I was looking for a book online and found this interesting piece. From the Delaware constitution of 1776:
Art. 22. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust . . . shall . . . make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: “I ________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, Blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration.”
Further research said that many people and the media would say of our founding fathers, something like:
Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Paine and most of our other patriarchs were at best deists, believing in the unmoved mover of Aristotle, but not the God of the Old and New Testaments. (Michael McDonald, “Founding Fathers Weren’t Devout,” The Charlotte Observer, Friday, January 15, 1993, 7A.)
Interestingly enough, Thomas Paine wrote a document called Age of Reason which attacked religion in general and evangelicals in particular. What is interesting was that it is hard to find a “founding father” who approved of this.
Benjamin Franklin, who may have been the most “liberal”, was asked to proof it and told Paine to “burn it” and “He that spits into the wind, spits in his own face” (Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, Ed., (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore and Mason, 1840) X:281-282, to Thomas Paine in 1790.)
Others were not so cordial. Samuel Adams wrote Paine “you had turned your mind to a defence of infidelity” (William V. Wells, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1865) III:372-73, to Thomas Paine on Nov. 30, 1802.)
Others said of Paine’s writings:
- “ignorant of human nature as well as an enemy to the Christian faith.” (John Witherspoon) – John Witherspoon, The Works of the Reverend John Witherspoon (Phila: Wm W. Woodward, 1802) III:24n2, from “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men,” delivered at Princeton on May 17, 1776.
- “has departed altogether from the principles of the Revolution.” (John Quincy Adams) – John Quincy Adams, An Answer to Pain’s [sic] “Rights of Man” (London: John Stockdale, 1793) p. 13.
- “blasphemous writings against the Christian religion.” (Charles Carroll) – Joseph Gurn, Charles Carrol of Carrolton (NY: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1932, p. 203.
- “absurd and impious.” (Benjimen Rush) – Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L.H. Butterfield, ed., (Princeton University Press, 1951) II:770, to John Dickenson on Feb 16, 1796.
Many others responded in some way against Paine’s blasphemy, including but not limited to:
- Zephaniah Swift
- William Paterson
- Elias Boudinot
- Patrick Henry
- John Jay
Many have told me that Benjamin Franklin was a Deist. First, check the definition of Deist. Then read this prayer (one of many) by Franklin:
Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the rage of war among the nations and would put a stop to the effusion of Christian blood . . . [that] He would take this province under His protection, confound the designs and defeat the attempts of its enemies, and unite our hearts and strengthen our hands in every undertaking that may be for the public good, and for our defense and security in this time of danger.
(1748, quoted by Van Doren in Benjamin Franklin, NY: Viking, 1938, p. 188)
How can a Deist pray this?
Franklin further discusses with Washington on 28 June 1787 (found in Journal of the Federal Convention, Vol. I, p.259 which was written by James Madison) and others many topics on government which are littered with references to the Bible of which a Deist could not use as truth. Interestingly in this discussion, Franklin mentions that no other government model whether present or past was “suitable to our circumstances” thus refuting the idea that the American form of government was based on Greco-Roman models and that the “Father of Lights” was involved in “illumination” (again, a very un-Deist statement).
Ok, last one that I have for today.Â A large sum of money was given to build a school that would teach something other than the full truth of the Bible.Â The case was brought before the Supreme Court in 1844 and here is what the unanimous opinion of the court as given read by Justice Joseph Story:
Christianity . . . is not to be maliciously and openly reviled and blasphemed against to the annoyance of believers or the injury of the public. . . . It is unnecessary for us, however, to consider . . . the establishment of a school or college for the propagation of . . . Deism or any other form of infidelity. Such a case is not to be presumed to exist in a Christian country.
and subsequently ruling that Christianity could NOT be excluded from the school.Â This, or any other case, was not even referred to by the 1962 court which removed prayer from school.
I am stopping there.Â Just a little evening rabbit trail while I was investigating a book.Â Wish the Library of Congress was next door and I had time to read more from the early US History and not modern revisionist history.