A God-Given Inalienable Right

One of the first rights to be protected in early America was the right of conscience – the right to believe differently on issues of religious faith. As John Quincy Adams explained, this right was a product of Christianity:

Jesus Christ. . . . came to teach and not to compel. His law was a Law of Liberty. He left the human mind and human action free. 1

Early American legal writer Stephen Cowell (1800-1872) agreed:

Nonconformity, dissent, free inquiry, individual conviction, mental independence, are forever consecrated by the religion of the New Testament. 2

President Franklin D. Roosevelt likewise declared:

We want to do it the voluntary way – and most human beings in all the world want to do it the voluntary way. We do not want to have the way imposed. . . . That would not follow in the footsteps of Christ. 3

The Scriptures teach that there will be differences of conscience (cf. 1 Corinthians 8) and that if an individual “wounds a weak conscience of another, you have sinned against Christ” (v. 12). We are therefore instructed to respect the differing rights of conscience (v. 13). (See also I Corinthians 10:27-29.) Extending toleration for the rights of conscience is urged throughout the New Testament. (See also Romans 14:3, 15:7, Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:13, etc.)

Leaders who knew the Scriptures therefore protected those rights. For example, in 1640, the Rev. Roger Williams established Providence, penning its governing document declaring:

We agree, as formerly hath been the liberties of the town, so still, to hold forth liberty of conscience. 4

Similar protections also appear in the 1649 Maryland “Toleration Act,” 5 the 1663 Charter for Rhode Island, 6 the 1664 Charter for Jersey, 7 the 1665 Charter for Carolina, 8 the 1669 Constitutions of Carolina, 9 the 1676 Charter for West Jersey, 10 the 1701 Charter for Delaware, 11 and the 1682 Frame of Government for Pennsylvania. 12 John Quincy Adams affirmed that: “The transcendent and overruling principle of the first settlers of New England was conscience.” 13

Then when America separated from Great Britain in 1776 and the states created their very first state constitutions, they openly acknowledged Christianity and jointly secured religious toleration, non-coercion, and the rights of conscience. For example, the 1776 constitution of Virginia declared:

That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other. 14

Similar clauses appeared in the constitutions of New Jersey (1776), 15 North Carolina (1776), 16 Pennsylvania (1776), 17 New York (1777), 18 Vermont (1777), 19 South Carolina (1778), 20 Massachusetts (1780), 21 New Hampshire (1784), 22 etc. Today, the safeguard for the rights of conscience pioneered by Christian leaders is a regular feature of state constitutions. 23

The Founding Fathers were outspoken about the importance of this God-given inalienable right. For example, signer of the Constitution William Livingston declared:

Consciences of men are not the objects of human legislation. . . . [H]ow beautiful appears our [expansive] constitution in disclaiming all jurisdiction over the souls of men, and securing (by a never-to-be-repealed section) the voluntary, unchecked, moral suasion of every individual. 24

And John Jay, the original Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, similarly rejoiced that:

Security under our constitution is given to the rights of conscience and private judgment. They are by nature subject to no control but that of Deity, and in that free situation they are now left. 25

President Thomas Jefferson likewise declared that the First Amendment was an “expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience.” 26

But President Obama disagrees with what for four centuries in American history has formerly been an inalienable right. He has specifically singled out and attacked the rights of religious and moral conscience, seeking to coerce dissenters into accepting his own beliefs. While Biblical teachings result in protection for differences of opinion on religious issues, secularists demand conformity of belief and practice to their own secular standards; they are especially intolerant of any differences that stem from Biblical faith.

While the President has targeted the Catholic Church for its religious beliefs, his attacks on religious conscience were ongoing, beginning shortly after he first took office when he first announced his plans to repeal religious conscience protection for medical workers. (We have posted on our website a piece showing the extreme and consistent hostility of this President against Biblical faith and values. As proven by his own actions and words, he is the most anti-Biblical president in American history.)


1 John Quincy Adams, A Discourse on Education Delivered at Braintree, Thursday, October 24th, 1839 (Boston: Perkins & Marvin, 1840), 17-18.

2 Stephen Colwell, Politics for American Christians: A World upon our Example as a Nation, our Labour, our Trade, Elections, Education, and Congressional Legislation (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co. 1852), 82.

3 “Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Christmas Greeting to the Nation,” American Presidency Project, December 24, 1940, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/209414.

4 “Plantation Agreement at Providence,” The Avalon Project, August 27 – September 6, 1640, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ri01.asp.

5 William MacDonald, Select Charters and Other Documents Illustrative of American History 1606-1775 (New York: MacMillan Company, 1899), 104-106.

6 “Plantation Agreement at Providence August 27 – September 6, 1640,” The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters and Other Organic Laws, ed. Francis Newton Thorpe (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909), VI:3211; “Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” The Avalon Project, July 15, 1663, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/ri01.asp.

7 “The Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea, or New Jersey,” The Avalon Project, 1664, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/nj05.asp.

8 “Charter of Carolina,” The Avalon Project, June 30, 1665, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/nc03.asp.

9 “Fundamental Constitution of Carolina,” The Avalon Project, March 1, 1669, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/nc05.asp.

10 “The Charter or Fundamental Laws of West New Jersey,” The Avalon Project, 1676, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/nj05.asp.

11 “Charter of Delaware,“ The Avalon Project, 1701, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/de01.asp.

12 “ Frame of Government of Pennsylvania,“ The Avalon Project, May 5, 1682, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/pa04.asp.

13 John Quincy Adams, A Discourse on Education Delivered at Braintree, Thursday, October 24th, 1839 (Boston: Perkins & Marvin, 1840), 28.

14 “Constitution of Virginia: Bill of Rights,” The American’s Guide: Comprising the Declaration of Independence; the Articles of Confederation; the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitutions of the Several States Composing the Union (Philadelphia: Hogan & Thompson, 1845), 180.

15 “Constitution of New Jersey,” The Avalon Project, 1776, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/nj15.asp.

16 Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America (Boston: Norman & Bowen, 1785), 132.

17 Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America (Boston: Norman & Bowen, 1785), 77.

18 “The Constitution of New York,” The Avalon Project, April 20, 1777, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/ny01.asp 1777.

19 The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws, 3d. Francis Newton Thorpe (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909), VI:3740.

20 Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America, (Boston: Norman & Bowen, 1785), 152-154.

21 Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America (Boston: Norman & Bowen, 1785), 6.

22 Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America (Boston: Norman & Bowen, 1785), 3-4.

23 “State Policies in Brief: Refusing to Provide Health Services,” Guttmacher Institute, March 1, 2012, https://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_RPHS.pdf.

24 Benjamin F. Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), 163-164.

25 Benjamin F. Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), 152.

26 Thomas Jefferson to Messrs. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, and Stephen S. Nelson, A Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association, in the State of Connecticut, January 1, 1802 Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Albert Ellery Bergh (Washington D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), XVI:281-282.

* This article concerns a historical issue and may not have updated information.

Celebrate with Prayer

Millions join together annually in tens of thousands of groups across the nation for the National Day of Prayer, humbly imploring God’s blessings over this great nation. We stand in the long tradition as we follow the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin, who appealed to the 1787 Constitutional Convention to pray for this nation, when he said:

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel.

It is truly time to ask that God would govern in the affairs of men, that He would build the foundations of this nation, and that He would bless this great nation once again. Celebrate the annual observance of this call by participating in a prayer group near you.

To find these locations, you can visit the National Day of Prayer official site. If you’re unable to attend a gathering, please take time to personally lift up our nation, our government, our leaders, our military, our families, our businesses, our places of worship and ask for God to continue blessing our nation as we turn our face to Him.

Addressing Mass Murder and Violent Crime

In the wake of the heart-rending massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a cry has arisen for gun control. But such calls are misdirected. The lessons of Scriptures and history are clear that the key is controlling what is in one’s heart, not what is in one’s hand. As the great Daniel Webster reminded a crowd at the U. S. Capitol:

[T]he cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness . . . inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric. 1 Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens. 2

The Founders understood that the inside was the most important focus, not the outside. This is why Thomas Jefferson believed the teachings of Jesus were so effective, explaining:

The precepts of philosophy, and of the Hebrew code, laid hold of actions only. He [Jesus] pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man, erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head.3

While civil law prohibits murder, the Bible addresses it before it occurs—while it is still only a thought in the heart (see Matthew 5:22-28). As John Quincy Adams explained:

Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of men: they acknowledge their inability to govern and direct the sentiments of the heart. . . . It is one of the greatest marks of Divine favor . . . that the Legislator gave them rules not only of action but for the government of the heart.4

The Founders were clear that only the Scriptures provide effective “rules for the government of the heart” and thus help prevent the crimes which originate internally:

Love to God and love to man is the substance of religion; when these prevail, civil laws will have little to do.5 John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration

Without the restraints of religion and social worship, men become savages. 6 Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration

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. 7 Thomas Jefferson, President, Signer of the Declaration

In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses. 8 James McHenry, Signer of the Constitution

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.9 Robert Winthrop, Early Speaker of the U.S. House

So . . . if Congress and the media want to have a debate, let it be over what is put into the heart, not the hand – over returning instruction in moral and religious principles to schools and the public arena. In the meantime, there are already some measures that are completely legal and which you can help expand across the country:

  1. Get a Bible course in public schools around you
  2. Start a Good News Club in a nearby public school
  3. Get your legislature to pass a law authorizing an elective course on the Bible, such as those already passed in Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, and other states.

1 Daniel Webster, Address Delivered at the Laying of the Cornerstone of the Addition to the Capitol, July 4, 1851 The Works of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1853), II:615.
2 Webster, “Discourse Delivered at Plymouth,” December 22, 1820, Works of Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1853), I:44.
3 Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803, Jefferson’s “Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus, Compared with Those of Others,” Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, From the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Thomas Jefferson Randolph (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830), III:509. See also William Linn, The Life of Thomas Jefferson (Ithaca, New York: Mack & Andrus, 1834), 265.
4 John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son, on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn, New York: Derby, Miller, and Co., 1848), 62.
5 John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: 1805), VII:119.
6 Benjamin Rush, “To American Farmers About to Settle in New Parts of the United States,” March 1789, Letters of Benjamin Rush, ed. L. H. Butterfield (Princeton: The American Philosophical Society, 1951), I:505.
7 Daniel Webster to Professor Pease on June 15, 1852, The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster Hitherto Uncollected (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1903), IV:656-657, originally appearing in The National Magazine: Devoted to Literature, Art, and Religion. July to December, 1858, ed. James Floy (New York: Carolton & Porter, 1858), XIII:178-179
8 Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Baltimore: The Maryland Bible Society, 1921), 14.
9 Robert Winthrop, Address Delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Bible Society in Boston, May 28, 1849 Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1852), 172.

* This article concerns a historical issue and may not have updated information.

The Founders on the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the Constitution has become a target for Progressives and Liberals, who are determined to dismantle it. The Founders recognized the “right to keep and bear arms” as an inalienable right of self-defense to be protected by government rather than infringed or abridged by it. As Constitution signer John Dickinson affirmed, inalienable rights such as self-defense were rights “which God gave to you and which no inferior power has a right to take away.” [1]

Significantly, the Second Amendment did not grant or bestow any right on the people; instead, it simply recognized and provided what Constitution signer James Wilson called “a new security” for the right of self-defense that God had already bestowed on every individual. [2]

Numerous Founders affirmed the God-given right to self-defense and personal safety:

[T]he said Constitution [should] be never construed . . . to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms. Samuel Adams, Signer of the Declaration, “Father of the American Revolution” [3]

The right . . . of bearing arms . . . is declared to be inherent in the people. Fisher Ames, A Framer of the Second Amendment in the First Congress [4]

[T]he advantage of being armed [is an advantage which] the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation. . . . [I]n the several kingdoms of Europe . . . the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. James Madison, U.S. President, Signer of the Constitution, a Framer of the Second Amendment in the first congress [5]

[T]o preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them. Richard Henry Lee, Signer of the Declaration, A Framer of the Second Amendment in the First Congress [6]

To learn the history of this historic Amendment and the Founders’ clear views on it, see our short book The Second Amendment. Also, The Founders’ Bible shows not only the Founders’ position on self-defense and the Second Amendment but it also gives the Biblical basis for that right — as in Exodus 22, which helps explain the “Castle Doctrine.”


Endnotes

[1] John Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, R. T. H. Halsey, editor (New York: The Outlook Company, 1903), p. xlii, letter to the Society of Fort St. David’s, 1768; see also John Quincy Adams, An Oration Delivered Before the Cincinnati Astronomical Society on the Occasion of Laying the Cornerstone of an Astronomical Observatory on the 10th of November, 1843 (Cincinnati: Shepard & Co., 1843), pp. 13-14.
[2] James Wilson, The Works of the Honorable James Wilson, Bird Wilson, editor (Philadelphia: Bronson and Chauncey, 1804), Vol. II, p. 454.
[3] Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Held in the Year 1788 (Boston: William White, 1856), pp. 86, 266, February 6, 1788; see also William V. Wells, The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1865), Vol. III, p. 267.
[4] Fisher Ames, Works of Fisher Ames, Seth Ames, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Vol. I, p. 54, to George Richards Minot on June 12, 1789.
[5] Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist on the New Constitution (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 259, Federalist No. 46 by James Madison.
[6] Richard Henry Lee, An Additional Number Of Letters From The Federal Farmer To The Republican (New York: 1788), p.170, Letter XVIII, January, 25, 1788.

The Finger of God on the Constitutional Convention


This Saturday (June 28), marks the 227th anniversary of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin calling the Constitutional Convention to prayer after several weeks of difficult discussions and frequent impasses. The Founders well understood the need to seek God and the important part that God played both in establishing this nation and in the writing of the Constitution.

As Alexander Hamilton reported after its completion:

For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God [Luke 11:20] never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests. [1]

James Madison agreed, and reported:

It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution. [2]

As far as these delegates were concerned, the finger of God – that is, His Divine power – had guided their writing of the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin also believed this to be the case, explaining:

[I] beg I may not be understood to infer that our general Convention was Divinely inspired when it formed the new federal Constitution . . . [yet] I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing (and to exist in the posterity of a great nation) should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits “live and move and have their being” [Acts 17:28]. [3]

George Washington (president of the Convention) similarly attested:

As to my sentiments with respect to the merits of the new Constitution, I will disclose them without reserve. . . . It appears to me then little short of a miracle that the delegates from so many different states . . . should unite in forming a system of national government.  [4]

Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration from Philadelphia who closely monitored the proceedings, concurred, openly testifying:

I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament were the effects of a Divine power. [5]

(For more about the Founders’ views of the “finger of God” and what that meant historically, see the article on this in the Founders’ Bible, from Luke 11:20).

As we look forward to celebrating America’s 238th birthday next week. Let us remember that God truly has had His hand involved in the formation of our government and let us take time out, as George Washington recommended, “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor” [6] on America again.


Footnotes

[1] Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison and Other Men of Their Time, The Federalist and Other Contemporary Papers on the Constitution of the United States, E.H. Scott, editor (New York: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1894), p. 646, Alexander Hamilton to Mr. Childs, Wednesday, October 17, 1787.

 

[2] Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, & James Madison, The Federalist (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 194, James Madison, Federalist #37.

 

[3] Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore, and Mason, 1837), Vol. V, p. 162, from “A Comparison of the Conduct of the Ancient Jews and of the Anti-Federalists in the United States of America,” no date.

 

[4] George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Russell, Odiorne, and Metcalf, 1835), Vol. IX, p. 317, to Marquis de Lafayette on February 7, 1788.

 

[5] Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 475, to Elias Boudinot on July 9, 1788.

 

[6] Jared Sparks, The Life of George Washington (London: Henry Colburn, 1839), Vol. II, p. 301, proclamation for a National Thanksgiving on October 3, 1789.

 

How much do you know about the Constitution?

Here are some questions relating to the United States Constitution so you can test your knowledge!

  1. Of the 39 signers of the Constitution, how many had previously signed the Declaration of Independence?
  2. The Constitution was signed in 1787, but was not binding until it was ratified. When did that happen?
  3. Which state was the first to ratify the new constitution?
  4. Which state was the last to ratify the Constitution?
  5. How many articles does the Constitution contain?
  6. Which article is the longest, and why?
  7. The Constitution Convention met in Philadelphia for the purpose of creating a document that would establish a new government for the States. True or False?

On September 17th 1787, in a warm room in Philadelphia, 39 men signed the document that formed our nation: the United States Constitution. With each passing year, America continues her record of having the longest on-going constitutional republic in history. Discover more resources, including lesson plans and activities, on our Constitution Hub!


How’d you do?

  1. Six: Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, George Clymer, George Read, and James Wilson1
  2. It was ratified on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify the Constitution, as specified in Article 7 of the Constitution. The new government under the Constitution came into effect on March 4, 1789.2
  3. Delaware, on December 7, 17873
  4. Rhode island, on May 29, 17904
  5. Seven5
  6. Article I is the longest. It organizes and governs the legislative branch, which was the branch closest to the people and the most important of the three branches. It was therefore given the most, and the most powerful responsibilities.6
  7. False. The purpose was to address and solve the weaknesses that had become apparent under the Articles of Confederation, the document under which the country had been governed during the American Revolution.7

Endnotes

1 “Signers of the Declaration Biographical Sketches,” National Park Service, accessed December 15, 2023.
2 “About the Constitution: FAQs,” National Constitution Center, accessed December 15, 2023.
3 “Observing Constitution Day: Background,” National Archives, accessed December 15, 2023.
4 “Observing Constitution Day: Background,” National Archives, accessed December 15, 2023.
5 “The Constitution of the United States: A Transcript,” National Archives, accessed December 15, 2023.
6 “The Constitution of the United States: A Transcript,” National Archives, accessed December 15, 2023.
7 “Constitution of the United States: Primary Documents in American History,” Library of Congress, accessed December 15, 2023.

On This Day in History: June 28, 1787

In June, 1787, The Constitutional Convention was in full swing in Philadelphia.

  • Do you know how many delegates attended the Constitutional Convention?
  • Do you know how many delegates signed the Constitution?
  • Who was the oldest delegate?
  • Who was the youngest delegate?

(Answers at the bottom)


The Constitutional Convention was called in an effort to seek solutions to problems the nation experienced under the Articles of Confederation. The gathering started with optimism, but after five weeks of frequent disagreements, they were almost at a full impasse. Addressing their frustration, on June 28, delegate Benjamin Franklin told the others:

on-this-day-in-history-june-28-1787-1In this situation of this assembly, groping, as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Britain when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine Protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. . . And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel . . . and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business. 1

The Convention then adjourned for three days. During that time, they gathered at the Calvinist Reformed Church in Philadelphia, where the Rev. William Rogers prayed a special prayer over the Constitutional Convention (WallBuilders has a 1787 newspaper that records this prayer), and according to George Washington, they also “hear[d] an oration on the anniversary of independence.” 2

Following those three days, the Convention reconvened and experienced unexpected success. Ten weeks later they had finished the U. S. Constitution (under which America has become the longest on-going constitutional republic in the world), and the Founders were quick to acknowledge God’s help in their endeavors.

Alexander Hamilton is reported to have declared:

For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests. 3

James Madison agreed:

It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution. 4

As far as these delegates were concerned, the finger of God – that is, His Divine power – had guided their writing of the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin also believed this to be the case, explaining:

[I] beg I may not be understood to infer that our general Convention was Divinely inspired when it formed the new federal Constitution . . . [yet] I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing (and to exist in the posterity of a great nation) should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits “live and move and have their being” [Acts 17:28]. 5

Others delegates declared the same, so as we remember the call to prayer that Franklin delivered on this day, let’s also follow George Washington’s advice “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” 6

  • Do you know how many delegates attended the Constitutional Convention?
    55 total delegates attended the Constitutional Convention.
  • Do you know how many delegates signed the Constitution?
    39 men signed the Constitution.
  • Who was the oldest delegate?
    At 81 years old, Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate.
  • Who was the youngest delegate?
    At 26 years old, Jonathan Dayton from New Jersey was the youngest delegate.

1 James Madison’s Notes on the Convention for June 28, 1787, Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), I:451-452.
2 George Washington, diary entry for July 4, 1787, The Writings of George Washington, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1891), XI:148.
3 Alexander Hamilton to Mr. Childs, Wednesday, October 17, 1787, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison and Other Men of Their Time, The Federalist and Other Contemporary Papers on the Constitution of the United States, ed. E.H. Scott (New York: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1894), 2:646, .
4 James Madison, Federalist #37, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, & James Madison, The Federalist (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), 194.
5 Benjamin Franklin, “A Comparison of the Conduct of the Ancient Jews and of the Anti-Federalists in the United States of America,” The Works of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore, and Mason, 1837), V:162.
6 George Washington, “Thanksgiving Proclamation,” The Providence Gazette and Country Journal (October 17, 1789).

The Constitution and a Duel – What do they have in Common?

September 17th is Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Our Constitution secures our God-given freedoms that were set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and today we add yet another year to our unsurpassed record as the longest ongoing constitutional republic in the world.

the-constitution-and-a-duel-what-do-they-have-in-common-2 A Founding Father who exerted great influence in our constitutional government was Alexander Hamilton. As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and one of its thirty-nine signers, he played what would be considered a minor role in the debates of the Convention itself. However he (along with John Jay and James Madison) became one of the three men most responsible for the adoption and ratification of the Constitution through the writing and publication of a series of articles which became known as The Federalist Papers.

Hamilton’s career was distinguished, including his service not only as a military aide to General George Washington and his own rise to a military general under Washington, but also as America’s first Secretary of the Treasury under President Washington. But notwithstanding such achievements, he is perhaps best known today today for his duel with Aaron Burr.

In the election of 1800, Hamilton worked against the re-election of incumbent president John Adams. When Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson tied in the vote for president, as required by the Constitution, the contest was sent to the House of Representatives for them to choose a winner. Hamilton strongly supported Jefferson over his fellow-New-Yorker Burr. 1

the-constitution-and-a-duel-what-do-they-have-in-common-4(By the way, during that election cycle in 1800, a number of ministers preached and published pulpit sermons against Jefferson, including Hamilton’s good friend, the Rev. John Mitchell Mason.)

In 1802, Hamilton urged the formation of a “Christian Constitutional Society” whose two-fold goal was “1st, the support of the Christian religion; 2nd, the support of the Constitution of the United States.”2 The purpose of the society was to elect to office those who supported Christianity and the Constitution. Hamilton saw an intrinsic relation between Christianity, the Constitution, and a strong and safe America, and he never viewed the Constitution as a secular document. He openly declared:

For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God [Luke 11:20] never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.3

Hamilton’s dream for his Christian Constitutional Society never came to pass. In 1804, he was shot down by Burr in a duel spurred by Burr’s frustration of Hamilton having thwarted so many of his political ambitions.4 (Burr was an egotistic and ambitious man who actually tried to build an empire for himself in what is now Mexico 5). The Rev. Mason attended Hamilton in the hours after he was shot. After Hamilton’s death, he released a pamphlet that included Hamilton’s personal account of the duel as well as Hamilton’s repeated affirmation of his firm personal reliance on God for his salvation.6

As we celebrate our great Constitution, let us not forget those who helped shape it and secured to us the blessings we enjoy today — leaders such as Alexander Hamilton!


Endnotes

1 Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography. 6 vols. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1889, s.v. “Hamilton, Alexander.” See also, Dictionary of American Biography. 21 vols. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932, s.v. “Hamilton, Alexander.”
2 Alexander Hamilton to James A. Bayard, April 16-21, 1802, National Archive, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-25-02-0321.
3 Alexander Hamilton to Mr. Childs, Wednesday, October 17, 1787, The Federalist and Other Contemporary Papers on the Constitution of the United States, ed. E.H. Scott (New York: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1894), 646.
4 Dictionary of American Biography. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932), s.v. “Hamilton, Alexander;” Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1889), s.v. “Hamilton, Alexander.”
5 “Aaron Burr (1801-1805),” Miller Center, accessed October 27, 2023, https://millercenter.org/president/jefferson/essays/burr-1801-vicepresident.
6 J. M. Mason, An Oration Commemorative of the Late Major General Alexr. Hamilton (London: R. Edwards, 1804).

Who was the “Father of the Revolution”?

Samuel Adams
(1722-1803)

September 27 marks 292 years since the birth of one of America’s most prominent Founding Fathers. He influence was so great that he was one of only two Founding Fathers the King of England said he would not pardon for his leadership in the American Revolution. [1]

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A merchant by trade, Adams’ true passion was politics. [2]  As early as 1763, Samuel was already making a stand against the British crown, [3] trying to convince all who would listen that England had no right to impose policies on the colonies since the colonies had no representation in the British legislature. He was elected to the Massachusetts General Assembly in 1765, [4] and while serving in the state legislature became a more visible and vocal leader in opposition to British tyranny, even participating in the Boston Tea Party in 1773. [5]

Elected to the Continental Congress in 1774, Adams was crucial in helping delegates overcome their religious differences to unite together and open Congress with prayer (see the picture below) – something that Congress had done every day since then. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence [6] and also helped draft the Articles of Confederation in 1777. [7]

who-was-the-father-of-the-revolution-2

 

Adams also helped write the original Massachusetts constitution (1780) – the only constitution in the world still in use today that is older than the U. S. Constitution. [8]

who-was-the-father-of-the-revolution-3

After the U. S. Constitution was written, he was a member of the 1788 state convention to ratify the Constitution, [9] where he opposed it because he believed that it failed to adequately protect individual liberties and state powers from the intrusion of the federal government. His opposition helped fuel the movement that resulted in the addition of the Bill or Rights in 1791.

In addition to his work on the national level, Adams served Massachusetts as Lieutenant Governor (under Governor John Hancock) and then as Governor. [10] A dedicated and outspoken Christian throughout his long life, Adams frequently called citizens to times of prayer and fasting, and prayer and thanksgiving, such as in this 1794 Thanksgiving Proclamation, this 1795 Thanksgiving Proclamation, this 1796 Thanksgiving Proclamation, this 1795 Fasting  Proclamation (pictured below), and others.

who-was-the-father-of-the-revolution-4

Samuel Adams died on October 3, 1803. [11] His influence and leadership in helping secure America’s independence has caused him to be titled, “Father of the Revolution.” [12]


[1] Benson J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence  (New York: George F. Cooledge & Brother, 1848), p. 35.

 

[2] Benson J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence  (New York: George F. Cooledge & Brother, 1848), p. 34.

 

[3] Benson J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence  (New York: George F. Cooledge & Brother, 1848), p. 34.

 

[4] Benson J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence  (New York: George F. Cooledge & Brother, 1848), p. 35.

 

[5] William V. Wells, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (Cambridge: University Press, 1865), Vol. II, p. 122-125.

 

[6] “The Declaration of Independence: A Transcript,” National Archives, July 4, 1776 (at: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html). See also, Benson J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence  (New York: George F. Cooledge & Brother, 1848), p. 36, “Signers of the Declaration of Independence,”  ushistory.org  (at: https://www.ushistory.org/declaration/signers/) (accessed on July 2, 2010).

 

[7] William V. Wells, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (Cambridge: University Press, 1865), Vol. II, pp. 472-475.

 

[8] Leonard Levy, Seasoned Judgments: The American Constitution, Rights and History (1995), p. 307 (at: https://books.google.com/books?id=-7lKq0dfs54C&pg=PA307=onepage&q&f=false); compared to the date of the U.S. Constitution recognized as “the the world’s longest surviving written charter of government” at: https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/ConstitutionDay.htm. See also, William V. Wells, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (Cambridge: University Press, 1865), Vol. III, p. 79.

 

[9] William V. Wells, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (Cambridge: University Press, 1865), Vol. III, pp. 250-264.

 

[10] Benson J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence  (New York: George F. Cooledge & Brother, 1848), p. 36.

 

[11] Benson J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence  (New York: George F. Cooledge & Brother, 1848), p. 36.

 

[12] William V. Wells, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (Cambridge: University Press, 1865), Vol. I, p. 11, Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, The Pioneer Mothers of America (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912)  p. 59.

Religious Freedom Sunday

religious-freedom-sunday-1January 16, 1786, was the day that the Virginia Assembly adopted the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, finally ending the official state-established church in Virginia. It provided that (1) all individuals would be free from any punishment for not conforming to state-established religious mandates, and (2) one’s religious affiliation would no longer affect the civil privileges he could enjoy 1. In short, in Virginia it legally secured religious toleration and protection for the right of religious conscience.

The Virginia Act, drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, originally failed to pass when brought before the State Assembly in religious-freedom-sunday-21779 2. James Madison later reintroduced the measure, and it was finally enacted in 1786. Jefferson considered it one of his three greatest achievements, ranking it along with penning the Declaration of Independence and establishing the University of Virginia.

This act was reflective of the attitude that had developed across much of America toward securing full religious liberty for all — an attitude later embodied in the federal Bill of Rights’ 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

Each year, in commemoration of religious freedom (one of the most important of our freedoms), the President proclaims January 16th to be Religious Freedom Day 3. Religious Freedom Sunday is commemorated the Sunday before Religious Freedom Day, and this year, Religious Freedom Sunday falls on January 11th.

Gateways to Better Education have teamed up to provide ways for Christians and churches to celebrate this important day and to participate in encouraging the free exercise of religion. But don’t stop with just celebrating Religious Freedom Day at your church, make sure the schools in your area also recognize this special holiday. (Gateways to Better Education has a guidebook to help you enlighten those in the education system about this important day.)

Happy Religious Freedom Sunday!


Endnotes

1 https://www.virginiamemory.com/docs/ReligiousFree.pdf
2 https://www.virginiamemory.com/online_classroom/shaping_the_constitution/doc/religious_freedom
3 https://religiousfreedomday.com/. See, for example, proclamations by George H.W. Bush in 1992 (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/268664); William Clinton in 1996 (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222064); George W. Bush in 2003 (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/212361); and Barack Obama in 2011 (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/289040).