Christian Roots of the US: Thomas Jefferson’s Writings

On July 4th, 1776, the words of the Declaration of Independence, which Thomas Jefferson penned, stated:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them. …

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life. …

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. …

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.

Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a committee was appointed to draft a seal for the newly united states which would express the spirit of this new nation. Thomas Jefferson proposed:

The children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

During the period between 1779–81, Thomas Jefferson served as the Governor of Virginia. On November 11, 1779, Governor Thomas Jefferson issued a Proclamation Appointing a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer.

Public and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God. … That He would in mercy look down upon us, pardon all our sins, and receive us into His favour; and finally, that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue, and support and protect them in the enjoyment of peace, liberty and safety.

In 1781, Thomas Jefferson made this statement in Query XVIII of his Notes on the State of Virginia. Excerpts of these statements are engraved on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.:

God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever;

That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.

On January 16, 1786, Thomas Jefferson and the Committee on Religion drafted a bill for the Virginia Assembly guaranteeing religious freedom:

An Act for establishing Religious Freedom. I.

Well aware … that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested His Supreme Will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraints; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to begat habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone.

On December 3, 1803, it was recommended by President Thomas Jefferson that the Congress of the United States pass a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians. Included in this treaty was the annual support to a Catholic missionary priest of $100, to be paid out of the Federal treasury. Later in 1806 and 1807, two similar treaties were made with the Wyandotte and Cherokee tribes. The treaty provided:

And whereas the greater part of the said tribe have been baptized and received into the Catholic Church, to which they are much attached, the United States will give annually, for seven years, one hundred dollars toward the support of a priest of that religion, who will engage to perform for said tribe the duties of his office, and also to instruct as many of their children as possible, in the rudiments of literature, and the United States will further give the sum of three hundred dollars, to assist the said tribe in the erection of a church.

From Great Quotations, by William Federer, electronic edition.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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4 Responses to Christian Roots of the US: Thomas Jefferson’s Writings

  1. Walt says:

    Are you implying that Thomas Jefferson was a Christian?

    • humblesmith says:

      No. I do not recall him saying one way or the other, although I’m certainly not a Jefferson expert. What I am implying is that he, and most all of the founding fathers, were thoroughly knowledgeable of the Bible, held it in high esteem, and had a Christian worldview that permeated most of what they did. As examples, we can look to such things as the separation of powers that they hard-wired into the government, which took into account the sinful nature of humanity and put checks and balances to accommodate. I would also point to the declaration of independence, which Jefferson drafted, which had a thoroughly Christian concept. So as for Jefferson himself, I do not know specifically whether he was Christian, but the quotes below show that he was not averse to religion, and Christianity specifically, playing a part in the working of government. I would also point out that the common notion of the founding fathers being secularists or predominately deists is not supported by history. For proof, see Federer’s book.

      • Walt says:

        That makes a lot of sense. I’m not an expert either, but I am interested to know if you’re familiar with the Jefferson Bible. It doesn’t support the notion that Jefferson held the Bible in high esteem, or at least that he disagreed with a substantial portion of it. Anyway, I won’t troll here too much – thanks for the discussion.

        • humblesmith says:

          I have a copy of the “jefferson bible.” I’ve heard conflicting reports about it….as I understand it, it was allegedly found after his death, so no one knows Jefferson’s true motives. It’s true it does not contain miracles such as the resurrection…..some claim that he purposely edited out the things he disagreed with, but some reject that, and claim that all he was trying to do was compile the most memorable verses into one place.

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