upon himself. This, therefore, cannot be called a state of freedom, but a state of the vilest slavery and the most dreadful bondage. The servants of sin and corruption are subjected to the worst kind of tyranny in the universe. Hence we conclude that where licentiousness begins, liberty ends. …
he that firmly believes and relies upon the providence of God doubt whether he will avenge the cause of the injured when they apply to him for help? For my own part, when I consider the dispensations of Providence towards this land ever since our father first settled in Plymouth, I find abundant reason to conclude that the great Sovereign of the universe has planted a vine in this American wilderness which he has caused to take deep root, and it has filled the land, and that he will never suffer it to be plucked up or destroyed. …
I cannot help hoping, and even believing, that Providence has designed this continent for to be the asylum of liberty and true religion; for can we suppose that the God who created us free agents, and designed that we should glorify and serve him in the world that we might enjoy him forever hereafter, will suffer liberty and true religion to be banished from off the face of the earth? But do we not find that both religion and liberty seem to be expiring and gasping for life in the other continent?-
John Adams letter to his wife on the birth of a new Nation
“Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, and as such they have, and of right ought to have, full power to make war, conclude peace, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which other States may rightfully do.” You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution, and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man. …
I am surprised at the suddenness as well as greatness of this revolution. …But the day is past. The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.
You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.” –
John Adams speech in support of the Declaration - 1776
“Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgement approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence now, and Independence for ever!”
Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. It is true, indeed, that in the beginning we aimed not at independence. But there’s a divinity which shapes our ends. The injustice of England has driven us to arms; and, blinded to her own interest for our good, she has obstinately persisted, till independence is now within our grasp. We have but to reach forth to it, and it is ours. Why, then, should we defer the declaration? Is any man so weak as now to hope for reconciliation with England, which shall leave either safety to the country and its liberties, or safety to his own life and his own honor?” –
The Declaration of Independence- July 4, 1776
We hold these truths to be self-
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES … And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. –
Link to (Charter or mission statement for the future United States of America)
John Hancock's letter to British Authorities on the Declaration of Independence - 1776
“we are able, and to trust the load to that Being [God] who controls both Causes and Events, so as to bring about his own Determination..”
Altho it is not possible to foresee the Consequences of human Actions, yet it is nonetheless a Duty we owe ourselves and Posterity in all our public Counsels, to decide in the best Manner we are able, and to trust the load to that Being who controls both Causes and Events, so as to bring about his own Determination.
Impressed with this Sentiment, & at the same Time fully convinced that our Affairs may take a more favourable Turn, the Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve all Connection between Great Britain and the American Colonies, and to declare them free and independent States; –
Patrick Henry - Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death - 1777
“It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; –
The Articles of Confederation Perpetual Union - 1777
Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.
And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. Know Ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said Confederation are submitted to them. And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual. ..
Done at Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania the ninth Day of July in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven Hundred and Seventy-
Thanksgiving Proclaimation by the Continental Congress - 1777
“solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies, and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States; to beseech him that he would be graciously pleased to influence our public councils, and bless them with wisdom from on high, with unanimity, firmness, and success; that he would go forth with our hosts and crown our arms with victory; that he would grant to his church the plentiful effusions of divine grace, and pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel; that he would bless and prosper the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth; that he would smile upon the labors of his people and cause the earth to bring forth her fruits in abundance; that we may with gratitude and gladness enjoy them; that he would take into his holy protection our illustrious ally, give him victory over his enemies, and render him signally great, as the father of his people and the protector of the rights of mankind.” –
Aitken Bible - Congress Approved “The Bible of the Revolution” - 1781
Aitken’s Bible was authorized by the Continental Congress to ensure citizens had Bibles, because God is the basis of our liberty.
That in every well regulated Government in Christendom The Sacred Books of the Old and New Testament, commonly called the Holy Bible, are printed and published under the Authority of the Sovereign Powers, in order to prevent the fatal confusion that would arise, and the alarming Injuries the Christian Faith might suffer from the Spurious and erroneous Editions of Divine Revelation. That your Memorialist has no doubt but this work is an Object worthy the attention of the Congress of the United States of America, who will not neglect spiritual security, while they are virtuously contending for temporal blessings. Under this persuasion your Memorialist begs leave to, inform your Honours That he both begun and made considerable progress in a neat Edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools, But being cautious of suffering his copy of the Bible to Issue forth without the sanction of Congress, Humbly prays that your Honours would take this important matter into serious consideration & would be pleased to appoint one Member or Members of your Honourable Body to inspect his work so that the same may be published under the Authority of Congress. And further, your Memorialist prays, that he may be commissioned or otherwise appointed & Authorized to print and vend Editions of, the Sacred Scriptures, in such manner and form as may best suit the wants and demands of the good people of these States, provided the same be in all things perfectly consonant to the Scriptures as heretofore Established and received amongst us.
Benjamin Franklin - Information to Those Who Would Remove to America - 1782
“To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced. Atheism is unknown there; infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country, without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an atheist or an infidel. And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other, by the remarkable prosperity with which He has been pleased to favor the whole country.”
Many persons in Europe having, directly or by letters, expressed to the writer of this, who is well acquainted with North America, their desire of transporting and establishing themselves in that country; but who appear to have formed, through ignorance, mistaken ideas and expectations of what is to be obtained there; he thinks it may be useful, and prevent inconvenient, expensive, and fruitless removals and voyages of improper persons, if he gives some clearer and truer notions of that part of the world –
George Washington's Circular to the States - 1783
“I now 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 a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of 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.” –
Ezra Stiles - The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor Sermon (Anniversary of Jonathan Trumbull's Election) - May 8, 1783
“How wonderful the revolutions, the events of Providence! … God be thanked, we have lived to see peace restored to this bleeding land, at least a general cessation of hostilities among the belligerent powers. And on this occasion does it not become us to reflect how wonderful, how gracious, how glorious has been the good hand of our God upon us, in carrying us through so tremendous a warfare! We have sustained a force brought against us which might have made any empire on earth to tremble; and yet our bow has abode in strength, and, having obtained help of God, we continue unto this day. …
Heaven inspired us with resolution to cut the gordian knot, when the die was cast irrevocable in the glorious act of Independence. This was sealed and confirmed by God Almighty in the victory of General Washington at Trenton, and in the surprising movement and battle of Princeton … Thus God “turned the battle to the gate,” and this gave a finishing to the foundation of the American Republic. … And who does not see the indubitable interposition and energetic influence of Divine Providence in these great and illustrious events?
Was it not of God that both the navy and army should enter the Chesapeake at the same time? Who but God could have ordained the critical arrival of the Gallic fleet, so as to prevent and defeat the British, and assist and cooperate with the combined armies in the siege and reduction of Yorktown? … in the siege and battle of Yorktown. It is God who so ordered the balancing interests of nations as to produce an irresistible motive in the European maritime powers to take our part. Hence the recognition of our independence by Spain and Holland, as well as France. …wonderfully does Divine Providence order the time and coincidence of the public national motives, cooperating in effecting great public events and revolutions.
But the time would fail me to recount the wonder-
— Ezra Stiles (1727– 1795) Minister, Theologian, Author and President of Yale College
Evacuation Day - New York City - Nov. 25, 1783
“A reverence for the laws is peculiarly essential to public safety and prosperity under our free constitution: should we suffer the authority of the magistrate to be violated for the sake of private vengeance, we should be unworthy of the numberless blessings which an indulgent Providence hath placed within our reach.”
“While we regard with inviolable gratitude and affection all who have aided us by their counsel or their arms, let us not be unmindful of that Almighty Being, whose gracious Providence has been manifestly interposed for our deliverance and protection; and let us shew by our virtues, that we deserve to partake of the freedom, sovereignty, and independence, which are so happily established throughout these United States.” –
James Madison - Religious Freedom - A Memorial and Remonstrance - June 20, 1785
“We the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled “A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” and conceiving that the same if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill,
1. Because 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.” –
James Madison's Vices of the Political System of the United States - 1787
1. Failure of the States to comply with the Constitutional requisitions.
This evil has been so fully experienced both during the war and since the peace, results so naturally from the number and independent authority of the States and has been so uniformly examplified in every similar Confederacy, that it may be considered as not less radically and permanently inherent in, than it is fatal to the object of, the present System.
2. Encroachments by the States on the federal authority.
Examples of this are numerous and repetitions may be foreseen in almost every case where any favorite object of a State shall present a temptation. Among these examples are the wars and Treaties of Georgia with the Indians–The unlicensed compacts between Virginia and Maryland, and between Pena. & N. Jersey–the troops raised and to be kept up by Massts.
Benjamin Franklin's request for prayer at the Constitutional Convention - 1787
“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’
…. In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & 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.” –
Constitution of the United States - 1787
The Constitution –
“With all the defects in our Constitution, whether general or particular, the comparison of our government with those of Europe, is like a comparison of Heaven with Hell. England, like the earth, may be allowed to take the intermediate station.”
— Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the U. S.
“If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed by the Convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature on it.”
— George Washington (1732-
“Every word of the Constitution decides a question between power and liberty.” “The future and success of America is not in this Constitution, but in the laws of God upon which this Constitution is founded.”
— James Madison (1751-
The Principles of Civil Union and Happiness Considered and Recommended - Elizur Goodrich - 1787
“We have also a Jerusalem (America), adorned with brighter glories of divine grace, and with greater beauties of holiness, than were ever displayed … We enjoy all the privileges of a free government, the blessings of the gospel of peace, and the honors of the church of God. This is our Jerusalem.
Happy the free and virtuous people, who pay strict attention to the natural aristocracy, which is the institution of heaven; and appears in every assembly of mankind, on whatever occasion, they are met together. Happy the people who have wisdom to discern the true patriot of superior abilities, in all his counsels ever manifesting a sincere regard to the public good, and never with a selfish view attempting to deceive them, into hurtful measures; and happy the people who distinguish him from the designing demagogue, who, while he sooths them in their vices, and flatters them with high notions of liberty, and of easing their burdens, is plunging them into the depths of misery and bondage.
If we improve the advantages, which Providence has put into our hands, we may be a great and flourishing people, happy and united among ourselves, and our name be respectable among the nations. But, if we forget the God of our salvation, and neglect the means of virtue and religion… till we sink into general ruin, and universal wretchedness.
I therefore…recommend to your attention, the honor and safety of the confederate republic, as being of the same importance to the happiness and defense of the several states, as the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem were to the several tribes of Israel.” –
— Elizur Goodrich (1761–1849) Lawyer, U.S. House of Representatives
Northwest Ordinance - 1787
The Constitution – “Sec. 13. And, for extending the fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty, which form the basis whereon these republics, their laws and constitutions are erected; to fix and establish those principles as the basis of all laws, constitutions, and governments, which forever hereafter shall be formed in the said territory: to provide also for the establishment of States, and permanent government therein, and for their admission to a share in the federal councils on an equal footing with the original States, at as early periods as may be consistent with the general interest”
Art. 3. Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. … Art. 6. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory.
Samuel Langdon - The Republic of the Israelites an Example to the American States - 1788
Moses recommends to Israel the strict observance of all the laws which he had delivered to them by God’s command, relating both to their civil polity and religion …As to every thing excellent in their constitution of government, except what was peculiar to them as a nation separated to God from the rest of mankind, the Israelites may be considered as a pattern to the world in all ages; and from them we may learn what will exalt our character, and what will depress and bring us to ruin. Let us therefore look over their constitution and laws, enquire into their practice, and observe how their prosperity and fame depended on their strict observance of the divine commands both as to their government and religion. …
I have presented you with the portrait of a nation, highly favoured by Heaven with civil and religious institutions, who yet, by not improving their advantages, forfeited their blessings, and brought contempt and destruction on themselves. …
That as God in the course of his kind providence hath given you an excellent constitution of government, founded on the most rational, equitable, and liberal principles, by which all that liberty is secured which a people can reasonably claim, and you are impowered to make righteous laws for promoting public order and good morals; and as he has moreover given you by his Son Jesus Christ …a complete revelation of his will, and a perfect system of true religion, plainly delivered in the sacred writings; it will be your wisdom in the eyes of the nations, and your true interest and happiness, to conform your practice in the strictest manner to the excellent principles of your government, adhere faithfully to the doctrines and commands of the gospel, and practice every public and private virtue. By this you will increase in numbers, wealth, and power, and obtain reputation and dignity among the nations; whereas, the contrary conduct will make you poor, distressed, and contemptible.
The God of heaven hath not indeed visibly displayed the glory of his majesty and power before our eyes, as he came down in the sight of Israel on the burning mount; nor has he written with his own finger the laws of our civil polity: but the signal interpositions of divine providence, in saving us from the vengeance of a powerful irritated nation, from which we were unavoidably separated by their inadmissible claim of absolute parliamentary power over us; in giving us a Washington to be captain-
— Samuel Langdon (1723-
George Washington's First Inaugural - 1789
“It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good.”
“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”
George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation - 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-
Bill of Rights - 1789 Ratified 1791
Preamble to the Bill of Rights ….
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution. …
Benjamin Franklin - Letter on His Personal Faith - 1790
(One Month Before His Death)
“You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it: But I do not take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavour in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed: I believe in one God, creator of the universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we can render to him, is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity: tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. (Letter Ezra Stiles President of Yale College March 9, 1790, died April 17, 1790 at the age of 85)
John Leland - Rights of Conscience Inalienable - 1791
“Every man must give account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he can best reconcile to his conscience. If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment, let men be controlled by it in religious matters; otherwise, let men be free. It would be sinful for a man to surrender that to man which is to be kept sacred for God. A man’s mind should be always open to conviction, and an honest man will receive that doctrine which appears the best demonstrated; and what is more common than for the best of men to change their minds? Such are the prejudices of the mind, and such the force of tradition, that a man who never alters his mind is either very weak or very stubborn. How painful then must it be to an honest heart to be bound to observe the principles of his former belief after he is convinced of their imbecility? and this ever has and ever will be the case while the rights of conscience are considered alienable.”
Fisher Ames - Famous oration in support of the Jay Treaty - 1796
Editors Note: In ill health and barely able to stand, Fisher Ames made his plea before members of Congress in support the of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. Ame’s speech, considered to be a world famous oration, moved the vote in Congress to a deadlocked 49-
“I have thus been led by my feelings to speak more at length than I intended. Yet I have, perhaps, as little personal interest in the event as any one here. There is, I believe, no member who will not think his chance to be a witness of the consequences greater than mine. If, however, the vote shall pass to reject, and a spirit should rise, as it will, with the public disorders, to make confusion worse confounded, even I, slender and almost broken as my hold upon life is, may outlive the government and Constitution of my country.” –
George Washington's Farewell Address - 1796
“Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?”
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
Friends and Citizens:
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.
Treaty of Tripoli - 1797
The commerce between the United States and Tripoli,-
The money and presents demanded by the Bey of Tripoli as a full and satisfactory consideration on his part and on the part of his subjects for this treaty of perpetual peace and friendship are acknowledged to have been recieved by him previous to his signing the same, according to a reciept which is hereto annexed, except such part as is promised on the part of the United States to be delivered and paid by them on the arrival of their Consul in Tripoly, of which part a note is likewise hereto annexed. And no presence of any periodical tribute or farther payment is ever to be made by either party.
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,-
Review of the often misquoted Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli and brief historical context of the treaty.
John Adams - Proclamation Fasting and Prayer - 1798
“AS the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist, nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty and of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity are a loud call to repentance and reformation.”
Elias Boudinot - The Age of Revelation; or The Age of Reason shewn to be An Age of Infidelity - 1801
(In response to Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason)
“If the Son of God has appeared in this our world, and has proved his mission by miracles and prophecies ; in a word, by doing works, that no other man ever did, and that in proof of doctrines the most pure, moral, religious and benevolent; honourable to God, and beneficial to man; do they not demand, at least, as much respect, as men pay every day to their fellow creatures, whom they know to be fallible and imperfect; sometimes immoral, dissolute, and profane. …
I confess, that I was much mortified to find, the whole force of this vain man’s genius and art, pointed at the youth of America, and her unlearned citizens, (for I have no doubt, but that it was originally intended for them) in hopes of raising a sceptical temper and disposition in their minds, well knowing that this was the best inlet to infidelity, and the most effectual way of serving its cause, thereby sapping the foundation of our holy religion in their minds. ….
This awful consequence, created some alarm in my mind, lest at any future day, you, my beloved child, might take up this plausible address of infidelity; and, for want of an answer at hand to his subtle insinuations, might suffer even a doubt of the truth, as it is in Jesus, to penetrate into your mind.”
The Age of Revelation; or The Age of Reason shewn to be An Age of Infidelity –
Thomas Jefferson - The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (Jefferson Bible) - 1804
“the Philosophy Of Jesus Of Nazareth”
“Extracted from the account of his life and doctrines as given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Being an abridgment of the New Testament for the use of the Indians, unembarrassed with matters of fact or faith beyond the level of their comprehensions.”
“We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the umphiboligisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what bad fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals, which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verso by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.”
Noah Webster - The Second Great Awakening - 1808
“About a year ago an unusual revival of religion took place in New Haven. …. During this time, my mind continued to be more and more agitated, and in a manner wholly unusual and to me unaccountable. I had indeed short composure, but at all times of the day and in the midst of other occupations, I was suddenly seized with impressions, which called my mind irresistibly to religious concerns and to the awakening. …
The impressions however grew stronger till at length I could not pursue my studies without frequent interruptions. My mind was suddenly arrested, without any previous circumstance of the time to draw it to this subject and as it were fastened to the awakening and upon my own conduct. I closed my books, yielded to the influence, which could not be resisted or mistaken and was led by a spontaneous impulse to repentance, prayer and entire submission and surrender of myself to my maker and redeemer. My submission appeared to be cheerful and was soon followed by that peace of mind which the world can neither give nor take away. …
I could no longer question or have a doubt respecting … Christian doctrines of regeneration, of free grace and of the sovereignty of God. I now began to understand and relish many parts of the scriptures, which before appeared mysterious and unintelligible, or repugnant to my natural pride.”
Dr Benjamin Rush - A Defence of the Bible in schools - 1812
The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this, there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all re publican governments. Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is the religion of Jesus Christ. It is foreign to my purpose to hint at the arguments which establish the truth of the Christian revelation. My only business is to declare that all its doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society and the safety and well-
Francis Scott Key - The Star Spangled Banner - 1814
“Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-
O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause. it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Jubilee of Freedom - July 4th - 1826
Joseph Story - Speech at Harvard University - 1829
“I am of the opinion that this decadence of the moral influence of our school training is largely, if not wholly, attributable to the banishment of the Bible from our public schools, and consequently the loss of the moral influence Christian education formerly more or less ingrained on the minds of the scholars by teachers recognizing their moral duty and measurably supplying the absence of parental influence.
You, gentlemen, have enjoyed the advantage of this Christian influence at school, based on the authority of the Bible and the doctrines of your Church, from which flow the great principles of constitutional freedom and the essential moral instincts which have hitherto marked the American character. A distinguished judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, commenting on the origin and basis of our jurisprudence, remarked that’ one of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the common law from which the sanction of rights and by which we endeavor to regulate its doctrines.’
There never has been a period in which the common law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundation.
This common law, based on the established customs of England, has been ranked as the perfection of human wisdom, but is now superseded by American jurisprudence, — a code disregarding those ephemeral and often barbarous customs of antiquity, sweeping away the Divine rights of kings, — and the doctrines of non-
— Joseph Story (1779-
Joseph Story - Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States - 1833
§ 1875. “It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs, whether any free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape. The future experience of Christendom, and chiefly of the American states, must settle this problem, as yet new in the history of the world, abundant as it has been in the experiments in the theory of government.”
§ 1876. “But the duty of supporting religion, and especially the Christian religion, is very different from the right to force the consciences of other men, or to punish them for worshipping God in the manner which they believe their accountability to him requires. It has been truly said, that “religion, or the duty we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be dictated only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.”
§ 1877. “The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”
— Joseph Story (1779-
Jasper Adams - The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States - 1833
“… AS Christianity was designed by its Divine Author to subsist until the end of time, it was indispensable, that it should be capable of adapting itself to all states of society, and to every Condition of mankind. We have the Divine assurance that it shall eventually become universal. …
The settlers of this country were familiar with these facts, and they gradually came to a sound practical conclusion on the subject. No nation on earth, perhaps, ever had opportunities so favorable to introduce changes in thein institutions as the American people; and by the time of the Revolution, a conviction of the impolicy of a further union of Church and State according to the ancient mode, had so far prevailed, that nearly all the States in framing their new constitutions of government, either silently or by direct enactment, discontinued the ancient connexion.
A question of great interest here comes up for discussion. In thus discontinuing the connexion between Church and Commonwealth ;-
Now there are two ways, and two ways only by which men can be governed in society; the one by physical force; the other by religious and moral principles pervading the community, guiding the conscience, enlightening the reason, softening the prejudices, and calming the passions of the multitude. Physical force is the chief instrument by which mankind have heretofore been governed … No power less efficacious than Christianity, can permanently maintain the public tranquillity of the country, and the authority of law. We must be a Christian nation, if we wish to continue a free nation. …
John Quincy Adams - Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the town of at Newburyport, MA July 4th - 1837
“Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Saviour? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Saviour and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?” …
“And, by this paper, this One People did notify the world of mankind that they thereby did assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station, to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitled them.
This was indeed a great and solemn event. The sublimes of the prophets of antiquity with the voice of inspiration had exclaimed, “Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once?” In the two thousand five hundred years, that had elapsed since the days of that prophecy, no such event had occurred. It had never been seen before. In the annals of the human race, then, for the first time, did one People announce themselves as a member of that great community of the powers of the earth, acknowledging the obligations and claiming the rights of the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. The earth was made to bring forth in one day! A Nation was born at once!”
John Quincy Adams - The Jubilee of the Constitution, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington, New York, April 30th - 1839
“George Washington … in the visions of the night, the guardian angel of the Father of our country had appeared before him, in the venerated form of his mother, and, to cheer and encourage him in the performance of the momentous and solemn duties that he was about to assume, had delivered to him a suit of celestial armor.”
“Yes, gentlemen! on that shield, the CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES was sculptured (by forms unseen, and in characters then invisible to mortal eye,) the predestined and prophetic history of the one confederated people of the North American Union.”
“And now the future is all before us, and Providence our guide…. The ark of your covenant is the Declaration of independence. Your Mount Ebal, is the confederacy of separate state sovereignties, and your Mount Gerizim is the Constitution of the United States. In that scene of tremendous and awful solemnity, narrated in the Holy Scriptures there is not a curse pronounced against the people, upon Mount Ebal, not a blessing promised them upon Mount Gerizim, which your posterity may not suffer or enjoy, from your and their adherence to, or departure from, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, practically interwoven in the Constitution of the United States. Lay up these principles, then, in your hearts, and in your souls –
William Gilpin - Manifest Destiny - From Sea to Shinning Sea - 1846
Excerpt: William Gilpin, Governor of Colorado Territory, 1846 –