Lesson 4: American Founding and Federal Era (1785-early 1800s)

Lesson 4: American Founding and Federal Era (1785-early 1800s)

Words such as “virtue,” “piety” and “learning” are emphasized in the writings of our Founding Fathers and therefore appear in many of our governmental documents. In fact, when modern political scientists examined seventy-six of the most representative pamphlets and essays written by our Founders, they found the word “virtue” stressed over 300 times.[1] Additionally, various synonyms meaning the same thing (such as “religion,” “morality,” and “knowledge”) also frequently appear in official writings (such as in the famous Northwest Ordinance, by which territories become states). [2] Significantly, to our Founders, “religion” meant Christianity; “morality” or “virtue” meant Biblical character; and “knowledge” meant information or skills acquired within the framework of a Biblical worldview.

The Founders consistently emphasized the elements of religion and morality (or piety and virtue) as the indispensable foundation and supports of our American system of government. They believed that if these pillars were lost, then our nation would eventually collapse. Notice some of their representative declarations affirming this:

[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. [3] [R]eligion and virtue are the only foundations…of republicanism and of all free governments. [4] Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. [5] John Adams, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION

Samuel Adams

[R]eligion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness. [6] While the people are virtuous, they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader. [7] Samuel Adams, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION

[A] free government….can only be happy when the public principles and opinions are properly directed….by religion and education. It should therefore be among the first objects of those who wish well to the national prosperity to encourage and support the principles of religion and morality. [8] Abraham Baldwin, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION

Charles Carroll

Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion (whose morality is so sublime and pure)… are undermining the solid foundation of morals– the best security for the duration of free governments. [9] Charles Carroll, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION

Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement….Manners, by which not only the freedom but the very existence of the republics are greatly affected, depend much upon the public institutions of religion. [10] John Hancock, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION

[T]he great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible. [11] Patrick Henry

[F]or avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy…the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people.[12]I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments. [13] [T]herefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God. [14] Gouverneur Morris, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION

Religion and morality…[are] necessary to good government, good order, and good laws. [15] William Paterson, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION

Benjamin Rush

Without [religion] there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. [16] Benjamin Rush, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION

George Washington

The practice of morality being necessary for the well-being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. [17] [T]he studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make [us] better citizens. [18] Thomas Jefferson,SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION

Purity of morals [is] the only sure foundation of public happiness in any country. [19] [R]eligion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society. [20] George Washington, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION

[T]he primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of society….To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support, and among these…religious institutions are eminently useful and important. [21] Oliver Ellsworth, DELEGATE TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION; CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT

[G]overnment…is a firm compact sanctified from violation by all the ties of personal honor, morality, and religion. [22] Fisher Ames, FRAMER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS

[T]he cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness…inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric. [23] Moral habits…cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits….Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens. [24] Daniel Webster, “DEFENDER OF THE CONSTITUTION”

Noah Webster

Republican government loses half of its value where the moral and social duties are…negligently practiced. To exterminate our popular vices is a work of far more importance to the character and happiness of our citizens, than any other improvements in our system of education. [25] [T]he moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws….All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. [26] Noah Webster, “SCHOOLMASTER TO AMERICA”

There are many additional examples affirming the Founders’ belief that Biblical morality and Biblical faith were vital for the proper operation of both society and civil government. But the Founders did more than just hold these convictions, they also acted on them. This is apparent in the very first governments they created.

Significantly, America’s separation from Great Britain had wiped out all state and colonial governments, for each had been British authorized and operated. New purely American governments were needed, so many of the Founders who signed the Declaration returned home to assist in drafting their state’s first constitution and establishing its new government. They took deliberate steps to ensure that both Biblical religion and morality were directly incorporated into government from the beginning.

For example, Declaration signers George Read and Thomas McKean helped draft [27] Delaware’s 1776 constitution, which required:

Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: “I, _________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and the Holy Ghost, one God – blessed forevermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.” [28]

Massachusetts’ 1780 constitution (written with the help of Declaration signers Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and John Adams, [29] as well as Constitution signer Nathaniel Gorham [30]) similarly required:

Any person chosen governor, lieutenant-governor, counselor, senator, or representative, and accepting the trust, shall—before he proceed to execute the duties of his place or office – make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. “I, ___________, do declare, that I believe the Christian religion and have a firm persuasion of its truth.” [31]

Declaration signers Benjamin Franklin and James Smith of Pennsylvania helped write its 1776 Constitution, [32] which likewise stipulated:

And each member [of the legislature] before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: “I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the Rewarder of the good, and the Punisher of the wicked; and I acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be given by Divine inspiration.” [33]

Other constitutions contained similar clauses. [34] The Christian spirit undergirding America was so readily apparent even to the British that in England…

Sir Richard Sutton read a copy of a letter…from a governor in America to the Board of Trade showing that….”If you ask an American, ‘Who is his master?’ he will tell you he has none—nor any governor but Jesus Christ.” [35]

Another reflection of the Founder’s insistence that Biblical principles be part of public affairs is seen in the fact that all the states had Sabbath laws, requiring rest and abstinence from work on that day. In some cases, these laws continued for centuries; in fact, even today some states still use parts of those Sabbath laws.

Across the years, there were attempts to secularize the government and repeal these Sabbath laws and (until recent years) those efforts were largely rejected. For example, in 1838, the Legislature of New York received a petition seeking “the repeal of the laws for the observance of the Sabbath.”[36] They refused that call in a nearly unanimous vote, explaining:

With us it is wisely ordered that no one religion shall be established by law but that all persons shall be left free in their choice and in their mode of worship. Still, this is a Christian nation. Ninety-nine hundredths, if not a larger proportion of our whole population, believe in the general doctrines of the Christian religion. Our government depends for its being on the virtue of the people—on that virtue that has its foundation in the morality of the Christian religion and that religion is the common and prevailing faith of the people. There are, it is true, exceptions to this belief; but general laws are not made for excepted cases. [37]

The Articles of Confederation 
George Washington, President of the Constitutional Convention, declared of the Convention, “The event is in the hands of God.”

Just as the Founders created new state governments after their separation from Great Britain, so, too, they also created a national government. In 1777, they penned the Articles of Confederation, under which Congress governed itself throughout the remainder of the War for American Independence. But their experience over that time demonstrated that it had three major weaknesses:

  1. Congress had no power to raise the money needed to fund its appropriate activities, such as national defense and operating the Continental Army.
  2. Congress had no power to enforce any of its decisions.
  3. There was no clear national leader—that is, no single executive head. Congress, as a body, had been the governing entity, but it was bulky, slow, and inefficient when it came to making important and timely decisions.

These flaws caused the government to be weak and inept, resulting in almost fatal problems. For example, because of these shortcomings, many times during the war the army lacked supplies and received no pay, which not only contributed to the suffering of the troops in places such as Valley Forge in 1777 but also caused some officers and men to threaten a military coup in 1783. It was evident that something must be done to correct these glaring weaknesses. Some proposed amending the Articles of Confederation; others, including James Madison, George Washington, and Noah Webster, felt that an entirely new system was needed.

The Constitutional Convention, 1787

In an attempt to solve the problems in the national government, in the spring of 1787 delegates from across the country met together at the State House in Philadelphia (also known as Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed). Most came prepared to keep (but amend) the Articles of Confederation; but the Virginia delegates proposed an entirely new and different governing document. The initial reaction by the other delegates was hesitancy and doubt, believing any dramatic change would be opposed by the people and would fail; they felt that half-measures would be far more acceptable.

George Washington (who had been chosen by the other delegates to preside over this assembly) then arose and addressed the Convention in a brief but immortal speech. He agreed that it was indeed “probable that no plan we propose will be adopted,” but warned that if this occurred, then it was entirely possible that we would have to endure another dreadful war. [38] He therefore challenged the delegates to be bold, telling them, “If—to please the people—we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work?”[39] He concluded by urging the delegates to “raise a standard” of the best government they could possibly devise, no matter how much change it required, and then trust in the fact that “The event is in the hands of God.”[40] They accepted his challenge, but their way forward was neither easy nor smooth.

In fact, after only a few weeks of deliberations, the Constitutional Convention was on the verge of collapsing. For more than a month the delegates had been deadlocked on different issues, such as that of fair representation between the small and large states. With this impasse, and no forward progress, patience was wearing thin and emotions were on edge. A somber George Washington began to despair of seeing success.

At this point, Benjamin Franklin, the oldest delegate (he was then 81-years-old at a time when the average lifespan in America was only about thirty-three [41]), asked for permission to speak. On previous occasions, he had always written his remarks and had someone else read them to the Convention, but this time Franklin was stirred to personally address the delegates, telling them:

Benjamin Franklin

In 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. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor….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, and that one or more of the clergy of the city be requested to officiate in that service. [42]

Most modern observers, even critics, would certainly concede that these eleven sentences spoken by Franklin carry a general religious overtone, but they likely would not admit much more. However, there is much more. Unrealized by most today is that in those eleven sentences, Franklin had specifically referenced or quoted by memory eight different Bible phrases that appear in thirteen different Bible verses:

  1. “groping in the dark” (Job 12:25)
  2. “the Father of Lights” (James 1:17)
  3. “illuminate our understanding” (James 1:5)
  4. “a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice” (Matthew 10:29, Luke 12:6)
  5. “can an empire rise without His aid” (Daniel 4:17, Psalm 75:7)
  6. “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1)
  7. “the builders of Babel” (Genesis 11:1-9)
  8. “a reproach and a byword” (Deuteronomy 28:37, 2 Chronicles 7:20, 1 Kings 9:7, Psalm 44:14)

Many Americans now know so little of the Bible that they no longer recognize these Bible references and phrases. In fact, unless speakers today announce they are citing a specific Bible verse, people listening usually don’t recognize Bible quotations or references. But in the Founders’ day, they didn’t need to call attention to which Bible verses they were quoting, for nearly all Americans had learned to read from the Bible and studied it in school and therefore knew and recognized its phrases.

Roger Sherman of Connecticut seconded Franklin’s motion for prayer, but then Hugh Williamson of North Carolina pointed out that they had no funds to pay the salary of a full-time chaplain. [43] Edmund Randolph of Virginia then proposed “that a sermon be preached, at the request of the Convention, on the Fourth of July, the anniversary of Independence” and that “thenceforward prayers to be read in the Convention every morning.”[44]

The Constitutional Convention therefore recessed for three days, attended church, and listened to patriotic orations. [45] They gathered at the Calvinist Reformed Church in Philadelphia, and the Rev. William Rogers prayed a special prayer over them:

[W]e fervently recommend to Thy fatherly notice…our Federal Convention….[F]avor them from day to day with Thy immediate presence; be Thou their wisdom and their strength! Enable them to devise such measures as may prove happily instrumental for healing all divisions and promoting the good of the great whole…that the United States of America may furnish the world with one example of a free and permanent government….May we….continue, under the influence of republican virtue, to partake of all the blessings of cultivated and civilized society. [46]

Calvin Coolidge

After those three days off, with attending church, listening to orations, and having special prayer, there was an apparent change in atmosphere: the delegates slowly began making progress and were gradually able to reach a solution on major problematic issues. This resulted in the best form of government ever devised by man, and the US Constitution has proven to be the most valuable and stable civil document in history. [47]

As President Calvin Coolidge affirmed, “no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. The good it has wrought can never be measured.”[48] He correctly concluded that “To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”[49] The finished Constitution was signed by thirty-nine delegates on September 17, 1787 (which is why September 17 is annually celebrated nationally as “Constitution Day”), and then sent to the states for approval. The ratification debates in several of the state conventions were heated, and in many states the votes were close.

Significantly, some forty-four clergy from various denominations had been elected by their states as delegates to the state ratification conventions, [50] and in states such as Connecticut, North Carolina, and Massachusetts, the ratification conventions for the Constitution were actually held in churches. [51] Many of those clergy delegates (especially in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and New Hampshire) played key roles in securing approval for the Constitution.

For example, twenty clergy in Massachusetts served in that state’s convention, and their support was crucial since the Constitution was ratified in that state by a margin of only nineteen votes (187 to 168). Benjamin Lincoln of Massachusetts (one of George Washington’s most trusted generals during the final campaigns of the War for Independence) reported to his former Commander-in-Chief: “It is very fortunate for us that the clergy are pretty generally with us.”[52]

In South Carolina, celebration broke out after the successful ratification vote was announced. When order was restored, elder statesman Christopher Gadsden addressed the convention. Acknowledging his advanced age, he said that he would probably not live long enough to see the happy results of the final adoption of the Constitution by the entire nation, but for his own part, he declared: “I shall say with good old Simeon [when he saw the Christ child brought into the Temple] ‘Lord, now let Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen the salvation of my country [Luke 2:29]’”[53]

He believed the new Constitution would be a significant force for good in the nation, and was grateful to have lived long enough to see it approved before he died.

Despite sometimes vigorous debates, state after state continued approving the Constitution. New Hampshire became key; if it ratified, it would be the ninth state to do so, which meant that the necessary threshold had been reached for the Constitution to officially become the new governing document for America. Just prior to that vote, George Washington told American hero Marquis de Lafayette:

Should everything proceed with harmony and consent according to our actual wishes and expectations, it will be so much beyond anything we had a right to imagine or expect eighteen months ago that it will, as visibly as any possible event in the course of human affairs, demonstrate the finger of Providence. [54]

The Constitution was indeed ratified by New Hampshire; and all of the remaining states also eventually approved it.

Significantly, numerous Framers of the Constitution openly avowed that the final document reflected God’s hand and providence. For example, signer William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut declared that the finished Constitution was the result of “a signal [obvious]intervention of Divine providence.”[55]

Alexander Hamilton similarly affirmed:

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. [56]

James Madison

James Madison agreed, and reported:

It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution. [57]

According to these delegates (and others), the finger of God—that is, His Divine power (specifically referenced in Bible passages such as Exodus 8:19, Exodus 31:18, Deuteronomy 9:10, Luke 11:20)—had guided their writing of the Constitution. Benjamin Franklin certainly 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]. [58]

George Washington (president of the Convention) similarly attested:

As to my sentiments with respect to the merits of the new Constitution…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. [59]

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration from Philadelphia (and a ratifier of the Constitution), closely monitored the proceedings and openly testified:

I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of [Divine] 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. [60]

Clearly, many of the Founding Fathers involved with writing and approving the US Constitution believed that God had been a direct force in its creation.

The US Constitution

Sadly, despite the abundant historical evidence, numerous modern jurists, academics, and others today wrongly claim the US Constitution is a Godless document. In fact, in the book Godless Constitution, two professors firmly assert the Constitution was completely secular and not influenced by religious principles.On what authoritative historical sources do those professors rely to prove this errant claim? Significantly, in their “Note on Sources” at the end of the book, they candidly admit: “we have dispensed with the usual scholarly apparatus of footnotes.”[61]

There are no footnotes—they use no original historical documentation to prove their “historical” claims. What a startling admission, but this is reflective of what often occurs in far too much of academia and media today.

For several reasons, the truth is actually the opposite of what they claim.

First, many of the specific ideas presented in the Constitution were developed from the Christian culture of the preceding two centuries. This is confirmed by the extensive work of political scientists who embarked on an ambitious ten-year project to analyze writings from the Founding Era (1760-1805) with the goal of isolating and identifying the specific political authorities quoted during in those writings. If the sources of the specific quotes in those writings could be identified, then the origin of the Founders’ political ideas could be documented.

Selecting some 15,000 representative writings, the researchers isolated 3,154 direct quotations, and then documented the origin of those quotations. [62]

Their research revealed the single most cited authority in the writings of the Founding Era was the Bible: thirty-four percent of the documented quotes were taken from the Bible—a percentage almost four times higher than the second most-quoted source. [63]

A second proof that the Constitution is not secular or Godless is that it was deliberately designed to be utilized alongside the Declaration of Independence—a document that explicitly refers to God multiple times. The Declaration is the foundation upon which first our nation and then our Constitution were built, and the Declaration and the Constitution were intended to be used side-by-side—hand-in-hand; one will not work properly if separated from the other. As the US Supreme Court attested (1897):

[T]he latter [Constitution] is but the body and the letter of which the former [Declaration of Independence] is the thought and the spirit, and it is always safe to read the letter of the Constitution in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. [64]

This reality was also affirmed by John Quincy Adams in his famous oration, “The Jubilee [that is, the fiftieth anniversary] of the Constitution,” in which he explained:

John Quincy Adams

[T]he virtue which had been infused into the Constitution of the United States…was no other than the concretion of those abstract principles which had been first proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence….This was the platform upon which the Constitution of the United States had been erected. Its virtues, its republican character, consisted in its conformity to the principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and as its administration…[and] was to depend upon the…virtue, or in other words, of those principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Constitution of the United States. [65]

From the beginning, the interdependent relationship between these two documents was clear: together, both of them form our founding charter; and the entire framework of our government as expressed in both documents is built upon the Christian idea of man and government.

A third proof that the Constitution is not a Godless secular document is found in its internal content. Several of its specific clauses actually incorporate specifically recognizable Biblical provisions and rhetoric. Here are a few examples.

Sundays Excepted

The Constitution recognizes and sets apart Sunday from governmental work. Article II of the Constitution stipulates that when Congress passes a bill, for that bill to become law the president has ten days to sign it—not counting Sundays, or as the Constitution says, “Sundays excepted.”

Significantly, Christianity is the only major religion in the world that has a Sunday Sabbath. As the Supreme Court of California observed (1858), the Sabbaths observed by various religions included “the Friday of the Mohammedan, the Saturday of the Israelite, or the Sunday of the Christian.”[66] The South Carolina Supreme Court (1846) similarly noted the fact that the US Constitution officially recognized and set apart the Christian Sabbath:

Christianity is a part of the common law of the land, with liberty of conscience to all. It has always been so recognized….The US Constitution allows it as a part of the common law. The President is allowed ten days [to sign a bill], with the exception of Sunday. The Legislature does not sit; public offices are closed; and the government recognizes the day in all things….The observance of Sunday is one of the usages of the common law recognized by our US and state governments….Christianity is part and parcel of the common law. [67]

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary similarly commented (in 1853) on this constitutional provision, reaching the same obvious conclusion:

In the law, Sunday is a “dies non” [a day on which no legal business can be conducted]. It cannot be used for the services of legal process, the return of writs, or other judicial purposes. The executive department, the public establishments—are all closed on Sundays; on that day neither House of Congress sits….Here is a recognition by law and by universal usage not only of a Sabbath but of the Christian Sabbath, in exclusion of the Jewish or Mahammedan Sabbath….The recognition of the Christian Sabbath [by the Constitution] is complete and perfect. [68]

For decades, the specific recognition of the Christian Sabbath in the Constitution was cited by state and federal courts as proof of the Christian nature of our Constitution (and many other governing documents contain the same recognition of the Christian Sabbath).


The five oath-taking clauses in the Constitution also demonstrate its religious nature, for the Founders universally affirmed oath-taking to be a singularly religious activity. For example, James Madison called an oath “the strongest of religious ties”[69]; John Adams said oaths were sacred obligations”[70]; Declaration signer John Witherspoon said taking an oath “indeed is an act of worship[71]; Declaration signer Oliver Wolcott said that an oath “is a direct appeal to…God[72]; US Supreme Court Justice James Iredell said it was a “solemn appeal to the Supreme Being[73]; and George Washington warned to never let oath-taking become a secular activity.a href=”#_edn74″ name=”_ednref74″>[74] For the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution, the oath-taking clauses were overtly religious.

Rufus King

In fact, Constitution signer Rufus King declared that oaths were a “principle which is proclaimed in the Christian system.”[75] Consider how this is “principle” from the “Christian system” is reflected in our American oath-taking process even today.

Traditionally, in taking an oath an individual raises their right hand, places the other on the Bible, takes the oath, and concludes with “So help me God.” Notice how the elements in this sequence directly parallels specific verses in the Bible.

For example, in Genesis 26:2-3, God told Isaac “I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father”—so God Himself swore an oath. Concerning the oath, God declared: “i raised my hand in an oath. . .” (Ezekiel 20:15, 23; 36:7; Psalm 106:26). The Scripture further tells us that “The Lord has sworn by His right hand” (Isaiah 62:8). And when God’s people were instructed about how to take an oath, they were told: “You shall . . . take oaths in his name” (Deuteronomy 10:20), which is what we do today when we use the phrase “So help me God.”

Clearly, the oath-taking clauses of the Constitution reflect specific Biblical practices.

Attestation Clause

The Constitution declares in Article VII that it was written “in the year of our Lord” 1787. Most legal documents of that day gave only the year; a few added “in the year of the Lord”; but the drafters of the Constitution personalized that phrase, making it “in the year of our Lord.” Our Founders deliberately dated the Constitution in a way that recognized the birth of Christ.

Other Clauses

Notice the extremely close parallels between the explicit wording of the Bible and the almost identical wording of that unique thought or idea in the Constitution. For instance:

The Natural-Born Citizen Presidential Requirement 
  • Concerning the selection of a national executive leader, the Bible says “One from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother” (Deuteronomy 17:15, ESV). The national leader cannot be an immigrant but must be native-born.
  • Reflecting this same requirement, the Constitution stipulates: “No person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the office of President” (Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 5). The Constitution allows a US Senator or Representative to be an immigrant, but it requires that the national leader—the President—must be native-born (or as the Bible specified, “one from among your brethren” who is “not a foreigner”).
Capital Punishment 
  • Concerning the death penalty, the Bible says: “Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.” (Deuteronomy 17:6, NKJV)
  • Concerning treason (a death penalty offense specifically named in the Constitution), the Constitution likewise requires: “No person shall be convicted of treason [and put to death], unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act” (Article, Section 3, Paragraph 3).
  • The Bible says: “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20, NKJV). The family is not to be punished for the wrongdoing of a single member of the family.
  • Attainder (common in European governments at the time) punishes an entire family for the wrongdoing of one member of the family. For example, if one person in the family commits treason, then the bloodline of the entire family becomes “corrupt” and for generations thereafter no member of the family can own property or enjoy other rights. But the Constitution, echoing the Bible’s teaching, says: “No attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attained” (Art. III, Sec. 3, Clause 2).

And notice also the three branches of government—the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive—is set forth in Isaiah 33:22 (“The Lord is our judge [the judicial] , the Lord is our lawgiver [the legislative] , the Lord is our king [the executive]). And the type of tax exemptions the Founders gave to churches (tax exemptions that still exist today) is found in Ezra 7:24: “You have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.”

And the mandate of republicanism set forth in the Constitution in Art. IV, Sec. 4 (that is, of selecting our leaders at the local, county, state, and federal levels) has its origins in Exodus 18:21(“select capable men from all the people…as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens”) and also Deuteronomy 1:13. In fact, Noah Webster (the Founder personally responsible for Art. I, Sec 8, ¶8 of the Constitution) specifically cites Exodus 18:21, [76] as do Declaration signers John Witherspoon and Benjamin Rush. [77]

Further demonstrating the Constitution’s reliance on and incorporation of Biblical precepts, on multiple occasions John Adams directly affirmed that the principle undergirding the constitutional separation of powers was specifically taken from the Bible is teaching in Jeremiah 17:9. Adams explained:

John Adams

To expect self-denial from men when they have a majority in their favor (and consequently power to gratify themselves) is to disbelieve all history and universal experience—it is to disbelieve [Divine] Revelation and the Word of God, which informs us, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” [Jeremiah 17:9]….There is no man so blind as not to see that to talk of founding a government upon a supposition that nations and great bodies of men, left to themselves, will practice a course of self-denial is either to babble like a new-born infant, or to deceive like an unprincipled impostor.[78]

To understand Adams’ reference to Jeremiah 17:9, recall that the Founders largely viewed man from a Christian perspective. As such, they believed in what Christian theologians call “the depravity of man.” This meant that man is in a fallen state; consequently, doing the wrong thing comes naturally to him—unless he has chosen to live by God’s principles and the uplifting standards of the Bible. Because of man’s sinful proclivity to do what is wrong, it was not likely that governments formed by men will automatically be inherently good and always serve the people. In fact, the record of countless governments across history repeatedly proves just the opposite—that nearly all governments which do not have internal safeguards and restraints that account for the inherent “depravity of man” will eventually become corrupt, selfish, oppressive, and tyrannical.

The Founders believed that the branches of government therefore needed to be separated from, and able to check and balance each other so that perhaps all might not go wicked at the same time. Thus, if the Judiciary became selfish and corrupt, then perhaps the Legislative and Executive could negate that influence; and the same was true with the other branches. So, using their Biblical understanding of the general fallen nature of man, the Founders were careful to construct a form of government that would not entrust any man or branch with too much power, knowing that sinful man tends to abuse that power.

Not only did John Adams cite Jeremiah 17:9 (on multiple occasions) to explain separation of powers, but the same point was similarly made by signers of the Constitution George Washington [79] and Alexander Hamilton. [80] And James Madison, affirming the same Biblical view of the fallen and sinful nature of man, in Federalist 51 affirmed:

What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.[81]

The Preamble to the Constitution

Significantly, the Preamble (that is, the introduction) to the Constitution set the tone for the limited nature of that document. It identifies five basic functions of civil government, and each reflects Biblical precepts. Those five enumerated purposes of America’s federal government are to:

  1. Establish justice.” Dozens of Bible verses specifically address this as being a proper and primary object of government. For example:
  • Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Execute true justice.” (Zechariah 7:9)
  • All His ways are justice—a God of truth and without injustice. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
  • Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne. (Psalm 89:14)

Government must administer God’s justice.

  1. “Insure domestic tranquility.” In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, the Bible urges Christians to pray for civil rulers “in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all Godliness and dignity.” God wants His people to seek and enjoy, and the government to produce domestic tranquility.
  2. Provide for the common defense.” In Romans 13:4, the Bible affirms that civil government “does not bear the sword in vain.” The “sword” is a military weapon, and even Jesus Christ taught His disciples the legitimacy of being armed, telling them in Luke 22:36, “Now…let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one.” Protecting innocent human life is a primary purpose of government (cf. Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Peter 2:13-14), and to fulfill this purpose, governments organize armies to protect citizens from international threats, and establish police forces to protect citizens from domestic threats.
  3. “Promote the general welfare.” Romans 13:4 says that civil leaders are to be servants “to you for good”—they are to serve and seek the common good of all classes of citizens. God wants government to reflect equality in the same way He does; after all, God uses the same standards for all (see Matthew 5:45), and all were created equal by and before God. As the Bible affirms:
  • Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? (Malachi 2:10)
  • God does not show favoritism. (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11)
  • For the Lord your God…shows no partiality. (Deuteronomy 10:17)

By the way, notice that the Preamble says that government is to promote the general welfare,” not provide for the general welfare.” Numerous Scriptures make clear that needy individuals are to be cared for by private acts of charity from individuals, churches, and families, but not from government. The Framers of our government frequently reiterated the same point about promoting welfare.[82]

  1. The fifth purpose of American government set forth in the preamble is to “Secure the blessings of liberty.” “Blessings” means “God’s favor and protection” and liberty is one of God’s blessings for all the people.
  • Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. (Leviticus 25:10)
  • Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
  • You have been called unto liberty. (Galatians 5:13)
The US Constitution contains many Biblical ideas and principles.

Significantly, the most basic of our Creator-endowed blessings are identified in the Declaration of Independence as well as in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution as “life, liberty, [and] private property.” Just as God is the source of liberty, the Scriptures also identify Him as the source of life (Genesis 1:27, “And God created man…” and Acts 17:28 “In Him we live, move, and have our being”). God is also the source of private property (Ecclesiastes 5:19 states, “For every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them…and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God”; and 1 Chronicles 29:12, likewise affirms: “Both riches and honor come from Thee.”)

The purpose for which American government exists and the Constitution was written is set forth in the five clauses of the Preamble, and all five are firmly rooted in Bible teachings.

The First Inauguration, 1789
Washington took the Presidential oath of office with his hand on the Bible.

By June 1788, the Constitution had been ratified. Electors from the states then unanimously chose George Washington as the first president. He was the only president in US history to be elected with no opposition.[83]

Constitutional experts abounded at that first presidential inauguration in March 1789. Not only did George Washington help create the Constitution that was now to govern the nation but one fourth of the members of the Congress that organized and directed his inauguration had been delegates with him in writing that Constitution.[84]

Furthermore, this very same Congress also penned the First Amendment to the Constitution with its religion clauses. Clearly, therefore, this Congress definitely knew what was and was not constitutional; so the religious activities that were part of the first inauguration may well be said to have had the approval of the greatest congressional collection of constitutional experts America has ever known.

That inauguration occurred in New York City, which served as the nation’s capital during the first year of the new federal government. The preparations had been extensive; everything had been well planned; and religious activities abounded.

The newspapers reported on the very first activity of the inauguration:

[O]n the morning of the day on which our illustrious President will be invested with his office, the bells will ring at nine o’clock, when the people may go up to the house of God and in a solemn manner commit the new government, with its important train of consequences, to the holy protection and blessing of the Most High. An early hour is prudently fixed for this peculiar act of devotion and…is designed wholly for prayer. [85]

As the parade carrying Washington by horse-drawn carriage to the swearing-in was nearing Federal Hall, it was realized that no Bible had been obtained for administering the oath, and New York state law required that a Bible be part of the ceremony.[86] Parade Marshal Jacob Morton therefore hurried off and soon returned with a large 1767 Bible.

The inauguration ceremony was conducted on the balcony at Federal Hall; and with a huge crowd gathered below watching the proceedings, the Bible was laid upon a crimson velvet cushion and the oath of office was administered. The Bible was opened (at random) to Genesis 49;[87] Washington placed his left hand upon the open Bible, raised his right, took the oath of office, then bent over and reverently kissed the Bible.[88] Washington and the other officials then departed the balcony and went inside Federal Hall to the Senate Chamber, where Washington delivered his Inaugural Address.

In that first-ever presidential speech, Washington opened with his own heartfelt prayer. [89] He then called on his listeners to remember and acknowledge God.[90] Finishing his address, Washington offered his closing prayer.[91]

Moving on to the next inaugural activity, the Senate directed:

That after the oath shall have been administered to the President, he—attended by the Vice-President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives—proceed to St. Paul’s Chapel to hear Divine service.[92]

The House approved the same resolution, [93] so the president and Congress thus went en masse to church as an official body. As affirmed by congressional records:

The President, the Vice-President, the Senate, and House of Representatives, &c., then proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel, where Divine Service was performed by the chaplain of Congress.[94]

There were thus at least seven distinctly religious activities included in this first presidential inauguration, and those activities have been repeated in whole or part in every inauguration since: (1) the use of the Bible to administer the oath; (2) solemnifying the oath with multiple religious expressions (placing a hand on the Bible, saying “So help me God,” and then kissing the Bible); (3) prayers offered by the president himself; (4) religious content in the inaugural address; (5) the president calling on the people to pray or acknowledge God; (6) church inaugural worship services; and (7) clergy-led prayers.

Christianity and the Congress

The Continental Congress had passed an important act known as “The Northwest Ordinance.” President Washington and Congress passed a federal law to ensure that this Ordinance would be in effect under the new Constitution.[95]

It is so important that even today, it is still considered one of the four organic, or fundamental American laws on which all others are to be based.[96] It not only declared that “civil and religious liberty…form the basis whereon these republics, their laws, and constitutions are erected,”[97] but it was also the first federal law to address education. Article III of that national law directly linked religion and public education together, declaring:

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. [98]

(Across history, numerous state constitutions, complying with this provision, likewise declared that religion, morality, and knowledge were to be part of public education, and many state constitutions today still retain this requirement.[99])

Some six weeks later on September 25, 1789, Congress finished framing the Bill of Rights (the first Ten Amendments, setting forth the God-given inalienable rights that belong to every individual). The Bill of Rights was the Capstone of the Constitution. Significantly, 165 years later, US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren declared:

I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people….I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country. [100]

On that notable day in 1789 on which the Bill of Rights was completed, the Journals of Congress record that:

Ten of the twelve originally proposed amendments to the Constitution were ratified by the states, and those then are now known as the Bill of Rights.

Mr. [Roger] Sherman [the only Founding Father to sign all four founding documents] justified the practice of thanksgiving on any signal [important] event not only as a laudable one in itself but as warranted by precedents in Holy Writ [i.e., the Scriptures]: for instance, the solemn thanksgivings and rejoicings which took place in the time of Solomon after the building of the temple was a case in point [1 Kings 8, 2 Chronicles 5-7]. This example he thought worthy of Christian imitation on the present occasion. [101]

Congress therefore unanimously requested that President Washington issue a proclamation for the people of the United States to thank Almighty God for the “opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.”[102] Washington happily complied with that request, affirming that it is “the duty of all nations 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.”[103]

Notice that George Washington said nations—not just individuals, but nations—have four distinct duties: (1) to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, (2) to obey His will, (3) to be grateful for His benefits, and (4) humbly to implore His protection and favor. Our Congress and our presidents have fulfilled this duty hundreds of times in our nation’s history.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights passed by the Congress) is misunderstood by many people today, including numerous courts. Concerning religion, the Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Many today claim that this Amendment mandates a “separation of church and state,” which to them means that government can have nothing to do with religion in general, or Christianity in particular. But our Founders wrote this clause only to ensure that Congress could not establish a national church, or give official preference to a particular religious denomination, as had been the centuries-long practice for many European governments at that time.

The Founders considered the idea of separating God from government, or making government purely secular, a ridiculous notion. They repeatedly affirmed that God was Supreme over all earthly governments; to them, any attempt to separate government from Godly principles would mean the death of the nation. As George Washington openly reminded Americans:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. [104]

According to Washington, anyone who sought to remove religion or morality from government could not be considered a patriot—he was not a friend to or supporter of America. Founding Father John Witherspoon likewise declared:

[H]e is the best friend to American liberty who is the most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every king. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country. [105]

The Founders were adamantly opposed to any notion of a secular society or a Godless public square.

The proper view of the meaning of the First Amendment was accurately set forth by early Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (called a “Father of American Jurisprudence,” placed on the Court by President James Madison). Story authored the famous Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833), considered one of the most respected American legal works. Concerning the First Amendment, he explained:

At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the Amendment to it now under consideration [i.e., the First Amendment], the general if not the universal sentiment in America was that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state….An attempt to level all religions and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation….The real object of the [First] Amendment was not to countenance [approve], much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government [i.e., establish an official national church or denomination, such as Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, or any other].[106]

Justice Story further explained:

In some of the states, Episcopalians constituted the predominant sect [denomination]; in others, Presbyterians; in other, Congregationalists; in others, Quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects [denominations]. It was impossible that there should not arise perpetual strife and jealousy…if the national government were left free to create a [national] religious establishment….Thus the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments.[107]

Significantly, even Thomas Jefferson (the man often credited today with being the originator of the phrase “separation of church and state”) adamantly opposed the concept of a secular nation, or Godless public square. In fact, he frequently introduced religious activities directly into the public arena.

For example, in 1774 while serving in the Virginia state legislature, he introduced a resolution for a colony-wide day of fasting and prayer. And in 1779 as governor of Virginia, he issued a proclamation calling for a statewide day of prayer and thanksgiving.[108]

In 1789, he began serving in the federal government as Secretary of State for President George Washington where he was placed in charge of laying out the city of Washington DC, including building the White House and the US Capitol. He then became Vice President under President John Adams, and during this time,on November 22, 1800, Congress moved into the newly constructed US Capitol building.

Two weeks later on December 4, 1800, with Theodore Sedgwick presiding over the House and Thomas Jefferson over the Senate, a plan was approved whereby Christian church services would be held every Sunday in the Hall of the House of Representatives[109] —the largest room in the Capitol building. The spiritual leadership for each Sunday’s service would alternate between the chaplain of the House and the chaplain of the Senate, each of whom would either personally conduct the service or invite some other minister to preach.

It was in this most recognizable of all government buildings that Vice President Jefferson attended church[110] —a practice he continued throughout his two terms as president.[111] In fact, US congressman Manasseh Cutler, who also attended church at the Capitol, affirmed that “He [Jefferson] and his family have constantly attended public worship in the Hall.”[112] Mary Bayard Smith, another attendee at the Capitol services, confirmed, “Mr. Jefferson, during his whole administration, was a most regular attendant.”[113] She even noted that Jefferson had a designated seat at the Capitol church: “The seat he chose the first Sabbath, and the adjoining one, which his private secretary occupied, were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation left for him and his secretary.”[114]

Each Sunday, Jefferson rode his horse from the White House to the church at the Capitol, [115] a distance of 1.6 miles and a trip of about thirty minutes. He made this ride regardless of weather conditions. In fact, among Representative Cutler’s entries is one noting that “[i]t was very rainy, but his [Jefferson’s] ardent zeal brought him through the rain and on horseback to the Hall.”[116] Other diary entries similarly confirm Jefferson’s faithful attendance despite unfavorable weather.[117]

Interestingly, the Marine Corps band, now known as the President’s Own Band, played worship services at the Capitol. [118] According to attendee Margaret Bayard Smith, the band, clad in their scarlet uniforms, made a “dazzling appearance” as they played from the gallery, providing instrumental accompaniment for the singing. [119] However, good as they were, they seemed too showy for the services and “the attendance of the Marine Band was soon discontinued.”[120]

Under President Jefferson, Sunday church services were also started at the War Department and the Treasury Department[121] —government buildings of the Executive Branch under Jefferson’s direct control. If Jefferson thought such religious services in government buildings and government settings were unconstitutional or improper, he certainly had the power to stop them; but he did not. To the contrary, he helped start them and encouraged their use. Therefore, on any given Sunday, worshippers could choose between attending church at the US Capitol, the War Department, or the Treasury Department—all with the blessing of Jefferson. (By 1867, the church in the Capitol that Jefferson helped start had become the largest church in Washington, DC.[122])

When Jefferson was asked why he attended church at the Capitol, he answered:

No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion—nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example. [123]

Additionally, while serving as President of the United States, Jefferson authored the original plan of education for the public schools of Washington, DC. He used the Bible and Watt’s Hymnal (one of the greatest doctrinal hymnals in Christendom) as the primary reading texts.[124] In 1803, he signed a federal act renewing provisions related to propagating the Gospel among the Delaware Indian tribe[125] and also approved a treaty with the Kaskaskia tribe to provide them Christian ministry and teaching.[126] And in 1804 he signed a federal act related to the propagation of the Gospel among Indians on federal land trusts.[127] President Jefferson not only personally undertook federal initiatives to help propagate Christianity and Christian teachings among native peoples, he also praised others who did the same.[128]

After he left the presidency, Jefferson established the University of Virginia, where he encouraged the teaching of religion and set apart space in the Rotunda for chapel services.[129] He also praised the use of the local courthouse in his home town for religious services.[130]

Congressional Actions

Many significant acts of Congress in promoting religion and Biblical Christianity have already been noted, but there are many more. For example, between 1836 and 1847, Congress commissioned four massive paintings to be hung in the Rotunda of the US Capitol for public viewing. They were designed to depict events reflecting the Christian heritage of the nation, and among the four paintings are featured three Christian prayer services, a Christian Bible study, and a Christian baptism. [131]

A few years later in 1852-1853, a group petitioned Congress for a complete secularization of the public square and a cessation of all religious activities by government. But Congress rejected that request, instead making unambiguous declarations about America as a God-centered and Christian nation:

House Judiciary Committee: Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, not any one sect [denomination]….In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity. That [Christianity], in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions.[132]

Senate Judiciary Committee: We are Christians, not because the law demands it, not to gain exclusive benefits or to avoid legal disabilities, but from choice and education; and in a land thus universally Christian, what is to be expected—what desired—but that we shall pay a due regard to Christianity? [133]

In 1856, the House of Representatives likewise declared:

[T]he great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and Divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. [134]

There are countless other examples from congressional records that could similarly be cited to affirm that America’s culture and institutions, including that of civil government, were shaped by Christianity.

American Courts

The Christian presence so visible across America and throughout government was also openly acknowledged in the Judicial Branch. For example, in a unanimous decision in 1844, the US Supreme Court affirmed that America was “a Christian country.”[135] Then in 1892, after having reviewed scores of historical documents, the Court again delivered a unanimous ruling, declaring:

[N]o purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national because this is a religious people….[T]his is a Christian nation. [136]

In 1931, the Court rearticulated the same message:

We are a Christian people…according to one another the equal right of religious freedom, and acknowledging with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God. [137]

These “Christian country,” “Christian nation,” and “Christian people” declarations were subsequently cited by numerous lower federal courts for decades, including well into the modern era.[138] And because the Supreme Court viewed America as a Christian nation, it is not surprising that it regularly invoked Christian principles as the basis of its rulings on marriage,[139] citizenship,[140] foreign affairs, [141] domestic treaties,[142] and other issues.

(By the way, these decisions about America as a “Christian nation” were not issued because only Christians inhabited America, for such was never the case—not ever, not at any time. These decisions were rendered because the Court rightly recognized that Christianity had indeed shaped America’s institutions and formed the basis of its unique culture, and that those principles provided freedom and liberty for all citizens, regardless of whether or not they happened to be Christians. Thus, being a Christian nation did not exclude anyone from participation in or protection by American government.)

Significantly, state courts were just as forthright in their declarations on this subject as the federal courts had been. For example:

[O]ur laws and institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise. And in this sense, and to this extent, our civilization and institutions are emphatically Christian. [143] Illinois Supreme Court, 1883

Democracy is the outgrowth of Christianity. Although the constitutional decree of freedom of religion and worship embraces any faith…ours is a Christian nation.[144]Kentucky Court of Appeals, 1945

Our great country is denominated a Christian nation….We imprint “In God We Trust” on our currency. Our state has even sometimes been referred to by cynics as being in the “Bible Belt.” It cannot be denied that much of the legislative philosophy of this state and nation has been inspired by the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount and other portions of the Holy Scriptures.[145] Mississippi Supreme Court, 1950

[I]t is well settled and understood that ours is a Christian Nation, holding the Almighty God in dutiful reverence. It is so noted in our Declaration of Independence and in the constitution of every state of the Union. Since George Washington’s first presidential proclamation of Thanksgiving Day, each such annual proclamation reiterates the principles that we are such a Christian Nation….At public expenditure we engrave on our coins, “In God We Trust” and print the same on currency. Our National Motto adopted by joint resolution of Congress is “In God We Trust.” Our National Anthem closes with these words “In God is Our Trust.”…[W]e consider the language used in our Declaration of Independence, and in our national Constitution, and in our Constitution of Oklahoma, wherein those documents recognize the existence of God, and that we are a Christian Nation and a Christian State. [146]Oklahoma Supreme Court, 1959

Numerous other courts made similarly succinct pronouncements.

The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were clearly founded upon Christian ideas of man and government. Our Founders were the first civil leaders to (as the Declaration of Independence announced) “hold these truths” and establish a nation upon them. Without Christianity, there never would have been the US Constitution that has caused America to become the longest on-going constitutional republic in the history of the world. As Noah Webster (father of the American dictionary and a key individual in the passage of the Constitution) affirmed:

The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government. [147]

[1] Charles Hyneman and Donald Lutz, American Political Writing during the Founding Era 1760-1805 (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983), see listing for “virtue” in the index.

[2] The American Museum, or Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, & c.(Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1787), Vol. II, p. 191, “An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio,” July 30, 1787, Article III.

[3] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850),Vol. IX p. 401, to Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776.

[4] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850), Vol. IX p. 636, to Benjamin Rush on August 28, 1811.

[5] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1854), Vol. IX, pp. 228-229, “A Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, October 11, 1798.”

[6] Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), Vol. IV, p. 74, to John Trumbull on October 16, 1778.

[7] Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams,Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905), Vol. IV, p. 124, to James Warren on February 12, 1779.

[8] Charles C. Jones, Biographical Sketches of the Delegates from Georgia to the Continental Congress (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891), pp. 6-7.

[9] Bernard C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers Company, 1907), p. 475, Charles Carroll to James McHenry on November 4, 1800.

[10] The Independent Chronicle(Boston: Nathaniel Willis) on November 4, 1780, Vol. XIII, p. 4, from John Hancock’s Inaugural Address as Governor of Massachusetts. See also Abram English Brown, John Hancock, His Book (Boston: Lee and Shepard Publishers, 1898), p. 269.

[11] Patrick Henry,Life, Correspondence and Speeches, William Wirt Henry (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), Vol. II, p. 592, to Archibald Blair on January 8, 1799.

[12] Gouverneur Morris, A Diary of the French Revolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1939), Vol. II, p. 172, April 29, 1791.

[13] Gouverneur Morris, A Diary of the French Revolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1939), Vol. II, p. 452, to Lord George Gordon, June 28, 1792.

[14] Jared Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1832), Vol. III, p. 483, from his “Notes on the Form of a Constitution for France.”

[15] United States Oracle(Portsmouth, NH), May 24, 1800. See also The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789-1800, Maeva Marcus, editor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), Vol. III, p. 436.

[16] Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel Bradford, 1798), p. 8, “On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic.”

[17] Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington, DC: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XII, p. 315, to James Fishback on September 27, 1809.

[18] Daniel Webster, The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster Hitherto Uncollected (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1903), Vol. IV, pp. 657, to Professor Pease on June 15, 1852.

[19] George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1936), Vol. XIII, p. 118, from General Orders, October 21, 1778.

[20] George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Ferdinand Andrews, 1838), Vol. XII, p. 245, to the Clergy of Different Denominations Residing in and Near the City of Philadelphia, on March 3, 1797.

[21] Connecticut Courant, June 7, 1802, p. 3.

[22] Independent Chronicle(Boston), February 22, 1787, Fisher Ames writing as Camillus. See also Fisher Ames, The Works of Fisher Ames, Seth Ames, editor (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1983), Vol. I, p. 67.

[23] Daniel Webster, Mr. Webster’s Address at the Laying of the Cornerstone of the Addition to the Capitol; July 4th, 1851 (Washington: Gideon and Co., 1851), p. 23.

[24] Daniel Webster, A Discourse Delivered at Plymouth, December 22, 1820. In Commemoration of the First Settlement of New England (Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1821), pp. 49-50.

[25] Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 6.

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

[27] Proceedings of the Convention of the Delaware State Held at New-Castle on Tuesday the Twenty-Seventh of August, 1776 (Wimington: Star Publishing, 1927; reprint of Wilmington: James Adams, 1776), pp. 12 & 15.

[28] The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of the America (Boston: Norman and Bowen, 1785), pp. 99-100, Delaware, 1776, Article 22.

[29] Samuel Adams, Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1865), Vol. III, pp. 84-85.

[30] Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, editors (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888), s.v. “Nathaniel Gorham.”

[31] A Constitution or Frame of Government Agreed Upon by the Delegates of the People of the State of Massachusetts-Bay (Boston: Benjamin Edes & Sons, 1780), p. 44, Chap. VI, Art. I.

[32] The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Francis Bailey, 1784), pp. 32, 34.

[33] The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of the America (Boston: Norman and Bowen, 1785), p. 81, Pennsylvania, 1776, Article II, Section 10.

[34] See, for example, The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of the America (Boston: Norman and Bowen, 1785), p. 108, Maryland, 1776, Declaration of Rights, Section 35; p. 4, New Hampshire, 1783, Bill of Rights, Article I, Section 6; etc.

[35] Hezekiah Niles, Principles and Acts of the Revolution in America (Baltimore: William Ogden Niles, 1822), p. 198, debate on the bill for regulating the civil government of Massachusetts Bay, April 26, 1774.

[36] Documents of the Assembly of the State of New-York, Sixty-First Session. 1838 (Albany: E. Croswell, 1838), Vol. V, p. 1, “No. 262: Report of the committee on the judiciary on the petition of Joseph Frost, Joseph Sibley, and others, praying the repeal of the laws for the observance of the Sabbath & c.,” March 13, 1838.

[37] Documents of the Assembly of the State of New-York, Sixty-First Session. 1838 (Albany: E. Croswell, 1838), Vol. V, p. 6, “No. 262: Report of the committee on the judiciary on the petition of Joseph Frost, Joseph Sibley, and others, praying the repeal of the laws for the observance of the Sabbath & c.,” March 13, 1838.

[38] Gouverneur Morris, An Oration Upon the Death of General Washington by Gouverneur Morris. Delivered at the Request of the Corporation of the City of New York, On the 31stday of December 1799 (New York: John Furman, 1800), p. 21. Evans #38002.

[39] Gouverneur Morris, An Oration Upon the Death of General Washington by Gouverneur Morris. Delivered at the Request of the Corporation of the City of New York, On the 31stday of December 1799 (New York: John Furman, 1800), p. 21. Evans #38002.

[40] Gouverneur Morris, An Oration Upon the Death of General Washington by Gouverneur Morris. Delivered at the Request of the Corporation of the City of New York, On the 31stday of December 1799 (New York: John Furman, 1800), p. 21. Evans #38002.

[41] “The Changes in American Lifestyle: 1776 vs. 2005,” Mineral Information Institute (at: https://mineralseducationcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/minerals1776vstoday.pdf), p. 1.

[42] James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, Henry D. Gilpin, editor (Washington: Langtree and O’Sullivan, 1840), Vol. II, pp. 984-985, Benjamin Franklin on June 28, 1787.

[43] James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, Henry D. Gilpin, editor (Washington: Langtree and O’Sullivan, 1840), Vol. II, p. 986, June 28, 1787.

[44] James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, Henry D. Gilpin, editor (Washington: Langtree and O’Sullivan, 1840), Vol. II, p. 986, June 28, 1787. Hamilton opposed the resolution, saying such an action at that time might communicate to the populace (who knew nothing of the events in the closed convention) they were having troubles and, hence, undermine the people’s support. Mr. Sherman from Connecticut pointed out they would have greater troubles if they neglected this important duty. It was also proposed to have a sermon preached on July 4th at the request of the convention. Dayton records the motion appointing a chaplain was seconded and carried. Madison records they did not vote on the issue. If this were so, it was because they had no funds to officially invite a chaplain, as pointed out by Delegate Williamson. (See James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, Henry D. Gilpin, editor (Washington: Langtree and O’Sullivan, 1840), Vol. II, p. 986, June 28, 1787.) However, chaplains were certainly obtained in some manner as they opened future daily sessions with prayer. (See Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. III, p. 472, from William Steele to Jonathan Steele, September 1825 recounting a conversation with Jonathan Dayton.)

[45] James Madison’s records for Monday, July 2, 1787 notes, “That time might be given to the Committee, and to such as chose to attend to the celebration on the anniversary of Independence, the Convention adjourned till Thursday.” (James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, Henry D. Gilpin, editor (Washington: Langtree and O’Sullivan, 1840), Vol. II, pp. 1023-1024.) George Washington’s notes on July 4, 1787, “and (the Convention having adjourned for that purpose), [he] went to hear an Oration on the anniversary of Independence.” (Worthington Chauncy Ford, George Washington (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1900), Vol. II, p. 132.)

[46] The Massachusetts Centinel, August 15, 1787, p. 1.

[47] See The North American Review (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, January 1867), Vol. 104, p. 249: “Mr. [J. Arthur] Partridge…“the American government and Constitution is the most precious possession which the world holds, or which the future can inherit.” This is true—true because the American system is the political expression of Christian ideas.”; Daniel Webster, An Anniversary Address, Delivered Before the Federal Gentlemen of Concord and Its Vicinity, July 4th, 1806 (Concord, NH: George Hough, 1806), p. 6: “We live under the only government that ever existed, which was formed by the deliberate consultations of the people. Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in six thousand years, cannot be expected to happen often. Such a government, once destroyed, would have a void to be filled, perhaps for centuries, with evolution and tumult, riot and despotism.”

[48] Calvin Coolidge, The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge (Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, 2004; originally printed in 1929), p. 40.

[49] James M. Beck, The Constitution of the United States, 1787-1927, Edwin L. Miller, C. C. Barnes, editors (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1927), p. viii, a letter from the White House by Calvin Coolidge, December 12, 1924.

[50] John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987), p. 352, n. 15.

[51] The Debates in the Several Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Jonathan Elliot, editor (Washington, DC: 1836), Vol. II, p. 2-3, Massachusetts Convention, January 10, 1788; Vol. IV, p. 1, North Carolina Convention, July 21, 1788; Mark David Hall, Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic (Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 118-119, n75.

[52] George Washington, The Papers of George Washington, Dorothy Twohig, editor (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997), Vol. 6, pp. 104-105, from Benjamin Lincoln on February 9, 1788.

[53] George Bancroft, History of the United States of America (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1882), Vol. VI, p. 420, address by Christopher Gadsden originally reported in the Pennsylvania Packet, June 14, 1788.

[54] George Bancroft, History of the United States of America (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1882), Vol. VI, p. 414, George Washington to Marquis de la Fayette on May 28, 1788.

[55] George Bancroft, History of the Formation of the Constitution of the United States of America (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1882), Vol. II, p. 257, address by William Samuel Johnson originally reported in the Pennsylvania Packet, January 24, 1788.

[56] Essays on the Constitution of the United States, Published During its Discussion by the People, 1787-1788, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (Brooklyn: Historical Printing Co. 1892), p. 288, Caesar to Mr. Childs, October 17, 1787, originally printed in The Daily Advertiser. (This was written under his pseudonym Ceasar.)

[57] Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, & James Madison, The Federalist on the New Consitution; Written in 1788 (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 194, James Madison, Federalist #37.

[58] Benjamin Franklin,The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Company, 1840), 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.

[59] 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.

[60] 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.

[61] Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, The Godless Constitution (New York: W.W. Nortion & Company, 1996) p. 179.

[62] Donald S. Lutz, “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth Century American Political Thought,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 78, Issue 1, March 1984, p. 191.

[63] Donald S. Lutz, “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth Century American Political Thought,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 78, Issue 1, March 1984, pp. 192-193. See also Donald Lutz, The Origins of American Constitutionalism (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), pp. 141-142.

[64] Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company v. Ellis, 165 U. S. 150, 160 (1897).

[65] John Quincy Adams, The Jubilee of the Constitution. A Discourse Delivered at the Request of the New York Historical Society, in the City of New York, On Tuesday the 30thof April, 1839; Being the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States, on Thursday, the 30thof April, 1789 (New York: Samuel Colman, 1839), p. 54.

[66] Ex parte Newman, 9 Cal. 502, 509 (1858).

[67] City Council of Charleston v. S. A. Benjamin, 2 Strob. 508, 518-521 (Sup. Ct. S.C. 1846)

[68] The Reports of Committees of the Senate of the United States For the Second Session of the Thirty-Second Congress, 1852-53 (Washington: Robert Armstrong, 1853), pp. 3, “Rep. Com. No. 376,” January 21, 1853.

[69] James Madison, The Writings of James Madison, Gaillard Hunt, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), Vol. V, p. 30, to Thomas Jefferson on October 24, 1787.

[70] John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts on October 11, 1798.

[71] John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. VII, p. 139, from his “Lectures on Moral Philosophy,” Lecture 16 on Oaths and Vows.

[72] Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Washington: Printed for the Editor, 1836), Vol. II, p. 202, Oliver Wolcott on January 9, 1788.

[73] Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Washington: Printed for the Editor, 1836), Vol. IV, p. 196, James Iredell on July 30, 1788.

[74] George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States, and Late Commander in Chief of the American Army, to the People of the United States, Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: Christopher Jackson, 1796), p. 23.

[75] Reports of the Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of 1821, Assembled for the Purpose of Amending The Constitution of the State of New York (Albany: E. and E. Hosford, 1821), p. 575, Rufus King, October 30, 1821.

[76] Noah Webster, Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education (New Haven: S. Converse, 1823), pp. 18-19, Letter 1. See also a similar comment in Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), pp. 336-337, ¶ 49, although the Scripture citation in this work is closer to 2 Samuel 23:3 than Exodus 18:21.

[77] John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1804), Vol. V, pp. 266-267, from “A Sermon Delivered at a Public Thanksgiving after Peace”; and a handwritten manuscript of Dr. Benjamin Rush in the private collection of David Barton. In that work, Dr. Rush lists several headings, and under the heading, verses that he believed pertained to that subject. Under the heading, “Government” in his manuscript, Dr. Rush lists Exodus 18:21 as an applicable verse.

[78] John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (London: C. Dilly, 1788), Vol. III, p. 289.

[79] George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States, and Late Commander in Chief of the American Army, to the People of the United States, Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: Christopher Jackson, 1796), p. 13.

[80] Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, & James Madison, The Federalist on the New Constitution; Written in 1788 (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 85, Federalist #16 by Alexander Hamilton.

[81] Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, & James Madison, The Federalist on the New Constitution; Written in 1788 (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 281, Federalist #51 by James Madison.

[82] See The Founders Bible (Newbury Park, CA: Shiloh Road, 2017), articles relating to Deutereonmy 15:11 (p. 311) and Deutereonmy 24 (p. 337).

[83] For George Washington’s unanimous vote, see:  Journal of the First Session of the Senate of the United States of America, Begun and Held at the City of New York, March 4, 1789 (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1820), Vol. 1, p. 8, Senate vote of April 6, 1789, and p. 9, John Langdon’s letter to George Washington on April 6, 1789.

[84] Significantly, many of the US Senators at the first Inauguration had been delegates to the Constitutional Convention that framed the Constitution including William Samuel Johnson, Oliver Ellsworth, George Read, Richard Bassett, William Few, Caleb Strong, John Langdon, William Paterson, Robert Morris, and Pierce Butler; and many members of the House had been delegates to the Constitutional Convention, including Roger Sherman, Abraham Baldwin, Daniel Carroll, Elbridge Gerry, Nicholas Gilman, Hugh Williamson, George Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimmons, and James Madison.

[85] The Daily Advertiser, New York, Thursday, April 23, 1789, p. 2.

[86] Laws of the State of New York(New York: Thomas Greenleaf, 1798), p. 21, “Chap. XXV: An Act to dispense with the usual mode of administering oaths, in favor of persons having conscientious scruples respecting the same, Passed 1stof April, 1778”; and James Parker, Conductor Generalis: Or the Office, Duty and Authority of the Justices of the Peace (New York: John Patterson, 1788), pp. 302-304, “Of oaths in general.”

[87] Clarence W. Bowen, The History of the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington (New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1892), p. 52, Illustration.

[88] Gazette of the United States(May 9-13, 1789), p. 3, “Extract of a letter from New-York, May 3.” See alsoThe American Museum: Or Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, & c. Prose and Poetical (Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1789), Vol. V, p. 505.

[89] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, p. 27. See also George Washington, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, James D. Richardson, editor (Washington, D.C.: 1899), Vol. 1, pp. 44-45, April 30, 1789, Inaugural Address.

[90] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, pp. 27-29, April 30, 1789.

[91] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, pp. 27-29, April 30, 1789.

[92] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, p. 25, April 27, 1789.

[93] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, p. 241, April 29, 1789.

[94] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1834), Vol. I, p. 29, April 30, 1789.

[95] The Constitutions of the United States of America With the Latest Amendments (Philadelphia: Robert Campbell, 1800), p. 272, “An Act to Provide for the Government of the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio,” August 7, 1789.

[96] United States Code Annotated (St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1987), “The Organic Laws of the United States of America,” p. 1. This work lists America’s four fundamental laws as the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Northwest Ordinance.

[97] The American Museum, or Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, & c. (Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1787), Vol. II, p. 190, “An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio,” July 30, 1787.

[98] The American Museum, or Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, & c. (Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1787), Vol. II, p. 191, “An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio,” July 30, 1787, Article III.

[99] The Constitutions of the United States of America With the Latest Amendments(New York: Evert Duygkinck, 1820), p. 409, Mississippi, 1817, Article 6, §16; House of Representatives, Mis. Doc. No. 44, 35th Congress, 2nd Session, February 2, 1859, pp. 3-4, Article 1, §7, of the KansasConstitution; The Constitution of North Carolina (Raleigh: Rufus L. Edmisten, 1989), p. 42, Article 9, §1; Constitution of the State of Nebraska (Lincoln: Allen J. Beermann, 1992), pp. 1-2, Article 1, §4; Page’s OhioRevised Code Annotated (Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing Co., 1994), p. 24, Article 1, §7; The Constitution of Michigan, Article VII, §1; and so forth.

[100] “Breakfast in Washington,” Time Magazine, February 15, 1954 (at: https://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,936197,00.html).

[101] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor(Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1834) Vol. I, pp. 949-950, September 25, 1789.

[102] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Joseph Gales, editor(Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1834) Vol. I, pp. 949-950, September 25, 1789.

[103] The Providence Gazette and Country Journal (Providence: October 17, 1789), p. 1. George Washington, “A Proclamation,” issued on October 3, 1789, observance date November 26, 1789.

[104] George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States, and Late Commander in Chief of the American Army, to the People of the United States, Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: Christopher Jackson, 1796), pp. 22-23.

[105] John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Philadelphia: William Woodward), Vol. III, p. 42, from “The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men,” May 17, 1776.

[106] Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Company, 1833), Vol. III, pp. 726, 726, §1868 & §1871.

[107] Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Company, 1833), Vol. III, p. 731, §1873.

[108] Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, H. R. McIlwaine, editor (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1928), Vol. II, p. 65, Thomas Jefferson, “Proclamation,” November 11, 1779.

[109] Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (Washington, D. C.: Gales and Seaton, 1851), 6th Cong., p. 797, December 4, 1800.

[110] Bishop Claggett’s letter of February 18, 1801, attests that while Vice-President, Jefferson attended church services in the House. Available in the Maryland Diocesan Archives.

[111] Margaret Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 13.

[112] Rev. Manasseh Cutler, Life, Journal, and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler, editors (Cincinnati: Colin Robert Clarke & Co., 1888), Vol. II, p. 119, to Joseph Torrey on January 3, 1803.

[113] Margaret Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 13.

[114] Margaret Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 13.

[115] See, for example, Rev. Manasseh Cutler, Life, Journal, and Correspondence, William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler, editors (Cincinnati: Colin Robert Clarke & Co., 1888), Vol. II, p. 119, to Dr. Joseph Torrey on January 3, 1803.

[116] Rev. Manasseh Cutler, Life, Journal, and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler, editors (Cincinnati: Colin Robert Clarke & Co., 1888), Vol. II, p. 119, to Joseph Torrey on January 3, 1803.

[117] Rev. Manasseh Cutler, Life, Journal, and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler, editors (Cincinnati: Colin Robert Clarke & Co., 1888), Vol. II, p. 114, diary entry for December 26, 1802.

[118] James Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1998), p. 89.

[119] Margaret Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 14.

[120] Margaret Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 16.

[121] John Quincy Adams, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1874), Vol. I, p. 265, diary entry for October 23, 1803; and Vol. I, p. 268, diary entry for October 30, 1803; National Intelligencer, December 9, 1820, p. 3. See also James Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1998), p. 89.

[122] James Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1998), p. 91.

[123] James Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1998), p. 96, quoting from a handwritten history in possession of the Library of Congress, “Washington Parish, Washington City,” by Rev. Ethan Allen.

[124] Records of the Columbia Historical Society (Washington, D. C.: Columbia Historical Society, 1897), Vol. 1, pp. 122-123, 127, from the report by Mr. Henry Ould on February 10, 1813. See also National Intelligencer, March 20, 1817, p. 2.

[125] The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1851), 7th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 1602, “An Act to Revive and Continue in Force An Act in Addition to an Act, Entitled, ‘An Act in Addition to an Act Regulating the Grants of Land Appropriated for Military Services, and for the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen,’ and for Other Purposes,” March 3, 1803.

[126] American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States, Walter Lowrie and Matthew St. Claire Clarke, editors (Washington, D. C.: Gales and Seaton, 1832), Vol. IV, p. 687, “The Kaskaskia and Other Tribes,” October 31, 1803.

[127] The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, Richard Peters, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), Vol. II, pp. 271-272, “An Act Granting Further Time for Locating Military Land Warrants, and for Other Purposes,” March 19, 1804.

[128] See, for example, Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor (Washington, D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XVI, p. 289, to Thomas, Ellicot, and Others on November 13, 1807.

[129] Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew A. Lipscomb, editor (Washington, D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIX, pp. 449-450, “A Meeting of the Visitors of the University of Virginia on Monday the 4th of October, 1824.”

[130] Thomas Jefferson, Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, editor (Charlottesville: F. Carr and Co., 1829), Vol. IV, p. 358, to Doctor Thomas Cooper on November 2, 1822.

[131] See information about all the painting in the US Capitol Rotunda from Architect of the Capitol (at: https://www.aoc.gov/artwork/type/historic-rotunda-paintings). These paintings include: “Landing of Columbus,” Architect of the Capitol (at: https://www.aoc.gov/art/historic-rotunda-paintings/landing-columbus), showing some of the members of Columbus’ landing party kneeling in prayer; “Discovery of the Mississippi by De Soto,” Architect of the Capitol(at: https://www.aoc.gov/art/historic-rotunda-paintings/discovery-mississippi-by-de-soto), depicting “a monk pray[ing] as men set a newly constructed crucifix in the ground”; “Baptism of Pocahontas,” Architect of the Capitol (at: https://www.aoc.gov/art/historic-rotunda-paintings/baptism-pocahontas), showing Pocahontas kneeling as the minister rests his hand on the “baptismal font”; “Embarkation of the Pilgrims,” Architect of the Capitol (at: https://www.aoc.gov/art/historic-rotunda-paintings/embarkation-pilgrims), “The group appears solemn and contemplative of what they are about to undertake as they pray for Divine protection through their voyage.”

[132] Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854), pp. 6, 8, “Rep. No. 124,” March 27, 1854.

[133] The Reports of Committees of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Thirty-Second Congress, 1852-53 (Washington: Robert Armstrong, 1853), p. 3, “Rep. Com. No. 376,” January 21, 1853.

[134] Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States: Being the First Session of the Thirty-Fourth Congress (Washington: Cornelius Wendell, 1855), p. 354, January 23, 1856.

[135] Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, 43 U. S. 126, 198 (1844).

[136] Church of the Holy Trinity v. U. S., 143 U. S. 457, 465, 471 (1892).

[137] United States v. Macintosh, 283 U. S. 605, 625 (1931).

[138] See for example, Warren v. United States, 177 F.2d 596 (10thCir. Ct. of App., 1949); United States v. Girouard, 149 F.2d 760 (1stCir. Ct. of App., 1945); Steiner v. Darby, 88 Cal. App. 2d 481 (1948); Vogel v. County of Los Angeles, 68 Cal. 2d 18(Ca. Sup. Ct., 1967); and many others.

[139] See, for example, Davis v. Beason, 133 U. S. 333, 341-344, 348 n (1890); The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. United States,136 U. S. 1, 49 (1890); and many others.

[140] See, for example, U. S. v. Macintosh, 283 U. S. 605, 625 (1931); and many others.

[141] See, for example, Ross v. McIntyre, 140 U. S. 453, 463 (1891); Kinsella v. Krueger, 351 U. S. 470 (1956); Reid v. Covert, 354 U. S. 1 (1957); and many others.

[142] See, for example, Beecher v. Wetherby, 95 U. S. 517, 525 (1877); Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, 187 U. S. 553, 565 (1903); Yankton Sioux Tribe of Indians v. U. S., 272 U. S. 351 (1926); U. S. v. Choctaw Nation, 179 U. S. 494 (1900); Atlantic & P R Co v. Mingus, 165 U. S. 413 (1897); Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company v. Roberts, 152 U. S. 114 (1894); Buttz v. Northern Pac. R. Co., 119 U. S. 55 (1886); Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States, 348 U. S. 272 (1955); and many others.

[143] Richmond v. Moore, 107 Ill. 429 (Ill. Sup. Ct.,1883).

[144] Mordecai F. Ham Evangelistic Ass’n v. Matthews, 30 Ky. 402, 189 S.W. 2d. 524 (Ky. Ct. of Ap., 1945).

[145] Paramount-Richards Theatres v. City of Hattiesburg, 210 Miss. 271 (Miss. Sup. Ct., 1950).

[146] Town of Pryor v. Williamson, 374 P.2d 204, 207 (Ok. Sup. Ct. 1959).

[147] Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 300.

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).)


Resources & Fun Activities For Staying In

WallBuilders does not necessarily endorse these websites and resources. We are sharing some educational and fun sites that have been shared with us that we thought might be beneficial. At the time we’re posting this list of resources (April 2020), all of these contain at least some free resources.


Virtual Tours

Helpful Resources

All Ages Educational



Faith Based

Foreign Language








Various Subjects


Elementary Age Educational



  • K-8 online math program that looks at how a student is solving problems to adjust accordingly and build a unique learning path for them. https://www.dreambox.com/at-home
  • K-5 curriculum that builds deep understanding and a love of learning math for all students. https://www.zearn.org/





Middle School Educational




  • Engaging reading game for grades 2-8 that combines strategy, engagement, and imaginative reading passages to create a fun, curriculum-aligned literacy game. https://www.squigglepark.com/dreamscape/
  • A safe research site for elementary-level readers. They are offering — free 24/7 access [USERNAME: read (case sensitive) PASSWORD: read (case sensitive)]. https://www.facts4me.com/


  • Next Generation Science video game focused on middle school where students directly engage in science phenomena as they solve problems. https://www.tytoonline.com/
  • Science simulations, scientist profiles, and other digital resources for middle school science and high school biology. https://sepuplhs.org/

High School Educational

College Prep



Beyond High School

Are You Smarter Than a Fourth Grader?

As students across the nation take exams to determine whether or not they have mastered the skills necessary to be promoted to the next grade, let us reflect on what education used to be.

Whereas, in today’s educational system, Geography and Social Studies are neglected in favor of “teaching to the test,” this was not the case in 1862. We thought you might enjoy seeing a Geography Quiz from the WallBuilders’ Collection that was given to Fourth Grades in 1862.

Revisionism: How to Identify It In Your Children’s Textbooks

Revisionism Definition & Goals

Revisionism is the common method employed by those seeking to subvert American culture and society. The dictionary defines revisionism as an “advocacy of the revision of an accepted, usually long-standing view, theory, or doctrine; especially a revision of historical events and movements.

Revisionism attempts to alter the way a people views its history and traditions in order to cause that people to accept a change in public policy. For example, during the 150 years that textbooks described the Founding Fathers as being devout men and Christians who actively practiced their faith, civic policy embraced and welcomed public religious expressions. But in recent years as the same Founders have come to be portrayed as atheists, agnostics, and deists who were opposed to religious activities, public policies have similarly been reversed.

Revisionists generally accomplish their goal of rewriting history by:

Underemphasizing or ignoring the aspects of American history they deem to be politically incorrect and overemphasizing those portions they find acceptable;

Vilifying the historical figures who embraced a position they reject; and

Concocting the appearance of widespread historical approval for the social policy they are attempting to advance.

There are many means that are used by revisionists to accomplish these goals but the most common include:

1. Patent Untruths

Numerous history texts make claims such as: our “national government was secular from top to bottom,” or that the Founders “reared a national government on a secular basis.” Those who have studied the American Founding know that this is a patent untruth. Many Founders proved the opposite, such as John Adams. He declared: “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.” (Even the text of the Declaration of Independence refutes any charges of government secularism.) This approach usually relies on a general lack of public knowledge about that untruth. Consequently, such untruthful claims are rarely made in areas where citizens have broad general knowledge. (For example, claiming that James Madison used an atomic bomb to end the Civil War. Or that the first sub-machine gun was developed in 1536 in Nevada by the Quakers). Revisionism relies on a lack of citizen knowledge in specific areas.

2. Overly Broad Generalizations

This revisionist tool presents the exception as if it were the rule. For example, texts often name Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine as proof of the lack of religiosity among the Founders. Yet they fail to mention the rest of the almost 200 Founding Fathers. Dozens of these men received their education in schools specializing in the training of ministers of the Gospel and were active in Christian ministry and organizations. Some examples include: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Roger Sherman.

Similarly, when discussing religion in America, the Salem Witch trials are universally presented. Rarely mentioned, however, are the positive societal changes produced by Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, and dozen of other religious groups. These organizations worked for the abolition of slavery, secured religious freedoms, and fought to end societal abuses. Also never mentioned is that the American witch trials resulted in some two dozen deaths and were halted by religious leaders. The European witch trials resulted in 100,000 deaths. American Christianity at that time might not have been perfect but it was light years ahead of Europe. European secularism also resulted in thousands of executions in the French Revolution.

3. Omission

Notice the following three examples from American history works:

We whose names are under-written . . . do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politick. MAYFLOWER COMPACT, 1620

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? . . . I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death? PATRICK HENRY, 1775

. . . ART. I.—His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States . . . PEACE TREATY TO END THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, 1783

What was omitted from these important historical quotes?

We whose names are under-written having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the Northern parts of Virginia do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick.

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death?

In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts . . . ART. I.—His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States . . .

The omitted segments are those that indicate the strongly religious nature of American government documents and leaders. Also regularly omitted from texts is the fact that gratitude to God was central to the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving. And ignored is that, in 1782, the US Congress approved America’s first English-language Bible. Also, in 1800, Congress voted that on Sundays, the Capitol Building would serve as a church building. (By 1867, the largest protestant church in America was the one that met inside the US Capitol.)

4. A Lack of Primary Source References

The avoidance of primary-source documents is characteristic in revisionism. For example, the authors of the widely-used text The Godless Constitution blatantly announce that they have “dispensed with the usual scholarly apparatus of footnotes.” This is supposed to support their thesis that America’s government is built on a secular foundation. Similarly, The Search for Christian America purports to examine the Founding Era and finds a distinct lack of Christian influence. Yet 80 percent of the “historical sources” on which it relies to document its finding were published after 1950! That is, to determine what was occurring in the 1700s, they quote from works printed in the 1900s.

Identify Revisionism

To locate revisionism in a text, look at its tone, the documents it presents, and the heroes it elevates.

  1. To discover a revisionist tone, find the answers to these questions in the textbook: Is exploration and colonization motivated only by the desire for land or gold? Are those who promoted religious and moral values portrayed as harsh, punitive, and intolerant? Is traditional family ignored? Is government presented as statist — that is, that the state (rather than individuals, families, churches, or communities) is to take care of society’s needs? Is there a victim ideology — a steady diet of those who have been exploited throughout history rather than those who have uplifted their culture? Are other religions portrayed positively and Christianity negatively (if at all)?
  2. Are original documents presented? (Do students see the actual text or only what someone else says about it?) Do they see the Mayflower Compact? Or the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Are George Washington’s “Farewell Address” and Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address presented? Are the documents edited to present only a few sentences or do they provide a substantive amount of text?
  3. Who are the heroes presented? Do they tend to be angry – fighting an unjust society or government? Do they tend to be modern heroes only? Do they tend to be only secular leaders? For example, the U. S. Capitol displays some 100 statues of the most important individuals in America’s history; a significant percentage of those statues are of ministers and Christian leaders. Will your children receive in their textbooks at least the same view of American heroes that is presented in America’s pre-eminent government building?


When examining a text, always remember that your children do not know as much about history as you do. Consequently, they have no basis for identifying bias. Therefore, examine each text as if you knew nothing at all about history except what is presented in that text. On that basis, will you be pleased with the tone toward America inculcated in your child through that text? If not, then urge your school to get a better text or be diligent to supplement for your children what is missing or wrongly presented in the text.

It is not melodramatic to state that America’s future rests on what is taught to our children, for as Abraham Lincoln wisely observed:

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. (attributed)

Famous American educator Noah Webster therefore rightly admonished:

The education of youth should be watched with the most scrupulous attention. . . . [It] lays the foundations on which both law and gospel rest for success.


Recommended Reading List

There is no substitute for immersing oneself in original, primary source material if one hopes to understand American history. However, it is also useful (and enjoyable) to read books about great American leaders and events. The following list is far from comprehensive, but it includes works that we have found to be helpful. We hope it is a valuable starting place for those interested in learning more about America’s Godly heritage.

WallBuilders has provided the following list of books to provide helpful information and sources for people who want to dig deeper and research on their own. We do not endorse every aspect of every book, but we believe that each provides a good, balanced, and reliable overview its subject. Some of these books are available as ebooks, while some may be found at libraries or can be purchased through online booksellers.

American History

  • Gary Amos, Defending the Declaration (Providence Foundation: 1996)
  • Taylor Branch, Parting The Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (Simon & Schuster, 1988)
  • Derek H. Davis, Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Contributions to Original Intent (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • Daniel L. Dreisbach, Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers (Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • Daniel L. Dreisbach and Mark David Hall, The Sacred Rights of Conscience: Selected Readings on Religious Liberty and Church-State Relations in the American Founding (Liberty Fund Press, 2009)
  • Daniel L. Dreisbach, Mark D. Hall, and Jeffry H. Morrison, The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life (Notre Dame University Press, 2009)
  • Daniel L. Dreisbach, Mark D. Hall, and Jeffry H. Morrison, The Founders on God and Government (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004)
  • Dinesh D’Souza,What’s So Great About America? (Regnery Publishing, 2015)
  • John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of our Founding Fathers (Baker Academic, 1995)
  • David D. Hall, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011)
  • Philip Hamburger, The Separation of Church and State (Harvard University Press 2004)
  • Benjamin Hart, Faith and Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty (Lewis & Stanley, 1988)
  • James H. Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1998)
  • Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (HarperCollins, 1997)
  • Thomas R. Kidd, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, 2010)
  • Barry Loudermilk, And Then They Prayed. Moments in American History Impacted by Prayer (Campbell: CA: FastPencil, 2011)
  • Donald S. Lutz, The Origins of American Constitutionalism (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988)
  • Peter Marshall & David Manuel, The Light and the Glory: 1492-1793 (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977, reprint 2009)
  • Peter Marshall & David Manuel, From Sea to Shining Sea: 1787-1837 (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985, reprint 2009)
  • Peter Marshall & David Manuel, Sounding Forth The Trumpet: 1837-1860 (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1998, reprint 2001)
  • Stephen McDowell, America’s Providential History (Providence Foundation, 1991)
  • Stephen McDowell, Liberating the Nations (Providence Foundation, 1995)
  • James McPherson, Battle Cry Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford University Press, 1988)
  • Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution: 1763-1789 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
  • Clinton Rossiter, 1787 The Grand Convention (WW Norton, 1966)
  • Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (Zondervan, 1990)
  • Barry Alan Shain, The Myth of American Individualism: The Protestant Origins of American Political Thought (Princeton University Press, 1994)
  • Harry Stout, The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England 2nd (Oxford University Press, 2011)
  • Thomas G. West, Vindicating the Founders (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997, reprint 2001)


  • Andrew Allison, The Real Thomas Jefferson (Washington, D. C.: National Center for Constitutional Studies, 1983)
  • Glenn Beck, Being George Washington: The Indispensable Man, as You’ve Never Seen Him (New York: Threshold Editions, 2011)
  • E. Bradford, Worthy Company: Brief Lives of the Framers of the United States Constitution
(Plymouth Rock Foundation: 1982)
  • Richard Carwardine, Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (Knopf, 2003)
  • Ron Charnow, Alexander Hamilton (Penguin Press, 2004)
  • Allen Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President (Eerdmans, 2002)
  • Mark David Hall, Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic (Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe, Charles G. Finney and the spirit of American Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1996)
  • Bill Kauffman, Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (ISI Books, 2008)
  • Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan (Anchor, 2007)
  • Thomas Kidd, Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots (Basic Books, 2011)
  • Peter Lillback, with Jerry Newcombe, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (Providence Forum Press, 2006)
  • George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale University Press, 2004)
  • David McCullough, John Adams (Simon & Schuster, 2008)
  • Stephen McDowell, Apostle of Liberty: The World-Changing Leadership of George Washington (Cumberland Publishing, 2007)
  • Robert Middlekauff, The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 (University of California Press, 1999)
  • Edmund Morgan, Roger Williams: The Church and the State (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1967)
  • Edmund Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Scott, Foresman, and Company, 1958)
  • Jeffry H. Morrison, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005)
  • Michal Novak and Jana Novak, Washington’s God: Religion, Liberty, and the Father of Our Country (Perseus Books, 2006)
  • Charles Page Smith, James Wilson: Founding Father, 1742-1798 (1956; reprint, University of North Carolina Press, 2011)
  • Ira Stoll, Samuel Adams: A Life (Free Press, 2009)
  • Harry Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1991)
  • Michael Toth, Founding Federalist: The Life of Oliver Ellsworth (ISI Books, 2011)
  • Harlow Giles Unger, John Quincy Adams (Da Capo, 2012)
  • Gordon S. Wood, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin (Penguin Press, 2004)

Christianity & Worldview

  • Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity? (Regnery Publishing, 2008)
  • John Eidsmoe, Columbus & Cortez, Conquerors for Christ (New Leaf Press, 1992)
  • James Garlow, Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Issues (Regnery Faith, 2016)
  • Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Zondervan, 2010)
  • Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (Yale University Press, 1991)
  • Martin Marty, A Short History of Christianity ed. (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1987)
  • Eric Nelson, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (Harvard University Press, 2010)
  • Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought: The Renaissance (Cambridge University Press, 1978)
  • Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought: The Age of Reformation (Cambridge University Press, 1978)
  • Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (Random House, 2005)
  • John Witte Jr., The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge University Press, 2007)


Thomas Paine Criticizes the Current Public School Science Curriculum

Thomas Paine concerned about the content of our current science courses? Definitely!

In a speech he delivered in Paris on January 16, 1797, Thomas Paine harshly criticized what the French were then teaching in their science classes-especially the philosophy they were using. Interestingly, that same science philosophy of which Thomas Paine was so critical is identical to that used in our public schools today. Paine’s indictment of that philosophy is particularly significant in light of the fact that all historians today concede that Thomas Paine was one of the very least religious of our Founders. Yet, even Paine could not abide teaching science, which excluded God’s work and hand in the creation of the world and of all scientific phenomena. Below is an excerpt from that speech.

(While Benjamin Franklin was serving in London as diplomat from the Colonies to the King, Franklin met Englishman Thomas Paine (born 1737, died 1809). Franklin arranged for him to move to America in 1774 and helped set him up in the printing business.  In 1776, Paine wrote Common Sense, which helped fuel the separation of America from Great Britain. He then served as a soldier in the American Revolution. He returned to England in 1787, and then went to France in 1792 as a supporter of the French Revolution. In 1794, he published his Age of Reason, the deistic work, which brought him much criticism from his former American friends. Upon his return to America in 1802, he found no welcome and eventually died as an outcast.)

Thomas Paine on “The Study of God”

Delivered in Paris on January 16, 1797, in a

Discourse to the Society of Theophilanthropists

It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.

When we examine an extraordinary piece of machinery, an astonishing pile of architecture, a well executed statue or a highly finished painting where life and action are imitated, and habit only prevents our mistaking a surface of light and shade for cubical solidity, our ideas are naturally led to think of the extensive genius and talents of the artist. When we study the elements of geometry, we think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitation, we think of Newton. How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short, and do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in having taught those subjects as accomplishments only, and thereby separated the study of them form the Being who is the author of them. . . .

The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence. They labor with studied ingenuity to ascribe everything they behold to innate properties of matter; and jump over all the rest, by saying that matter is eternal.

Stansbury’s Elementary Catechism on the Constitution (1828)

A catechism is defined as “a set of formal questions put as a test” and can be on a variety of subjects.

An 1828 book by Arthur Stansbury presented a series of questions and answers on the U.S. Constitution. This work, Elementary Catechism on the Constitution of the United States: For the Use of Schools, is mentioned in this video by David Barton. Test your knowledge of the Constitution with this book — and below are a few questions from this catechism!

Q. Cannot all the people of a country govern themselves?

Q. Who is to determine whether any law is contrary to the Constitution or no, the people themselves?

Q. Suppose all the members of the Senate, or all the members of the House of Representatives do not attend a meeting, can those who do attend make laws without them?

Q. Who executes the laws which Congress have made, that is, who takes care that every body shall obey the laws?

Q. Can he [the answer to the above] make the law?

Q. How are the Judges of the Courts of the United States appointed?

Q. How long do they [these Judges] remain in office?

Q. Has the United States Government any power but such as is contained in the Constitution?

Stumped? See the answers below. And be sure to check out the complete book!

A.If every man was perfectly virtuous, and knew what would be best for himself and others, they might. But this is far from the case; and therefore the people of every country are and must be governed.

A. No: but certain persons whom they have appointed, [called Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States].

A. If more than one half are present, they have in most cases power to do whatever the whole number could have done. More than one half are called a Majority, less than one half are called a Minority. As many as are necessary to do business are called a Quorum.

A. The President of the United States.

A. Not at all. These two powers, of making law, and executing law, are kept by the Constitution, entirely separate; the power that makes the law cannot execute it,and the power the executes the law cannot make it. (The one of these powers is called the Legislative, and the other is called the Executive power.

A. By the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate.

A. During good behavior; that is, until they resign their office or are turned out of it for some great offence.

A. No.

Noah Webster’s Dictionary

In 1806, Noah began his work and studied about twenty different languages to translate and define words from their original languages into English. As a result of his efforts, his American Dictionary of the English Language was published in 2 volumes in 1828. The dictionary contained 70,000 words, with their spellings and definitions.  Noah’s strong faith and belief in God is evident not only in this original dictionary, but also in his 1833 The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, in the Common Version, in which he updates outdated and unused words.

(Notice in the pictures below his use of Scripture to define words “Light” and “Help” and explain their meanings.)

light             help

A testimony of his faith is also recorded in the 1849 edition of his Dictionary, which was printed only six years after his death in 1843. The introduction contains a biography of Noah Webster’s life, including his views on religion. This introduction was written by the editor, Chauncey A. Goodrich, Noah Webster’s son-in-law, who was a Professor at Yale. In the transcript below, Professor Goodrich details Noah Webster’s conversion experience and his faith in God.


In respect to religion, Dr. Webster was a firm believer, during a large part of his life, in the great distinctive doctrines of our Puritan ancestors, whose character he always regarded with the highest veneration. There was a period, however, from the time of his leaving college to the age of forty, when he had doubts as to some of those doctrines, and rested in a different system. Soon after he graduated, being uncertain what business to attempt or by what means he could obtain subsistence, he felt his mind greatly perplexed, and almost overwhelmed with gloomy apprehensions. In this state, as he afterward informed a friend, he read Johnson’s Rambler with unusual interest; and, in closing the last volume, he made a firm resolution to pursue a course of virtue though life, and to perform every moral and social duty with scrupulous exactness. To this he added a settled belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures and the governing providence of God, connected with highly reverential views of the divine character and perfections. Here he rested, placing his chief reliance for salvation on a faithful discharge of all the relative duties of life, though not to the entire exclusion of dependence on the merits of the Redeemer. In this state of mind he remained, though with some misgiving and frequent fluctuations of feeling, to the winter of 1807-8. At that time, there was a season of general religious interest at New Haven, under the ministry of the Rev. Moses Stuart, now a professor in the Andover Theological Seminary. To this Dr. Webster’s attention was first directed, but observing an unusual degree of tenderness and solemnity of feeling in all the adult members of his family. He was thus led to reconsider his former views, and inspire, with an earnestness which he had never felt before, into the nature of personal religion, and the true ground of man’s acceptance with God. He had now to decide not for himself only, but, to a certain extent, for others, whose spiritual interests were committed to his charge. Under a sense of this responsibility, he took up the study of the Bible with painful solicitude. As he advanced, the objections which he had formerly entertained against the humbling doctrines of the Gospel, were wholly removed. He felt their truth in his own experience. He felt that salvation must be wholly of grace. He felt constrained, as he afterward told a friend, to cast himself down before God, confess his sins, implore pardon through the merits of the Redeemer, and there to make his vows of entire obedience to the commands and devotion to the service of his Maker. With his characteristic promptitude, he instantly made known to his family the feelings which he entertained. He called them together the next morning, and told them, with deep emotion that, while he had aimed at the faithful discharge of all his duties as their parent and head, he had neglected one of the most important, that of family prayer. After reading the Scriptures, he led them, with deep solemnity, to the throne of grace, and from that time continued the practice with the liveliest interest, to the period of his death. He made a public profession of religion in April, 1808. His two oldest daughters united with him in the set, and another, only twelve years of age, was soon added to the number.

In his feelings, Dr. Webster was remarkably equable and cheerful. He has a very strong sense of the providence of God, as extending to the minutest concerns of life. In this he found a source of continual support and consolation, under the severe labors and numerous trials which he had to endure. The same divine hand he habitually referred all his employments; and it was known to his family, that he rarely, if ever, took the slightest refreshment, of any kind, even between meals, without a momentary pause, and a silent tribute of thanks to God as the giver. He made the Scriptures his daily study. After the completion of his Dictionary, especially, they were always lying on his table, and he probably read them more than all other books. He felt, from that time, that the labors of his life were ended, and that little else remained by to prepare for death. With a grateful sense of past mercies, a cheering consciousness of present support, and an animating hope of future blessedness, he waited with patience until his appointed change should come.

During the spring of 1843, Dr. Webster revised the Appendix of his Dictionary, and added some hundreds of words. He completed the printing of it about the middle of May. It was the closing act of his life. His hand rested, in its last labors, on the volume which he had commenced thirty-six years before. Within a few days, in calling on a number of friends in different parts of the town, he walked, during one afternoon between two and three miles. The day was chilly, and immediately after his return, he was seized with faintness and a severe oppression on his lungs. An attack of peripneumony followed, which, though not alarming at first, took a sudden turn after four or five days, with fearful indications of a fatal result. It soon became necessary to inform him that he was in imminent danger. He received the communication with surprise, but with entire composure. His health had been so good, and every bodily function so perfect in its exercise, that he undoubtedly expected to live some years longer. But though suddenly called, he was completely ready. He gave some characteristic direction as to the disposal of his body after death. He spoke of his long life as one of uniform enjoyment, because filled up at every stage with active labors for some valuable end. He expressed his entire resignation to the will of God, and his unshaken trust in the atoning blood of the Redeemer. It was an interesting coincidence, that his former pastor, the Rev. Mr. Stuart, who received him to the church thirty-five years before, had just arrived at New Haven on a visit to his friends. He called immediately, and the interview brought into affecting comparison the beginning and the end of that long period of consecration to the service of Christ. The same hopes which had cheered the vigor of manhood, were now shedding a softened light over decay and sufferings of age. “I know in whom I have believed,’” – such was the solemn and affecting testimony which he gave to his friend, while the hand of death was upon him, – “I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.” Thus, without one down, one fear, he resigned his soul into the hands of his Maker, and died on the 28th day of May, 1843, in the eighty-fifth year of his age….

August 1847