George Washington called the American Revolution the "Great Experiment." He also said, in his Farewell Address:
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that any man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness."
This nation represents the pinnacle of human history, by proving a free people could govern themselves. At the founding of America, very few people in history had ever had the right to elect their own government. The transfer of power from one regime to the next was rarely orderly, as it always has been under the system of government set up by our Founding Fathers.
The United States was the first Republic since Rome. Still today, a free democracy is a fragile thing.
The greatest change in America since its founding has been the change in attitude toward religious faith. Most Americans simply do not know what our Founding Fathers believed and how critical was religion to the founding of our nation and the freedoms we enjoy today.
They believed religious faith is indispensable to liberty. Samuel Adams said, "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."
"When a people's religion is destroyed then not only will they let their freedom be taken from them, but often they actually hand it over themselves," wrote Alexis De Tocqueville. He also said, "There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America."
"A man is perfectly entitled to laugh at a thing because he happens to find it incomprehensible. What he has no right to do is laugh at it as incomprehensible, and then criticize as if he comprehended it." ~ G.K. Chesterton.
"The democratic movement is the heir to the Christian movement," wrote Friedrich Nietzsche.
Jefferson & Madison
The idea of creating a Constitution derived from the Founding Father's deep familiarity with the Covenants in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible—the Hebrew Bible. From this same source they derived their beliefs in individuality, Providence, and of an eternal reality that exists beside our temporal world.
The principles in our founding documents regarding democracy, freedom, and rights, came from our Founding Fathers knowledge of ancient Athens. Their ideas about separation of powers and public law originated in their studies of the Roman Republic.
Cicero spoke these words: "Universal law must forever reign, eternal and imperishable . . . God himself is its author, its promulgator, its enforcer. "
From England, the first Americans inherited language, parliamentary government, and social norms.
The Declaration of Independence claims that our right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is granted to us by God the Creator of the universe—not by men or governments.
"The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man." ~ Thomas Jefferson.
"The belief in a God All Powerful, wise , and good, is essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man." ~ James Madison. He also wrote: "We have staked our future upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to sustain ourselves, according to the Ten Commandments of God."
The American Experiment
The results of the American Experiment have been profound. The freedoms of our young nation began spreading around the world in the 19th Century.
The success of our free-market capitalism gave birth to 200 years of incredible advancements in science and inventions. The quality of life and wealth Americans enjoy today is the direct result of our founding documents.
With only 5% of the world's population, the United States has created more wealth than the rest of the world combined; fed more people around the world; led the world in innovations that benefit humankind; and provided more foreign aid and relief to other peoples than the rest of the entire planet.
Our founding fathers were against bureaucracies, regulators and burdensome taxation.
Thomas Jefferson declared, "If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy."
Samuel Adams added, "The Utopian schemes of leveling (redistribution of the wealth) are arbitrary, despotic, and in our government, unconstitutional."
"From the day of our Declaration of Independence the American people were bound by the laws of God, and the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all acknowledge as the rules of their conduct." ~ John Quincy Adams.
"I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped." ~ Benjamin Franklin.
Alexis De Tocqueville
"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public school system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good America will cease to be great."
Alexis De Tocqueville
The Supreme Court
The courts, even the Supreme Court, were forbidden from eliding the powers of States in regard to religion. Thomas Jefferson put it this way:
"Special provision has been made by one of the amendments to the Constitution, which expressly declares, that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press:' thereby guarding in the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press: insomuch, that whatever violated either, throws down the sanctuary which covers the others, and that libels, falsehood, and defamation, equally with heresy and false religion, are withheld from the cognizance of federal tribunals."
In God We Trust
It is no accident that In God We Trust is the national motto of the United States. Nor is it an accident that witnesses in court or before Congress must take an oath to swear before God that they will tell the truth.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams.
The Founding Fathers of America believed they were part of Manifest Destiny of divine design, and that America would prove to be a blessing for all of humankind.
"I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth." ~ John Adams
A Christian Nation
I have witnessed quite a debate in these Hub pages about whether the Christian Religion played an important part of the founding of our nation; and whether it continued to do so up to the present.
There is no wall of separation in our Constitution. I have it right in front of me as I write these words. I will now present more facts for the naysayers.
The first act of America's first Congress in 1774 was to ask a minister to open with prayer and to lead Congress in the reading of 4 chapters of the Bible.
In 1777, Congress, facing a National shortage of "Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches," announced that they "desired to have a Bible printed under their care & by their encouragement" and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible.
In 1782, Congress adopted (and has reaffirmed on numerous subsequent occasions) the National Seal with its Latin motto Annuit Coeptis, meaning "God has favored our undertakings."
the 1783 Treaty of Paris, that officially ended the American Revolution and established America as an independent nation, begins with the appellation "In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity."
James Madison declared that he saw the finished Constitution as a product of "the finger of that Almighty Hand."
Benjamin Franklin believed that the writing of our founding documents had been "influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler, in Whom all inferior spirits live, and move, and have their being."
in 1789, the first Federal Congress, the Congress that framed the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, appropriated Federal funds to pay chaplains to pray at the opening of all sessions, a practice that has continued to this day, with Congress not only funding its congressional chaplains but also the salaries and operations of more than 4,500 military chaplains.
In 1789, Congress, in the midst of framing the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, passed the first Federal law touching education, declaring that "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
Religion in America
In 1853, the United States Senate declared that the Founding Fathers "Had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people. They did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy."
Inside the United States Capitol the declaration "In God We Trust" is prominently displayed in both the United States House and Senate Chambers.
In 1854, the United States House of Representatives declared "Religion must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. Christianity; in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions."
in 1870, the Federal Government made Christmas - a recognition of the birth of Christ, an event described by the U.S. Supreme Court as "acknowledged in the Western World for 20 centuries, and in this country by the people, the Executive Branch, Congress, and the courts for 2 centuries" - and Thanksgiving official holidays.
Faith and Freedom
The constitutions of each of the 50 States, either in the preamble or body, explicitly recognize or express gratitude to God.
America's first Presidential Inauguration incorporated 7 specific religious activities, including— the use of the Bible to administer the oath; affirming the religious nature of the oath by the adding the prayer `So help me God!' to the oath; inaugural prayers offered by the President; religious content in the inaugural address; civil leaders calling the people to prayer or acknowledgment of God; inaugural worship services attended en masse by Congress as an official part of congressional activities; and clergy-led inaugural prayers, activities which have been replicated in whole or part by every subsequent President.
Freedom of Religion
President John Adams declared, "As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, the national acknowledgment of this truth is an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him."
President Andrew Jackson proclaimed, "The Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests.'"
President Abraham Lincoln stated that the Bible "is the best gift God has given to men. But for it, we could not know right from wrong."
God & America
President William McKinley declared that "Our faith teaches us that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, Who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and Who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps."
President Teddy Roosevelt pronounced, "The Decalogue and the Golden Rule must stand as the foundation of every successful effort to better either our social or our political life."
President Woodrow Wilson stated that "America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture."
President Herbert Hoover declared, "American life is built, and can only survive, upon the fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only led the Nation in a six minute prayer during D-Day on June 6, 1944, but he also pronounced that "If we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to destruction."
President Harry S. Truman stated that "The fundamental basis of this Nation's law was given to Moses. 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."
Faith and Freedom
President Harry S. Truman also told a group touring Washington, D.C.: "You will see, as you make your rounds, that this Nation was established by men who believed in God. You will see the evidence of this deep religious faith."
President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, the most basic, expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God's help, it will continue to be," in a declaration later repeated with approval by President Gerald Ford.
President John F. Kennedy declared that "The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."
Freedom of Religion
All sessions of the United States Supreme Court begin with the Court's Marshall announcing, "God save the United States and this honorable court."
The United States Supreme Court has declared throughout the course of our Nation's history that the United States is "a Christian country," "a Christian nation," "a Christian people," "a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being," and that "We cannot read into the Bill of Rights a philosophy of hostility to religion.'
Justice John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and original Justice of the United States Supreme Court, urged "The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the Source from which they flow."
Justice James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution, declared that "Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine. Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants."