Lesson 2: Colonial Period (mid 1600s – 1765)

Lesson 2: Colonial Period (mid 1600s – 1765)

As was apparent in Lesson 1, Christianity was central to the planting of the first American colonies, including Virginia (1607), Plymouth Plantation (1620), Massachusetts Bay (1630), Maryland (1634), Rhode Island (1636), and Connecticut (1638). Christianity was also very evident in the founding charters and laws of the rest of the thirteen colonies.

Pennsylvania, 1682
William Penn

In 1681, King Charles II gave Quaker minister William Penn the land between New York and Maryland to repay a debt Charles owed Penn’s father. Penn accepted the land; but understanding that it was not actually the king’s to give, Penn went to America and proceeded to purchase the land from the Indians, at the price they set.[1] In fact, he had to purchase some of the same land multiple times because several different tribes claimed it. [2] Of this land, he said, “My God that has given it to me…will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation.”[3]

In 1682, Penn wrote the Great Law of Pennsylvania, establishing“laws as shall best preserve true Christian and civil liberty, in opposition to all unChristian, licentious, and unjust practices, whereby God may have his due, Caesar his due, and the people their due.” [4]

Penn knew that good laws were necessary in order to have good government, but he also identified something even more important, explaining:

Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them….Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good and the government cannot be bad. If it be ill, they will cure it. But if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavor to warp and spoil it to their turn. I know some say, “Let us have good laws, and no matter for the men that execute them.” But let them consider that though good laws do well, good men do better; for good laws may want [lack] good men and be abolished or invaded by ill men; but good men will never want [lack] good laws, nor suffer [allow] ill ones. [5]

Penn realized that to produce good government the quality of leaders was more important than the quality of laws, although both were necessary. He understood that rarely do bad people follow good laws, or good people enact bad laws; so while good civil laws are important, good character in a leader is even more important. Penn once told the Russian Czar, Peter the Great, “If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God—and to do that, thou must be ruled by Him.” [6] Penn was simply espousing the position set forth in the Bible in Proverbs 29:2, which declares: “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

Consequently, the Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges (1701) contained qualifications for officials whereby:

[A]ll persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, shall be capable…to serve this government in any capacity, both legislatively and executively. [7]

Penn was a wise lawgiver, and his great wisdom was “derived from that book of Gospel statutes.” [8] Penn is honored in the US Capitol in the House of Representatives as one of the world’s greatest lawgivers.

Rev. Dr. Thomas Bray

Fifty years after the founding of Pennsylvania, Georgia became the last of the original thirteen colonies to be established. (Several other colonies had been founded during those intervening fifty years.) Instrumental in Georgia’s founding was the Rev. Dr. Thomas Bray (the founder of England’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and also of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge [9]). Bray founded an organization to send missionaries to America, [10] and many of his associates [11] joined with General James Oglethorpe to found the colony of Georgia Colony in 1732. [12]

The original settlers to Georgia numbered 114 and were soon followed by Moravians (Protestant Christians from Czechoslovakia) and other persecuted Christians and Jews. When that original group touched shore in 1733, they knelt in thanks to God, declaring: “Our end in leaving our native country was not to avoid want, God having given us plenty of temporal blessings; nor to gain the dung or dross of riches and honor; but singly this: to save our souls; to live wholly to the glory of God.” [13] The object of the devout Oglethorpe and others was “to make Georgia a religious colony.” [14] Thus, when the city of Savannah (the first city in the colony) was laid out, it was done with numerous religious activities and ceremonies. [15]

Oglethorpe invited the Revs. John and Charles Wesley, and the Rev. George Whitefield from England to serve as chaplains in the colony, oversee Indian affairs, and build orphanages. Whitefield spent much time in Georgia, but his influence grew well beyond its borders. He eventually had a dramatic impact on all the colonies through his role in the national revival known as the First Great Awakening, which was foundational in preparing Americans in the Biblical character and worldview necessary for independence.

Other Early Colonies

While not every American colony has been specifically mentioned thus far, the influence of Christianity was nevertheless evident in all of them. Here are a few more examples.

New York: Early Governor Richard Nicolls, in his February 1665 letter establishing a legislature for the colony, recommended the people choose rulers with Godly characteristics, the result of which would be “the propagation of true religion amongst us.” [16] And the New York Charter of Liberties and Privileges (October 30, 1683) declared: “No person or persons which profess faith in God by Jesus Christ shall at any time be any ways molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for difference in opinion.”[17]

New Jersey: The Fundamentals of West New Jersey (1681) declared: “[I]t hath pleased God to bring us into this Province…that we may be a people to the praise and honor of His name.”[18]

Carolina: The Fundamental Constitution of Carolina (1669) was written with the help of noted English philosopher and lay theologian John Locke, an outspoken Christian. That constitution required: “No man shall be permitted to be a [citizen] of Carolina or to have any estate or habitation within it that doth not acknowledge a God, and that God is publicly and solemnly to be worshipped.”[19] Religious freedom was also acknowledged for others, including: “Jews, [non-Christians], and other dissenters from the purity of Christian religion.” [20]

The Carolina colony was divided into North and South Carolina in 1710, and in South Carolina’s An Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Province (1721), one qualification for voting or holding public office was that of “professing the Christian religion.”[21] Additionally, officials “shall take the following oath on the Holy Evangelists [that is on the Bible, including the New Testament]: I______, do sincerely swear that I am duly qualified to be chosen and serve…So help me God.[22]

This same pattern of open acknowledgment of God and Christianity was apparent in each of the colonies. In fact, during the colonization period of America, at least 128 different covenants, compacts, charters, and constitutions were written. Of these, eighty-six were written in the American colonies, and forty-two were written in England for the colonists, [23] but the Christian element was readily apparent throughout. These were the foundational civil documents of the original colonies, and subsequently of the thirteen states that comprised the United States of America.

Pastors in Public Affairs in the 1600s
Ministers were the primary educators in early America.

Clergymen in the early colonies had a significant positive impact on both the personal lives of citizens and the public affairs of the day. For example:

  • 1619: The Rev. William Wickham served in Virginia’s original General Assembly—the first elected governing body in America. [24]
  • 1620: The Rev. John Robinson shaped the Mayflower Compact—the first governing document written in America.[25]
  • 1636: Harvard—six ministers helped found the first successful college in America.[26]
  • 1636: The Rev. Roger Williams and Rev. John Clarke founded the colony of Rhode Island.[27]
  • 1639: The Rev. Thomas Hooker and the Rev. John Davenport founded the colony of Connecticut and helped produce the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut—the first constitution ever written in America.[28]
  • 1641: The Rev. Nathaniel Ward wrote the Massachusetts Body of Liberties—the first bill of rights in America.[29]
  • 1681: Quaker minister William Penn founded Pennsylvania and wrote its Frame of Government. [30]

These are only a few examples of the scores of ministers who had a beneficial public impact on policy in the seventeenth century (the 1600s).

The Role of the Church and the Clergy in the Cultivation of Liberty

Early author David Gregg correctly observed of the early American republic: “The people made the laws, and the churches made the people.” [31] Although the church as an official ecclesiastical body did not directly hold political power or specifically make civil law, the power of Bible teachings in the lives of citizens and the community indisputably had a wholesome influence. As affirmed by French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville in his famous book Democracy in America:

Alexis de Tocqueville

Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other….Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country. [32]

Another early French visitor to America was Achille Murat, who penned A Moral and Political Sketch of the United States of North America (1833). Unlike De Tocqueville, Murat was openly hostile to Christianity, declaring that “its [America’s] religion is the only feature which disgusts a foreigner.”[33] Nonetheless, he saw the influence of Christianity and the Bible throughout every aspect of America’s culture, reporting:

[T]here is no country in which the people are so religious as in the United States…The great number of religious societies existing in the United States is truly surprising: there are some of them for everything. For instance, societies to distribute the Bible; to distribute tracts; to encourage religious journals; to convert, civilize, educate the savages; to marry the preachers; to take care of their widows and orphans; to preach, extend, purify, preserve, reform the faith; to build chapels, endow congregations, support seminaries; catechize and convert sailors, Negroes, and loose women; to secure the observance of Sunday and prevent blasphemy by prosecuting the violators; to establish Sunday schools where young ladies teach reading and the catechism to little rogues, male and female; to prevent drunkenness, and so forth.[34]

Despite his personal dislike for religion, Murat nevertheless conceded that:

While a death-struggle is waging in Europe…it is curious to observe the tranquility which prevails in the United States.[35]

So even those who disliked Christianity and the Bible openly acknowledged its powerful positive influence on America.

Thus, early American clergy, by their teaching of the Bible and its principles, were the primary shapers of thinking during the colonial period. As explained by Yale professor Harry Stout: “The average weekly church-goer in New England (and there were far more church-goers than church members) listened to something like seven thousand sermons in a lifetime, totaling somewhere around fifteen thousand hours of concentrated listening.” [36] The sermons and writings of the clergy had a definite impact on the thinking of both leaders and the people.The influence of clergy was also felt with their training of the rising generations. For example, many noted Founding Fathers (including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Rush, Noah Webster, and scores of others) were personally tutored by ministers. And other youth who attended college without the aid of such tutors were also directly influenced by the clergy, for clergy were frequently the president of the colleges as well as their professors.

The Rev. John Wise

Many ministers could be singled out to show their significant impact, but the Rev. John Wise, (a clergyman in Massachusetts in the late 1600s and early 1700s) is worthy of special notice. He has been identified as one of the six most influential persons in shaping the American thinking that led to independence.[37]

As early as 1687, the Rev. Wise was teaching that “taxation without representation is tyranny,”[38] the “consent of the people” was the foundation of government,[39] and that “every man must be acknowledged equal to every man.”[40] If this language sounds strikingly similar to that later found in the Declaration of Independence, there is a good reason.

In 1772, with the American War for Independence looming on the horizon, leading patriots reprinted two of Wise’s works (which were distributed by Sons of Liberty, along with others) to reintroduce core Biblical principles of government to the thinking citizens of that day. [41] The first printing sold so fast that a second reprint was quickly issued,[42] and many of the points made by Wise in that work subsequently appeared four years later in the language of the Declaration of Independence. As historian Benjamin Franklin Morris affirmed in 1864:

[S]ome of the most glittering sentences in the immortal Declaration of Independence are almost literal quotations from this [1772 reprinted] essay of John Wise….It was used as a political text-book in the great struggle for freedom.[43]

Calvin Coolidge

Decades later in 1926 when President Calvin Coolidge delivered a speech on the 150thanniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he similarly acknowledged:

[T]hese thoughts [in the Declaration] can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, “Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man.” Again, “The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth”….His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.[44]

But Wise not only advocated the Biblical principles of civil liberty, he also stood boldly in their defense. For example, when British-appointed Governor Edmund Andros tried to seize the charters of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, revoke their representative governments, and force the establishment of the British Anglican Church upon them, Wise was a key leader against Andros’ plan. [45] He was imprisoned for his resistance but remained an unflinching voice for freedom, forcefully asserting that representative government was God’s ordained plan in both Church and State.[46]

It was Christian ministers such as John Wise (and scores like him) who, through their writings, countless sermons, and bold leadership not only helped found free governments in America but also laid the intellectual basis for American independence.

The First Great Awakening

America was originally founded on the teachings of the Bible, but it is a sad truth of both history and human nature that just because something begins in a good manner does not mean it will remain that way.

The early colonists truly were, by and large, sincerely pious and devout, relying on the Bible, and guided by wholesome motives. But having been so in the past does not guarantee it will continue into the future. Each generation must always decide for itself whether to obey and keep lit the internal flame of God’s Word; and by the time Georgia (the last colony) was established (well over a century after the founding of the first colonies), America was experiencing a marked lull in religion.

George Whitefield preached to large crowds throughout the colonies.

Famous minister Jonathan Edwards described Massachusetts (originally the land of the Pilgrims and Puritans) as experiencing a “degenerate time” with “dullness of religion.” [47] And in Pennsylvania (founded by Quaker minister William Penn), the Rev. Samuel Blair (who later became a chaplain of Congress) likewise affirmed that “religion lay, as it were, dying and ready to expire its last breath of life in this part of the visible church.[48] By the 1720s and 1730s, the excitement and enthusiasm of Christian life had departed from many people and their churches. A great American spiritual awakening was needed—and it occurred, impacting not only America but other nations as well. This revival, known as the First Great Awakening, lasted from 1730-1770. It occurred through the hard work and leadership of ministers such as the Revs. George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, William Tennant, Samuel Davies, and many others who helped set the colonies aflame spiritually.

Benjamin Franklin (who later became a prominent Founding Father) developed a close friendship with the Rev. George Whitefield and often heard him preach. Franklin appreciated the great impact the revival had:

It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious so [that] one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street. [49]

For thirty-four years, Whitefield traveled up and down the colonies, preaching some 18,000 times, drawing huge crowds in churches, streets, and open fields.[50] In fact, it is estimated that an amazing eighty percent of all Americans actually heard him speak. [51] Thousands of people were converted, and churches were filled. Godliness swept the colonies, and a love for the Bible and its teachings was renewed among citizens and families.

Here are others of the many ministers who played important roles that contributed to the rekindling of practical Biblical faith in America.

The Rev. Elisha Williams

The Rev. Williams of Connecticut was a schoolteacher, state representative, judge, ambassador, and president of Yale. Greatly influenced by the Rev. George Whitefield, he was not only a chaplain of New England’s military forces during the French and Indian War but also became a colonel and led troops in the field. In 1744, he wrote The Essential Rights and Liberties of Protestants, which contained a clear and full explanation of the Biblical principles of equality, liberty, and property. The ideas that he preached during the revival were key in preparing people for the War for Independence a few decades later.

The Rev. Samuel Davies
Rev. Samuel Davies

The Rev. Davies was an influential pastor in Virginia who also served as a lawyer, ambassador to England, and president of Princeton College. He is considered the greatest pulpit orator in American history.[52]

When Patrick Henry was a young boy, his mother joined the church where Davies pastored. She always took Patrick to church with her, and each Sunday as they rode home in their buggy, Mrs. Henry and Patrick would review the sermon. Significantly, hearing the great Davies preach week after week greatly influenced the development of Patrick Henry’s own oratorical skills. As affirmed by an early biographer, Henry’s “early example of eloquence…was Mr. Davies, and the effect of his teaching upon [Henry’s] after life may be plainly traced.”[53]

Henry, who became one of the most noted orators among the Founding Fathers, affirmed that Davies was “the greatest orator he ever heard”[54] but Thomas Jefferson later called Henry“the greatest orator that ever lived.”[55] Clearly, Henry had learned from the best.

Jonathan Mayhew, “Father of Civil Liberty”

The Rev. Mayhew of Massachusetts was the first clergyman to begin preaching resistance to England’s tyranny. In fact, his 1750 sermon Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission[56] helped form the basis of an early motto of the American Revolution: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”[57]

In 1765, the British passed the onerous Stamp Act. Resistance in the colonies to that measure was organized and widespread. Under unified pressure from both civil and religious leaders, the Stamp Act was eventually repealed.

Mayhew, having witnessed the power of that unified stand, wrote to James Otis (mentor of Sam Adams, John Hancock, and other leading patriots), telling him: “You have heard of communion [i.e., unity]of the churches….[W]hile I was thinking of this,…[the] importance of a communion [unity]of the colonies appeared to me in a strong light.” [58] Mayhew thus proposed “to send circulars to all the rest [of the colonies][59] on key issues. This suggestion later became reality through what became known as the Committees of Correspondence, which distributed news flashes and educational materials among the various colonies in an effort to achieve unity in both thinking and action.

Jonathan Mayhew’s impact in numerous areas was substantial. In fact, John Adams affirmed that he was one of the individuals “most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential” in the “awakening and revival of American principles and feelings” that led to our independence. [60]

Some Great Awakening Sermon Titles
An Election Sermon preached in 1790 before the government leaders in Massachusetts

Sermons preached and printed during the First Great Awakening helped bring about Biblical thinking on numerous issues, including civil liberties, the proper use of the military, limited government, equal rights, the wrongs of slavery, and much else. The titles of sermons from that era affirm that Biblical truth was shown to be relevant to all areas of life, including not only a personal but also political issues. A few of those sermons addressing civil topics included:

  • Civil Magistrates Must Be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God (1747), by Charles Chauncey [61]
  • Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers (1750), by Jonathan Mayhew [62]
  • Religion and Patriotism, the Constituents of a Good Soldier (1755), by Samuel Davies [63]
  • The Advice of Joab to the Host of Israel Going Forth to War (1759), by Thaddeus Maccarty [64]
  • Good News from a Far Country (sermon on the repeal of the Stamp Act) (1766), by Charles Chauncey [65]
  • An Oration upon the Beauties of Liberty (1773), by John Allen [66]
  • Scriptural Instructions to Civil Rulers (1774), by Samuel Sherwood [67]
  • Jesus Christ the True King (1778), by Peter Powers [68]
    (This sermon resulted in the political cry “No King but King Jesus!”

These sermon topics (and countless others) demonstrate that church leaders truly believed (and taught the nation) that there was nothing in life that the Bible did not address, directly or indirectly. Early pastors were indispensable in shaping America and our unique view of government and liberty. As early historian Alice Baldwin affirmed:

There is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763. [70]

Baldwin further affirmed, “The Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit.[71] No wonder Founding Father John Adams openly rejoiced that the“pulpits have thundered,[72] further affirming that:

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were….the general principles of Christianity….I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature.[73]

There would have been no American War for Independence without the ideas and thoughts preached across America during the First Great Awakening. Significantly, the Founding Fathers who gave us our remarkable governing documents grew up during that revival—it molded their faith, character, and worldview, preparing them to give birth to an exceptional nation—the first truly Christian constitutional republic in history. But not only were our Founders shaped by the Bible and its teachings, many of them were even ministers of the Gospel.

Founding Fathers Who Were Ministers
Rev. John Witherspoon trained many of the men who established America as an independent nation.

The Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He had been a pastor in Scotland and came to America in 1768 to become president of the College of New Jersey (now called Princeton). He was elected to the Continental Congress and served on over l00 congressional committees.[74] He is said to have had more influence on the monetary policies found in the Constitution than any other individual. [75]

Witherspoon was not only directly involved in government as a member of Congress, but through his role as an educator he shaped many of the men who shaped America. During his tenure as president of the College of New Jersey (i.e., Princeton), there were 478 graduates. Of these, at least 86 became active in civil government and included one US president, one vice-president, 10 cabinet members, 21 senators, 39 congressmen, 12 governors, a Supreme Court justice, and one Attorney General of the United States (and these are only those who served at the national level; many others held local and state offices). In fact, nearly one-fifth of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, one-sixth of the delegates of the Constitutional Convention, and one-fifth of the members of the first federal Congress that framed the Bill of Rights were graduates of the College of New Jersey. [76]

Another signer of the Declaration who was a minister was Robert Treat Paine, a chaplain in the War for Independence who later became the attorney general of Massachusetts and a justice on the state supreme court. And signer William Williams was a licensed Baptist minister who filled various pulpits, and signer Lyman Hall was an ordained Congregationalist minister who later became governor of Georgia.

There were also several ministers among the signers of the Constitution. They included the Rev. Abraham Baldwin, who was a chaplain in the War for Independence and taught divinity at Yale. He founded the University of Georgia as a school to train Gospel ministers. He also served in the first US House of Representatives (where he helped frame the Bill of Rights) and then the US Senate. And Hugh Williamson was a licensed preacher of the Presbyterian Church who likewise served in the first US Congress, where he, too, helped frame the Bill of Rights. Roger Sherman (the only Founding Father to sign all four founding documents: the Articles of Association, 1774; the Declaration of Independence, 1776; the Articles of Confederation, 1781; and the US Constitution, 1787; and he also helped frame the Bill of Rights), was a noted lay theologian, penning multiple pieces on theological issues.

And there were numerous ministers in the first federal Congress that framed the Bill of Rights. In addition to those just mentioned were the Revs. Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg, Abiel Foster, Benjamin Contee, John Peter Muhlenberg, and Paine Wingate. In fact, the Rev. Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg was elected the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, where he became one of only two individuals to sign the Bill of Rights.

Other Ministers

Clergy also contributed much to America’s freedoms and civil liberties in a variety of other arenas. On the military side, many clergymen experienced active combat and led soldiers in battle, even becoming military generals. [77] On the political side, in addition to the ministers already named among the signers, Baptist ministers Isaac Backus and John Leland were lobbyists for religious freedom in the 1780s, working with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. They became significant influences in helping provide the religious freedom protections of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. And the Rev. Manassas Cutler was an author of the Northwest Ordinance (written in 1787), under which thirty-two territories eventually became states in the United States. [78] And forty-four clergymen were elected as delegates to ratify the US Constitution. [79] There are many more that could also be named, making clear that the number of clergy who held public office or directly influenced public policy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was large.[80]

Other Significant Clergy-Statesmen

Ministers continued to be engaged in civil affairs throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For example, the Rev. Charles Finney led the fight against slavery. US President James Garfield was a preacher, college president, military general, and then a Member of Congress, where he helped end slavery and pass numerous civil rights laws. And the Revs. Lyman Beecher, D.L. Moody, and Billy Sunday stood against alcohol abuse and for women’s rights. Others built hospitals and provided leadership for various charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. In more recent times, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked to end racial discrimination, the Rev. Jerry Falwell fought against abortion and pornography, the Rev. Franklin Graham led benevolence efforts in America and across the world, and the Rev. James Robison provided wells and clean drinking water in villages across Africa. And still today, numerous ministers serve in civil government, including a number of current Members of Congress who are pastors.

Teaching the Principles of Liberty

Returning to the influence of clergy in the 150 years leading up to the American War for Independence, pastors used every opportunity possible to educate the people in the principles of liberty. Some of the more common means included:

  • The Election Sermon. Of the many types of sermons on government and liberty, probably the most popular and recognizable one was called the Election Sermon—the longest traditional form of annual sermon in America. The first documented election sermon was preached in 1634 in Massachusetts, [81] and it became an annual practice for centuries thereafter. Many states began each year’s legislative session by inviting a minister to preach a sermon to civil leaders addressing Biblical principles regarding government, lawmaking, and the civil issues of the day.

Significantly, many of these sermons involved notable Founding Fathers such as John Hancock [82] and Samuel Adams [83] (each was a governor of Massachusetts and a signer of the Declaration of Independence); Samuel Huntington [84] (a governor of Connecticut and a signer of the Declaration of Independence); Caleb Strong [85] (a governor of Massachusetts and a framer of the Constitution); Oliver Wolcott [86] (a governor of Connecticut and a signer of the Declaration of Independence); and many others. These Election Sermons were often printed and distributed at state expense, [87] being widely read across the state and even throughout other colonies.

Of these Election Sermons, eighteenth-century historian John Wingate Thornton says that:

[T]he clergy were generally consulted by the civil authorities; and not infrequently the suggestions from the pulpit on election days (and other special occasions) were enacted into laws. The statute-book—the reflex of the age—shows this influence. The State was developed out of the Church. The annual “Election Sermon” (a perpetual memorial continued down through the generations from century to century) still bears witness that our fathers ever began their civil year and its responsibilities with an appeal to Heaven, and recognized Christian morality as the only basis of good laws.…The sermon is styled the Election Sermon, and is printed. Every representative has a copy for himself, and generally one or more for the minister or ministers of his town.[88]

The practice of Election Sermons continued until the twentieth-century.

  • The Weekday Lecture. Many churches offered regular training on applying Biblical principles to pressing problems of the day. One way of doing this was the community-wide weekly lecture. This tradition began in Boston in 1633 when the Rev. John Cotton provided Thursday lectures discussing the current social and political issues. The practice spread to other communities and colonies, and continued for centuries, [89] with ministers directly applying the Bible to the questions of the day, thus showing citizens that the Bible and its principles were applicable and relevant to everything in daily life. Founding historian Benjamin Trumbull wrote that not only were the clergy “the principal instructors” of those who would become the political leaders but that…

For many years, they [the clergy] were consulted by the legislature in all affairs of importance, civil or religious. They were appointed on committees with the Governor and magistrates to advise, make drafts, and assist them in the most delicate and interesting concerns of the Commonwealth.[90]

  • The Artillery Sermon. These were sermons delivered to the military on the annual election of their officers. As can be expected, such sermons addressed issues relevant to the military, covering such topics as what constitutes a just war, [91] the sin of cowardice, [92] the character and courage of a soldier, [93] the necessity of a militia, [94] and many other relevant military topics.
  •  Special FastThanksgiving, and Anniversary Sermons. Those sermons were commonly associated with governmental calls to prayer issued by the governor or US president (by 1815, there had been some 1,400 government-issued calls to prayer [95]). In regions like New England, there was usually an annual day of fasting in the spring (and an accompanying sermon), and an annual day of thanksgiving in the fall (with an accompanying sermon). And there were also sermons related to national days of prayer, such as those surrounding President George Washington’s calls for national times of thanksgiving, President John Adams’ calls for national times of fasting, President James Madison’s numerous calls to prayer, and similar calls by other presidents.
An Execution Sermon
  •  Execution Sermons. Ministers would often address the community before public executions were carried out for capital crimes. [96] In these Execution Sermons, the guilty party would be called to repentance and citizens publicly warned of the consequences for criminal behavior. (It was also common practices for judges in the courtroom to deliver a Gospel message to defendants if they had been found guilty of a capital crime and sentenced to death by the jury. [97])
  • Occasional Sermons. These sermons related to some significant occasion, and might be preached in observance of military victories, calamities and natural disasters, or societal events and trends—such as immigration issues, the sin of dueling, or the rise of alcohol use. Anything in the news might be covered from the pulpit, including sermons on earthquakes, fires, solar eclipses, sighting of comets, the discovery of a new planet, a particular naval disaster, the death of a president or statesman, and countless other topics. [98] Breaking news stories were often the subject of sermons in order to provide a Biblical perspective on issues arising in and pertaining to daily life.
  • Anniversary, Historical, and Holiday Sermons. These included things such as Century Sermons (preached in the year 1701, 1801, or 1901, to review significant events of the previous century from a providential viewpoint—looking at what God had done in that century) and Decade Sermons (similarly reviewing the previous decade). And there were sermons commemorating the anniversary of events such as the Pilgrims’ Landing, the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument, or the 100thanniversary of a major battle or event. And there were countless Fourth of July sermons looking back at that important holiday. In short, sermons were preached about significant events from the past, viewing them from a Biblical perspective.

— — — ⧫ ⧫ ⧫ — — —

All of these (and other) types of sermons had a direct positive impact in shaping early America’s thinking. In fact, modern political scientists have documented that an amazing ten percent of all published pamphlets in the Founding Era were sermons. [99]

And significantly, those published sermons represented only a fraction of the tens of thousands of additional unpublished sermons that were also preached. From an historical viewpoint, it is clear that colonial clergymen may properly be considered part of our American Founding Fathers.

Higher Education
This is the Wen Building at the College of William and Mary-America’s second college. It was started primarily by the efforts of Rev. James Blair.

Ministers colonized states, wrote laws and constitutions, served as judges and legislators and military leaders, helped shape the thinking of citizens, and were also key figures in the establishment and development of higher education. In fact, until the twentieth century nearly every university was started by a minister or Christian denomination.

Reflective of this pattern, in 1636 Harvard was founded by and for Congregationalists(so, too, with Yale in 1701 and Dartmouth in 1769). In 1692 the College of William and Mary was founded by and for Anglicans(as was the University of Pennsylvania in 1740, Kings College in 1754, and the College of Charleston in 1770). In 1746 Princeton was founded by and for Presbyterians(as was Dickinson in 1773 and Hampden-Sydney in 1775). In 1764 the College of Rhode Island (now Brown University) was founded by and for the Baptists. In 1766 Queens College (now Rutgers) was founded by and for the Dutch Reformed. In 1780 Transylvania University was founded by and for the Disciples of Christ, and so on.

With few exceptions, America’s earliest universities were closely associated with particular denominations and were typically run by ministers from that denomination. In fact, by 1860, 262 out of 288 college presidents were ministers of the Gospel—as were more than a third of all university faculty members, [100] and only seventeen colleges and universities at that time were state institutions.[101] But even the state schools were not secular, for the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Georgia, and others had self-declared purposes of Christian education and the inculcation of Christian character. In fact, in 1890, James Angell, President of the University of Vermont and the University of Michigan, reported that even at state universities, over 90 percent conducted chapel services; at half of them, chapel attendance was compulsory; and a quarter of them even required regular church attendance in addition to chapel attendance. [102] Well into the 20th century, this remained the practice of state universities.

Yale College

These universities were the principal educators of leaders in every sphere of life, including law, medicine, government, religion, economics, education, literature, science, and all other areas. Here is a closer look at the beliefs and practices of some of the more notable early universities. (Since Harvard and William and Mary were covered in Lesson 1, some of the other famous colleges will be covered here.)

Yale University, 1701

Yale University in Connecticut was started by colonists whose purpose was “to plant and, under the Divine Blessing, to propagate in this wilderness the blessed reformed Protestant religion in the purity of its order and worship.”[103] Some famous graduates of this school included Constitution signers Jared Ingersoll, William Samuel Johnson, William Livingston, early educator Noah Webster, and other notables such as Nathan Hale, Eli Whitney, and Samuel F.B. Morse.[104]

Princeton, 1746

One of the early presidents of the college was noted signer of the Declaration John Witherspoon, and his educational philosophy was clear:“Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”[105] Significantly:

[T]he two principal objects the trustees had in view [when founding Princeton] were science and religion. Their first concern was to cultivate the minds of the pupils in all those branches of erudition [knowledge] which are generally taught in the universities abroad. And to perfect their design, their next care was to rectify the heart by inculcating the great precepts of Christianity in order to make them good men.[106]

Famous graduates of Princeton included signer of the Declaration Benjamin Rush, signers of the Constitution James Madison, William Paterson, Jonathan Dayton, and Constitutional Convention delegate William Houston (who was also a professor at Princeton). [107]

University of Pennsylvania, 1751

Benjamin Franklin was instrumental in founding the University of Pennsylvania. While this school was not started by a specific denomination, its policies nevertheless openly reflected its Christian character. For example, its Laws Relating to the Moral Conduct and Orderly Behaviour of the Students and Scholars of the University of Pennsylvania required:

  1. None of the students or scholars belonging to this seminary [i.e., university] shall make use of any indecent or immoral language, whether it consist in immodest expressions, in cursing and swearing, or in exclamations which introduce the name of God without reverence and without necessity.
  2. None of them shall without a good and sufficient reason be absent from school or late in his attendance—more particularly at the time of prayers and of the reading of the Holy Scriptures.[108]

Some famous graduates of the University of Pennsylvania included signers of the Declaration Francis Hopkinson and William Paca, and signers of the Constitution Thomas Mifflin and Hugh Williamson. [109] Trustees of the university included Declaration signer Thomas McKean and Constitution signers George Clymer, John Dickinson, Thomas Fitzsimons, Jared Ingersoll, and Robert Morris. [110] And Declaration signer Benjamin Rush and Constitution signer James Wilson both taught classes at the University of Pennsylvania.[111]

Columbia, 1754

In 1754, an Anglican minister, the Rev. Samuel Johnson, became the first president of what is now called Columbia. (It was known as King’s College from its founding until 1784, but with America’s independence, it no longer seemed appropriate to honor a king, so its name was changed.) At that time, William Samuel Johnson (a signer of the Constitution, and the son of the school’s founder, the Rev. Samuel Johnson) became president. [112] Originally founded as an Anglican school, it became a non-denominational Christian college. An advertisement for the college affirmed its purpose and objective:

The chief thing that is aimed at in this college is to teach and engage the children to know God in Jesus Christ, and to love and serve him in all sobriety, godliness, and righteousness of life, with a perfect heart and a willing mind, and to train them up in all virtuous habits and all such useful knowledge as may render them creditable to their families and friends. [113]

Some of the school’s students included signer of the Constitution Alexander Hamilton, original US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, and Robert Livingston (the highest judicial official in New York, and one of the five assigned by Congress to draft the Declaration of Independence). [114]


Most other colleges reflected the same pattern, and in addition to the influential graduates mentioned above, tens of thousands more were produced by these Christian, Bible-based schools. Sadly, many of these once Christian universities have now abandoned their heritage and today have become completely secularized, even hostile to Christianity. But that does not alter the fact that genuinely Christian education shaped the leaders that shaped early America.

Early Textbooks of American Common Education

In addition to the strong Christian influence in higher education, that same influence was present in the general common school classrooms that students attended before entering college. This was particularly evident in the sequence of textbooks used in early American education.

John Locke (a political philosopher who penned the constitution for America’s Carolina colony and whose writings had a significant influence upon the Founding Fathers [115]) described the typical educational path for children. According to Locke, students learned to read by following “the ordinary road of Hornbook, Primer, Psalter, Testament, and Bible.”[116] Consider each of these five texts.

A Hornbook was a flat piece of wood with a handle, upon which a sheet of printed paper was attached, covered with transparent animal horn to protect it. A typical hornbook had the alphabet, the vowels, a list of syllables, the acknowledgement of the Christian Trinity, and the Lord’s Prayer.

Next on the “ordinary road” of education were Primers. They contained catechisms that taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith through a system of questions and answers. Hundreds of different catechisms were used. At first, William Perkins’ The Foundation of Christian Religion Gathered into Six Principles was a highly popular one, but it was eventually passed by the Westminster Catechism, and later the New England Primer.

The Psalter, next in the sequence of educational texts, was a songbook whose text was composed solely from the book of Psalms in the Bible.

Next came the Testament—that is, the New Testament, a part of the Bible.

Finally, came the full Bible.

All five of the texts mentioned by Locke, and used to teach reading in America, were clearly Bible-centered.

The New England Primer

Of the primers mentioned above, The New England Primer was the most widely used textbook of the eighteenth century. Interestingly, it was the first textbook ever published in America, [117] originally printed in Boston around 1690 and reprinted frequently over the next two centuries. Well into the 20th century, The New England Primer remained a common text from which American students learned to read. [118]

The New England Primer taught the alphabet with a clear Biblical message.

The Primer was the equivalent of a first-grade textbook. (There were no grade levels in early American education at that time, but the Primer was the beginning reader—it was where students began their reading lessons; so today it would be called a first-grade textbook.)

Significantly, Founding Father Samuel Adams (called the “Father of American Independence”) had advocated that students be instructed in Christian principles[119] and he himself helped accomplish this goal by reprinting the New England Primer for students in Massachusetts.[120] The Primer was also reprinted by Noah Webster for students in Connecticut, and by Benjamin Franklin for students in Pennsylvania.[121]

The fact that Franklin was directly involved with personally distributing such an overtly Christian schoolbook might surprise many today, for Franklin is considered one of the least religious of our Founding Fathers. However, “least” is a comparative term, and certainly does not mean he was anti-religious, for he definitely was not. In fact, he was more openly religious than many so-called devoutly religious individuals today.

For example, in the 1760s he helped found schools in which African American students were taught not only academics but also the principles of Christianity. [122] Before that he had helped found the University of Pennsylvania for the explicitly declared purpose of instructing youth in the knowledge of the Christian religion, [123] and in his Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania he discussed the content of the academic curriculum of the state’s new university, noting that in its history classes:

History will…afford frequent opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion from its usefulness to the public [and] the advantage of a religious character among private persons…and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern. [124]

But returning to the content of The New England Primer as used in classrooms over the centuries (and reprinted by leading Founding Fathers), perhaps its most characteristic feature is what was called the rhyming alphabet. It taught the alphabet by using a rhyme based on Bible facts and teachings:

A—In Adam’s Fall
We sinned all. [Romans3:23]

B—Heaven to find
The Bible Mind. [Deuteronomy 13:4 & Matthew 7:21]

C—Christ crucified
For sinners died. [Romans 5:8]

D—The Deluge drowned
The Earth around. [Genesis 7]

E—Elijah hid
By Ravens fed. [1 Kings 17:2-16]

F—The judgment made
Felix afraid. [Acts 24]

G—As runs the Glass,
Our Life doth pass [James 4:14]

H—My Book and Heart
Must never part…. [Joshua 1:8]

And so forth. [125]


It is clear that Christians were a direct influence in founding and shaping the early American colonies as well as many of the great institutions and admirable features of America, including elective governments, written constitutions, bill of rights, public schools, universities, textbooks, and much else. There is no doubt that Christianity and the Bible was a substantial positive force in helping America become the greatest and freest nation in the world. ■

[1] Mrs. Mary Hugh, The Life of William Penn (Philadelphia: Carey, Lee and Carey, 1828),pp. 94, 109.

[2] Samuel M. Janney, The Life of William Penn: With Selections from His Correspondence and Autobiography (Philadelphia: Friends Book Association, 1852), p. 442.

[3] John Fanning Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: John Pennington and Uriah Hunt, 1844), Vol. I, p. 82, from William Penn to Robert Turner on January 5, 1681.

[4] Charter to William Penn, and Laws of the Province of Pennsylvania, Passed Between the Years 1682 and 1700 (Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1879), p. 107, “The Great Law or The Body of Laws, of the Province of Pennsylvania & Territories Thereunto Belonging,” December 1682.

[5] Thomas Clarkson, Memoirs of the Private and Public Life of William Penn (London: Longman, 1813), Vol. I, p. 303.

[6] Samuel M. Janney, The Life of William Penn: With Selections from His Correspondence and Autobiography (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1852), p. 407, letter from William Penn to the Czar of Muscovy.

[7] “Charter of Privileges Granted by William Penn, to the Inhabitants of Pennsylvania and Territories,” The Avalon Project, October 28, 1701 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/pa07.asp).

[8] John Fanning Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: John Fanning Watson, 1850), Vol. I, p. 311.

[9] George Gresley Perry, A History of the English Church: From the Accession of Henry VIII to the Silencing of Convocation in the Eighteenth Century (London: John Murray, 1880), p. 561.

[10] Charles McLean Andrews and Frances Gardiner Davenport, Guide to the Manuscript Materials for the History of the United States to 1783 in the British Museum, in Minor London Archives, and in the Libraries of Oxford and Cambridge (Washington DC: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1908), p. 331; and George Gresley Perry, A History of the English Church: From the Accession of Henry VIII to the Silencing of Convocation in the Eighteenth Century (London: John Murray, 1880), p. 561.

[11] William Stevens Perry, The History of the American Episcopal Church: 1587-1883 (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1885), p. 143.

[12] “Charter of Georgia: 1732,” The Avalon Project (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/ga01.asp); and “Trustee Georgia, 1732-1752,” New Georgia Encyclopedia, updated September 2, 2015 (at: https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/trustee-georgia-1732-1752).

[13] John Whitehead, Life of the Rev. John Wesley (Boston: Dow & Jackson, 1845), p. 288.

[14] Benson Lossing, A Pictorial History of the United States (New York: Mason Brothers, 1857), p. 130.

[15] See, for example, George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1853), Vol. III, pp. 421, 425.

[16] John Romeyn Brodhead, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany: Weed, Parsons and Company, 1883), Vol. 3, p. 564, “The Governor to the Inhabitants of Long Island, Touching a General Meeting of Deputies at Hempstead,” February 1665.

[17] C.B. Richardson, The Historical Magazine: And Notes and Queries Concerning the Antiquities, History, and Biography of America (New York: Charles B. Richardson, 1859), Vol. 3, p. 313, “Acts of the Assembly of 1683.”

[18] “Province of West New-Jersey, in America,” The Avalon Project, November 25, 1681 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/nj08.asp).

[19] “The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina,” The Avalon Project, March 1, 1669 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/nc05.asp).

[20] “The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina,” The Avalon Project, March 1, 1669 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/nc05.asp).

[21] A.S. Johnston, The Statutes at Large of South Carolina: Acts from 1716 to 1752  (Columbia: A.S. Johnston, 1838), p. 50, “An Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Inhabitants of This Province in the Common House of Assembly, and to Appoint Who Shall be Deemed and Adjudged Capable of Choosing or Being Chosen Members of the Said House,” 1719.

[22] A.S. Johnston, The Statutes at Large of South Carolina: Acts from 1716 to 1752  (Columbia: A.S. Johnston, 1838), p. 52, “An Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Inhabitants of This Province in the Common House of Assembly, and to Appoint Who Shall be Deemed and Adjudged Capable of Choosing or Being Chosen Members of the Said House,” 1719.

[23] Publius(Oxford University Press, Fall 1980), Vol 10, No. 4, pp. 129-132, Donald S. Lutz, “From Covenant to Constitution in American Political Thought.” See the text of many of these compacts, charters, and constitutions on The Avalon Project from the Yale Law School under “17th Century Documents” and “18th Century Documents” (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/).

[24] William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia (Philadelphia: William S. Martien, 1850), p. 21.

[25] John Robinson and Robert Ashton, The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers (London: John Snow, 1851), pp xlvii-li, “Memoir of Rev. John Robinson.”

[26] Samuel Atkins Eliot, A History of Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1630-1913 (Cambridge: Cambridge Tribune, 1913), p. 30.

[27] The Blue Laws of New Haven Colony: Usually Called Blue Laws of Connecticut; Quaker Laws of Plymouth and Massachusetts; Blue Laws of New York, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. First Record of Connecticut; Interesting Extracts from Connecticut Records; Cases of Salem Witchcraft; Charges and Banishment of Rev. Roger Williams (Hartford: Case, Tiffany & Co, 1838), p. 64; and May Emery Hall, Roger Williams (Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1917), p. 62.

[28] Margaret Huntington Hooker and Edward Hooker, The Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker, Hartford, Connecticut, 1586-1908 (Rochester: Margaret Huntington Hooker, 1909), pp. xxiii-xxiv; and Old South Meeting House, The Founders of New England (Boston, Old South Meeting House, 1894), p. 16

[29] John Ward Dean, A Memoir of the Rev. Nathaniel Ward, A.M., Author of The Simple Cobbler of Agawam in America. With Notices of his Family (Albany: Joel Munsell, 1868), pp. 59-60

[30] “Frame of Government of Pennsylvania,” The Avalon Project, May 5, 1682 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/pa04.asp); and George Hodges, William Penn (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1901), pp. 65-66.

[31] David Gregg, Makers of the American Republic (New York: E.B. Treat, 1896), p. 319, “The Church and the Republic.”

[32] Alexis de Tocqueville, The Republic of the United States of America and Its Political Institutions, Henry Reeves, translator (Garden City, NY: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1851), Vol. I, pp. 335, 337.

[33] Achille Murat, A Moral and Political Sketch of the United States (London: Effingham Wilson, 1833), p. 142.

[34] Achille Murat, A Moral and Political Sketch of the United States (London: Effingham Wilson, 1833), pp. 113, 132.

[35] Achille Murat, A Moral and Political Sketch of the United States (London: Effingham Wilson, 1833), p. 111.

[36] Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 3.

[37] Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1953), p. 2, “Introduction.”

[38] David Otis Mears, Oberlin Lectures of 1829: The Pulpit and the Pews (Oberlin: Edward G. Goodrich, 1892), p. 87.

[39]John Wise,A Vindication of the Government of New England Churches (Boston: John Boyles, 1772), p. 5.

[40] John Wise, A Vindication of the Government of New England Churches (Boston: John Boyles, 1772), p. 26.

[41] See the 1772 Boston reprintings of: John Wise,A Vindication of the Government of New England Churches (Boston: John Boyles, 1772); John Wise, Churches Quarrel Espoused (Boston: John Boyles, 1772). For information about some of the subscribers/distributors of these printings of John Wise’s sermons, see: Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1953), p. 225.

[42] Claude H. Van Tyne, The Causes of the War of Independence (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922), p. 357.

[43] Benjamin Franklin Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States: Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic (Philadelphia: G.W. Childs, 1864), p. 34, quoting from A Vindication of the Government of New England Churches and the Churches Quarrel Espoused (Boston: Congregational Board of Publication, 1860), p. xx, “Introductory Notice.”

[44] Calvin Coolidge: “Address at the Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” The American Presidency Project, July 5, 1926 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-the-celebration-the-150th-anniversary-the-declaration-independence-philadelphia).

[45] The National Magazine(Cleveland: Magazine of Western History Publishing Company, 1888), Vol. VIII, No. 5, p. 398, J.H. Crooker, “John Wise, The Forgotten American.”

[46] George Bancroft, History of the Colonization of the United States (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1838), Vol. II, p. 429.

[47] Jonathan Edwards, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton (Edinburgh: Thomas Lumisden and John Robertson, 1738), p. 16

[48] Joseph Tracy, The Great Awakening: A History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Edwards and Whitefield (Boston: Charles Tappan, 1845), p. 26, by the Rev. Samuel Blair on August 6, 1744.

[49] Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, John Bigelow, editor (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1868), p. 253.

[50] Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, editors (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1889), Vol. VI, p. 478, s.v. “Whitefield, George.”

[51] See, for example, “George Whitefield: Did You Know?” Christian History, April 1993 (at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-38/george-whitefield-did-you-know.html); and Dave Schleck, “CW to Recreate Visit of Famous Preacher,” Daily Press, December 16, 1995 (at: https://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-xpm-19951216-1995-12-16-9512160076-story.html).

[52] William Edward Schenck, An Historical Account of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton, N.J.: Being a Sermon Preached on Thanksgiving Day, December 12, 1850 (Princeton: John T. Robinson, 1850), p. 23.

[53] William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry, Life, Correspondence and Speeches (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), Vol. 1, p. 16.

[54] William Wirt Henry, Patrick Henry, Life, Correspondence and Speeches (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), Vol. 1, p. 15.

[55] Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, editors (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1889), Vol. III, p. 175, s.v. “Henry, Patrick.”

[56] Jonathan Mathew, A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-resistance to the Higher Powers (Boston: D. Fowle, 1750). Evans # 6549.

[57] John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841), Vol. I, p. 152, to Abigail Adams on August 14, 1776.

[58] Alden Bradford, Memoir of the Life and Writings of Rev. Jonathan Mayhew, D.D. (Boston: C.C. Little & Co, 1838), p. 429, from Jonathan Mayhew to James Otis on June 8, 1766.

[59] Alden Bradford, Memoir of the Life and Writings of Rev. Jonathan Mayhew, D.D. (Boston: C.C. Little & Co, 1838), p. 428, from Jonathan Mayhew to James Otis on June 8, 1766.

[60] John Adams, Novanglus and Massachusettensis: or Political Essays Published in the year 1774 and 1775 (Boston: Hews & Goss, 1819), p. 235.

[61] Charles Chauncy, Civil Magistrates Must Be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God. A Sermon Preached Before his Excellency, William Shirley, the Honorable His Majesty’s Council, and House of Representatives, of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, May 27, 1747 (Boston: Printed by Order of the Honorable House of Representatives, 1747). Evans #5919.

[62] Jonathan Mayhew, A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers (Boston: D. Fowle, 1750). Evans # 6549.

[63] Samuel Davies, Religion and Patriotism, the Constituents of a Good Soldier. A Sermon Preached to Captain Overton’s Independent Company of Volunteers, Raised in Hanover County, Virginia, August 17, 1755 (Philadelphia, 1755). Evans #7403.

[64] Thaddeus MacCarty, The Advice of Joab to the Host of Israel Going Forth to War, Considered and Urged. In Two Discourses Delivered in Worchester, April 5, 1759. Being the Day of the Public Annual Fast (Boston: Thomas and John Fleet, 1759). Evans #8388.

[65] Charles Chauncy, A Discourse on “the Good News from a Far Country.” Delivered July 24th. A Day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God, throughout the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New England, on Occasion of the Repeal off the Stamp Act (Boston: Kneeland and Adams, 1766). Evans #10255.

[66] John Allen, An Oration upon the Beauties of Liberty, or The Essential Rights of the Americans, Delivered at the Second Baptist Church in Boston. Upon the Last Annual Thanksgiving (Boston: Kneeland and Davis, 1773). Evans #13015.

[67] Samuel Sherwood, A Sermon Containing Scriptural Instructions to Civil Rulers and all Freeborn Subjects: In which the Principles of Sound Policy and Good Government are Established and Vindicated, and Some Doctrines Advances and Zealously Propagated by New England Tories are Considered and Refuted. Delivered on the Public Fast, August 31, 1774 (New Haven: T. and S. Green, 1774). Evans #13614.

[68] Peter Powers, Jesus Christ the True King and Head of Government. A Sermon Preached Before the General Assembly of the State of Vermont, on the Day of Their First Election, March 12, 1778, at Windsor (Newburyport: John Mycall, 1778). Evans #16019.

[69] This quote is a summary of a statement found in the records of Parliament in April 1774: “If you ask an American, ‘Who is his master?’ He will tell you he has none—nor any governor but Jesus Christ.” Hezekiah Niles, Principles and Acts of the Revolution in America (Baltimore: William Ogden Niles, 1822), p. 198.

[70] Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1928), p. 170.

[71] Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1928), p. 134.

[72] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850), Vol. II, p. 154, diary entry for December 18, 1765.

[73] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1856), Vol. X, pp. 45-46, to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813.

[74] Dictionary of American Biography, Dumas Malone, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936), Vol. 20, p. 437, s.v. “Witherspoon, John.”

[75] See, for example, Robert A. Peterson, “John Witherspoon: Animated Son of Liberty,” Foundation for Economic Education, December 1, 1985 (at: https://fee.org/articles/john-witherspoon-animated-son-of-liberty/).

[76] Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, Princeton: 1746-1896 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946), p. 88; and Lawrence A. Cremin, American Education: The Colonial Experience, 1607-1783 (New York: Evanston, and London: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 301; and Nation Under God: A Religious-Patriotic Anthology, Frances Brentano, editor (Great Neck, NY: Channel Press, 1957), pp. 41-42; and Dr. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and The Constitution (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), p. 83; and Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College During the Eighteenth Century (New York: Anson D.F. Randolph & Company, 1872), pp. 121-185; and Mary-Elaine Swanson, The Education of James Madison, A Model for Today (Montgomery: The Hoffman Education Center for the Family, 1992), p. 53.

[77] See, for example, J.T. Headley, The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution (Springfield, MA: G. & F. Bill, 1861); and Franklin Cole, They Preached Liberty (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1941); and Daniel Dorchester, Christianity in the United States from the First Settlement Down to the Present Time (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1888); and Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1958); and John Wingate Thornton, Pulpit of the American Revolution (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1860); Frank Moore, ThePatriot Preachers of the American Revolution (Printed for the Subscribers, 1860); and Paul Wallace, The Muhlenbergs of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1950).

[78] Daniel C. Wewers, Major Acts of Congress (The Gale Group, Inc., 2004), “Northwest Ordinance (1787)” (at: https://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Northwest_Ordinance.aspx#2).

[79] John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987), p. 352, n15.

[80] See Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1928), passim, for a partial list.

[81] George Bancroft, The History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1853), Vol. I, p. 364.

[82] See Massachusetts election sermons “preached before His Excellency, John Hancock, Governor” in 1781, 1784, 1788, 1789, 1790, 1791, and 1792. (See these and many other election sermons from WallBuilders: https://wallbuilders.com/library-2/historical-sermons/.)

[83] See Massachusetts elections sermons “preached before…His Honor Samuel Adams, Lieutenant-Governor” from 1790, 1792, and 1794; and a Massachusetts election sermon “preached before His Excellency Samuel Adams, Governor” in 1796. (See these and many other election sermons from WallBuilders: https://wallbuilders.com/library-2/historical-sermons/.)

[84] Timothy Stone, A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency Samuel Huntington, Esq. L. L. D. Governor, and the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, Convened at Hartford, on the Day of the Anniversary Election. May 10, 1792 (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1792). Evans #24820.

[85] Thomas Baldwin, A Sermon Delivered Before His Excellency Caleb Strong, Esq. Governor, the Honorable the Council, Senate, and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 26, 1802. Being the Day of General Election (Boston: Young & Minns, 1802). Shaw/Shoemaker #1798.

[86] John Marsh, A Sermon Preached before His Honor Oliver Wolcott, Esq. L. L. D. Lieutenant-Governor and Commander in Chief, and the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, Convened at Hartford, on the Day of the Anniversary Election, May 12th, 1796 (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1796). Evans #30738.

[87] See, for example, the 1788, 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792, 1794, 1796, and 1802 Massachusetts election sermons which acknowledged that they were printed by the “state printers” or the “printers to the Honorable General Court.”

[88] John Wingate Thornton, The Pulpit of the American Revolution: Or, the Political Sermons of the Period of 1776 (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1860), pp. xxii-xxiii, xxvi.

[89] Albert Bushnell Hart, Colonial Children (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1905), p. 153; and William Gordon, A Discourse Preached December 15th, 1774, Being the Day Recommended by the Provincial Congress and Afterwards at the Boston Lecture (Boston: Thomas Leverett, 1775), editor’s note, Evans #14072; and Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805 (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998), Vol. I, Foreword by Ellis Sandoz; R.W. Dale, Week-Day Sermons (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1845).

[90] Benjamin Trumbull, A Complete History of Connecticut, Civil and Ecclesiastical (New Haven: Maltby, Goldsmith and Co., 1818), Vol. I, p. 288.

[91] See, for example, Samuel Davies, Religion and Patriotism. The Constituents of a Good Soldier. A Sermon Preached to Captain Overton’s Independent Company of Volunteers, Raised in Hanover County, Virginia, August 17, 1755 (Philadelphia: James Chattin 1755). Evans #7403.

[92] See, for example, Simeon Howard, A Sermon Preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery-Company, in Boston, New England, June 7th, 1773: Being the Anniversary of Their Election of Officers (Boston: John Boyles, 1773), Evans #12813.

[93] See, for example, Samuel Davies, Religion and Patriotism. The Constituents of a Good Soldier. A Sermon Preached to Captain Overton’s Independent Company of Volunteers, Raised in Hanover County, Virginia, August 17, 1755 (Philadelphia: James Chattin 1755). Evans #7403.

[94] See, for example, J.G. Palfrey, A Plea for the Militia System in a Discourse Delivered Before the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company on its 197thAnniversary, June 1, 1835 (Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1835).

[95] William De Loss Love, The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1895), pp. 464-514, “Calendar.”

[96] See, for example, Moses Baldwin, The Ungodly Condemned in Judgment. A Sermon Preached at Springfield, December 13th, 1770, On Occasion of the Execution of William Shaw for Murder (Boston: Kneeland and Adams, 1771), Evans #11975; and Nathaniel Fisher, A Sermon Delivered at Salem, January 14, 1796 Occasioned by the Execution of Henry Blackburn, on That Day for the Murder of George Wilkinson (Boston: S. Hall, 1796), Evans #30424; and Nathan Strong, A Sermon Preached, Preached at Hartford, July 19th, 1797 at the Execution of Richard Doane (Hartford: Elisha Babcock, 1797), Evans #32888; and Henry A. Rowland, The Murderer and His Fate. A Sermon Occasioned by the Execution of Harris Bell for the Murder of Mrs. Williams (Honesdale, PA: Barker & Lewis, 1848); and many others.

[97] Report of the Trial of Dominic Daley and James Halligan, for the Murder of Marcus Lyon, Before the Supreme Judicial Court, Begun and Holden at Northampton, Within and for the County of Hampshire, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, on the Fourth Tuesday of April 1806(Northampton: S. & E. Butler, 1806), pp. 86-87; and American State Trials, John D. Lawson, editor (St. Louis: F. H. Thomas Law Book Co., 1914), Vol. II, pp. 534-535, “The Trial of John Johnson for the Murder of James Murray, New York City, 1824”; and Trial of Professor John W. Webster, for the Murder of Doctor George Parkman (New York: Stinger & Townsend, 1850), pp. 75-76; and many others.

[98] For examples of these sermons, see WallBuilders’ Historical Sermons section: https://wallbuilders.com/library-2/historical-sermons/.

[99] The American Political Science Review(1984), Vol. 78, No. 1, p. 192, Donald S. Lutz, “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought.”

[100] James Tunstead Burtchaell, “The Decline and Fall of the Christian College I,” (First Things, May 1991), p. 24.

[101] Ellwood P. Cubberley, Public Education in the United States (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919), p. 204.

[102] Wolcott B. Williams, Christian and Secular Education (Chicago: R.R. Donnelley & Sons, 1894), p. 17, President Angell’s 1890 report of religious life in Michigan’s state universities.

[103] Thomas Clap, A Brief History and Vindication of the Doctrines Received and Established in the Churches of New England with a Specimen of the New Scheme of Religion beginning to Prevail (New Haven: James Parker, 1755), pp. 9-10.

[104] See information about William Samuel Johnson, William Livingston, and Jared Ingersoll from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (at: https://bioguide.congress.gov/biosearch/biosearch.asp); and “Noah Webster History,” Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society (at: https://noahwebsterhouse.org/noahwebsterhistory/) (accessed on October 23, 2018); and “Nathan Hale,” Encyclopedia Britannica (at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Nathan-Hale) (accessed on October 23, 2018); and “Eli Whitney,” ConnecticutHistory.Org (at: https://connecticuthistory.org/people/eli-whitney/) (accessed on October 23, 2018); and “Samuel Morse’s Other Masterpiece,” Smithsonian, August 16, 2011 (at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/samuel-morses-other-masterpiece-52822904/).

[105] The Second Report of the Society for the Promotion of Collegiate and Theological Education at the West (New York: J.F. Trow & Co., 1845), p. 30, quoted by Rev. S.H. Cox.

[106] Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey, William Nelson, editor (Paterson, NJ: Press Printing and Publishing Co., 1897), Vol. XIX, p. 252, quoting from The Pennsylvania Journal, April 26, 1753.

[107] See information about all from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (at: https://bioguide.congress.gov/biosearch/biosearch.asp).

[108] “Laws Relating to the Moral Conduct and Orderly Behavior of the Students and Scholars of the University of Pennsylvania,” September 10, 1801, Shaw-Shoemaker #803.

[109] See information about all from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (at: https://bioguide.congress.gov/biosearch/biosearch.asp).

[110] “Thomas McKean,” University of Pennsylvania (at: ) (accessed on October 23, 2018); “George Clymer,” University of Pennsylvania (at: https://archives.upenn.edu/exhibits/penn-people/biography/george-clymer) (accessed on October 23, 2018); “John Dickinson,” University of Pennsylvania (at: https://archives.upenn.edu/exhibits/penn-people/biography/john-dickinson) (accessed on October 23, 2018); “Thomas FitzSimons,” University of Pennsylvania (at: https://archives.upenn.edu/exhibits/penn-people/biography/thomas-fitzsimons) (accessed on October 23, 2018); “Robert Morris,” University of Pennsylvania (at: https://archives.upenn.edu/exhibits/penn-people/biography/robert-morris) (accessed on October 23, 2018); “Jared Ingersoll,” University of Pennsylvania (at: https://archives.upenn.edu/exhibits/penn-people/biography/jared-ingersoll) (accessed on October 23, 2018).

[111] “Benjamin Rush,” University of Pennsylvania (at: https://archives.upenn.edu/exhibits/penn-people/biography/benjamin-rush) (accessed on October 23, 2018); “James Wilson,” University of Pennsylvania (at: https://archives.upenn.edu/exhibits/penn-people/biography/james-wilson) (accessed on October 23, 2018).

[112] “Columbia University President Profiles,” Columbia University (at: https://library.columbia.edu/locations/cuarchives/presidents.html) (accessed on October 23, 2018).

[113] A History of Columbia University: 1754-1904 (New York: The Columbia University Press, 1904), p. 444, Advertisement by Samuel Johnson, May 31, 1754.

[114] For Robert Livingston, see “History,” Columbia University (at: https://www.columbia.edu/content/history) (accessed on October 23, 2018); see information about Alexander Hamilton and John Jay from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (at: https://bioguide.congress.gov/biosearch/biosearch.asp).

[115] Donald S. Lutz, The Origins of American Constitutionalism (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), pp. 142-144.

[116] John Locke, The Works of John Locke (London: 1812), Vol. IX, p. 148, “Some Thoughts Concerning Education,” 1693.

[117] Dictionary of American History, James Truslow Adams, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1940), s.v. “New-England Primer,” p. 100.

[118] Paul Leicester Ford, The New England Primer: A History of its Origin and Development (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1897), pp. 16-19, 300.

[119] Four Letters: Being an Interesting Correspondence Between Those Eminently Distinguished Characters, John Adams, Late President of the United States, and Samuel Adams, Late Governor of Massachusetts, on the Important Subject of Government(Boston: 1801), pp. 9-10, letter from Samuel Adams to John Adams on October 4, 1790; pp. 25-27, letter from Samuel Adams to John Adams on November 20, 1790.

[120] Paul Leicester Ford, The New England Primer: A History of its Origin and Development (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1897), plate xxiv, following p. 300.

[121] Paul Leicester Ford, The New England Primer: A History of its Origin and Development (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1897), pp. 310, 313; Emily Ellsworth Fowler Ford, Notes on the Life of Noah Webster (New York: Privately Printed, 1912), Vol. II, p. 532.

[122] See, for example, Benjamin Franklin, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Leonard W. Labaree, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), Vol. 7, pp. 100-101, letter from John Waring to Benjamin Franklin on January 24, 1757; p. 356, letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Waring on January 3, 1758; pp. 377-378, letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Waring on February 17, 1758; Vol. 9, pp. 12-13, letter from John Waring to Benjamin Franklin on January 4, 1760, also n1; pp. 20-21, “Minute of the Associates of the Late Dr. Bray” on January 17, 1760; Vol. 10, pp. 298-300, letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Waring on June 27, 1763; pp. 395-396, letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Waring on December 17, 1763; Vol. 13, p. 442, letter from Benjamin Franklin to Abbot Upcher on October 4, 1766; and others.

[123] Benjamin Franklin, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931 reprint of 1749), p. vii, from the Introduction.

[124] Benjamin Franklin, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931 reprint of 1749), p. 22.

[125] The New England Primer, Improved for the More Easy Attaining the True Reading of English, to which is Added the Assembly of Divines, and Mr. Cotton’s Catechism (Boston: Printed by Edward Draper, 1777, reprinted by WallBuilder Press, 1991).

The Pilgrims Thanksgiving

The tradition of Thanksgiving as a time to focus on God and His blessings was introduced by European Americans and dates back well over four centuries in America.

For example, such thanksgivings occurred in:

  • 1541 at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas with Coronado and 1,500 of his men1
  • 1565 at St. Augustine, Florida with French Huguenot (Protestant) colonists2
  • 1598 at El Paso, Texas with Juan de Oñate and his expedition3
  • 1607 at Cape Henry, Virginia with the landing of the Jamestown settlers4
  • 1619 at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia.5

But it is primarily from the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving celebration of 1621 that we derive the current tradition of Thanksgiving Day.

The Pilgrims

The Pilgrims were known as Separatists.6 This set of Protestants believed they would be unable to reform the Church of England and therefore needed to separate and form their own church. (In contrast, the Puritans believed they could reform the Church of England.7 They were wrong and, following severe persecution, some 20,0008 followed the Pilgrims to America.)

They set sail in the Mayflower for America on September 6, 1620, and for two months braved the harsh elements of a storm-tossed sea. The Pilgrims had originally obtained a land grant for Virginia9, but after a rough ocean crossing, they landed some 200 miles north of Virginia10 in what became known as Massachusetts. On November 11, 1620, they finally dropped anchor and came ashore11.

Upon disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they held a prayer service and then hastily began building shelters. However, they were unprepared for a harsh New England winter, and nearly half of them died before spring.12 Emerging from that grueling winter, the Pilgrims were surprised when an Indian named Samoset approached them and greeted them in their own language, explaining to them that he had learned English from fishermen and traders. A week later, Samoset returned with a friend named Squanto13, who lived with the Pilgrims and accepted their Christian faith.

Squanto taught the Pilgrims much about how to survive in the New World, and he and Samoset helped forge a long-lasting peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. Pilgrim Governor William Bradford described Squanto as “a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . and never left [us] till he died.”14

The 1621 Thanksgiving

That summer, the Pilgrims, still persevering in prayer and assisted by their Indian neighbors,15 reaped a bountiful harvest.16 The grateful Pilgrims therefore declared a three-day feast in December 1621 to thank God and to celebrate with their generous friends.17 This was America’s first Thanksgiving Festival.

Ninety Wampanoag Indians joined the fifty Pilgrims for these three days of feasting, play, and prayer. Pilgrim Edward Winslow (later governor of Plymouth), wrote about this time:

[O]ur harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want.18

Historian Benson Lossing later recounted:

[T]he Pilgrims at Plymouth rejoiced in an abundance of food in the autumn of 1621, the first year of their settlement. Thereby their hearts were filled with gratitude, and after the fruits of their labors had all been gathered, the governor sent out huntsmen to bring in supplies for a general and common thanksgiving. That was the first celebration of the great New England festival of Thanksgiving, now annually held in almost every State and Territory of the Union in the month of November. Great quantities of wild turkeys and deer were gathered at Plymouth, and for three days the Pilgrims indulged in rejoicing, firing of guns, and feasting – entertaining, at the same time, King Massasoit and ninety of his dusky followers, who contributed five deer to the banquets. Seven substantial houses had been built during the summer; the inhabitants were in good health; a few emigrants from England had come in a second ship, and there were happy homes in the wilderness the ensuing winter.19

After 1621

However, while the Pilgrims enjoyed times of prosperity for which they thanked God, they also suffered extreme hardships. In fact, in 1623 they experienced an extended and prolonged drought. Knowing that without a change in the weather there would be no harvest and the winter would be filled with death and starvation, Governor Bradford called the Pilgrims to a time of prayer and fasting to seek God’s direct intervention. Significantly, shortly after – and to the great amazement of the Indian who witnessed the scene – clouds appeared in the sky and a gentle and steady rain began to fall. As Governor Bradford explained:

It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in abundance, as that ye earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith, which did so apparently revive and quicken ye decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made ye Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing.20

The drought had been broken; the fall therefore produced an abundant harvest; there was cause for another thanksgiving. The Pilgrim practice of designating an official time of Thanksgiving spread into neighboring colonies and became an annual tradition.21 And just as those neighboring colonies followed the Pilgrims’ example of calling for days of thanksgiving, so, too, did they adopt their practice of calling for a time of prayer and fasting. The New England Colonies therefore developed a practice of calling for a day of prayer and fasting in the spring, and a day of prayer and thanksgiving in the fall.

Continue reading about the history of Thanksgiving: https://wallbuilders.com/resource/the-founders-thanksgivings/


1 “Lincoln and Thanksgiving,” May 12, 2021 National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/liho/learn/historyculture/lincoln-and-thanksgiving.htm.
2 “America’s Real First Thanksgiving,” The Jacksonville Historical Society, accessed August 30, 2023, https://www.jaxhistory.org/timucua_first_thanksgiving/.
3 “The First Thanksgiving?” Texas Almanac, accessed August 30, 2023, https://www.texasalmanac.com/articles/the-first-thanksgiving.
4 Benson Lossing, Our Country. A Household History of the United States (New York: James A. Bailey, 1895), 1:181-182; “The Reverend Robert Hunt: The First Chaplain at Jamestown,” National Park Service, accessed August 30, 2023, https://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/the-reverend-robert-hunt-the-first-chaplain-at-jamestown.htm.
5 “Berkeley Plantation,” Berkeley Plantation, accessed August 30, 2023, http://berkeleyplantation.com/.
6 “Who Were the Pilgrims?” Plimoth Patuxet Museums, accessed August 30, 2023, https://plimoth.org/for-students/homework-help/who-were-the-pilgrims.
7 “Puritanism,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed August 30, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Puritanism.
8 Lynn Betlock, “New England’s Great Migration,” New England Ancestors (2003), 2:22-24, https://www.americanancestors.org/new-englands-great-migration.
9 Peggy M. Baker, “The Plymouth Colony Patent,” 2007, Pilgrim Hall Museum, https://pilgrimhall.org/pdf/The_Plymouth_Colony_Patent.pdf.
10 Christa Case, “Step aboard the Mayflower,” November 16, 2014, Christian Science Monitor, https://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1116/p18s02-hfks.html/(page)/2.
11 William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1854), 77, 80, https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Plymouth_Plantation/tYecOAN1cwwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PR1&printsec=frontcover.
12 Bradford, History of Plymouth (1854), 91, https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Plymouth_Plantation/tYecOAN1cwwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PR1&printsec=frontcover.
13 Bradford, History of Plymouth (1854), 93-95, https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Plymouth_Plantation/tYecOAN1cwwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PR1&printsec=frontcover.
14 Bradford, History of Plymouth (1854), 95, https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Plymouth_Plantation/tYecOAN1cwwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PR1&printsec=frontcover.
15 Bradford, History of Plymouth (1854), 100, https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Plymouth_Plantation/tYecOAN1cwwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PR1&printsec=frontcover.
16 Bradford, History of Plymouth (1854), 105, https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Plymouth_Plantation/tYecOAN1cwwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PR1&printsec=frontcover.
17 Mourt’s Relation or Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth, ed. Henry Martyn Dexter (Boston: Jim Kimball Wiggin, 1865), 133, https://archive.org/details/mourtsrelationo00dextgoog/page/n192/mode/2up; Edward Winslow to George Morton, December 21, 1621, William S. Russell, Guide to Plymouth and Recollections of the Pilgrims (Boston: George Coolidge, 1846), 95, https://archive.org/details/guidetoplymouthr00russrich/page/94/mode/2up.
18 Mourt’s Relation, ed. Dexter (1865), 132-133, https://archive.org/details/mourtsrelationo00dextgoog/page/n192/mode/2up; Edward Winslow to George Morton, December 21, 1621, Russell, Guide to Plymouth (1846), 95, https://archive.org/details/guidetoplymouthr00russrich/page/94/mode/2up.
19 Benson Lossing, Our Country. A Household History of the United States (New York: Johnson, Wilson & Co., 1875), 372, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Our_Country/SdkGAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA372&printsec=frontcover. For another historican’s account of the Pilgrims Thanksgiving, see: Ashbel Steele, Chief of the Pilgrims: Or the Life and Time of William Brewster (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, 1857), 269-270, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Chief_of_the_Pilgrim_Or_Life_and_Time_of/HsE8AAAAcAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA269&printsec=frontcover.
20 Bradford, History of Plymouth (1854), 142, https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Plymouth_Plantation/tYecOAN1cwwC?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PR1&printsec=frontcover.
21 DeLoss Love, Jr, The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co, 1895), 87-90, https://archive.org/details/fastthanksgiving00loverich/page/86/mode/2up.

Lesson 1: Discovery and Early Planting (1492-mid 1600s)

Discovery and Early Planting (1492-mid 1600s)

The recorded story of America begins with the European discovery of the New World in the late fifteenth-century by Christopher Columbus. Even though the Vikings had come inland in America as far as Minnesota hundreds of years earlier, it was the announcement of Columbus’ landing that opened up the Western Hemisphere to European interest and colonization.

Columbus eventually made four voyages from Europe to the new western lands, but few today know what inspired him to do so—a motivation he clearly revealed in a book he wrote in 1502 after his third voyage. That work, called his Book of Prophecies, contains his collection of scores of Scriptures addressing the propagation of the Christian Gospel in distant lands that he, Christopher (which means “the Christ bearer”), believed he was fulfilling.

Also included in his Prophecies is the letter he wrote to the King and Queen of Spain (Ferdinand and Isabella, who financed his voyage), in which he explained:

[I] have seen and put in study to look into all the Scriptures….Our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense His hand upon me), so that it became clear that it was feasible to navigate from here to the Indies….All those who heard about my enterprise rejected it with laughter, scoffing at me….Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that He [the Spirit], with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred Scriptures….No one should be afraid to take on any enterprise in the name of our Savior, if it is right and if the purpose is purely for His holy service.[1]

Not only do Columbus’ writings affirm his strong Christian faith, so do the choice of names for the new lands he visited. For example, the massive painting of the Landing of Columbus permanently on display in the Rotunda of the US Capitol shows him arriving at an island in October 1492 in what today is the Bahamas. After coming ashore, he knelt, kissed the ground, led the men in prayer to God for their safe arrival, and christened that new land “San Salvador,” meaning “Holy Savior.”[2] Another island he named “Trinidad” after the Christian Holy Trinity of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[3]

Landing of Columbus displayed in the US Capitol.

For almost five centuries, Columbus was celebrated as a hero, with over 600 monuments being erected to honor him.[4] In fact, the city of Washington, DC was named after him (DC stands for District of Columbia, or Columbus).[5] But in recent years, he has been portrayed as a villain because of his so-called atrocious “treatment” of Native Indians. But sadly, too many of today’s narratives fail to give the true factual story of his encounters and relationships with those peoples.

Columbus was involved with two principal Indian tribes. The first, the Taíno, was a very kind and gentle people, and Columbus repeatedly praised them as “the best people in the world.”[6] He wrote Spain, advocating for their full equality, citizenship, and civil rights. The second tribe, the Caribs, was the mortal enemy of the Taíno, raiding their villages, enslaving their people, and especially cannibalizing them. When Columbus arrived on his first journey, the Taíno told him about these atrocities, so on his second voyage Columbus journeyed to the Carib lands to see if the reports were true.[7]

Arriving there, he discovered slave camps where the Caribs housed Taino captive women who were raped for the purpose of producing children for the Caribs to eat. The stories of the barbaric cannibalism were confirmed by the abundance of human remains found boiling in the cooking pots as well as the gnawed bones throughout the camps.[8] Columbus liberated the enslaved women and proceeded to fight against the Caribs whenever they engaged him (and the Caribs had attacked and murdered dozens of his men).[9]

So Columbus was largely just and kind with the Taíno tribes but did indeed war against the horrific cannibal Caribs. Yet claims abound today that Columbus sought to destroy and pillage all Indians, without discussing who he fought or even why he was fighting them. Modern critics also fail to mention the good relations he had with many tribes.

Columbus’ Return to Spain

Another modern claim is that Columbus enslaved Natives and forcibly carried them back with him. But nearly all those he forcibly brought to Spain were cannibalistic Carib murderers, captured in open war. Some of the friendly Indians had volunteered to travel back to Spain with Columbus, including an important local chieftain and his entire family, but Columbus urged him to stay in his own kingdom.[10] One Indian who chose to go with Columbus after his first voyage actually became a member of the royal Spanish court; another took Columbus’ last name and traveled with him as his interpreter for his various visits to native tribes. [11]

But returning to Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World, it is significant that while Columbus is credited with opening the western hemisphere to European colonization, neither he nor Spain (the nation for which he sailed) actually colonized what would eventually become the United States. This is fortunate, for at that time, civil and religious tyranny were common in Spain and numerous other nations of Europe.

This Spanish tyranny was not Columbus’ practice, however, for he was Italian, not Spanish. He sailed under the banner of Spain simply because they funded his voyages, not because he agreed with their people or practices. In fact, on numerous occasions, he openly denounced the atrocious behavior of many of the Spaniards who had been assigned to him as his crew.[12]

Fortunately, it was nearly a century after Columbus’ discovery of the new western lands before permanent colonists began arriving in America. Why the long wait? Nineteenth century historian B.F. Morris explained:

[G]od held this vast land [America] in reserve as the great field on which the experiment was to be made in favor of civil and religious liberty. He suffered not the foot of a Spaniard, or Portuguese, or Frenchman, or Englishman to come upon it until the changes had been wrought in Europe which would make it certain that it [America] would always be a land of [Biblical] freedom.[13]

Those “changes wrought in Europe” refer to what today is called the Reformation—a religious movement that birthed both civil and religious liberty in several nations. That movement began in the 1300s and for the next two centuries steadily spread across Europe and then into other parts of the world.

The movement began with several Catholic priests urging a return to the teachings of the Bible—teachings that had been largely ignored by both State and Church over the previous thousand years. This back-to-the-Bible movement (that is, the Reformation) began a reform of the Catholic Church and also birthed the Protestant Church.

One particularly strong emphasis of that movement was to make the Bible available to the average person in his own language. Over previous centuries, the Bible had been largely unavailable to the ordinary individual and was nearly always written in a foreign language that only a handful of the elite and most highly-educated could read. But with the Reformation, Bibles became available for all citizens in their own language; and when the people began to read and apply the Bible and its teachings, their personal lives and practices changed. This had a direct beneficial impact on both State and Church, for as Biblical principles of liberty became known and adopted, both civil and religious tyranny began decreasing.

With the gradual return to Biblical teachings, key theological ideas were recovered by the Church, including Sola Scriptura (“by Scripture alone”), Sola Fide (“by faith alone”), Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”), Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”), and Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”). Many new Christian denominations were built upon these ideas, and they impacted the society at large in a positive manner.

America, perhaps more than any other country at the time, was directly shaped by the Reformation, for the early colonists who settled here (including the Pilgrims, Puritans, and others) were a direct product of Reformation teachings. In fact, many of them had been driven from Europe simply because they sought to live out their faith according to Bible precepts, and in America they found the freedom to openly live their lives by its teachings on government, economics, law, family, education, and much else.

As a result, the Biblical concepts of religious freedom, representative government, individual enterprise, jurisdictional authority, limited government, and private property began to appear in many of the civil documents that came forth in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (such as the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, the Frame of Government of Pennsylvania, the Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution). Personal liberty as well as religious, civil, political, and economic liberty was the result of applying the Bible’s teachings to all areas of life.

In fact, the Bible became so influential in the birth, growth, and development of the United States that even modern publications such as Newsweek affirm that “historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document.”[14] Without God and the Bible, there would be no free and prosperous America as we have come to know it today.

The Bible: The Rock of Our Republic

Interestingly, one group of American leaders that repeatedly affirmed the historic impact of Bible teachings in shaping America was US Presidents. For example:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

In the formative days of the Republic, the directing influence the Bible exercised upon the fathers of the Nation is conspicuously evident….We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a Nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic.[15] I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures….for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this Nation has achieved.[16] President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

[T]he teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally—I do not mean figuratively, I mean literally—impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teachings were removed. We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals—all the standards toward which we, with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves. Almost every man who has by his life-work added to the sum of human achievement of which the [human] race is proud—of which our people are proud—almost every such man has based his life-work largely upon the teachings of the Bible.[17] President Teddy Roosevelt

Ronald Reagan

Of the many influences that have shaped the United States of America into a distinctive Nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible….The Bible and its teachings helped form the basis for the Founding Fathers’ abiding belief in the inalienable rights of the individual—rights which they found implicit in the Bible’s teachings of the inherent worth and dignity of each individual.[18] President Ronald Reagan

It was for the love of the truths of this great Book [the Bible] that our fathers abandoned their native shores for the wilderness. Animated by its lofty principles, they toiled and suffered till the desert blossomed as the rose [Isaiah 35:1].[19] The Bible is the best of books and I wish it were in the hands of everyone. It is indispensable to the safety and permanence of our institutions; a free government cannot exist without religion and morals, and there cannot be morals without religion, nor religion without the Bible. Especially should the Bible be placed in the hands of the young. It is the best school book in the world….I would that all of our people were brought up under the influence of that Holy Book.[20] President Zachary Taylor

Ulysses S. Grant

Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties. Write its precepts in your hearts, and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future.[21] President U.S. Grant

[The Bible] is the best gift God has given to men. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it, we could not know right from wrong.[22] President Abraham Lincoln

America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.[23] President Woodrow Wilson

Harry S. Truman

The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days.[24] President Harry Truman

But long before our Presidents stressed the importance of the Bible, our Founding Fathers (the early leaders largely responsible for the birth and establishment of America as an independent nation) had already done so. For example:

John Adams

[T]he Bible is the best book in the world.[25] Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited…. What a Utopia—what a Paradise would this region be![26] John Adams, signer of the declaration of independence, president

[T]he Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world.[27] By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects….It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published.[28] Benjamin Rush, signer of the declaration of independence[The Bible] is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed.[29] Patrick Henry

[N]o book in the world deserves to be so unceasingly studied and so profoundly meditated upon as the Bible.[30] The first and almost the only book deserving such universal recommendation is the Bible.[31] John Quincy Adams, president

John Jay

[W]ere you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive both to the wise and ignorant. Were you to ask me for one book affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the enquiring mind, I should repeat, it is the Bible. And should you renew the inquiry for the best philosophy, or the most interesting history, I should still urge you to look into your Bible. I would make it, in short, the alpha and omega of knowledge.[32] Elias Boudinot, president of the continental congress, framer of the bill of rights

The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the Word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.[33] John Jay, president of the continental congress, author of the federalist papers, original chief justice of the us supreme court

I believe the Bible to be the written Word of God and to contain in it the whole rule of faith and manners.[34] Robert Treat Paine, signer of the declaration of independence

[T]he Holy Scriptures….can alone secure to society order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness….Bibles are strong entrenchments [lines of defense]. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.[35] James McHenry, signer of the constitution

All of the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from them despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.[36] Noah Webster, early educator, “schoolmaster to America”

There are similar declarations from countless other noted national leaders.

The Virginia Colony

Many of the early explorers who had been influential in the growth and development of America were inspired by a love of God and His word. One such example was Richard Hakluyt (1558-1603), a Gospel minister and the greatest English geographer of America’s early colonization period. For decades he advocated for America to become a safe haven for those being persecuted for their desire to live by God’s Word. As he explained in his 1584 Discourse on Western Planting:

We shall, by planting there [in America], enlarge the glory of the Gospel, and from England plant sincere religion and provide a safe and a sure place to receive people from all parts of the world that are forced to flee for the truth of God’s Word.[37]

The Rev. Hakluyt was a member of the governing body of Virginia–America’s first successful colony. And not surprisingly, the original charter of Virginia (1606) openly declared its Christian beliefs, affirming that the colony was being started to propagate the “Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and [unhappy] ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God.”[38]

Jamestown, 1607

The first Virginia settlers landed in America in April 1607. They erected a wooden cross at Cape Henry, where they came ashore. At the foot of this cross, the Rev. Hunt led the 149 men of the Virginia Company in prayer, thanking God for their safe journey and recommitting the group to God’s plan and purpose for the New World.

John Smith and Pocahontas

Those settlers sailed up a nearby river and chose a site for their new colony. They named the waterway up which they journeyed the “James River,” and their new settlement “Jamestown”—both in honor of King James of England.

The initial reaction of the neighboring Indians to this unexpected but friendly arrival was fear, suspicion, and outright hostility. In fact, only two weeks after their arrival, 200 Indians made a surprise attack on the settlement, killing two and wounding ten others. But this hostile beginning eventually changed, thanks in large part to Pocahontas, the young daughter of Powhatan, chief of the neighboring Indians.

Carved relief in the US Capitol Rotunda showing Pocahontas saving John Smith’s life.

Pocahontas befriended the colonists from the beginning, causing John Smith (who would later become governor of the Virginia Colony) to state that it was the “ordinance of God thus to make her His instrument.”[39] According to Smith, she was “next, under God,…the instrument to preserve this colony from death, famine, and utter confusion.[40] His initial meeting with Pocahontas, however, was certainly unplanned.

Smith and a small group were exploring the region around their settlement when they were captured by a band of Indians and taken to Powhatan’s village. Those with him were tortured and killed, and Smith was held captive for weeks. Eventually, the Indians ordered him killed as well. They placed his head on a large stone, preparing, as Smith himself reported, “with their clubs, to beat out his brains.[41] At that moment, Pocahontas intervened. She took Smith’s “head in her arms and laid her own [head] upon his to save him from death.[42] She pleaded for his life, which her father granted.

Powhatan declared they were now friends and that Smith could go back to Jamestown. Smith did so, but fearfully, “still expecting, as [I] had done all this long time of [my] imprisonment, every hour to be put to one death or other….But Almighty God, by His Divine Providence, had mollified [softened] the hearts of those stern barbarians with compassion.”[43] Pocahontas saved Smith from death, and over the coming months she also saved many others of the Jamestown settlers as well.

The painting of the Baptism of Pocahontas in the US Capitol Rotunda.

For example, during their first winter, their food ran out; but Pocahontas was instrumental in getting Indians to bring them supplies. She brought food to the starving colonists at other times as well, and also helped them secure peace treaties with surrounding tribes. Early historian John Fiske writes of Pocahontas: “But for her friendly services on more than one occasion, the tiny settlement would probably have perished.”[44]

The colony survived and slowly began to grow, openly espousing Christian principles. For example, between 1609 and 1612, their code of civil laws (called their Lawes Divine, Morall, and Martiall, etc.) was penned, and it succinctly affirmed the intent of the colonists to live according to God’s commands.[45]

In 1619, civic elections were held in Jamestown, and the result was the first elected representative body of the New World. It opened with prayer, and then met in the choir loft of the church.[46] One of the early acts of this body was to encourage colonists to open their homes to Indian youth with the purpose of teaching them the precepts of the Bible.[47]

The painting of the Embarkation of the Pilgrims shows them on the ship the Speedwell observing a time of fasting and prayer before leaving Holland to come to America.

Significantly, many Native Americans became Christians, including Pocahontas, who was brought to a knowledge of Jesus Christ by the ministry of the Rev. Alexander Whitaker and others. In fact, a massive painting hanging in the US Capitol Rotunda (near that of Columbus’ landing) shows the baptism of Pocahontas by the Rev. Whitaker. After her baptism, Pocahontas adopted the Christian name Rebecca, by which she was called the remainder of her life.

Governor John Smith, like so many others in the Virginia Colony (including Rebecca) was an outspoken Christian. His personal faith was reflected in many open acknowledgments of God throughout his life, including his Last Will and Testament (1631):

[I] commend my soul into the hands of Almighty God, my Maker, hoping through the merit of Christ Jesus my Redeemer to receive full remission of all my sins and to inherit a place in the everlasting kingdom.[48]

The Pilgrims and the Plymouth Colony, 1620

Another of the massive paintings that hangs in the US Capitol Rotunda (each is 14 feet high and twenty feet wide) is the Embarkation of the Pilgrims at Delfts Haven, Holland, July 22nd, 1620, painted by Robert Weir and placed in the Capitol in 1843.[49]

Painted on the sail is the phrase, “God with us,” which was the heart cry of the Pilgrims.

This painting shows leading Pilgrims in prayer (including Pastor John Robinson, Governors John Carver and William Bradford, military leader Miles Standish, and others). In the center of the painting, Elder William Brewster has an open Bible upon his lap on which are written the words: “The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” On the sail of the ship can be seen the phrase, “God with Us,” which accurately describes the lifestyle of these men and women.

William Brewster is holding an open Geneva Bible with the words, “The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

The version of the Bible being held by Brewster (and the version used extensively by the Pilgrims) was known as the Geneva Bible. It was the primary Bible of the English Reformation and was the favorite Bible of the Dissenters—those who largely settled America. (They were called Dissenters because they objected to—that is, dissented from—the corrupt European practices of both State and Church).

The Geneva Bible was first published in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1560 by English reformers (and their followers) who had fled there to escape severe religious persecution at the hands of the state-established churches in their various home countries. That Bible went through 140 editions from 1560 to 1644.[50] It was the first Bible to add numbered verses to each chapter. It was also the first Bible to be taken to America, having been carried first by the Virginia colonists and then by the Pilgrims.

One factor that made the Geneva Bible distinctive from all other Bibles at the time was its unique marginal commentaries. Penned by prominent reformers, these commentaries regularly challenged the corrupt European culture of the day, especially criticizing practices that violated God’s Word, whether in government, judiciary, education, law, culture, or elsewhere.

The Dissenters, by their study of the Geneva Bible and its commentaries, saw how flawed the civil and religious system was at that time in most countries across Europe. When the Dissenters in England publicly pointed this out, they received vigorous persecution from the state-established national church. (This same pattern of ill-treatment by state-established churches was common across Europe.)

After years of enduring this government persecution, the Pilgrims (according to their governor and historian, William Bradford) finally “shook off this yoke of anti-Christian bondage, and as the Lord’s free people joined themselves (by a covenant of the Lord) into a church estate, in the fellowship of the Gospel, to walk in all His ways.”[51] They left England and went to Holland, where they finally found religious freedom.

But after twelve years in the secular culture of Holland, they became concerned for the faith of their children. They also preferred the overall English culture to that of the Dutch, so they decided to move to the new land of America, where they could (1) freely worship God, (2) raise Godly children, and (3) share the wonderful truths of the Christian Gospel with others. Concerning this third point, Bradford affirmed that the Pilgrims had: “a great hope and inward zeal…for the propagating and advancing the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world [i.e., America].”[52]

When they set sail for America in 1620 aboard the ship Mayflower, it bore 102 “Pilgrims and strangers” (which they called themselves—a quote from 1 Peter 2:11 in the Bible). But the ship also carried much more: it carried the Bible-based principles they had learned—principles that were to become the seeds of the greatest and freest nation the world has ever known.

After sixty-six days at sea, including sailing through some treacherous storms, the Mayflower finally reached America. The Pilgrims had intended to settle in the northern parts of the existing Virginia Colony and had tried diligently to reach that region, but despite their best efforts, fierce winds providentially blew them far north to a region completely outside Virginia’s jurisdiction. They finally put ashore at Cape Cod in the Massachusetts area, and after some searching they found an empty and uninhabited location in which to settle.

Significantly, had the Pilgrims arrived at that same place some years earlier, they would have been met by the fierce Patuxet Indian tribe, which likely would have attacked and killed them all. But in 1617, a plague had mysteriously wiped out all of the tribe except one man: Squanto. He had been in England at the time of the outbreak and returned to the area just before the Pilgrims arrived, finding his entire tribe gone. Due to the devastating nature of the epidemic, the neighboring tribes were afraid to come near the place; they believed that some great supernatural spirit had destroyed the people there and might also kill them as well. So the land was left abandoned and open—a perfect situation for the Pilgrims.

Having arrived in an area not under the authority of the Virginia Colony, the Pilgrims drew up their own governmental compact before leaving the Mayflower, which declared:

Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents [that is, by this legal document and charter] solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.[53]

Signing of the Mayflower Compact

That document, known as the Mayflower Compact, was the first civil governing document written in America and the New World. It placed the Pilgrim’s civil government on a firm Christian basis and was the beginning of American constitutional government.

When the Pilgrims came ashore, they fell to their knees and thanked God, reaffirming their continuing reliance upon Him. Squanto later met them and would become instrumental in their survival. (For more on this part of the story, see the article in the Appendix at the end of Lesson 1, “Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving”).

The Pilgrims’ Colony became known as Plymouth Plantation, or the Plymouth Colony. It was built on land purchased from the Indians—at the price set by the Indians.[54] In fact, the longest-lasting treaty in American history between Anglos and Native Americans was that of the Pilgrims. (For more on the relations between the Pilgrims and Indians, see “No, Revisionists, Thanksgiving is not a Day of Mourning,” also at the end of this Lesson).

In the beginning, life in that colony was very difficult. In fact, in the first winter alone, half the Pilgrims died. But despite that hardship, the next spring when the Mayflower returned to England, not one Pilgrim chose to go back. They all stayed, for they had come neither for personal convenience nor reward but rather that they might walk in religious and civil liberty and became what they called “stepping stones”[55] for others after them to follow and do the same. At the end of the first year, the Pilgrims celebrated the thanksgiving festival that has become the national holiday we still celebrate each year today in November.

The Laws of the Pilgrims

The Pilgrims believed the Bible was a complete guidebook for how to live all of life, and their code of laws clearly reflected this belief. Significantly, much of what they instituted (as early as 1623) became standard in America, including trial by jury and private property rights.[56] They also elected their civil leaders separately from their religious leaders[57]—a practice quite different from what had become customary for Europe.

A 1676 broadside of a proclamation for a Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving, with the deal of Massachusetts Bay at the top and an Indian speaking the words, “Come Over and Help Us.”

By 1636, the Pilgrims had compiled what historians describe as “the first comprehensive body of law in North America.[58] That legal code served as a model for future American codes of laws, and while the original Laws of the Pilgrims were revised over subsequent years, they always remained rooted in the Bible. In fact, the preface to the 1658 Book of Laws specifically states that “laws…are so far good and wholesome as by how much they are derived from and agreeable to the ancient platform of God’s Law.”[59] Reflecting this, many of their individual laws directly cited specific Scriptures as their basis.

The Puritans and Massachusetts, 1630

Jamestown was the first English colony in America; and in 1620 the Pilgrims founded the second English colony, but the first one in the northern parts of America. Over the next decade, other settlers occasionally arrived in the area, but in 1630 came the “Great Puritan Exodus” that left England, resulting in the founding of America’s second northern colony, and its third overall.

Those Puritans in that Exodus had spent years attempting to purify the tyrannical Church of England (from which they received their name “Puritans”), but with little result. In fact, they were severely persecuted by the king for their attempts to clean up the corrupt church. Finally deciding they could not purify that Church, they came to America and set up their own model Church of England to be an example of a true uncorrupted Church.

The Puritans (like the Pilgrims before them) were committed to God and His Word, wanting to share the good news of the Christian faith with others. Their original charter (1629) affirmed their desire to be…

so religiously, peaceably, and civilly governed, as their good life and orderly conversation [that is, their Godly lifestyle] may win and incite the natives of country to the knowledge and obedience of the only true God and Savior of mankind, and the Christian faith, which…is the peaceful end of this plantation [colony].[60]

In the spring of 1630, some 1,000 Puritans (which was more than the total number of inhabitants living in the then ten-year old Pilgrim Plymouth Colony) left England and sailed to America, establishing the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (Their new colony adjoined the Pilgrims’ Plymouth Plantation Colony, and in 1691, the two merged to become Massachusetts.) During their voyage from England, the Puritans “constantly served God, morning and evening, by reading and expounding a chapter [in the Bible], singing, and prayer.”[61]

While at sea, their leader, John Winthrop (who for many years after their arrival served as their governor) penned “A Model of Christian Charity,” setting forth the Puritan’s reasons for starting the new colony. Winthrop affirmed their desire to be “as a city upon a hill” (quoting from Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14), where all the people of the earth could see their uncorrupted colony as a model (which they called the “New” England) and would say, “The Lord make [us] likely that of New England.”[62] But Winthrop warned those with him that, “If we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword [an example of something very bad] through the world.”[63] (Interestingly, more than three centuries later, President Ronald Reagan also spoke of America as being a “city upon a hill” for the rest of the world to see and copy,[64] just as our Pilgrim and Puritan Fathers had long before envisioned.)

Massachusetts Body of Liberties

When the Puritans arrived, they, like the Pilgrims, lived on land purchased from the Indians, at the price set by the Indians.[65] They then began building their system of civil governance. Their legal code, known as the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, was written in 1641 by the Rev. Nathaniel Ward. The Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) was the basis for that legal code. In addition to listing specific Bible verses as the basis for many of its laws,[66] it further affirmed that “in case of the defect [lack] of a law” the general standard to be what was in “the Word of God.”[67]

Sharing the Gospel
Title Page of John Eliot’s Algonquin Bible

The official seal of the Massachusetts Bay colony was an Indian speaking the words, “Come Over And Help Us.”[68] (This was a quote from Acts 16:9, where the Apostle Paul saw a vision of the neighboring people asking him to come over and preach the Gospel to them.) By this official colony seal, these early settlers yet again openly affirmed their desire to bring the Gospel to those who had never heard it before, including Native Americans.

Typical of the Puritans’ efforts in this regard was the work of the Rev. John Eliot (known as the “Apostle to the Indians”) and Daniel Gookin, a civil magistrate. These two men worked over forty years to evangelize and civilize the Algonquin tribe of Massachusetts. Eliot constantly traveled to Indian villages to teach them the Bible. Many Native Americans converted to Christianity, and Eliot set up fourteen self-governing and self-supporting “Praying Towns” where these Christian Indians could live out their new life as believers. A number of these Indians became ministers in order to carry on the work of the Gospel among their own people.

Eliot believed that for the Indians to fully enjoy the complete benefits of the Bible, they needed it in their own language. He therefore learned the Algonquin, or Massachusetts Indian language and then created a written language for them since none existed at that time. He worked twelve years in translating the Bible into their language, while simultaneously continuing his pastoral duties in his own church. In 1658, he completed the new Indian-language Bible, and it was published in 1661-1663. This was the first Bible ever printed in America, and it was printed in the Algonquin, or Massachusetts language.

Another way the Puritans’ sought to reach Native Americans with the Gospel was the founding of Harvard in 1636—America’s first successful university (an earlier college had been started in Virginia, but it was wiped out in a surprise attack by a nearby Indian tribe). The Puritans started Harvard not only to train ministers but also to evangelize and educate Indians. Many other early American colleges had the same dual purpose.

Roger Williams obtained land from the Narragansett Indians to start the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation.

For example, the College of William and Mary (founded in Virginia through the efforts of the Rev. James Blair in 1693) was started so that “the Church of Virginia may be furnished with a seminary of ministers of the Gospel, and that…the Christian faith may be propagated among the western Indians to the glory of Almighty God.”[69] The college of Dartmouth in New Hampshire began in 1770 when Congregational pastor Eleazar Wheelock (1711-1779) secured a charter from the governor of New Hampshire to establish a college to train young men for missionary service among the Indians. Its Latin motto means: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness” (quoting from John 1:23 and Isaiah 40:3) and it became known as “the Indian College.”[70]

Rhode Island, 1636

In 1631, a brilliant young minister, Roger Williams, came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a refugee from the tyranny of England’s King Charles I and the corrupt British state-established church. For a time, Williams served as minister in Plymouth (home of the Pilgrims), and then by mutual agreement left to pastor in Salem (in the Puritans’ colony).

His outspoken manner and firm convictions regarding liberty of conscience brought him into conflict with the sometimes intolerant Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After failing to comply with the edicts of those civil leaders, he was tried and banished from the Colony. In 1636, he purchased land from the Indians and founded the Providence Plantation Colony (later to become Rhode Island).[71]

Seal of Rhode Island Colony

Williams believed strongly that civil authorities should have no jurisdiction over the religious beliefs of any individual’s conscience and he incorporated this conviction into the laws of the new colony. With this official policy of religious tolerance, those who had been persecuted for their religious convictions began settling in Rhode Island.

Religious principles remained central to the colony—as affirmed by the 1663 Royal Charter of Rhode Island. It not only announced the colonists’ intentions both of “Godly edifying themselves, and one another, in the holy Christian faith and worship” but also of converting the Indians to Christianity.[72] It further declared that:

[The colonies are to pursue] with peaceable and loyal minds their sober, serious, and religious intentions…in holy Christian faith…[A] most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained…with a full liberty in religious concernments; and that true piety, rightly grounded upon Gospel principles, will give the best and greatest security to sovereignty and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to true loyalty.[73]

Maryland, 1633

In 1633, Cecil Calvert, a Catholic (known as Lord Baltimore), established the colony of Maryland. The Charter of Maryland describes him as “being animated with a laudable, and pious zeal for extending the Christian religion.”[74] In 1634, he established a policy of religious toleration that welcomed both Protestant and Catholic settlers. (At that time in world history, it was common that Catholics and Protestants alternately persecuted each other; but this colony welcomed any who were fleeing persecution, whether Catholic or Protestant—a policy very rare at that time.)

In 1649, the famous Maryland Toleration Act was passed, declaring that “No…persons… professing to believe in Jesus Christ shall [be] troubled, molested, or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion, nor in the free exercise thereof,”[75] thus further protecting both Catholic and Protestants. That Act provided the broadest protection of religious freedom that had been offered in the world in the 1600s.

Connecticut, 1636
Rev. Thomas Hooker

In 1633, English minister Thomas Hooker, like the Pilgrims and Puritans before him, was driven from England by the corrupt state-established national church. He came to the Puritans’ Massachusetts Bay Colony and became pastor of the Church at Newtown (now Cambridge). After observing the workings of the colony, he noticed some intolerance among Puritans there and attempted to correct it. Having little success, he asked the Bay Colony leaders and was granted permission to migrate to the Connecticut Valley.

In June 1636, he and most of his Newtown congregation (about 100 people) settled in what would become the Connecticut Colony, on land they had purchased from the Indians, at the price set by the Indians.[76] Other settlers followed, and by May 1637, 800 people had moved into the valley. In May 1638, Hooker presented an influential sermon preached before the General Court (that is, the Connecticut legislature). Three of the key principles he laid out included:

  • The foundation of civil authority is based on the willing consent of the people;
  • The choice—that is, the public election—of civil officials belongs to the people by God’s own permission;
  • The people not only have power to appoint officers and magistrates but also to set the bounds and limitations of the government.[77]
In 1636, Rev. Thomas Hooker led a company from his church in Massachusetts to settle in Connecticut.

As a result of that sermon, in January 1639, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut was penned and adopted as the colony’s first constitution. Significantly, it was the first constitution ever written in America. Early historian John Fiske wrote that “the government of the United States today is in lineal descent more nearly related to that of Connecticut than to that of any of the other thirteen colonies.”[78] (This is why Connecticut is known as “the Constitution State.”) The Christian basis of that constitution was readily apparent.

For example, it began with the inhabitants covenanting together under God “to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, which we now profess.”[79] And the oath taken by civil officials required them “to administer justice according to the laws here established, and for want [lack] thereof, according to the rule of the Word of God.”[80] The oath taken by the governor (and the magistrates) ended with these words: “I…will further the execution of justice according to the rule of God’s Word, so help me God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[81] Some of the key principles found in that Bible-based constitution included the rule of law, popular elections, representative government, freedom of speech, local self-government, and taxes levied on the people—but only through representatives elected by the people, which certainly was not the general practice of Europe at that time.

More than a century later, Noah Webster (a soldier in the American War for Independence, and then a judge, legislator, and teacher afterwards) used Connecticut’s constitution as a model for his 1785 work Sketches of American Policy—one of the first works in America to call for a federal constitution.[82] Webster said that Connecticut’s early constitution was “the most perfect on earth” and that it provided an excellent example to the American nation of the proper balance of power between local and state governments.[83]

In 1637, the year after Rev. Hooker had founded Connecticut, Puritan minister John Davenport founded the New Haven Colony, which adjoined the Connecticut Colony. He, too, purchased the land from the Indians,[84] and his motivations for starting that Colony were similar to those of Hooker. The New Haven Colony rested its frame of government upon the idea that “the Scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men in all duties…in families and commonwealths,”[85] thus making (as famous historian George Bancroft noted) “the Bible its statute-book.”[86] (In 1665, the New Haven Colony united with the Connecticut Colony to form Connecticut.[87])

The New England Confederation, 1643

In 1643, the four separate colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth Plantation, Connecticut, and New Haven agreed to form an association known as the New England Confederation. This was the first attempt to unite several colonies in mutual cooperation (such as later happened with the thirteen colonies during the American War for Independence). The governing document for that Confederation clearly states the Christian nature of the early settlements:

Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely, to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity and peace….The said United Colonies…[do] enter into a firm and perpetual league of friendship…for preserving and propagating the truth and liberties of the Gospel and for their own mutual safety and welfare.[88]

The New England Confederation lasted until 1684.

America’s First Schools

The colonists of all the early colonies believed that every child should be educated—a belief very different from that in England and Europe at the time. While many children in America were educated at home, the colonists also started public schools as well and then later added colleges to provide higher education for students. Significantly, the concept of education for every individual was developed first in Christian and Biblical civilization.

Early Massachusetts School Laws
A colonial hornbook. The Lord’s Prayer was the first reading lesson.

In 1642, the General Court of Massachusetts (that is, its legislature) enacted an education law requiring each town to see that children were taught “to read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of this country.”[89] Five years later, the laws of 1647 noted education and schools were necessary because it was the “one chief project of that old deluder, satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scripture”[90]—that is, Satan wanted to keep people from knowing the Bible, but Massachusetts was not going to let this happen: it would establish schools for every child so they would be able to know and read the Bible. (This law became known as “The Old Deluder Satan Act.”)

This Massachusetts law was America’s first public education law, and it was the direct result of the horrific persecutions experienced by so many of the early settlers who had arrived in America. Those colonists were acutely aware of the civil atrocities that had earlier occurred across Europe, such as the tortures during the Inquisition and other similar purges often wrongly perpetrated under the banner of Christianity. They knew of these atrocities because many of them had personally experienced harsh persecution simply for practicing their Biblical faith.

The colonists and their leaders were convinced that a widespread lack of Biblical knowledge lay at the root of these barbarities. If people had been literate and able to read the Scriptures and judge the accuracy of what the leaders of both State and Church were telling them, they would not have blindly believed and followed, thus abetting the commission of that savagery.

The American Witch Trials

On rare occasions, even these early Christians fell into the same bad behavior from which they had fled. One example of this is seen in the Witch Trials of 1691-1692 in which twenty-seven individuals died at the hands of the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.[91]

While this behavior is indefensible, an appropriate question to ask is, “Why were only twenty-seven put to death in America?” After all, witch trials were also occurring across the world at that time, with 500,000 put to death in Europe,[92] including 30,000 in England, 75,000 in France, and 100,000 in Germany.[93]

Significantly, the American trials lasted eighteen months, while the European trials lasted for years and even decades.[94] The difference was that the American trials were brought to a close when Christian leaders such as the Reverend John Wise, the Reverend Increase Mather, and Thomas Brattle confronted civil leaders, pointing out that Biblical rules of evidence and due process were not being followed in the courts, thus convincing officials to end those trials.[95]

What are some of the Biblical rules of evidence? An answer comes from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer—one of the most secular-minded justices in Supreme Court history. Yet even he openly acknowledges that “The right of an accused to meet his accusers face-to-face is mentioned in, among other things, the Bible.”[96] In proof of this, Breyer cites Federal Practices & Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence, which devotes more than twenty pages to show the ways in which the Bible directly shaped numerous of the individual Due Process protections for citizens now found in the Fourth through the Eighth Amendments of the Bill of Rights.[97]

When Biblically-informed Christians pointed out these basic rights to Puritan leaders:

The trials were stopped by Governor Phipps in October, 1692, and five years later the Massachusetts Court publicly repented and set apart a special day of fasting and prayer, that prayers might be offered asking for forgiveness for the “late tragedy raised amongst us by Satan,” while the twelve jurors published a declaration of sorrow for accepting insufficient evidence against the accused; and Judge Sewall rose in his pew in the South Church and made public confession of his sense of guilt.[98]

Sadly, modern texts are quick to emphasize the twenty-seven deaths that occurred under the Puritans but ignore the hundreds of thousands committed in Europe. But as an early historian pointed out, a knowledge of the actual facts “should moderate our denunciations and charges of severity, brutality and narrow-mindedness against the colonial forefathers, who, it clearly appears, were much in advance of their times.”[99] And offering even more evidence to prove his point, he noted:

When the Mayflower left England [in 1620], thirty-one offenses were punishable with death in the mother country. By the middle of that century [the 1650s], the black list had enlarged to 223, of which 176 were without the benefit of the clergy [i.e., there were no exceptions]. How far in advance the New England colonies were is evident from the fact that not a single colony code [in New England] recognized more than fifteen capital crimes.[100]

It is undeniable that some missteps were made in early America; but because of the significant positive influence resulting from a widespread knowledge of the Bible, we had less atrocities and more that was positive than any other nation at that time.

Recognizing the positive difference a knowledge of the Bible could produce, those early settlers therefore passed America’s first education law, which required:

After the Lord hath increased [the settlement] to the number of fifty householders, [they] shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him, to write and read….And it is further ordered that where any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school…to instruct youths, so far as they may be fitted for the university. [101]

The fact that the purpose of public education was to equip students to know the Bible and thus better know the limits the Bible placed on governing authorities was confirmed by numerous foreign visitors to America. One such was Edward Kendall of Britain. While in Connecticut, he found the state’s illiteracy law of interest—particularly the opening declaration of that law:

This [legislature] observing that notwithstanding the former orders made for the education of children…there are many persons unable to read the English tongue, and thereby incapable of reading the Holy Word of God or the good laws of this [State]… [102]

Notice that the Connecticut legislature was concerned about illiteracy because if a child could not read, then he would not know the Word of God or the laws of the state, and thus might not prevent the passage of a bad law.

America’s First Colleges

Henricus College (1619)

In 1618, the Virginia Company obtained a charter from King James I for a college in Virginia. Its purpose was to train both the children of the settlers and the children of the Indians.[103] By 1622, a teaching staff had been chosen and construction at the college begun. But while it was being built, Native Americans led an unexpected surprise attack against the settlers (who had long been their neighbors) resulting in what is called the “Great Massacre.” This stopped further efforts for a college in Virginia until seventy years later, with the establishment of the College of William and Mary in 1693.

Harvard College (1636)
Harvard College

As noted earlier, Harvard (started in 1636 by the New England Puritans) was the first successful college in America. Some of its rules and precepts included:

Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well [that] the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.

>And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Prov. 2:3).

Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein…seeing the entrance of the Word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).[104]

Harvard, with its motto “Christo et Eccleslae” (For Christ and the Church),[105] was typical of almost all of the early American colleges. In fact, over the next two centuries, some 246 colleges would be started, with 226 (ninety percent) of them directly founded on the Christian faith.[106]

— — — ⧫ ⧫ ⧫ — — —


  • America was founded on the teachings of the Bible.
  • Our colonies were founded and populated largely by people who desired to freely worship the God of the Bible.
  • Our common schools were begun so that every young person would be able to read, study, and understand the Bible for themselves.
  • Our universities were founded to train civil and religious leaders who would be knowledgeable in the Scriptures.
  • Our civil laws and constitutions were routinely based on specific Biblical verses and ideas.

There is much additional historical documentation available from this early period of America’s history, and it affirms that America was founded on Christian principles and that the Bible was instrumental in shaping our institutions and securing our individual rights and liberties. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion reached by President Andrew Jackson that It [the Bible] is the rock on which our Republic rests.” [107]


Lesson 1: Appendix A

Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving
(And a Lesson in Economics)

Innumerable blessings have been bestowed upon the United States of America. Concerning these, President Abraham Lincoln affirmed, “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God.”[108] In 1863, he therefore set apart the last Thursday of November as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father, Who dwelleth in the heavens.”[109] President Lincoln thereby established America’s official Thanksgiving holiday; but it was the Pilgrims’ 1621 Thanksgiving celebration over two centuries earlier that originally started the tradition observed annually by the nation over succeeding years.

The Pilgrims are going to church.

The Pilgrims had arrived in America in November 1620. As they gathered their harvest in autumn of 1621 and looked back over the preceding year, they knew they had so much for which to be thankful. It was a miracle they had not only survived their first year in the wilderness of New England but also that they had reaped a good harvest the following fall. And they had also found a home where they could freely worship God—a place for “propagating and advancing the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ.”[110] The Pilgrims were grateful for these blessings.

Their early days had been very difficult. Coming to America, they had spent sixty-six perilous days at sea; and the storms were so ferocious that their ship, the Mayflower, was blown literally hundreds of miles north of its intended destination. Their captain continued attempting to sail south to Virginia, but the weather didn’t permit, so the Pilgrims were forced to settle in New England.

Because of the long voyage, lack of provisions, and harsh conditions, numerous diseases afflicted the settlers when they reached land. Making the situation worse, the Pilgrims arrived in December, so winter had already set in, and they had no homes in which to take shelter. In their weakened physical condition, and in the unrelenting cold, they started to build houses to protect themselves. Under these extreme hardships, within only three months, half of the original 102 Pilgrims were dead.

During the height of the sickness, there were only six or seven persons strong enough to move about, but they worked hard on behalf of all the rest. As Governor Bradford affirmed, those few…

spared no pains night nor day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them; in a word, did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and brethren. A rare example and worthy to be remembered.[111]

With only half of them surviving that first winter, the prospects of the coming year were bleak. They were surrounded by Indians (some hostile), short of food and supplies, and knew little of how to live in the American wilderness. But to their astonishment, an English-speaking Indian named Squanto unexpectedly came among them (from where they knew not) and took them under his care, teaching them how to survive in the new land.

He showed them how to plant corn (assuring its growth by setting it with fish) and he taught them how to catch fish during the times when they could find the creeks well stocked with fish (in the four months before Squanto’s arrival, the Pilgrims had caught only one cod). He also taught them to stalk deer, plant pumpkins, find berries, and catch beaver (whose pelts proved to be their economic deliverance). Additionally, Squanto was helpful in securing a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the neighboring Wampanoag tribe. (It became the longest-lasting treaty in American history between Anglos and Native Americans.) Pilgrim leader and governor William Bradford properly affirmed, “Squanto…was a special instrument sent of God for [our] good.”[112]

Squanto was indeed key to their survival, and he helped shape the story of America. But his own life story is amazing as well. In 1605, long before the arrival of the Pilgrims, he had been captured and taken to England. He remained there nine years, during which time he learned to speak English. In 1614, he came with Captain John Smith of Virginia back to New England, but shortly after Squanto’s return Captain Thomas Hunt took him and sold him into slavery in Spain. Thankfully, some local friars bought and rescued him.

The Pilgrims “set a part a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them gracious and speedy answer.”

Being freed in Spain, he went to England, where he remained until 1619, when he obtained passage back to his home in New England. As Squanto went ashore at his former home (which eventually became Plymouth, the Pilgrims’ home), he found his entire tribe (the Patuxets) had been wiped out by a plague. He was the only survivor; and had he been there instead of in Spain and England, he, too, surely would have died. Joining himself to a nearby tribe, he remained there until the spring of 1621, when he took the remaining half of the Pilgrims under his tutelage, determined to see them survive at the place where his tribe had not.[113]

With Squanto’s help, the Pilgrims harvested sufficient food for their upcoming second winter. They had no surplus, but things definitely looked much better than they had the preceding winter when they arrived. With this definite improvement over the previous years’ situation, Pilgrim Governor William Bradford appointed a Day of Thanksgiving and invited the nearby Wampanoag Indians (Squanto’s adopted tribe) to celebrate with them and give thanks to God.

Chief Massasoit and ninety of his men came and feasted with the fifty-one Pilgrims. They ate deer, turkey, fish, lobster, eels, vegetables, corn bread, herbs, berries, and pies; the Indians even taught the Pilgrims how to make popcorn. The Pilgrims and Indians also engaged in athletic competition, including running, wrestling, and shooting. Chief Massasoit enjoyed himself so much that he and his men stayed for three days.[114]

Historically, there had been thanksgivings in America prior to the one by the Pilgrims, including in Texas in 1541,[115] El Paso in 1598,[116] St. Augustine, Florida in 1564,[117] Jamestown, Virginia in 1607,[118] and Berkley Plantation, Virginia in 1619,[119] but these were primarily times of prayer. The Pilgrim thanksgiving certainly included prayer, but it also added feasting and athletic events, thus birthing the tradition that has become our modern Thanksgiving holiday.

Shortly after the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving celebration, thirty-five new settlers unexpectedly arrived. They were family and friends of the Pilgrims, who gladly welcomed them. The new group had brought no provisions with them, so the Pilgrims freely shared with them their own food, clothing, and homes. But with the new arrivals, their supplies were cut to half allowance for each person. Several died.

The following spring their provisions were almost completely exhausted when they spied a boat approaching on the horizon. The Pilgrims hoped that the English Company (which had sponsored their colonization of Plymouth) was sending them provisions, but the boat did not bring any food. To the contrary, it brought seven more hungry people to stay in Plymouth.

Early that summer, sixty more men, many of whom were sick, also showed up seeking help. The Pilgrims gladly took care of them all. The sixty men stayed nearly all summer and eventually left, expressing no gratitude for the help they had received; and their stay had further depleted the Pilgrim’s meager supplies. Yet the Pilgrims continued to put their trust in God. Significantly, no one starved to death, although, understandably, they had many days when, as Governor Bradford described it, they “had need to pray that God would give them their daily bread above all people in the world.”[120]

The following year (1623), the Pilgrims considered how to produce a larger harvest beyond what they predicted to be their immediate needs. After all, the previous year had presented to them many unexpected surprises that had depleted their scarce resources. So how could they produce enough to meet their own needs as well as others that might arise? Applying Biblical principles, the Pilgrims chose to replace the collective socialistic style of farming they had practiced in the two preceding years with an early free-market individual approach to farming, assigning to every family its own personal parcel of land.[121]

Of the new free-market system they began implementing, Pilgrim Governor Bradford reported:

This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use…and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege [fake, or pretend] weakness and inability.[122]

When the Pilgrims abandoned economic socialism and adopted the individual free-enterprise model, their productivity dramatically increased and abundance actually began to emerge among the people. In fact, because the Pilgrims’ were able to directly benefit from their own hard work and the fruit of their own labors, they planted about seven times more than they had only two years earlier.[123] The Pilgrims finally had great hopes for a large crop. But as is often the case in life, things did not go as planned, for according to Bradford:

[T]he Lord seemed to blast [plague] and take away the same, and to threaten further  and more sore famine unto them by a great drought which continued from the third week in May till about the middle of July without any rain and with great heat (for the most part) insomuch as the corn began to wither away.[124]

In response to this unexpected spring drought, Bradford reported that:

[T]hey set a part a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble  and fervent prayer in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious  and speedy answer both to their own  and the Indians’ admiration that lived amongst them. For all the morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen, yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith, which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn  and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold.[125]

An Indian named Hobamak who witnessed this event said to a Pilgrim:

Now I see that the Englishman’s God is a good God, for He hath heard you and sent you rain, and that without storms and tempests and thunder, which usually we have with our rain, which breaks down our corn; but yours stands whole and good still. Surely your God is a good God.[126]

The rains rejuvenated the dying crops and the harvest of 1623 brought plenty to each person, with the more industrious Pilgrims even having excess to sell to others. The Pilgrims once again set aside a time of Thanksgiving to God.

Significantly, from the time the Pilgrims adopted a Biblical economic system, no general want ever again existed among them.

This is the story of the Pilgrims’ thanksgivings that became the model for our modern national Thanksgiving celebrations.


Lesson 1: Appendix B

No, Revisionists, Thanksgiving is not a
Day of Mourning

When a modern college professor presented to his students the traditional view of the Thanksgiving holiday as a time for gratefulness and thankfulness a student objected and sent him eleven articles she found on the internet purporting to show that the Pilgrims actually killed and oppressed the Indians, and that Thanksgiving Day was thus not to be celebrated or honored.[127]

Of those articles and their claims, some referred to an encounter with the Indians in 1623, some referenced the Indian war of 1637, and others King Philip’s War of 1675 (the three early conflicts between Indians and the Pilgrims). So what is the truth? Did the Pilgrims indeed kill and oppress Indians?

— — — ⧫ ⧫ ⧫ — — —

Of the three major conflicts between the Pilgrims and the Indians, King Philip’s War of 1675 was by far the biggest and most serious. It finally broke the official 1621 peace between the Pilgrims and the Indians. No other treaty with Native Americans lasted longer than the 54 years of the Pilgrim treaty (1621–1675); and significantly, when the treaty was eventually broken during King Philip’s War, it was the Indians and not the Pilgrims who violated it.

Here is a brief overview of three conflicts, including the one that led to the breaking of the decades old treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags.

Chief Massasoit

The Pilgrims, after arriving in the New World December 1620, survived a difficult beginning with the help of Indians who befriended them.[128] Intending to live in the area where they had landed, the Pilgrims approached the local tribe, seeking to purchase land. The price was set by the Indians, and written documentation of sale was received for those purchased lands.[129]

The policy of purchasing land from the Indians came to characterize the general practice of New England and portions of the mid-Atlantic regions, being mirrored not only by the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony[130] but also by the Rev. Roger Williams with Rhode Island,[131] the Rev. Thomas Hooker with Connecticut,[132] and William Penn with Pennsylvania.[133] (On one occasion, Penn actually purchased some of the same tracts multiple times because at least three tribes claimed that specific land, having taken and retaken it from each other in conquest; so Penn secured it from each.[134]) The practice of purchasing land from the Indians was also followed[*] in New Hampshire,[135] New Jersey,[136] and New York.[137]

The Pilgrims and their Indian neighbors (the Wampanoag) had entered into a peace treaty in 1621. Two years later in 1623, Chief Massasoit informed his friends, the Pilgrims, of a treacherous surprise assault to be made against them by the Massachusetts tribe, which was gathering other chiefs for an unprovoked attack.[138] Facing potential extermination, Pilgrim Miles Standish led a preemptive strike against the Algonquin, thus saving the colonists. Without this, the Pilgrim story could have been as short-lived as that of the colonists in the failed colonies of Roanoke, Virginia, or Popham, Maine. But despite the conflict with some hostile tribes, good relations continued between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag. The next period of tensions between the Pilgrims and other tribes occurred in the 1637 Pequot War.

The Pequot tribe was warlike and aggressive, not only against colonists but also against their Indian neighbors on every side, including the Wampanoag (allies and friends of the Pilgrims), Narragansett, Algonquian, and Mohegan tribes. The warring Pequot tribes had established an exclusive trading monopoly with the Dutch, and they believed the arrival of English colonists threatened that monopoly. They therefore determined to strike and kill the English, completely ridding the area of them. After the Pequot murdered a number of English settlers, the colonists responded and organized strikes against the Pequot.[139] The war spread across much of Connecticut, and also threatened the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies. The conflict ended when Sassacus, the chief of the Pequot, was pursued and killed by the Mohegan and Mohawks tribes, against whom the Pequot also warred.[140]

King Philip

One of the aforementioned articles provided by the student specifically claimed that it was during this war that Pilgrims killed Indians;[141] but this claim is wrong. The Pilgrims’ participation in this conflict was limited to a skirmish at Manisses Villages, where no Indians were killed.[142] Some of the other articles provided by the student claimed that the Thanksgiving of 1637 was to give thanks that Indians were killed,[143] but this was also wrong. It was called to give thanks for the end of the Pequot War and a restoration of peace to the region.[144]

The Pilgrims lived in harmony with the Wampanoags from the time of their 1621 treaty, through the 1623 and 1637 conflicts, and until the long-lasting peace finally collapsed in 1675 with King Philip’s War. Today, revisionist scholars such as James D. Drake, Daniel R. Mandell, and Jill Lepore claim that this conflict was the result of Indians pushing back against greedy land-grabbing colonists, with the Indians simply trying to regain territory that was rightfully theirs,[145] but such a portrayal is inaccurate.

In fact, at the outbreak of the war Pilgrim Governor Josiah Winslow avowed:

I think I can clearly say that before these present troubles broke out, the English did not possess one foot of land in this colony but what was fairly obtained by honest purchase of the Indian proprietors.[146]

So, if King Philip’s War was not retaliation for the unjust seizing of Indian land by colonists, then what was its cause? The answer is simple: Christian missionaries. Metacom—who took the English name King Philip, and was chief of the Wampanoag Indians and the grandson of Massasoit, the friend of the Pilgrims—recognized that missionaries were converting Indians to Christianity, which was changing some Indian behaviors and “traditions.”

For example, Indians often engaged in prolonged barbarous and sadistic torture of their captives,[147] but missionaries sought to end those horrific practices by converting Indians and teaching them Christian morals.[148] Such missionaries, including John Eliot, Thomas Mayhew, and Andrew White, worked extensively with various tribes and had great success in converting Indians to Christianity. By 1674, Eliot’s Christian villages of “praying Indians” in Massachusetts numbered as many as 3,600 converts.[149] It was in the following year (1675) that Metacom, fearing that Christianity would change “traditional” Indian “culture,”[150] launched ferocious surprise assaults against settlers throughout the region.[151] All English colonists in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts were to be exterminated—no exceptions.

Colonists were indeed murdered and their belongings burned or destroyed.[152] This included even the town of Providence, where Roger William’s own home was burned.[153] Significantly, Williams had always been on the best of terms with the Indians, not only having purchased his colony from them[154] but also having championed Indian rights and claims.[155] Yet, regardless of how well Christian settlers had previously treated Indians, all Christians were all to be exterminated; their very existence was perceived as a threat to Indian practices.

But King Philip’s War cannot be accurately characterized as Indians versus the English, for many of those who were attacked by the Indians were themselves Indians—but they were Christian Indians. They, too, were targeted, hurt, or killed by their unconverted brethren,[156] and many of the converted Christian Indians fought side-by-side with the colonists throughout the conflict.[157] In fact, the war eventually ended when Metacom was killed—by an Indian, not a settler.[158]

Returning to the objections raised by the student, it is true that in this war Pilgrims and Puritans killed Indians—but in the context of a just and defensive war. The war lasted about fifteen months, and early in the war more settlers died than Indians—largely because of the surprise attacks. (Of the ninety towns in Massachusetts and Plymouth Colony, twelve were totally destroyed and forty more attacked and partially destroyed.[159]) But eventually the colonists organized local militias and fought back, finally gaining the upper hand. By the conclusion of the war, 600 settlers and 3,000 Indians had been killed—the highest casualty rate by percentage of total population of any war in American history.[160]

This information about King Philip’s War is not to suggest that the amount of land owned by Indians was not decreasing; it was. But the diminishing land holdings in this region during this time was definitely not for the reason we are often told today. Indian land in this period, especially in New England, was routinely purchased by settlers, not stolen.[161] Early historian George Bancroft (1800-1891), known as “The Father of American History” for his systematic approach to documenting the story of America,[162] confirmed that Indian lands were shrinking because the Indians’ own “repeated sales of land has narrowed their domains” to the point where “they found themselves deprived of their broad acres, and by their own legal contracts driven, as it were, into the sea”[163] (emphasis added).

This is not to say that land was never stolen from Indians. Some definitely was. For instance, during the heyday of westward expansion that began in the early nineteenth century, the Indian removal policies of Andrew Jackson certainly violated private property rights,[164] and such policies became the rule rather than the exception, forcibly driving Indians from their lands in Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and elsewhere across the Southeast.[†] By 1845, the term “Manifest Destiny” was coined to describe the growing notion that it was America’s “destiny” to spread westward, and that nothing—including Indians—should be allowed to stand in the way. As a result, the Biblical view of purchasing private property from its owner was replaced with the anti-Biblical notion that “possession was nine-tenths of the law” and therefore whoever could take and hold the land was its “rightful” owner.[165]

But the 19th century deterioration in relations between Americans and Indians over unjust land seizures occurred most commonly two centuries after the Pilgrims. The original treaty the Pilgrims negotiated with the Indians lasted for 54 years—until the Indians broke it. In general, the Pilgrim and Puritan killings of Indians occurred first in their own self-defense against the perfidious unprovoked attacks from Metacom’s Indians, and then in ending the war he had started. There is no historical basis to support the claim that the Pilgrims oppressed the Indians. ■

[*] WallBuilders (www.wallbuilders.com) owns one of the nation’s largest private collections of Founding Era materials, containing over 100,000 originals, or copies of original documents that predate 1812. Among these holdings are multiple original signed deeds in which Indians willingly and voluntarily sell their land to settlers. One example is an Indian deed dated February 9, 1769, and signed by four Indian leaders from the Aughquageys tribe, selling 300,000 acres—or nearly 470 square miles of land—to settlers in New York. The land-area sold by the Indians in just this one transaction was the equivalent of modern Los Angeles or San Antonio, was larger than modern New York City, and seven times larger than modern Washington DC. Another deed from March 12, 1664 transfers 1000 acres of land from eight Wappinger leaders to two English settlers in New York, in the area that is now the Bronx. There are hundreds of such deeds, legitimately transferring land by mutual agreement and purchase from various Indian tribes to colonists/settlers.

[†] Among the other original documents in the WallBuilders collection are land deeds from he state of Georgia selling parcels in Cherokee-held lands directly to settlers, seeking to drive the Cherokee from their homelands.

[1] Kay Brigham, Christopher Columbus’s Book of Prophecies, Reproduction of the Original Manuscript with English Translation (/originally written 1501-1505; published Fort Lauderdale, Fl.: TSELF, Inc., 1992), pp. 178-183.

[2] Ferdinand Columbus (son of Christopher Columbus), The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Keen, translator (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992), p. 59.

[3] Ferdinand Columbus (son of Christopher Columbus), The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Keen, translator (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992), p. 180.

[4] “Columbus Monument Pages,”Peter van der Krogt (at: https://vanderkrogt.net/columbus/index.php) (accessed August 28, 2018).

[5] The Papers of George Washington. Presidential Series, Mark A Mastromarion, editor (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999), Vol. 8, pp. 506-508, from Thomas Jefferson, September 8, 1791.

[6] Christopher Columbus, The Journal of Christopher Columbus During His First Voyage, 1492-93, Clements Markham, translator (London: Hakluyt Society, 1883), entry dated December 16, 1492, p. 112.

[7] A.M. Fernandez De Ybarra, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections (Washington: Smithsonian Institutions, 1907), Vol. XLVIII, p. 436, letter of Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca, 1494.

[8] A.M. Fernandez De Ybarra, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections (Washington: Smithsonian Institutions, 1907), Vol. XLVIII, p. 436, letter of Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca, 1494.

[9] A.M. Fernandez De Ybarra, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections (Washington: Smithsonian Institutions, 1907), Vol. XLVIII, p. 439-440, letter of Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca, 1494.

[10] Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (New York: MJF Books, 1970), p. 476.

[11] Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (New York: MJF Books, 1970), pp. 257, 360.

[12] See, for example, Christopher Columbus, The Journal of Christopher Columbus, Clements Markham, translator (London: Hakluyt Society, 1893), pp. 124-125, journal entry for December 21, 1492; pp. 127-128, journal entry for December 22, 1492; pp. 152-156, journal entries for January 8-10, 1493;  Select Letters of Christopher Columbus, R. H. Major, translator & editor(London: Hakluyt Society, 1870), 155-156, 158, 162-163, 165, Christopher Columbus, “Letter of the Admiral to the (quondam) nurse of the Prince John, written near the end of the year 1500,”; Journals and Other Documents on the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, translator Samuel Morrison, (New York: Heritage Press, 1963), pp. 215, Michele de Cuneo, “Michele de Cuneo’s Letter on the Second Voyage, 28 October 1495.”

[13] B.F. Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), p. 69, quoting The Protestant Quarterly Review, Benjamin J. Wallace, editor (Philadelphia: Presbyterian House, 1858), p. 393, No. XXIII, “Article II. The Settlement of Maryland,” December 1857.

[14] Kenneth Woodward and David Gates, “How the Bible Made America,” Newsweek, December 27, 1982, p. 44.

[15] Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Statement on the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Printing of the English Bible,” American Presidency Project, October 6, 1935 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209257).

[16] Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Proclamation–Thanksgiving Day, 1944,” American Presidency Project, November 1, 1944 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/210843).

[17] Bible Society Record (New York: The American Bible Society, 1901), Vol. 46, p. 99, Number 7, “Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt Addresses the Long Island Bible Society.”

[18] Ronald Reagan, “Proclamation 5018-Year of the Bible, 1983,” American Presidency Project, February 3, 1983 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/262128).

[19] The American Quarterly Register and Magazine (Philadelphia), February 23, 1849, Vol. II, No. 1, p. 239, “Quarterly Chronicle” (President Zachary Taylor).

[20] “The President and the Bible,” New York Semi Weekly Tribune, Wednesday, May 9, 1849, Vol. IV, No. 100, p. 1 (President Zachary Taylor).

[21] The New York Times,June 15, 1876, p. 4 (President Ulysses Grant). ​

[22] Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Complete Works, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, editors (New York: The Century Co., 1894), Vol. II, p. 574, “Reply to Committee of Colored People of Baltimore Who Presented Him With a Bible,” September 7, 1864.

[23] Paul Pearson and Philip Hicks, Extemporaneous Speaking (New York City: Hinds, Noble & Eldredge, 1912), p. 177, Woodrow Wilson, “Addresses Delivered in Denver on the Occasion of the Tercentenary Celebrations of the Translation of the Bible into the English Language,” May 7, 1911.

[24] Harry S. Truman, “Address Before the Attorney General’s conference on Law Enforcement Problems,” American Presidency Project, February 15, 1950 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-before-the-attorney-generals-conference-law-enforcement-problems).

[25] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), Vol. X, p. 85, to Thomas Jefferson on December 25, 1813.

[26] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles Little & James Brow, 1850), Vol. II, pp. 6-7, diary entry for February 22, 1756.

[27] Benjamin Rush,Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas & Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), p. 93, “A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book.”

[28] Benjamin Rush,Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), p. 936, to John Adams on January 23, 1807.

[29] William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: James Webster, 1818), p. 402.

[30] John Quincy Adams, Letters to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (New York: Derby, Miller, & Co., 1848), p. 119.

[31] B.B. Edwards and W. Cogswell, The American Quarterly Register (Boston: Perkins & Marvin, 1840), Vol. XII, p. 86, letter from John Quincy Adams to members of a literary society in Baltimore on June 22, 1838.

[32] Elias Boudinot, The Age of Revelation or The Age of Reason Shewn to be an Age of Infidelity (Philadelphia: Asbury Dickins, 1801), p. xv, “Dedication. To Mrs. Susan V. Bradford.”

[33] John Jay, John Jay: The Winning of the Peace. Unpublished Papers 1780-1784, Richard B. Morris, editor (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980), Vol. II, p. 709, letter to Peter Augustus Jay on April 8, 1784.

[34] Robert Treat Paine, The Papers of Robert Treat Paine, Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson, editors (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1992), Vol. I, p. 49, “Confession of Faith,” 1749.

[35] Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14 (James McHenry).

[36] Noah Webster, The History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 339, ¶ 53.

[37] Richard Hakluyt, A Discourse Concerning Western Planting. Written in the Year 1584, Charles Deane, editor (Cambridge: John Wilson and Son, 1877), p. 158, “A brief collection of certain reasons to induce her Majesty and the state to take in hand the western voyage and the planting there.”

[38] Howard W. Preston, Documents Illustrative of American History: 1606-1863 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1886), p. 3, “First Virginia Charter—1606.”

[39] John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their First Beginning An 1584 to This Present 1626 (London: I.D. and I.H: 1632), p. 122.

[40] John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their First Beginning An 1584 to This Present 1626 (London: I.D. and I.H: 1632), p. 122.

[41] John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their First Beginning An 1584 to This Present 1626 (London: I.D. and I.H: 1632), p. 49.

[42] John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their First Beginning An 1584 to This Present 1626 (London: I.D. and I.H: 1632), p. 49.

[43] John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their First Beginning An 1584 to This Present 1626 (London: I.D. and I.H: 1632), p. 49.

[44] John Fiske, Old Virginia and Her Neighbors (New York, Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., 1897), Vol. I, p. 111.

[45] For the Colony in Virginia Britannia. Laws Divine, Moral, and Martial & c. (London: Walter Burree, 1612), pp. 9-12, “Articles, Lawes, and Orders, Divine, Politque, and Martiall for the Colony in Virginea,” 1610 & 1611.

[46] Narratives of Early Virginia: 1606-1625, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907; reprinted 1946 & 1959), p. 251, “Proceedings of the Virginia Assembly,” July 30, 1619.

[47] Narratives of Early Virginia: 1606-1625, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907; reprinted 1946 & 1959), p. 264, “Proceedings of the Virginia Assembly: Instructions Given by His Majesty’s Council of Virginia in England,” August 2, 1619.

[48] John Smith, The Last Will and Testament of Captain John Smith (Cambridge: John Wilson and Son, 1867), p. 2.

[49] “Embarkation of the Pilgrims,” Architect of the Capitol (at: https://www.aoc.gov/art/historic-rotunda-paintings/embarkation-pilgrims) (accessed on September 18, 2018).

[50] The Encyclopedia Britannica (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica Company, 1910), Vol. III, p. 901, s.v. “Bible, English”.

[51] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 9.

[52] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 24.

[53] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 90.

[54] James Thacher, History of the Town of Plymouth, from its First Settlement in 1620 to the Present Time (Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1832), p. 145.

[55] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 24.

[56] For trial by jury, see: The Compact with the Charter and Laws of the Colony of New Plymouth, William Brigham, compiler (Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1836), p. 28, “Laws of the Colony of New Plymouth, 1623.” For private property rights, see: William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1856), pp. 134-136.

[57] See, for example, “Leadership in Plymouth Colony,” Pilgrim Hall Museum (at: https://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/ap_leadership_plymouth_colony.htm) (accessed on September 19, 2018).

[58] John D. Cushing, The Laws of the Pilgrims, A Facsimile Edition of The Book of the General Laws of the Inhabitants of the Jurisdiction of New Plimouth, 1672 & 1685 (Wilmington, DE: M. Glazier, 1977), p. xiv.

[59] Francis Baylies, An Historical Memoir of the Colony of New Plymouth (Boston: Wiggin & Lunt, 1866), Vol. I, Part Two, p. 75, excerpt from “The Book of the General Laws and Liberties of the Inhabitants of the Jurisdiction of New Plymouth,” 1658.

[60] William T. Davis, History of the Judiciary of Massachusetts (Boston Book Company, 1900), p. 379, “Charter of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay.”

[61] Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Life of Francis Higginson (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1891), p. 65, “A true relation of the last voyage to New England,” by Francis Higginson, 1629.

[62] Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1838), Third Series, Vol. III, p. 47, “A Modell of Christian Charity. Written on Board the Arbella, on the Atlantic Ocean,” by John Winthrop, 1630.

[63] Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1838), Third Series, Vol. III, p. 47, “A Modell of Christian Charity. Written on Board the Arbella, on the Atlantic Ocean,” by John Winthrop, 1630.

[64] President Reagan used this phrase several times in his addresses. See, for example, Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Religious Broadcasters,” The American Presidency Project, January 31, 1983 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/262161); Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at the Opening Ceremonies of the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration in New York, New York,” The American Presidency Project, July 3, 1986 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/259193); Ronald Reagan, “Farewell Address to the Nation,” The American Presidency Project,January 11, 1989 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251303).

[65] George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1848), Vol. I, pp. 350-351.

[66] The Colonial Laws of Massachusetts. Reprinted from the Edition of 1660, with the Supplements to 1672. Containing Also the Body of Liberties of 1641, William H. Whitmore, supervisor (Boston: 1889), pp. 6-8, “Introduction” by William H. Whitmore, and pp. 32-61, “The Body of Liberties. 1641.”

[67] The Colonial Laws of Massachusetts. Reprinted from the Edition of 1660, with the Supplements to 1672. Containing Also the Body of Liberties of 1641, William H. Whitmore, supervisor (Boston: 1889), p. 33, “The Body of Liberties. 1641.”

[68] George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1853), Vol. I, pp. 346-347.

[69] Abiel Holmes, The Annals of America, From the Discovery by Columbus in the Year 1492 to the Year 1826 (Cambridge: Hilliard and Brown, 1829), Vol. I, p. 443, quoting from the preamble of the 1693 charter of the College of William and Mary.

[70] See, for example, “Dartmouth at a Glance,” Dartmouth (at: https://home.dartmouth.edu/dartmouth-glance) (accessed on September 20, 2018); Memorials of Judges Recently Deceased, Graduates of Dartmouth College (Concord: Republican Press Association, 1881), p. 5.

[71] See, for example, Anne B. Wagner, “Highlights in Portsmouth, RI, History: 1638-2013,” Portsmouth Historical Society (at: https://www.portsmouthri375.com/uploads/5/6/9/3/5693083/a_brief_history_of_portsmouth3.pdf) (accessed on September 20, 2018).

[72] “Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” The Avalon Project, July 15, 1663 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ri04.asp).

[73] “Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” The Avalon Project, July 15, 1663 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ri04.asp).

[74] “The Charter of Maryland,” The Avalon Project, 1632 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ma01.asp).

[75] “Maryland Toleration Act,” The Avalon Project, September 21, 1649 (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/maryland_toleration.asp).

[76] G.H. Hollister, The History of Connecticut, From the First Settlement of the Colony to the Adoption of the Present Constitution (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1855), Vol. I, pp. 18-19, 96.

[77] John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1902), pp. 154-155.

[78] John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1902), p. 155.

[79] The Code of 1650, Being a Compilation of the Earliest Laws and Orders of the General Court of Connecticut (Hartford: Silas Andrus, 1825), pp. 11-12.

[80] The Code of 1650, Being a Compilation of the Earliest Laws and Orders of the General Court of Connecticut (Hartford: Silas Andrus, 1825), p. 12.

[81] The True-Blue Laws of Connecticut and New Haven, J. Hammond Trumbull, editor (Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1876), p. 58.

[82] See, for example, “Sketches of American Policy,” Lawbook Exchange (at: https://www.lawbookexchange.com/pages/books/52124/noah-webster-john-vile-new-intro-notes/sketches-of-american-policy-under-the-following-heads-i-theory) (accessed on September 21, 2018); “Noah Webster’s Story,” Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society (at: https://noahwebsterhouse.org/noah-websters-story/) (accessed on September 21, 2018).

[83] Noah Webster, Sketches of American Policy (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1785), pp. 33-35.

[84] Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society (New Haven: 1865), Vol. I, p. 29, “The New Haven Colony” by Henry White; and Edward E. Atwater, History of the Colony of New Haven (New Haven: 1881), pp. 67, 73.

[85] Benjamin Trumbull, A Complete History of Connecticut, Civil and Ecclesiastical (New Haven: Maltby, Goldsmith and Co. & Samuel Wadsworth, 1818), Vol. I, p. 503, “The fundamental articles, or original constitution of the colony of New-Haven, June 4th, 1639.”

[86] George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1853), Vol. I, p. 404.

[87] See, for example, “Timeline: Settlement of the Colony of Connecticut,” ConnecticutHistory.org (at: https://connecticuthistory.org/timeline-settlement-of-the-colony-of-connecticut/) (accessed on September 21, 2018); “Colony of Connecticut: A Brief history,” CelebrateBoston (at: http://www.celebrateboston.com/history/connecticut.htm) (accessed on September 21, 2018).

[88] The Federal and State Constitution, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909), Vol. I, p. 77, “The Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England—1643-1684.”

[89] Public Documents of Maine: 1902, Being the Annual Reports of the Various Departments and Institutions for the Year 1901 (August: Kennebec Journal, 1902), pp. 29-30, “History of Education and the Evolution of the Present School System in Maine.”

[90] The Code of 1650, Being a Compilation of the Earliest Laws and Orders of the General Court of Connecticut (Hartford: Silas Andrus, 1825), p. 90.

[91] Of the 27, 14 women and 5 men were tried, found guilty and hanged; another man was tortured to death by crushing because he refused to cooperate with the court by not answering their questions. To persuade him to talk they took him to a field and put a board on him with rocks, they increased the number of rocks until he would cooperate but he continued to refuse and was crushed to death. He was therefore never convicted but is considered the 20th victim as he was on trial for being a wizard. And 7 individuals died in prison awaiting trial; one was a baby in prison with her mother, who was awaiting trial as a witch. “The Salem Witch Trials of 1692,” Salem Witch Museum, January 13, 2011 per the museum’s Department of Education.

[92] William Warren Sweet, The Story of Religion in America (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), p. 61.

[93] Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth (Nashville: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898), p. 110. Lower numbers are calculated by Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (New York: Longmans, 1987), pp. 20-28, but still surpass 100,000. See also Ann Llewellyn Barstow, Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts (San Francisco: Pandora, 1994), pp. 179-181.

[94] Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth, p. 110.

[95] Dictionary of American Biography, Allen Johnson, editor (New York: Charles Scribber’s Sons, 1929), s.v. “John Wise,” “Increase Mather,” and “Thomas Brattle.” See also Mark Gribbean, “Salem Witch Trials: Reason Returns,” Court TV: Crime Library (accessed on February 28, 2013); David D. Hall, Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), pp. 350, 354 fn25; and Jonathan Kirsch, The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual (New York: Harper One, 2008), p. 245.

[96] See, for example, Lilly v. Virginia, 527 U. S. 116, 141 (1999), Breyer, J., (concurring).

[97] Charles Alan Wright, et al., Federal Practices & Procedure Federal Rules of Evidence (New York: West Publishing Co., 2010), Vol. 30, sec. 6342, pp. 200-207, 212-214, 234-246.

[98] William Warren Sweet, The Story of Religion in America (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1950), p. 62.

[99] Daniel Dorchester, Christianity in the United States from the First Settlement Down to the Present Time (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1889), p. 124.

[100] Daniel Dorchester, Christianity in the United States from the First Settlement Down to the Present Time (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1889), p. 122.

[101] The Code of 1650, Being a Compilation of the Earliest Laws and Orders of the General Court of Connecticut (Hartford: Silas Andrus, 1825), pp. 91-92.

[102] Edward Augustus Kendall, Travels Through the Northern Parts of the United States, in the Years 1807 and 1808 (New York: I Riley, 1809), Vol. I, pp. 270-271.

[103] The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (Richmond, VA: Virginia Historical Society, 1895), Vol. II, pp. 158-159, “The treasurer and company of adventurers and planters of the first colony in Virginia. To Captain Yeardley, Elect Governor of Virginia, and to the council of state therein being or to be greeting,” November 18, 1618.

[104] New England’s First Fruits (London: R.O. and G.D., 1643; reprinted New York: Joseph Sabin, 1865), p. 26, “Rules and Precepts that are observed in the College,” 1642.

[105] Alexander Young, The Life and Character of John Thornton Kirkland, and of Nathaniel Bowditch (Boston, Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1840), p. 11; and Josiah Quincy, The History of Harvard University (Cambridge: John Owen, 1840), p. 49.

[106] Ellwood P. Cubberley, Public Education in the United States (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919), p. 204.

[107] Ronald Reagan, “Proclamation 5018-`Year of the Bible, 1983,” American Presidency Project, February 3, 1983 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/262128). See also George H.W. Bush, “International Year of Bible Reading,” American Presidency Project, February 22, 1990 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-6100-international-year-bible-reading-1990); The American Missionary (New York: American Missionary Association, 1876), Vol. XX, No. 8, p. 183, Rev. Addison P. Foster, “America’s Experiment with Republican Institutions.”

[108] Abraham Lincoln, “Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day, 1863,” The American Presidency Project, October 3, 1863 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-106-thanksgiving-day-1863).

[109] Abraham Lincoln, “Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day, 1863,” The American Presidency Project, October 3, 1863 (at: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-106-thanksgiving-day-1863).

[110] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 24.

[111] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 91.

[112] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), pp. 94-95.

[113] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), pp. 94-97; and Mourt’s Relation, or Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth (Boston: John Kimball Wiggin, 1865), pp. 90-91; and Nathaniel Morton, New England’s Memorial (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1826), pp. 55-56.

[114] Ashbel Steele,Chief of the Pilgrims: Or the Life and Time of William Brewster (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1857), pp. 269-270; and Mourt’s Relation, or Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth (Boston: John Kimball Wiggin, 1865), pp. 132-133; and Benson Lossing, Our Country. A Household History of the United States (New York: James A. Bailey, 1895), Vol. 1, p. 372.

[115] “Thanksgiving Timeline, 1541-2001,” Library of Congress (at: https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/thanksgiving/timeline/1541.html) (accessed on October 26, 2018).

[116] “The First Thanksgiving?” Texas Almanac (at: https://texasalmanac.com/topics/history/timeline/first-thanksgiving) (accessed on October 26, 2018).

[117] “Thanksgiving Timeline, 1541-2001,” Library of Congress (at https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/thanksgiving/timeline/1564.html) (accessed on October 26, 2018).

[118] Benson Lossing, Our Country. A Household History of the United States (New York: James A. Bailey, 1895), Vol. 1, pp. 181-182; see also “The Reverend Robert Hunt: The First Chaplain at Jamestown,” National Park Service (at https://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/the-reverend-robert-hunt-the-first-chaplain-at-jamestown.htm) (accessed on October 26, 2018).

[119] “Berkeley Plantation,” Berkeley Plantation (at: http://www.berkeleyplantation.com/) (accessed on October 26, 2018).

[120] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 136.

[121] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 134.

[122] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), pp. 134-135.

[123] Dr. Judd W. Patton, “The Pilgrim Story: Vital Insights and Lessons for Today,” Bellevue University (at: http://jpatton.bellevue.edu/biblical_economics/pilgrimstory.html) (accessed on September 6, 2018).

[124] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), pp. 141-142n.

[125] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 142n.

[126] Nathaniel Morton, New England’s Memorial (Cambridge: S.G. & M.J., 1669; reprinted, 1855), pp. 64-65; and Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana: Or, the Ecclesiastical History of New England (London: 1702), p. 11.

[127] Email received by WallBuilders on November 26, 2016, which listed:

  1. Thanksgiving, a day of mourning for Native Americans: https://www.salon.com/2016/11/23/thanksgiving-a-day-of-mourning-for-native-americans/
  2. American Indian Perspective on Thanksgiving: https://americanindian.si.edu/sites/1/files/pdf/education/thanksgiving_poster.pdf
  3. Do American Indians Celebrate Thanksgiving?: https://americanindian.si.edu/sites/1/files/pdf/education/thanksgiving_poster.pdf
  4. For Me, Thanksgiving Is A “Day Of Mourning”: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/11/130572/day-of-mourning-thanksgiving-protest-native-americans
  5. First Thanksgiving: https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/first-thanksgiving/
  6. The REAL Story of Thanksgiving Introduction for Teachers The Plymouth Thanksgiving Story: https://www.manataka.org/page269.html
  7. For National Day of Mourning, Native Americans highlight their struggles: https://www.metro.us/boston/for-national-day-of-mourning-american-indians-highlight-their-struggles/zsJpkv—Q2Rg789wZSCBU
  8. National Day of Mourning Reflects on Thanksgiving’s Horrific, Bloody History: https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2014/11/26/national-day-of-mourning-reflects-on-thanksgivings-horrific-bloody-history
  9. Why these Native Americans are spending Thanksgiving marching and mourning, not celebrating: https://splinternews.com/why-these-native-americans-are-spending-thanksgiving-ma-1793863916
  10. National Day of Mourning: http://www.uaine.org/
  11. Local Native Americans consider the history of Thanksgiving: https://pilotonline.com/life/article_982d6590-fe10-57c8-b0b3-170e4d743490.html

[128] For example, Samaset and Squanto are both mentioned in William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), pp. 93-95; Squanto is called Tisquantum in Mourt’s Relation, or Journal of the Planation at Plymouth (Boston: John Kimball Wiggin, 1865), pp. 102, 106. Mourt’s Relation also mentions Hobamak (also known as Hobbamock), p. 123.

[129] James Thacher,History of the Town of Plymouth, from its First Settlement in 1620 to the Present Time (Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1835), p. 138.

[130] George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1848), Vol. I, pp. 350-351.

[131] William Gammell, Makers of American History: Roger Williams (New York: The University Society, 1904), pp. 61-62.

[132] G.H. Hollister, The History of Connecticut, From the First Settlement of the Colony to the Adoption of the Present Constitution (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1855), pp. 18-19, 96.

[133] Samuel M. Janney, The Life of William Penn: With Selections from His Correspondence and Autobiography (Philadelphia: Hogan, Perkins & Co., 1852), pp. 114-115, 427-428; and George Bancroft, History of the Colonization of the United States (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1844), Vol. II, pp. 381-382.

[134] Samuel M. Janney, The Life of William Penn: With Selections from His Correspondence and Autobiography (Philadelphia: Hogan, Perkins & Co., 1852), pp. 427-428.

[135] Jeremy Belknap, The History of New Hampshire (Dover, NH: J. Mann & JK Remick, 1812), pp. 16-17.

[136] John Warner Barber, The History and Antiquities of New England, New York, and New Jersey (Worcester: Dorr & Howland & Co, 1841), p. 66.

[137] W.H. Carpenter and T.S. Arthur, History of New Jersey (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1853), pp. 25, 27-28.

[138] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), p. 131.

[139] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), pp. 351-352, 356-357.

[140] William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), pp. 349-361; and John Winthrop, The History of New England from 1630 to 1649, James Savage, editor (Boston: Phelps and Farnham, 1825), Vol. I, pp. 222-226.

[141] See, for example, Dennis W. Zotigh, “Do American Indians Celebrate Thanksgiving?” Huffington Post, November 19, 2012 (at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-w-zotigh/do-american-indians-celebrate-thanksgiving_b_2160786.html).

[142] For an account of the non-involvement of the Pilgrims in the 1837 Pequot War, see: William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: 1856), pp. 355-356; and John Winthrop, The History of New England from 1630 to 1649, James Savage, editor (Boston: Phelps and Farnham, 1825), Vol. I, p. 226.

[143] See, for example, Alli Joseph, “Thanksgiving, a day of mourning for Native Americans,” Salon, November 23, 2016 (at: https://www.salon.com/2016/11/23/thanksgiving-a-day-of-mourning-for-native-americans/); Susan Bates, “The REAL Story of Thanksgiving,” Manataka American Indian Council (at: https://www.manataka.org/page269.html) (accessed on September 5, 2018); Matt Juul, “National Day of Mourning Reflects on Thanksgiving’s Horrific, Bloody History,” boston.com, November 26, 2014 (at: https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2014/11/26/national-day-of-mourning-reflects-on-thanksgivings-horrific-bloody-history); and others.

[144] John Winthrop,The History of New England from 1630 to 1649, James Savage, editor (Boston: Phelps and Farnham, 1825), Vol. I, p. 226, entry for March 15, 1637.

[145] James D. Drake, King Philip’s War: Civil War in New England 1675-1676 (MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), pp. 1, 30-31; and  Daniel R. Mandell, King Philip’s War: Colonial Expansion, Native Resistance, and the End of Indian Sovereignty (MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), pp. 27, 30; and Jill Lepore, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity (Random House, 2009), “What’s in a Name?” More reputable writers have made similar claims. See, for example, Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America; Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975), pp. 128, 144-145; and New England Encounters: Indians and Euroamericans ca. 1600-1850. Essays Drawn from The New England Quarterly, Alden T. Vaughan, editor (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999), pp. 61-64, David Bushnell, “The Treatment of the Indians in Plymouth Colony”; and Karen Ordahal Kupperman, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2000), p. 239.

[146] James Thacher,History of the Town of Plymouth, from its First Settlement in 1620 to the Present Time (Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1835), p. 138; and Abiel Holmes, The Annals of America from the Discovery by Columbus in the Year 1492, to the Year 1826 (Cambridge: Hilliard & Brown, 1829), p. 383.

[147] See, for example, accounts such as:

  • Franklin B. Hough, A Narrative of the Causes which Led to Philip’s Indian War, of 1675 and 1676, by John Easton of Rhode Island (Albany, NY: J. Munsell, 1863), pp. 143-144, an eyewitness account dated February 25, 1675: “Thomas Warner one of the two that came down from Albany and had been prisoner with the Indians who arrived here this morn, being examined, faith, that he was one of the persons that begin sent out from Hatfield where the English Army lay, to discover the enemy, but a party of Indians waylaid them, and shot down 5 of their company, and took 3 of which he and his comrade are two, the 3rdthey put to death, the 9thwas an Indian that came with them and escaped away. That the Indians lay still two days after they were taken, and then a party of about 30 with whom he was marched to a river to the north-east from thence about 80 miles called Oasuck, where about a fortnight after the rest of the army came to them, having in the mean time burnt two towns: they killed one of the prisoners presently after they had taken him, cutting a hole below his breast out of which they pulled his guts, and then cut off his head. That they put him so to death in the presence of him and his comrade, and threated them also with the like. That they burnt his nails, and put his feet to scald them against the fire, and drove a stake through one of his feet to pin him to the ground. The stake about the bigness of his finger, this was about 2 days after he was taken.”
  • John S. C. Abbott, The History of King Philip (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1857), pp. 317-318, where Abbott, using the words of Cotton Mather, describes Indian tortures: “They stripped these unhappy prisoners, and caused them to run the gauntlet, and whipped them after a cruel and bloody manner. They then threw hot ashes upon them, and, cutting off collops of their flesh, they put fire into their wounds, and so, with exquisite, leisurely, horrible torments, roasted them out of the world.”
  • Richard Markham, A Narrative History of King Philip’s War and the Indian Troubles in New England (New York: Dodd, Mean & Company, 1883), pp. 241-242, describing an event at the beginning of King Philip’s War: “A little after the middle of April [1676] Sudbury was attacked…Captain Wadsworth with fifty men had been dispatched from Boston that day to strengthen the garrison at Marlborough. After his company reached Marlborough, more than a score of miles from Boston, they learned that the savages were on their way against Sudbury…A small party of Indians encountered them when about a mile from their destination, and withstood them for a short time, but yielding to their superior numbers retreated into the forest. Wadsworth and his men followed, but when they were well into the woods suddenly found themselves the centre of five hundred yelling demons, who attacked them on all sides. They made their way to the top of a hill close at hand, and for four hours fought resolutely, losing but five men, for the savages had suffered severely in the first hand-to-hand attack, and feared to come to close quarters. As night came on the enemy set fire to the woods to the windward of their position. The leaves were dry as tinder, and a strong wind was blowing. The flames and smoke rolled up upon the devoted band, threatening their instant destruction. Stifled and scorched, they were forced to leave the hill in disorder. The Indians came upon them so like so many tigers, and outnumbering them ten to one in the confusion slew nearly all. Wadsworth himself was slain. Some few were taken prisoners, and that night were made to run the gauntlet, and after that were put to death by torture.”

[148] See, for example, J.W. Barber, United States Book; Or, Interesting Events in the History of the United States (New Haven: L.H. Young, 1834), p. 53; and Methodist Quarterly Review: 1858, D.D. Whedon, editor (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1858), Vol. XL, pp. 244-245.

[149] Gustav Warneck, Outline of a History of Protestant Mission from the Reformation to the Present Time (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1903), p. 165.

[150] J.W. Barber, United States Book; Or, Interesting Events in the History of the United States (New Haven: L.H. Young, 1834), p. 53n; and John S. C. Abbott, History of King Philip (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1857), pp. 171-172.

[151] J.W. Barber, United States Book; Or, Interesting Events in the History of the United States (New Haven: L.H. Young, 1834), pp. 53-54; and Richard Markham, A Narrative History of King Philip’s War and the Indian Troubles in New England (New York: Dodd, Mean & Company, 1883), pp. 109-110.

[152] Franklin B. Hough, A Narrative of the Causes which Led to Philip’s Indian War, of 1675 and 1676, by John Easton of Rhode Island (Albany, NY: J. Munsell, 1863), p. 42, a letter dated June 29, 1675, pp. 176-177, “Record of a Court Martial, Held at Newport, R.I. in August, 1676, for the Trial of Indians charged with begin engaged in Philip’s Designs”; and William Hubbard, A Narrative of the Indian Wars in New-England from the First Planting Thereof, in the Year 1607, to the Year 1677 (Danbury: Stiles Nichols, 1803), p. 64, notes from a meeting of the commissioners of the united colonies held at Boston, Sept. 9, 1675, pp. 77-78.

[153] National Park Service, “Frequently Asked Questions,” Roger Williams National Memorial Rhode Island (at: https://www.nps.gov/rowi/faqs.htm) (accessed on October 26, 2018). See also Welcome Arnold Greene, The Providence Plantations for Two Hundred and Fifty Years. An Historical Review of the Foundation, Rise, and Progress of the City of Providence (Providence, RI: J.A & R.A. Reid, 1886), p. 42.

[154] William Gammell, Makers of American History: Roger Williams (New York: The University Society, 1904), pp. 61-62.

[155] Romeo Elton, Life of Roger Williams (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1852), pp. 21, 33-34, 39-41, 44-45.

[156] Methodist Quarterly Review: 1858, D.D. Whedon, editor (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1858), Vol. XL, pp. 244-245; and John S.C. Abbott, The History of King Philip (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1857), pp. 187-190, 216. Some specific accounts recorded by the Rev. John Holmes (Historical Sketches of the Missions of the United Brethren, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1857), include p. 210, “With a view to execute their horrid purpose, the young Indians got together, chose the most ferocious to be their leaders, deposed all the old Chiefs, and guarded the whole Indian assembly, as if they were prisoners of war, especially the aged of both sexes. The venerable old Chief Tettepachsit was the first whom they accused of possession poison, and having destroyed many Indians by his art. When the poor old man would not confess, they fastened with cords to two posts and began to roast him at a slow fire.”; pp. 210-211, “During this torture, he [Chief Tettepachsit] said, that he kept poison in the house of our Indian brother Joshua. Nothing was more welcome to the savages than this accusation, for they wished to deprive us of the assistance of this man, who was the only Christian Indian residing with us at that time….We knew nothing of these horrible events, until the evening of the 16th, when a message was brought that the savages had burned an old woman to death, who had been baptized by the Brethren in former times, and also that our poor Joshua was kept close prisoner.”; p. 139, “Their external troubles, however, did not yet terminate. They had not only a kind of tax imposed upon them to show their dependence on the Iroquois , but the following very singular message was sent them: “The great head, i.e., the Council in Onondago, speak the truth and lie not: they rejoice that some of the believing Indians have moved to Wayomik, but now they lift up the remaining Mahikans and Delawares, and set them down also in Wayomik; for there a fire is kindled for them, and there they may plant and think on God: but if they will not hear, the great head will come and clean their ears with a red-hot iron (meaning they would set their houses on fire) and shoot them through the head with musquet-balls.”

[157] Increase Mather, The History of King Philip’s War (Albany: J. Munsell, 1862), pp. 49-50, 127-128, 184; and Henry William Elson, History of the United States of America (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1904), p. 122; and George Madison Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip’s War (Boston: 1906), pp. 34, 37, 104.

[158] John S.C. Abbott, The History of King Philip (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1857), p. 361.

[159] John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1890), p. 240.

[160] James David Drake, King Philip’s War: Civil War in New England, 1675-1676 (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), pp. 1–15.

[161] See, for example, George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1848), Vol. II, p. 99.

[162] See, for example, “George Bancroft,” Encyclopedia Britannica (at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Bancroft-American-historian) (accessed on October 26, 2018).

[163] George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1848), Vol. II, p. 99.

[164] William Garrott Brown, Andrew Jackson (New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1900), pp. 130-131; and William Graham Sumner, American Statesmen: Andrew Jackson (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1899), pp. 224-229.

[165] See, for example, the Cherokee nation in Georgia, the Sioux nation in the Dakotas, and the Apaches in the southwest. Georgia wanted land so passed laws dividing Cherokee land up in various counties and put those lands in control of the state. Andrew Jackson, the president at that time, did not interfere with the Georgia laws and would not enforce or support the Supreme Court’s decision that declared this Georgia law unconstitutional. (See William Garrott Brown, Andrew Jackson (New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1900), pp. 130-131.) The federal government promised to remain off Sioux land in the Dakota territory but when gold was found on those lands, they reversed this position; the land dispute is still ongoing. (See “Sioux Treaty of 1868,” National Archives, September 23, 2016 (at: https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/sioux-treaty); and “History of the Black Hills,” National Park Service, February 16, 2018). The Yavapai and Tonto Apaches were forced to march over 150 miles to another location because settlers wanted their land for development. (See “Yavapai and Tonto Apaches,” National Park Service, August 25, 2017 (at: https://www.nps.gov/tont/learn/historyculture/yavapai_and_apache.htm).)


Mayflower Compact

November 21st marks the anniversary of the signing of the Mayflower Compact. To understand the significance of this date, you need to know the history of the Pilgrims who wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.

The Pilgrims were mainly English Dissenters who attended churches that did not belong to the Church of England. One objection they held was to any monarch being head of the church. This viewpoint was contradictory to an English law stating that if “any of Her Majesty’s [Queen Elizabeth I] subjects deny the Queen’s ecclesiastical supremacy…they shall be committed to prison without bail.”  Years of enduring government persecution led the Pilgrims to [shake] off this yoke of anti-Christian bondage” and move to Holland, where they found religious toleration. After 12 years in Holland they decided to move to America where they could freely worship God, raise Godly children, and share the Christian Gospel with others.

They arranged for two ships to carry them to America: the Speedwell and the Mayflower. But the Speedwell developed leaks in two separate departure attempts and was sidelined. The Mayflower alone set sail for America in September 1620 with 102 “Pilgrims and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11, from which the Pilgrims took their name). It took 66 days for the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to reach America.

(Their trip across the Atlantic was treacherous, with constant storms. In fact, at one point the main beam of the ship broke. Not having the tools necessary to make the repairs, the ship’s crew used the large jackscrew of the Pilgrims’ printing press to raise the beam into place where it could be secured – thus saving the ship and the lives of those on board.)

The Pilgrims were sailing for the northern parts of the Virginia Colony, but fierce winds blew them hundreds of miles north. They finally put ashore at Cape Cod, but in an area not under the authority of the Virginia Colony, they had no official governance. So before leaving the Mayflower, the Pilgrims drew up their own governmental compact, which declared:

Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents [that is, by this legal document and charter] solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic…

This document — signed on November 21, 1620 (November 11 by the old calendar) — became known as the Mayflower Compact. It became the first purely American document of self-government that (to borrow words later employed by Abraham Lincoln) was “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” (America’s other governing documents had been written in England by English officials in order to govern the Americans.) Additionally, the Pilgrim’s document placed American self-government firmly on a Christian foundation. The Mayflower Compact is definitely worth being honored.

* Originally Posted: Nov. 2020

Columbus and the American Story

Christopher Columbus. The name invokes images of either a brave and triumphant explorer discovering the New World, or a tyrannical and genocidal leader who was directly responsible for the death of millions. But which image is the truth?1

For nearly 500 years Christopher Columbus was almost universally regarded as a heroic man who, though flawed, exhibited great courage and virtue in his efforts to cross the Atlantic Ocean, where no man had done so before. Although he was hoping to find a way to sail to India, he nevertheless opened the doors to an entirely new continent which was practically unknown to the wider world.

Columbus was unequivocal in declaring his trust in God, and that it was God Who had guided him across the ocean for a certain purpose, writing:

Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that he [the Spirit], with marvelous rays of light consoled me through the holy sacred Scriptures…encouraging me to proceed, and, continually, without ceasing for a moment, they inflame me with a sense of great urgency. Our Lord wished to perform the clearest miracle.2

This Columbus sounds nothing like the false portrayal of him by the radical Left academics who attempt to tarnish the truth of the American story anyway that they can. The revisionists understand that if they can alter the past, they can change the present. This has always been the approach of radicals. As noted literary figure Washington Irving explained in his 1828 biography on Columbus:

There is a certain meddlesome spirit, which, in the garb of learned research, goes prying about the traces of history, casting down its monuments, and marring and mutilating its fairest trophies. Care should be taken to vindicate great names from such pernicious erudition. It defeats one of the most salutary purposes of history, that of furnishing examples of what human genius and laudable enterprise may accomplish.3

If you’d like to learn more about Christopher Columbus and the historical truth of who he really was and what he actually did, check out our book The American Story: The Beginnings4! Beginning with Columbus’ daring voyage and the world he found, The American Story tells the forgotten history of our nation and the ways God’s providence has guided America throughout the years.

Learn the truth about our nation’s history and celebrate Columbus Day!

1 “Discovering Columbus,” https://wallbuilders.com/discovering-columbus/.
2 Christopher Columbus, trans. Kay Brigham, “Letter from the Admiral to the King and Queen,” Christopher Columbus’s Book of Prophecies (Fort Lauderdale: CLIE Publishers, 1992), 179.
3 Washington Irving, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (London: John Murray, 1828), 1: 64-65.
4 The American Story: The Beginnings.

A Tale of Two Cities: Jamestown, Plymouth, and the American Way

The Pilgrims

Embarkation of the Pilgrims

By the time it’s all said and done, very few years have been as momentous as 2020. Between pandemics, riots, elections, it might be easy to forget the path that has led America to this position. But, 2020 was also the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing upon our shores.

These religious dissidents hardly seem the heroes of an epic stretching across centuries, thousands of miles, and millions of people. However, it is no exaggeration to say that their courageous voyage fundamentally altered the direction of the world. The diminutive beginnings at Plymouth Rock represent the proverbial mustard seed that would eventually grow into a mighty tree of liberty.

The Pilgrim story is one of faith through hardship, and endurance through persecution. They were the first to risk their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” for the establishment of freedom on American shores.1 Due to their religious beliefs differing from the state-mandated doctrines set by the King, they were persecuted and oppressed. William Bradford, the future governor of Plymouth, explained how, “some were taken and clapped up in prison, others had their houses beset and watched night and day, and hardly escaped their hands.”2


William Brewster

After years of harassment, this congregation of pious dissenters was eventually chased out of England by King James in 1607. They fleed to the city of Leiden, Holland for twelve years. Even though they no longer lived in England they still felt called to minister to their countrymen. So Pilgrim leader William Brewster began clandestinely printing religious books which would then be smuggled back into England. Needless to say, their contraband writing and “illegal” speech infuriated the King and officials in the Church of England. Although in a different country, they still were not free from the King of England’s reach. He sent out agents to uncover who was responsible for these “dangerous” opinions.3

Upon discovering the press of William Brewster in Leiden, James pressured the authorities to crack down on the Pilgrim enclave. Seeing the precariousness of their situation, the Pilgrims sent a delegation to England. They proposed a compromise in which they would travel to America in exchange for their religious freedom. Miraculously they secured an agreement. Now, they would have a place to practice their beliefs without interference from the King. In return, they had to give fifty-percent of their earning to the crown.4

Travel to America

With this plan the Pilgrims had to chart a new course through dangerous waters. Some decided to stay behind and others could not come. Then one of their boats was unable to make the trip—possibly due to sabotage—so even more were kept from the pilgrimage. By the time the Mayflower carried its collection of Pilgrims and Strangers (the name given to the other colonists who weren’t a part of the dissenters) only 104 souls embarked from the shores of the Old World.5 As Alexis de Tocqueville described so well in his monumental work, Democracy in America, the Pilgrims sought, “a land so barbarous and so abandoned by the world that they might yet be permitted to live there in their manner and pray to God in freedom.”6

Over the next year, from the voyage to the First Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims suffered from innumerable hardships. They steadily lost many of the men, women, and children. When they eventually celebrated the first successful harvest with their Native allies the following year, hardly 50 Pilgrims had survived.7 The fact that any of them survived is remarkable, but when placed within context it becomes undeniably miraculous.

Native Americans

Prior to the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus the Native Americans largely lived in a state of nearly continual and bloody conflict. Tribe against tribe, nation against nation, the Indians waged war over resources, land, and honor. Cannibalism, slavery, and human sacrifice were unfortunately common.8 Agricultural learning was still in its early stages of development. Their technology was centuries behind Europe when the two civilizations met. Indeed, the natives lacked items such as gunpowder, ocean-fairing vessels, or even wheeled transportation. There was no such thing as the peaceful and tranquil “noble savage.” The Native Americans were very much people—undeniably flawed, and in every way in as much need of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ as everyone else.

Pilgrims Vision

Signing the Mayflower Compact

It was on this land that the hardy Pilgrims—outcasts from their homeland and fugitives from tyrants—set their hopes. Their vision was twofold. On the one hand they hoped to carve out a home for themselves and their children where they could worship God in their own way instead of having their religious beliefs dictated to them by the King. On the other hand, the Pilgrims sincerely wished to bring the hope of Christianity to the native people.9 The Mayflower Compact explained that all that they had sacrificed, all they had suffered, and all they had risked was for “the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.”10

Pilgrims Actions

These goals caused the Pilgrims to make many developments and advancements in the fields of government, education, religious freedom, human rights, and political liberty. When it came to relations with the surrounding Native American tribes, the Pilgrim’s Christian foundation enabled them to forge the longest lasting peace treaty in early American history and successfully begin evangelism efforts.11 Taking the Bible as the guide book to every major facet of life—a map to creation authored by the Creator—the Pilgrims instituted the free market, the institutional independence of the church from the dictates of the government, stronger protections for private property, and public education.12 In 1641 they also passed possibly the first anti-slavery law on the continent making “man-stealing” a capital offence.13

In fact, when a slave ship came to them in 1646, the Pilgrims prosecuted the slavers and liberated the slaves.14 Although far from perfect—for all have fallen short and sinned (see Romans 3:23)—those early beginnings of anti-slavery sentiment eventually led to the New England area being the first places in the modern world to abolish slavery, with Massachusetts specifically ending the institution in 1783—a full 50 years before England, which was the first independent nation to abolish slavery.15


However, the Pilgrims were not the only people to colonize the New World. As Tocqueville noted, America contains, “two principal offshoots that, up to the present, have grown without being entirely confused—one in the South, the other in the North.”16 In 1607 a group of merchants and traders had occupied land given to them in the New World by the King of England founding the colony of Jamestown, Virginia. Having different motivations, desires, and hopes, the colonists of Jamestown acted dramatically differently from the later Pilgrims.

Instead of coming for religious freedom, the Jamestown colonists largely came as agents of the King for the purpose of economic profit and trade. Thus, slavery was introduced early into Jamestown and protected by their legal codes. Their relations with the native tribes was markedly more contentious, tragic, and warlike. The lack of a Biblical structure and spiritual motivations created a vastly different environment.

Pilgrims vs Jamestown: The Fruits

These two seeds sprouted two rival trees which both sought to dominate the fertile land that eventually became the United States. From Jamestown the crooked and perverse Tree of Slavery began to creep across the young country. Plymouth, however, a different sort of plant took root. Based upon their dedication to the Bible, the Tree of Liberty first budded in the fields plowed by the Pilgrims. As the Scriptures say, “a tree is known by its fruit,” (Matthew 12:33), and the product of Jamestown and Plymouth differ drastically from one another.

This map from 1888 perfectly illustrates this duality in the American identity—a tale of two cities. The map was created only a generation after the Civil War, which itself was but the cataclysmic struggle between the heirs of the differing philosophies of Jamestown and Plymouth. Designed to teach their children about the history behind the war, it traces the heritage for the South back to Jamestown and the North to Plymouth. Going further, the map highlights the fundamental difference between purpose of founding each colony. While Jamestown was established for mammon [worldly riches], Plymouth was planted upon the Bible.


Jamestown and Mammon

From these two very different places, two trees sprouted and stretched across the country. From Jamestown grew the Tree of Slavery, whose poisoned branches produce pain, suffering, and evil. The fruit of slavery include: avarice, lust, ignorance, superstition, sedition, secession, treason, and rebellion. All who eat from this tree unrepentant are warned that their ultimate destination will surely be Hell.

The other seed, the one planted in Plymouth, leads to a much different kind of banquet. The Tree of Liberty produces: free schools, intelligence, knowledge, obedience to law, free speech, equal rights, contentment, love of country, industry, philanthropy, sobriety, benevolence, morality, happiness, justice, patience, virtue, charity, truth, faith, honor, hope, peace, joy, and light. Eventually take those who partake of this tree will at least have the taste of immortality, for such things all sprout from the fountainhead of Christ.

The Problem

Plymouth and the Bible

Today Americans find themselves upon a ship beset and besieged on all sides by turbulent storms and crashing waves. The ones who built this boat, the Founding Fathers, made it sturdy and with great wisdom, but it is up to us to decide where we will put ashore—and into which city will we disembark. Will it be Jamestown or Plymouth? Which tree will we take the fruit from?

There are many today who mistake the Tree of Slavery for one of security. There are serpents which crawl around deceiving many with high sounding nonsense. “Surely you will not die!” (Genesis 3:4). But death will be the least of our concerns if we chose that path. The sad and tragic histories of Germany, Russia, Venezuela, and more bear ample witness to what happens when nations eat of the fruit of slavery and oppression. We must not be similarly deceived.

The Solution

We must once again set a course towards the Tree of Liberty. It is undoubtedly the more difficult of the two paths. The voyage to this New Plymouth may be dangerous, we may be beset by innumerable hardships, and there is no guarantee that we all will make it through that first perilous winter—but freedom is irreplaceable. It is only in a state of liberty that humanity can make good the assertion that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”17

On the 400th Anniversary of our Pilgrim forefathers planting this small seed of freedom in a world of tyranny and oppression, let us “combine and covenant ourselves together”18 once again in order to turn their tree into an orchard so that all may partake in this feast of liberty. If we work diligently, the harvest will allow us to finally join together in a new day of genuine and heartfelt Thanksgiving just like those pious heroes did some four centuries ago.


1 “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America,” 1776, The Constitutions of the Several States of America; The Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: J. Stockdale, 1782), 5, here.

2 William Bradford, The History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), 10.

3 Ashbel Steele, Chief of the Pilgrims: Or The Life and Time of William Brewster (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Co., 1857), 171-180, here.

4 William Bradford, The History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), 46.

5 “List of Mayflower Passengers,” Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of New York: Fourth Record Book (October 1912): 167-178, here.

6 Alexis de Tocqueville, trans. Harvey Mansfield, Democracy in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 32.

7 Walter Wheeler, An Illustrated Guide to Historic Plymouth Massachusetts (Boston: The Union News Company, 1921), 57-58, here.

8 See, for example, Jonathan Richie, “Before the West was Won: Pre-Columbian Morality,” WallBuilders (October 12, 2019): here; Fernando Santos-Granero, Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Amerindian Political Economy of Life (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009), 226-227.

9 Joseph Banvard, Plymouth and the Pilgrims (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1851), 25.

10 Henry Dexter, editor, Mourt’s Relation; or Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (Boston: John Kimball Wiggin, 1865), 6.

11 David Bushnell, “The Treatment of the Indians in Plymouth Colony,” The New England Quarterly 26, no. 2 (1953): 193-194, 207, here.

12 Cf., David Barton and Tim Barton, The American Story: The Beginnings (Aledo: WallBuilders Press, 2020), 79-80.

13 ed. Francis Bowen, Documents of the Constitution of England and America, from Magna Charta to the Federal Constitution of 1789, (Cambridge: John Bartlett, 1854), 72; see also, Jonathan Richie, “America’s Exceptional History of Anti-Slavery,” WallBuilders (April 6, 2020): here.

14 Nathaniel Shurtleff, Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (Boston: William Whites, 1853), 1.168, 176.

15 For more see, Jonathan Richie, “America’s Exceptional History of Anti-Slavery,” WallBuilders (April 6, 2020): here.

16 Alexis de Tocqueville, trans. Harvey Mansfield, Democracy in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 30.

17 “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America,” 1776, The Constitutions of the Several States of America; The Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: J. Stockdale, 1782), 1, here.

18 Henry Dexter, editor, Mourt’s Relation; or Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (Boston: John Kimball Wiggin, 1865), 5-7.

Did America Create Slavery?

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine announced on the floor of the Senate that:

“The United States didn’t inherit slavery from anybody. We created it.”1

For even the most basic student of world history such a statement ought to immediately be recognized as incomprehensively ridiculous. Historically, every single people, nation, culture, and race has at various times been both the slave and the master. Indeed, “all have sinned and fallen short” (Romans 3:23). Sen. Kaine, just like the famously inaccurate 1619 Project, must ignore documented history and create his own fantasy world to arrive at such a conclusion.

For example, in ancient Greece—which existed thousands of years before America—nearly 30% of their population were slaves. The Roman Empire reached a staggering 40%.2 In fact, one of the most significant and widely known aspects of the Bible centers around the Israelites being delivered out of slavery in Egypt through the famous Exodus. We could walk through every nation in human history and find a tragic past riddled with slavery.

Arab Slavers

Prior to the creation of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade by the Spanish from Africa to South America in the early 1500s, Africa already participated in a robust trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trade. Black tribes would raid, capture, and enslave other black tribes for profit, selling them across the continent and beyond. Many of these slaves were sold into the Islamic Middle East, and “medieval Arabs came to associate the most degrading forms of labor with black slaves.”3 Most likely it was this racial bias which was translated to the Iberian Peninsula (i.e., Spain and Portugal) when the Muslims conquered parts of that area in the 8th century. When the Spanish became the first European nation to significantly colonize the New World, they seemingly brought this bias with them which was thereby disseminated through the Americas, North, Central, and South. In this sense, America very literally inherited racial slavery—from the Arab Middle East through Spain.

Christian Slaves

What is perhaps even more astounding is that a larger number of white Europeans were captured and sold into African slavery than the number of Africans sold into the land that would become the United States. Just over 300,000 black slaves landed in the North American colonies which became America4 but 1,250,000 white Europeans were captured and shipped to slave markets in Northern Africa.5 This Barbary Coast Trade lasted longer than American slavery and was only stopped through the naval efforts of the British and Americans. Furthermore, it was not until the late 17th century that black slaves in the New World outnumbered white slaves in the Old.6

Additionally, for hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus ever conceived of the idea to sail westward, the Native Americans practiced mass slavery amid other practices including human sacrifice and cannibalism. This pre-Columbian native slave trade was so prolific that “wherever European conquistadors set foot in American tropics, they found evidence of indigenous warfare, war captives, and captive slaves.”7 Indeed, indigenous cultures saw slavery rates so prevalent that up to 20-40% of all Indians were enslaved by other Indians.8

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Even today, nearly 160 years after America became one of the first nations to abolish slavery, there are still 94 nations that do not have laws criminalizing slavery.9 This has led to the enslavement of over 40 million people in the world right now. In a stroke of tragic irony, Africa has the highest rate of slavery today, closely followed by Asia,10 while North America has the lowest.11 Currently, Africa holds some 9,240,000 people in chains and slavery today,12 which is nearly identical to the total number of slaves disembarked in the entire New World (North, Central, and South America) throughout the almost four centuries of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.13

So, clearly Sen. Tim Kaine must either be completely ignorant about the history of slavery or maliciously intentional in his presentation of “facts.” America in no way created slavery—in fact, if we were to say anyone “created” slavery in America we must conclude that the indigenous people did so. By contrast, the United States, despite its well-known shortcomings, ought to receive credit for having done more than nearly any other nation in the history of the world to fight slavery both in the past and today.

(Our book, The American Story: The Beginnings, has extensive information on the history of slavery not only in the United States but also the world.)


1 Tobias Hoonhout, “Dem Sen. Kaine Claims United States ‘Created’ Slavery and ‘Didn’t Inherit Slavery from Anybody,’” National Review, June 16, 2020.
2 Fernando Santos-Granero, Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Amerindian Political Economy of Life (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009), 226-227.
3 Philip Morgan, “Origins of American Slavery,” Organization of American History Magazine of History (July 2005), 19:4:53.
4 “Summary Statistics,” Slave Voyages, accessed June 16, 2020. Summary Statistics with the Principle Place of Slave Landing being restricted to Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the Gulf Coast, and “Other North America.”
5 Past & Present (Aug., 2001), No. 172, 118, Robert C. Davis, “Counting European Slaves on the Barbary Coast”; Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004), 23-24.
6 Morgan, “Origins of American Slavery,” American History Magazine (July 2005), 19:4:53.
7 Santos-Granero, Vital Enemiese (2009), 1.
8 Santos-Granero, Vital Enemies (2009), 226-227.
9 Sonia Elks, “Slavery is Not a Crime for Almost Half the Countries in the World,” Reuters (February 12, 2020), accessed June 16, 2020.
10 “Prevalence Across the Regions,” Global Slavery Index (2018), accessed June 16, 2020, here.
11 “Regional Highlights: Americas,” Global Slavery Index (2018), accessed June 17, 2020, here.
12 “Region Highlights: Africa,” Global Slavery Index (2018), accessed June 16, 2020, here.
13 “Summary Statistics,” Slave Voyages, accessed June 16, 2020.

Was the Boston Tea Party a Riot?

Recently America has witnessed a horrific tragedy in the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. To date, the officer has been fired, arrested, and charged with murder. Currently he is awaiting trial, at which point he will be prosecuted in front of a jury of his peers. This is the American judicial system punishing someone who has broken the law and violated the most central of the principles outlined in the Declaration—the right to life.

Peaceful protesters have marched around the country to demand justice. However, in the midst of justified outrage some people have themselves begun committing unjustifiable acts, assaulting and murdering police officers, burning down buildings, mercilessly beating people, and destroying their fellow citizens’ property. Out of town activists and professional agitators have poured into metropolitan centers and led rioters to destroy businesses, housing units, and even churches.

In defense of these heinous acts, some people have begun pointing to the Boston Tea Party as an example of how violent riots are part of American tradition. This historical perspective, however, is only possible if you don’t know the first thing about the Boston Tea Party, who was involved, and why it happened.

As a brief background, the British Parliament had been passing laws taxing American colonists for years without allowing for any recourse through representation in Parliament. (Although the Colonists had elected representatives in local government, they had no elected leaders to represent them in England.) This principle of arbitrary power exerted by the government was clearly illustrated by a tax on imported tea despite colonial resistance.

In 1773, England passed the Tea Act which effectively forced the colonists to import and pay for specifically English tea. One early historian explained that the British Prime Minister declared that, “it was of no use for anyone to offer objections, for the king would have it so.”[1] At major American ports commissioners were appointed to receive and pay for the tea, meaning that even if no individuals directly purchased tea, all the colonists would be taxed for it.

Naturally, the Americans were indignant and the colonists acted to prevent the tea from being received at the ports. In many cases, the British appointed leaders overseeing the importation stepped down or the tea-laden ships were forced to turn back to England. Benjamin Franklin explained that none of Great Britain’s actions were sufficient to overcome all the patriotism of an American.”[2]

In Boston, however, the Royal Governor, Thomas Hutchinson, forced the ships to stay in the harbor and the commissioners (two of whom were Hutchinson’s sons) refused to step down.[3] When three ships carrying the tea arrived, Abigail Adams explained the tense and dangerous situation that met the patriots:

“The tea (that baneful weed) is arrived. Great, and I hope, effectual opposition has been made to the landing of it.…the proceedings of our Citizens have been united, spirited and firm. The flame is kindled and like lightning it catches from soul to soul. Great will be the devastation if not timely quenched or allayed by some more lenient measures.”[4]

On both sides of the Atlantic all eyes turned to Boston to see what the patriots would do. In Philadelphia, who had been successful in getting their British appointed commissioners to resign, it was stated, “all that we fear is that you will shrink at Boston. May God give you virtue enough to save the liberties of your country!”[5]

With time running out and all other options exhausted, nearly 7,000 Bostonians gathered at the Old South Meeting House and learned from ship’s owner, Joseph Rotch, that his request to sail back to England had been rejected and that if the tea was not unloaded that night it was subject to confiscation by the English navy (who undoubtedly would land the tea and tax the colonists).[6]

The colonists acknowledged that Rotch “was a good man who had done all in his power to gratify the people; and changed them [the people] to do no hurt to his person or his property.”[7] The patriots had formulated a plan to disguise themselves, board the ships and dump the tea in the harbor. At this point Samuel Adams called forth the men, wearing native American dress, and they proceeded to the ships and dumped the tea into the Boston Harbor.

Upon hearing the news of the “Tea Party”, John Adams exclaimed:

“This is the most magnificent movement of all. There is a dignity, a majesty, a sublimity, in this last effort of the patriots, that I greatly admire.”[8]

However, with this background in mind, the Boston Tea Party was not a riot by any stretch of the imagination for two important reasons.

First, it was 100% peaceful with no looting, rioting, injury, or destruction of person or private property.

It is no historical accident that it was called a party and not a riot. Throughout all of the actions taken by the patriots during that night, no personal property was destroyed. The tea itself, which was owned by the government-run East India Company and being forced upon the colonists by government edict, was the only item targeted.

In a letter written to Benjamin Franklin immediately after the Tea Party, it was explained that the Sons of Liberty arrived and demanded:

“the Tea, which was given up to them without the least resistance, they soon emptied all the chests into the harbor, to the amount of about three hundred and forty. This was done without injury to any other property, or to any man’s person…When they had done their business, they silently departed, and the town has been remarkably quiet ever since.”[9]

In fact, when it was discovered that one opportunist had filled his pocket with some tea, he “was stripped of his booty and his clothes together, and sent home naked,” with the writer sarcastically noting that it was “a remarkable instance of order and justice, among savages.”[10]

The morning after the Tea Party, John Adams reported that:

“The town of Boston, was never more still and calm of a Saturday night than it was last night. All things were conducted with great order, decency, and perfect submission to government” (emphasis in original).[11]

The early historian Richard Frothingham documents that:

“Notwithstanding the whoop, mentioned to have been given when the party went on board, they proved themselves quiet, orderly, and systematic workers; the parties in the ships doing faithfully the part assigned to them. In about three hours, they broke open three hundred and forty-two chests of tea, and cast their contents into the water. There was no interference with them; no person was harmed; no other property was permitted to be injured; and no tea was allowed to be purloined.…The inquirer will seek in vain in this deed for the tiger-like growl of an infuriated mob.”[12]

The ship owner himself, Joseph Rotch, explained to Governor Hutchinson that before the Tea Party the Boston assembly had given him no reason to fear the fury of the mob or the threat of a riot, noting that “his concern was not for his ship, which he did not believe was in danger, but he could not tell what would be the fate of the tea on board.”[13]

Gov. Hutchinson

In fact, everything was so peaceful and orderly that even crown-appointed Governor Hutchinson was forced to confess that, “the whole was done with very little tumult.”[14]

This is not to say that the situation couldn’t have quickly or easily turned violent. John Adams notes that there were bad actors who wished, “that as many dead Carcasses were floating in the Harbor as there are Chests of Tea.”[15] But to do so would have been wrong and injured innocent people like the ship owner Rotch who was just as much a victim of English tyranny as they were. Additionally, in the weeks leading up to the Boston Tea Party, patriot leaders had even stopped mobs from rioting.[16]

Indeed, it was documented that, “neither revenge, nor a spirit of hostility to rights of property or persons, formed a part of the program of the popular [patriot] leaders.”[17] And so stalwart were the patriots in their commitment to peaceful resistance that they “had been as true to the idea of order as they had been faithful to the cause of liberty.”[18]

Secondly, the colonists had only two options remaining them in that situation, pay the unjust tax or throw the tea into the harbor.

The Bostonians, along with all the other American colonists, had no representation in the English Parliament who were passing laws like the 1773 Tea Act. This meant that the colonists had no real legal way to seek the redress of their grievances. Therefore, the famous motto became “no taxation without representation.”

John Adams recognized that the patriots would not have been right if the problem could have been addressed in a different way. The morning after the Boston Tea Party, he wrote in his diary:

“The question is whether the destruction of this tea was necessary? I apprehend it was absolutely and indispensably so. They could not send it back, the Governor, Admiral and Collector and Comptroller would not suffer it. It was in their power [i.e. the Governor’s] to have saved it—but in no other. It [the ship] could not get by the castle, the Men of War [the British warships] &c. Then there was no other alternative but to destroy it or let it be landed. To let it be landed, would be giving up the principle of taxation by Parliamentary authority, against which the Continent have struggled for 10 years, it was losing all our labor for 10 years and subjecting ourselves and our posterity forever to Egyptian taskmasters—to burthens, indignities, to ignominy, reproach and contempt, to desolation and oppression, to poverty and servitude.”[19]

However, even with all of that at stake, the patriot leaders were careful to never let their justified anger lead them to commit unjustified acts of violence against innocent people.

Adams was not alone in his evaluation, and fellow patriot Thomas Cushing explained that the British policy concerning the forced importation of tea was, “the source of their distress, a distress that borders upon despair and they know not where to fly for relief”[20] After months of working to find a different effectual means of resolution the Bostonians had nowhere else to go.

Indeed, one of the Tea Party participants outlined their situation and how the English government had rejected all other methods of handling it:

“The Governor, Collector, and Consignees, most certainly had it in their power to have saved this destruction, and returned it undiminished to the owner, in England, as the people were extremely desirous of this, did everything in their power to accomplish it, and waited so long for this purpose, as to run no small risk of being frustrated in their grand design of preventing it’s being landed.”[21]

It was only, “after it had been observed to them, that, everything else in their power having been done, it now remained to proceed in the only way left,” and the tea was destroyed. [22] But, as mentioned early, the colonists saw that, “the owner of the ship having behaved like a man of honor, no injury ought to be offered to his person or property”[23]

The situation in American today is entirely different. Respect and decency are not being shown to innocent people or business owners. The current riots are like a destructive tornado set on destroying everything in its path.

Peaceful protests are protected by the Bill of Rights, but violent riots which destroy, loot, and victimize are antithetical to the American idea. The comparison of the violent riots to the Boston Tea Party is wildly unfounded and demonstrates that Americans should study their history before they try to weaponize it.


[1] John Fiske, The American Revolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919, originally published 1891), 81.

[2] Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin (Philadelphia: William Duane, 1809), 6:310, to Thomas Cushing on June 4, 1773, in which Franklin said, “They have no idea that any people can act from any other principle but that of interest; and they believe that three pence on a pound of tea, of which one does not perhaps drink ten pounds in a year, is sufficient to overcome all the patriotism of an American.”

[3] Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), 238, here.

[4] Abigail Adams, “To Mercy Otis Warren, 5 December 1773,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[5] Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), 267, here.

[6] See, Richard Frothingham, The Rise of the Republic of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1872), 306-308; Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), 275;  and George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), 6:482-487.

[7] Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), 279, here.

[8] John Adams, “1773. Decr. 17th. From the Diary of John Adams,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[9] Samuel Cooper, “To Benjamin Franklin, 17 December 1773,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[10] Samuel Cooper, “To Benjamin Franklin, 17 December 1773,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[11] John Adams, “To James Warren, 17 December 1773,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[12] Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), 281, here.

[13] Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay From 1749 to 1744 (London: John Murray, 1828), 435, here.

[14] Edward Howland, Annals of North America (Hartford: The J.B. Burr Publishing Company, 1877), 298, here.

[15] John Adams, “1773. Decr. 17th. From the Diary of John Adams,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[16] See, for example, Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), 251, here.

[17] Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), 258, here.

[18] Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), 273, here.

[19] John Adams, “1773. Decr. 17th. From the Diary of John Adams,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[20] Thomas Cushing, “To Benjamin Franklin, 10 December 1773,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[21] Samuel Cooper, “To Benjamin Franklin, 17 December 1773,” Founders Archive (accessed June 1, 2020), here.

[22] Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay From 1749 to 1744 (London: John Murray, 1828), 436, here.

[23] Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay From 1749 to 1744 (London: John Murray, 1828), 436, here.

Religious Freedom Day

Religious Freedom Day is celebrated in America each year on January 16, the date of the 1786 passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom.

Thomas Jefferson was one of America’s strongest voices in support of public religious expressions and religious freedom, but today has been transformed by the media and ill-informed or ill-intentioned academics into someone who was hostile to public religious expressions. But the truth is just the opposite.

Jefferson’s documented record is that he openly promoted the use of the Bible in schools, religious meetings in public buildings, and the study of the Bible for all Americans. As he told a noted political leader, “I have always said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands.”

(For an accurate view of Jefferson’s beliefs on faith and so many other areas, obtain the best-selling book The Jefferson Lies.)

Jefferson believed that one of the important aspects of religious freedom is to protect the right of religious conscience from government interference. Yet today, too many government officials and bureaucracies routinely attack this right, especially when it conflicts with their pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, pro-secular views about issues ranging from wedding bakers and florists to nurses who refuse to participate in abortions. But Jefferson pointedly declared, “[I]t is inconsistent with the spirit of our laws and Constitution to force tender consciences.

Many other Founding Fathers also acknowledged the importance of the right of conscience:

[T]he consciences of men are not the objects of human legislation. . . . For what business, in the name of common sense, has the magistrate. . . . with our religion? William Livingston (Signer of the Constitution)

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. . . . Conscience is the most sacred of all property. James Madison (Signer of the Constitution, 4th President of the United States)

Let’s remember that the foundation of all of our religious liberties is the right of religious conscience — a right long protected in America’s governing documents.

The Miraculous Life of Briton Hammon

In 1760 America became the first nation to publish a work of prose by a writer of African descent.1 In fourteen pages, the slave and author Briton Hammon recounts nearly 13 years of trial, hardship, and adventure—ending in a way that would surprise most people today. Only two copies of his original work remain in existence, meaning Hammon’s remarkable story of hardship and God’s deliverance is rarely told today, but he deserves credit for beginning a literary tradition which would grow to include people like Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, and many others.

Hammon starts his narrative in 1747 when his master, General John Winslow (the great-grandson of the Mayflower Pilgrim Edward Winslow), granted him leave to sail by himself to Jamaica for Christmas.2 However, after a successful cruise to the Caribbean, the vessel accidentally ran onto a reef off the coast of Florida during its return voyage. For two days the ship and crew were stranded, unable to move and with little hope of rescue.

Before they were able to make it to shore, twenty Indian canoes approached them under the guise of an English flag. Upon getting closer, they attacked and killed all of the sailors except for Hammon who, “jumped overboard, choosing rather to be drowned, than to be killed by those barbarous and inhuman Savages.”3 The marauders soon captured him, however, and Hammons describes how the they:

“Beat me most terribly with a cutlass [sword], after that they tied me down… telling me, while coming from the sloop [the ship] to the shore, that they intended to roast me alive.”4

Upon reaching the Indian camp, Hammon was relieved that, “the Providence of God ordered it other ways, for He appeared for my help,” preserving his life till the chance for escape presented itself.5 Soon a Spanish ship, whose captain was a personal friend of Hammon’s, miraculously found him and helped him escape to Havana. The Indians nevertheless persisted, tracking him down and suing the Spanish Governor for his return. Instead of simply giving the shipwrecked slave back to his captors, the Governor purchased Hammon from the Indians for $10 to be one of his slaves.6

Havana in 1760

One year into his Havanan servitude while walking down the street, an impressment gang (groups of men who would physically coerce people to fight in the Spanish navy) suddenly captured Hammon and imprisoned him for nearly five years because he refused to serve in the fleet—all unbeknownst to the governor. Through years of appealing random visitors, Hammon successfully got word to the governor who freed him from the dungeon only to become a slave once more.

After two failed attempts to escape from the Havana, Hammon successfully worked himself on board a British Man-of-War vessel about to depart for England. The governor was not one to let him go without a fight though and demanded the captain turn him over immediately. This British captain, however, was a man of courage and, “a true Englishman, [who] refused… to deliver up any Englishmen under English Colors.”7

Having now been liberated from Spanish slavery, Briton arrived in England and signed up for the British navy, fighting in several naval battles before being wounded. After an honorable discharge from the service, he continued to hire himself out on numerous voyages eventually signing up for a voyage to Guinea.8 However, before shipping out to Africa, Hammon heard of a boat set to sail to Boston. Instantly, he abandoned plans for Africa and instead joined the crew heading back to the colonies.

To his great astonishment and apparent joy, Hammon heard that his old master, Gen. John Winslow on the same exact vessel. He explains that:

“the Truth was joyfully verified by a happy sight of his person, which so overcame me, that I could not speak to him for some time—my good master was exceeding glad to see me, telling me that I was like one arose from the dead, for he thought I had been dead a great many years, having heard nothing of me for almost thirteen years.”9

In short, Briton Hammon lived nothing short of a miraculous life, something which he was the first to admit, exclaiming:

“How Great Things the Lord hath done for me; I would call upon all men, and say, O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! O that Men would Praise the Lord for His Goodness, and for his Wonderful Works to the Children of Men!”10

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Briton’s narrative is the apparent fondness he had for his master. In order to begin understand this, some context must be given. As mentioned, General John Winslow (1703-1774) was the great-grandson of the Governor Edward Winslow who came on the Mayflower in 1620. Although seemingly good-natured, over three generations the piety of the Winslow family was merged with a martial spirit and led John into the military, participating in operations from Cuba to Nova Scotia as a part of the British army.11 As a Major General and a descendant of an early governor, he commanded respect even during a period of increasing unrest as the War for American Independence was quickly approaching.

General John Winslow

Naturally then, it is no small factor in Briton Hammon’s story that his master is none other than the noted General. However, on Christmas day 1747 when Briton departed, his master had yet to climb the ranks as most of Winslow’s military leadership would occur over the thirteen years while Briton was gone. Thus, upon his miraculous reunification with the now General Winslow, he remarks that, “I asked them what General Winslow? For I never knew my good Master, by that Title before; but after enquiring more particularly I found it must be Master.”12

That a slave would seek out his master or return to them after being away for many years almost recalls the Biblical story of Onesimus and Philemon. Interestingly, prior to the reunion Briton lamented that while he was extremely sick and poor it was, “unhappy for me I knew nothing of my good Master’s being in London at this my very difficult Time,” indicating that had General Winslow known of his condition his master would have undoubtedly come to his assistance.13

The fact that General Winslow is universally referred to in affectionate terms strikes the modern reader as especially remarkable considering the fact that at the end of his journey Briton had not arrived at what we would consider freedom, only a return to slavery. Combined with the decision to return to Boston instead of pursuing his career in the merchant marine on the voyage to Guinea, we are left to question why a slave would intentionally seek out his old master.

As mentioned above, Hammon’s slave narrative seems strangely different than the stories of Douglass, Northup, and the rest. Instead of fleeing from slavery, Hammon voluntarily returns to his master in America—choosing to board a ship to Boston instead of one to Africa. Why would Hammon choose America, the land of his slavery, over Africa, the land of his heritage? Why would he choose slavery abroad, over freedom at his ancestral home?

The answer to this is the realization that Hammon, far from identifying his home as Africa, has become a colonial American in thought and deed. Through his life in the colonies, an emerging nationalism has taken root and supplanted any previous attachments.

Briton’s narrative is not one of slavery to manumission, but rather one of coming to the place he considered his home. In fact, after having suffered at the hands of un-Christian Indians and barbarous Spaniards, Briton sees the reunification with Winslow as a kind of freedom and a return to his true home. He explains:

“And now, that in the Providence of that GOD, who delivered his servant David out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, I am freed from a long and dreadful captivity, among worse savages than they; And am returned to my own Native Land” (emphasis added).14

The fact that he considers New England as his native land explains why he chose to abandon his plans to sail for Africa. For Briton Hammon, Massachusetts is his homeland and where he desires to return. In this sense, his story actually does relate closely to the later slave narratives—they all were seeking a home. Hammon saw himself as an Englishman, and was seen by others (such as the helpful ship captain) as an Englishman. A new identity had sprouted within him, and he now claimed a new homeland.

In the years following Hammon’s return, his proclaimed homeland changed dramatically. As the colonists felt the increasingly heavy hand of the English monarchy, more and more Massachusetts men began to realize the hypocrisy inherent in slavery. Leaders like John and Samuel Adams who were coming of age during that time rejected the institution entirely, by the time of the War for Independence the state was leading the world in progress towards emancipation, earning the honor of being the only state to have totally abolished slavery by the time the first census was completed in 1790—achieving legal emancipation 43 years before England followed suit.15

In fact, Massachusetts’ push towards liberty signaled a major shift in the Northern states concerning slavery. All of the New England states, as well as New York and New Jersey, had passed laws for either the immediate or gradual abolition of slavery by 1804. This directly translated into a rapid increase of manumissions, and from 1790 to 1810 the number of free blacks in America increased from 59,466 to 108,395, displaying a growth rate of 82%. The next decade saw that number expand another 72% to 186,446.16

The 1810 census documented that the total population of those states—Massachusetts (Maine included), New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey—stood at 3,486,675.17  This was approximately 48% of the total population, slave and free, of the United States at that time. Although not entirely free of slavery due to the gradual emancipation laws in states such as New York and New Jersey, the total percentage of the population waiting for emancipation was only 0.9% in those states.

In fact, by 1804 nearly half of America had succeeded in passing laws for the abolition of slavery, and only six years later they had been 99% effective in accomplishing that goal. Nowhere else in the world was anywhere close to what those Northern States had succeeded in doing.

So, what happened to Briton Hammon upon returning home? Unfortunately, the historical record is extremely sparse. It seems likely that General Winslow assisted in the production of Hammon’s Narrative, as the publishers, John Green and Joseph Russell, worked for the English government as the, “appointed printers to the English commissioners.”18 Suggesting that Winslow, with his extensive government connections, might have recommended the book to them or offered it to them first, instead of going to other prominent Bostonian or New England printers.

Two years after his book was published, records suggest that Briton married a long-standing member of the inter-racial First Church of Plymouth.19 After Gen. Winslow passed away in 1774, Briton seemingly was passed to Winslow’s sister and brother-in-law, the Nichols family. A certain “Briton Nichols” appears at this time indicating that Hammons took the name of his new masters. When the War for Independence broke out, however, Briton served four different times from 1777 to 1780 in Washington army, eventually winning his freedom and heading a family of three by the time of the first census.20

While there are many questions remaining to be answered about the remarkable life of Briton Hammon (and even more concerning his likely second round of adventures as Briton Nichols), his place as the first printed black prose author in America (and likely the world) deserves to be remembered. From slave to soldier, imprisonment to independence—Briton’s life is a valuable part of the American story. We ought to heed his words and, “Magnify the Lord…and let us exalt his Name together!”21


1 Frances S. Foster, “Briton Hammon’s ‘Narrative’: Some Insights Into Beginnings,” CLA Journal 21, no. 2 (1977): 179; “Briton Hammon,” Rayford Logan and Michael Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982), xxx.

2 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 3, here.

3 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 6, here.

4 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 6-7, here.

5 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 7, here.

6 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 7, here.

7 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 11, here.

8 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 12, here.

9 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 13, here.

10 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 14, here.

11 Maria Bryant, Genealogy of Edward Winslow of the Mayflower and His Descendants, From 1620 to 1865 (New Bedford: E. Anthony & Sons, 1915), 37.

12 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 13, , here.

13 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 12, here.

14 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 14, here.

15 The American Almanac and Repository of Useful Knowledge for the Year 1858 (Boston: Crosby, Nicholas, and Company, 1858), 214.

16 Joseph Kennedy, Preliminary Reports on the Eighth Census, 1860 (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1862), 7.

17 Aggregate Amount of Each Description of Persons Within the United States of America, and the Territories Thereof (Washington: 1811), 1.

18 Isaiah Thomas, The History of Printing in America (Worchester: Isaiah Thomas, Jr., 1810), 245, here.

19 Robert Desrochers, “‘Surprizing Deliverance’?: Slavery and Freedom, Language, and Identity in the Narrative of Briton Hammon, ‘A Negro Man,’” Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, edited by Carretta Vincent and Gould Philip (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), 168.

20 Robert Desrochers, “‘Surprizing Deliverance’?: Slavery and Freedom, Language, and Identity in the Narrative of Briton Hammon, ‘A Negro Man,’” Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, edited by Carretta Vincent and Gould Philip (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), 168.

21 Briton Hammon, A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprizing Deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro Man, Servant to General Winslow, Of Marshfield in New England (Boston: Green & Russell, 1760), 14, here.