Founding Fathers Were Religious
From The American Way by Mark Fennell
Many people came to America to practice their religion freely. Then in the Revolutionary times, the Founding Fathers of the United States clearly lived and governed while knowing God.
In the early days of the Colonies, up to the Revolution, there was a general spiritual movement throughout the land. This movement not only talked of God and morals, but also of self-government and freedoms.
The line between clergy and political activists was quite blurred in those days. Clergy talked of freedoms and independence, while political leaders spoke of God in their speeches as an accepted fact. God was part of all aspects of life. The Colonials and Revolutionaries would never agree to separating God from life in the way many people push for today.
Patrick Henry, in his famous speech of "Give me liberty or give me death!" talks of God, and does so several times.
"It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at the truth and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country...I repeat sir, we must fight. An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us...Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power...There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise friends to fight our battles for us...Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? 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 course what others may take, but as for me: Give me liberty, or give me death!"
Thomas Jefferson talks of God in the Declaration of Independence: "...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." The Declaration further states in the final paragraph: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Ben Franklin firmly believed in God. Franklin is in many ways the ultimate ideal of the American: scientist, philosopher, successful businessman, diplomat, and much more. This man was highly successful, very famous, and believed firmly in God.
In his autobiography, Franklin talks of his views on religion. Here are just a few of his views: "I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that there is one God, who made all things; that he ought to be worshipped by adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving; that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man; that the soul is immortal; and that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, either here or hereafter."
Franklin also wrote his own prayer, which he used daily: "O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide: Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest. Strengthen my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind offices to thy other children as the only return in my power for thy continual favors to me."
Ben Franklin was a famous man, even in his own time. Franklin was very successful, having created, discovered, and achieved many great things in his life. This quintessential American believed, without doubt, in the existence of God, and it is likely that there is a definite correlation between his religious views and his very successful life.
George Washington also believed on God. A clear example is when Washington as President set aside Thanksgiving Day as a celebration for the United States.
First, we must always remember, that Thanksgiving is giving thanks to God for our blessings. That fact alone is an acceptance of God in American culture from the very beginning.
Further, note how often Washington mentions God in his proclamation. Here is the full text of Washington's proclamation setting aside a day for Thanksgiving. I have emphasized each reference to bring it closer to your attention.
New York, 3 October 1789
By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.
"Whereas 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--and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me 'to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.' "
"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be--That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us."
"And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."
"Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."
Washington fought for our right to self-government. He believed in self-government so much that he refused to be crowned king, nor even President for life. Instead, Washington stepped down after two terms so that the people could freely choose their next President. What better man then to look at regarding the relationships of self-government, God, and America? It is clear that this Father of our country believed in God. It is clear that for all his deeds, the Father of our country acknowledged another father for his blessings - the Father in Heaven.
Washington was not alone. Members of both houses of Congress also believed in God, as Washington referenced in his proclamation.
If you look at the letters, documents, and speeches of the time, it is clear that the people believed in God as an accepted fact.
The Founding Fathers, as well as the common people of the various states, believed in God. They were devoted to God, they knew the He was greater than any man. They knew that we should be humble and be thankful to Him. They knew that good government comes not just from wise men, but from wise men who are virtuous, and who ask God for His guidance and blessings.
The men and women who worked to create this country would surely tell us that devotion to God must be a central part of our lives. They would think it folly to act otherwise.