Our Founding Fathers

George Read (1733–1798) was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; a signer of the U.S. Constitution; a delegate from Delaware to the Constitutional Convention; a U.S. Senator, 1789–93; and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware.

Known as “the Father of Delaware,” George Read wrote “the first edition of her laws,” and the Constitution of the State. The requirements, stated in the Delaware Constitution, necessary for holding office include:

    DELAWARE 1776. Article XXII. 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 scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”

Robert Aitken (1734–1802) was the publisher of The Pennsylvania Magazine. On January 21, 1781, he petitioned Congress for permission to print Bibles, since there was a shortage in America due to the Revolutionary War interrupting trade with England. The Continental Congress, September 10, 1782, in response to this shortage of Bibles, approved and recommended to the people that The Holy Bible be printed by Robert Aitken of Philadelphia. This first American Bible was to be “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools”:

Whereupon, Resolved, That the United States in Congress assembled … recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize [Robert Aitken] to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper.

Nathaniel Freeman (1741–1827) was a jurist, soldier and politician. He served as Brigadier General of the Militia, 1781–93, a member of the Massachusetts state legislature, and served Massachusetts as a representative to Congress, 1795–99. He served as a judge of Probate for 47 years and as a judge of Common Pleas for 30 years. In 1802, Judge Nathaniel Freeman gave a charge to the Massachusetts Grand Jury:  

The laws of the Christian system, as embraced by the Bible, must be respected as of high authority in all our courts and it cannot be thought improper for the officers of such government to acknowledge their obligation to govern by its rule.…    [Our government] originating in the voluntary compact of a people who in that very instrument profess the Christian religion, it may be considered, not a republic like Rome was a Pagan, but a Christian republic.

Samuel Chase (1741–1811) was an attorney, jurist and politician. The son of an Anglican clergyman, he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, served as the Chief Justice of the State of Maryland, 1791, and was appointed by George Washington as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1796–1811. In the case of Runkel v. Winemiller, 1799, Justice Chase gave the court’s opinion:

Religion is of general and public concern, and on its support depend, in great measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness of the people.    By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty.

 

 

William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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6 Responses to Our Founding Fathers

  1. Mike says:

    “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.” Treaty of Tripoli 1796

    “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The No Religious Test Clause of the United States Constitution is found in Article VI, paragraph 3

    “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & State.” Jefferson, Thomas (1802-01-01). “Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists”.

    Nice try buddy.

    • humblesmith says:

      The oft-quoted Treaty of Tripoli includes a bit of shenanegans. Besides the fact that there were two treaties, one in 1797 and another in 1805, the English version of the treaty read differently than the Arabic version. The original Arabic version of the 1797 treaty read as follows:
      The original Arabic translation of the 1797 treaty stated:
      Glory be to God! Declaration of the third article. We have agreed that if American Christians are traveling with a nation that is at war with the well-preserved Tripoli, and [the Tripolitan] takes [prisoners] from the Christian enemies and from the American Christians with whom we are at peace, then sets them free; neither he nor his goods shall be taken. …
      Praise be to God! Declaration of the twelfth article. If there arises a disturbance between us both sides, and it becomes a serious dispute, and the American Consul is not able to make clear his affair, and the affair shall remain suspended between them both, between the Pashna of Tripoli, may God strengthen him, and the Americans, until Lord Hassan Pashna, may God strengthen him, in the well-protected Algiers, has taken cognizance of the matter. We shall accept whatever decision he enjoins on us, and we shall agree with his condition and his seal; May God make it all permanent love and a good conclusion between us in the beginning and in the end, by His grace and favor, amen!

      Quite a bit of a different story than the version that the American consul, Joel Barlow, presented to the folks back home in Washington.

      As to the “separation of Church and state” Jefferson’s letter was to a Christian group, ensuring them that they would have religious freedom. It did not say, nor did it mean, that no religious idea would influence government. That same Thomas Jefferson authorized priests to be on the public payroll and government sponsored publication of Bibles.

      • Mike says:

        So I suppose you like the Arabic version? The English version is the one we go by because it’s the version ratified.

        On Jefferson, I’m well aware who his letter was sent to, that’s why he said the government will not favor one religious group over another. That’s the whole point of the separation of church and state, the government should remain neutral over religious matters as it is a private relationship between a person and their belief in god, as Jefferson said. It’s a shame that we still have to go to court over breachments over this simple principle today.

    • humblesmith says:

      Another interesting note regarding the “no religious test” clause. Yes, it says this. It is interesting to note that many, perhaps most or even all, of the original state constitutions made prior to 1900 had language that prevented a religious test but specifically prevented atheists from holding office or being jurors. It seems they had a different view of religious test, and understood the consequences of denying God entirely.

      • Mike says:

        Well the constitution does not cover every possible situation, so when it comes to interpreting it we need to reference the founder’s personal writings on the subject. It’s just like when theists try to interpret the bible in context using additional material. If were were to take the text literally, the 2nd amendment never says individuals have the right to bear arms, but we interpret it as saying so in context.

        The laws against atheists are still on the books in some states and it’s a shame that we are the one group that can still be openly discriminated against. That will change as our numbers rapidly grow. Imagine if there were a law on the books that said one who denies evolution cannot hold public office?

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