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In this section I want to look at the subject of morality and how the Founders viewed that topic.  Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines morality in this manner: The doctrine or system of moral duties; ethics. Virtue; the conformity of an act to the divine law.  An act performed by a free agent, and from a motive of obedience to the divine will.  In today’s political arena we don’t see much moral behavior.  Members of Congress caught in adulterous affairs, in homosexuality, involved in graft and bribes.  These things have always been in our politics, but never to the extent that it is today.


The majority of our Founders were men of character, above reproach. We need a return to that type of person today.  God told us what type of man to put in authority: Exodus 18:21 “Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:”1  The Hebrew word used for ‘able’ is chayil  and it means ability, efficiency, often involving moral worth.  God intended for us to have men and women of high moral character in power over us.  For most of our history we did with few exceptions.  Over the last 100 years the quality of men has deteriorated exponentially.  God also informed us in Proverbs 29:2 “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”2  We have seen a lot of ‘mourning’ in the last 50 years because of the lack of character in many of our leaders from city council members to the President of the United States.


How did our Founders view the topic of moral behavior?  Was is nothing to them or did they covet that lifestyle?  I believe that we will see that they thought more of it than the politicians of today.


John Adams:  . . . you know that I look upon Religion as the most perfect System, and the most awful [profound reverence] Sanction of Morality.3

Alexander Hamilton: Can we in prudence suppose that national morality can be maintained in exclusion of religious principles?  Does it not require the aid of a generally received and divinely authoritative religion?4


 In a case argued by Daniel Webster Vidal v. Girard’s Executor’s, 1844 before the U. S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice Joseph Story agreed with the attorneys statement:

The purest principles of morality are to be taught.  Where are they found?  Whoever searches for them must go the source from which a Christian man derives his faith – the Bible.5

Daniel Webster:  The attainment of knowledge does not comprise all which is contained in the larger term of education. . . . [A] profound religious feeling is to be instilled and pure morality inculcated under all circumstances.  All this is comprised in education.6


USSC Chief Justice Joseph Story: Why not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as Divine revelation in the college[school] – its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained and its glorious principles of morality inculcated?  Where can the purist principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?7


Gouverneur Morris: For avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy . . . the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people.8  I believe that religion is the only solid base for morals  and that morals are the only possible support of free governments.9

William Patterson (U.S. Supreme Court Justice): Religion and morality . . . are necessary to good government, good order, and good laws, for “when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” Proverbs 29:2.10

Noah Webster:  The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil and constitutional 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.11

In the case of Commonwealth v. Sharpless, 1815: The destruction of morality renders the power of government invalid.12

This statement can be seen manifesting today.  Our government allows abortion anytime for any reason.  The government is trying to force gay marriage on society as a whole with no recourse.  The only states where gay marriage is allowed it has not been put to the vote of the people and there are two states, Massachusetts and Iowa where judges and legislators decided to allow it but won’t let the people vote on it.  Every state where the people have been allowed to vote on it, it has been voted down 100% of the time.  In the 1990’s we had a President that had an adulterous affair while in the White House.  Morality seems to be a thing of the past.  People are more worried about a man’s ability to govern more than his character without realizing that if the man has no character in his private life, he has no character in his public life either.

Zephaniah Swift: Indeed moral virtue is substantially and essentially enforced by the precepts of Christianity and may be considered to be the basis of it.  But in addition to moral principles, the Christian doctrines inculcate a purity of heart and holiness of life which constitutes its chief glory.  When we contemplate it in this light, we have a most striking evidence of its superiority over all the systems of pagan philosophy which were promulgated by the wisest men of ancient times.13

So many Founders connected morality with the teaching of Christianity espousing that morality could not be taught without teaching Christianity and was a fundamental part of a well rounded education that they actually feared, rightfully so, what would happen if education no longer included the teaching of Christianity.

Benjamin Rush warned: In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them.  We profess to be Republicans and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.14

This fact is no more prevalent than today.  From the time we stopped prayer in school and then removed the Bible we have seen an exponential rise in all types of crimes and instances of immorality.  In the 1950’s the most common problems in our schools were cutting in line, talking in class and chewing gum.  Today our schools have nurseries for the babies of the 14 -18 year old students.  There are armed guards around the schools.  Many schools have metal detectors so kids won’t bring guns to school.  Divorce rates have skyrocketed even in the church.  We are building more and more prisons to handle the criminals all because an activist judge ignoring the foundation that our Founders laid regarding morality decided: It is unconstitutional for students to see the Ten Commandments since they might read, meditate upon, respect, or obey them.15  That decision went against all of what the Founders believed and lived by.  Our nation, under their guidance, became the greatest, freest, most prosperous and powerful nation following the principles that this Supreme Court deemed ‘unconstitutional’.

George Washington: Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. . . . Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge.16

This could be the entire foundation for the successful political existence of America’s government.  This is also part of Washington’s ‘Farewell Address’

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports.  In vain would the man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.17

The Founders knew that a self government required morality and the religion that morality is grounded in, Christianity.  They knew that only a moral people could be governed by the type of government they established.  It has proven to be the most successful style of government that ever existed.  It is not perfect, but it is the best that man has ever established.  It has been the best because it has allowed the principles of God to guide it and those principles are designed to prosper the people not the government, but the government has prospered because the people have prospered.

John Adams clearly stated this when he said: We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.18

From these quotes alone we can determine, without question, that the commonly held belief of the Founders is that morality was a very high priority.  They didn’t just expect it; they demanded it from not just politicians but everybody.  This is why the Founders were so strong on the teaching of Christianity to the youth of their day in the public schools.  They knew that a person’s character is molded in the early years.  If a moral character wasn’t established at a young age, it most likely would never be established.  They believed what God said about it: Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Even if a child departs from it, if taught at an early age, it will be easier for him to come back to something that he is familiar with than to try to learn something that is foreign to him.  Morality was as important to them as Christianity itself.

We have seen a nation rise to unprecedented wealth and power that was based on Christianity and its morals.  In the last 50 years we have seen those principles set aside for the modern secular humanism and we have already seen a drastic decline in America.  We are becoming more and more like the European nations devoid of Christianity and its influence.  We are trying to adapt their concept of multi-culturalism which is failing in all places where it has been initiated.  Many of those nations have just recently declared that multi-culturalism is a failure, yet we keep going down that path.

Experience has proven that our nation excelled when Christianity and morality is encouraged.  Will we ever get back to what made us great?  That is up to the American’s that care.  If there are enough of us, yes.  But if we continue in the state of apathy that we are now languishing in, it is highly unlikely that we will ever see America as great as it once was.


End Notes


  1. Holy Bible: Exodus 18:21, KJV 1611
  2. Holy Bible: Proverbs 29:2, KJV 1611
  3. John Adams to Abigail Adams, November 18, 1775.  Butterfield, Adams Family Correspondence, 1:327
  4. Alexander Hamilton, Draft of Washington’s Farewell Address, [1796]. Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
  5. Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, 43 U.S 153, 171 (1844).
  6. Daniel Webster, The Works of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1853), Vol. II, pp. 107-108, remarks to the ladies of Richmond, October 5, 1840.
  7. Joseph Story, Vidal v. Girard’s Executors,
  8. Gouverneur Morris, A Diary of the French Revolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1939), Vol. II, p.172, April 29, 1791.
  9. Gouverneur Morris, A Diary of the French Revolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1939), Vol. II, p. 452, to Lord George Gordon, June 28, 1792.
  10. United States Oracle, (Portsmouth, NH), May 24, 1800.
  11. Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p 339, ¶ 53.
  12. Commonwealth v. Sharpless, 2 Serg. & Rawle 91, 103 (Penn. 1815), (Yates, J., concurring).
  13. Zephaniah Swift, The Correspondent, (Windham: John Byrne, 1793), p. 119.
  14. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel Bradford, 1798), p. 112, “Defense of the Use of the Bible as a School Book”.
  15. Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 36 (1980).
  16. George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge, 1796), pp. 22-23.
  17. George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge, 1796), pp. 22-23.
  18. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charled 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.

iPatriot Contributers


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