The Patriots Part 2
In continuing with the patriots we have to keep in mind how they were brought up. We will see that virtually all of them hold a very strong point of view on the importance or religion. This mindset of theirs cannot be ignored. I refuse to be politically correct about this. This is our true heritage and it must be told properly as well as contextually.
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I have not handpicked only the verses that deal with their religious beliefs. Most of their writing contains references to their faith. They appear all through their writings. Even when they would write about another patriot talking between one another, they would talk about the strong faith of a third party. Their Christian faith was the most important thing to them. They were men of honor and integrity and their characters were above reproach. Yes, there were a few, very few that were of a lower character and the majority of the Founders voiced their opinion about that aspect of them. Thomas Pain was one that in the later part of his life wrote a book called The Age of Reason and was chastised by most of the Founders because of its content that was contrary to what the majority believed. Elias Boudinot wrote a book to refute The Age of Reason entitled The Age of Revelation.
Richard Bassett was from the State of Delaware and was a signer of the Constitution of the United States. He was also a U.S. Senator and Governor of Delaware, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court if Delaware. During the Revolutionary War he was a Captain. He was a lawyer and a planter. He helped write the Constitution of Delaware and was appointed by President John Adams to Circuit Court Judge. During the Revolutionary War he converted to Methodism, freed his slaves and then hired them as laborers. Bassett was instrumental in helping to write the Constitution of Delaware of which part of it states:
Article XXII Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office of 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 in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for ever more; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.1
We have always stated that there is no ‘religious test’ but this is very close. It is obvious that these people wanted to make sure that they had a man of good Christian character in public office.
Sir William Blackstone was not a Founder but is important from the aspect that his works were integral in the forming of the Founders philosophy of government. Blackstone wrote Commentaries on the Laws of England which was more popular in America than in England. It was this commentary that formed the basis of American law. When Baylor University examined 15,000 documents written by the Founders from 1760 through 1805 which included pamphlets, monographs, books and newspaper articles they found that Blackstone was quoted more than any other author except one.2
Blackstone’s philosophy was simple, God made the rules and we follow them. He called it the ‘law of nature’. His political philosophy was basis of our system of laws which made him one of the most influential figures for the Founders. His beliefs concerning God’s laws and how man was to cooperate with them and base man’s laws on God’s became the guiding force for the Founders. I will list several of his quotes to establish what the Founders used to determine what would be used as the foundation for our new system of government.
Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being. . . . And, consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his makers will. . . . this will of his Maker is called the law of nature.3 (emphasis added)
He went on to say; These laws laid down by God are the eternal immutable laws of good and evil. . . . This law of nature by God Himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this.4 (emphasis added)
The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. . . [and] are found upon comparison to be really part of the original law of nature. Upon these two foundations, the laws of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.5 (emphasis added)
Blasphemy against the Almighty is denying His being or providence, or uttering contumelious reproaches on our Savior Christ. It is punished, at common law by fine and imprisonment, for Christianity is part of the laws of the land.6 (emphasis added)
This is the influence on the Founders in their not just requiring, but literally demanding that the Christian religion be not just encouraged, but taught in the schools from the earliest age. They knew that it was adherence to God’s principles that would bring about the most civil society. As the time of war drew closer and closer the rallying cry from the colonies was a untied ‘No King but Jesus’. This statement is not a statement from irreligious people. This is a statement of faith from people of faith.
Elias Boudinot was a Founding Father and in 1783 was President of the Continental Congress. He was a U.S. Congressman from New Jersey and the founder of the American Bible Society. As a member of the First Provincial Congress he believed that it was imperative to seek God in the process of establishing the work of Congress. He declared:
Let us enter on this important business under the idea that we are Christians on whom the eyes of the world are now turned. . . . Let us earnestly call and beseech him for Christ’s sake to preside in our counsils.7
When Thomas Pain wrote The Age of Reason Elias wrote a rebuttal entitled The Age of Revelation. Pain’s book went against so much of what the rest of the Founders believed that he had to expose what he felt was blasphemy of God’s Word. Elias wrote to his daughter, Susan, a letter describing his feelings. The letter, in part, stated:
I confess that I was much mortified to find the whole force of this vain man’s genius and art pointed at the youth of America. . . . This awful consequence created some alarm in my mind lest at any future day, you, my beloved child, might take up this plausible address of infidelity; and for want of an answer at hand to his subtle insinuations might suffer even a doubt of the truth, as it is in Jesus, to penetrate into your mind . . . . I therefore determined . . . to put my thoughts on the subject of this pamphlet on paper for your edification and information, when I shall be no more. I chose to confine myself to the leading and essential facts of the Gospel which is contradicted or attempted to be turned into ridicule by this writer [Pain]. I have endeavored to detect his falsehoods and misrepresentations and to show his extreme ignorance of the Divine Scriptures which he makes the subject of his animadversions [criticisms] – not knowing that ‘they are the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth [Romans 1:16].8
What had been written by Thomas Pain went against what America stood for. As a patriot, Boudinot made it clear that he would stand for America and not let someone who desecrated the foundation of American get by without being publically rebuked. Patrick Henry felt the same way about Pain’s book.9 John Quincy Adams,10 Benjamin Rush,11 Charles Carroll,12 John Witherspoon,13 William Patterson,14 Zephaniah Swift,15 John Jay16 and many others stood against Pain and his book and publically chastised him for it. These are actions of patriots in defense of what America stood for, Christianity.
John Dickenson was a member of the Continental Congress and the writer of the first draft of the Articles of Confederation. He was a signer of the Constitution of the United States, lawyer, planter, state legislator and President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. Dickson was a Quaker and therefore a devout Christian. He wrote persuasive letters concerning the soundness of Christian evidences and the authority of scriptures.17 He is best remembered for his being the “Penman of the Revolution’. His pamphlets were instrumental in keeping the fires of liberty burning in the hearts of the colonists. His most memorable were Petition to the King, 1771; The Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, 1774, and Letter from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. Dickenson was well aware of the spiritual basis for the position taken by the Americans. He commented:
Kings or parliaments could not give the rights essential to happiness. . . . We claim them from a higher source – from the King of Kings, and Lord of all the earth. They are not annexed to us by parchment and seals. They are created in us by decrees of Providence, which establish the laws of our nature. They are born with us; and cannot be taken from us by any human power without taking our lives. In short, they are founded in the immutable maxims of reason and justice. It would be an insult on the Divine Majesty to say the he has given or allowed any man or body of men a right to make me miserable.18
I hope that you have notices that in defending America, these Founders were first defending Christianity, the foundational basis of our liberties. They were defending Christianity because an attack on Christianity was basically an attack on our government. Patriots will defend what is right and what is right about America is its Christian heritage.
- Richard Bassett, 1776, Constitution of the State of Delaware, Article XXII, The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America – Published by Order of Congress (Boston: Norman & Bowen, 1785), pp. 99-100.
- Sir William Blackstone, 1760-1805, being the second most frequently quoted author by the framers of the Constitution; cited by Donald S. Lutz and Charles S. Hyneman, “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought”, American political Science Review 189 (1984): 189-197.
- Sir William Blackstone. 1765-1770, in his work Commentaries on the Laws of England, Tucker, ed., (1803), p.39.
- Sir William Blackstone. 1765-1770, in his work Commentaries on the Laws of England, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1769).
- Sir William Blackstone. 1765-1770, in his work Commentaries on the Laws of England, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1769).
- Sir William Blackstone, 765-1770, in his work Commentaries on the Laws of England, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Co. 1879), Vol. II. P. 59; as cited in the case Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, 11 Ser. & R. 396 (1824).
- Elias Boudinot, The Life, Public Services, Addresses, and Letters of Elias Boudinot, D., President of the Continental Congress, J.J. Boudinot, editor (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1896), Vol. I, p. 19, speech in the First Provincial Congress of New Jersey.
- Elias Boudinot. The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia: Asbury Dickens, 1801), pp. xii-xiv, from the prefatory remarks to his daughter, Mrs. Susan Bradford.
- George Morgan, Patrick Henry, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1929), p. 366 n.
- John Quincy Adams, An Answer to Pain’s [sic] “Rights of Man” (London: John Stockdale, 1793), p. 13.
- Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush,H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), Vol. II, p. 770, to John Dickenson on February 16, 1796.
- Joseph Gurn, Charles Carroll of Carrollton,(New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1932), p. 203.
- John Witherspoon, The Works of the Reverend John Witherspoon (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1802), Vol. III, p. 24, n. 2, from “The Dominion of Providence over the passions of men”, delivered at Princeton on May 17, 1776.
- John E. O’Conner, William Patterson: Lawyer and Statesman (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1979), p. 224, from a Fourth of July Oration in 1798.
- Zephaniah Swift, A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut, (Windham: John Byrne, 1796), Vol. II, pp. 323-324.
- William Jay, Life, Vol. II, p. 266, to Rev. Uzal Ogden on February 14, 1796.
- John Dickenson, Milton E. Fowler, John Dickenson: Conservative Revolutionary (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983), p. 287.
- John Dickenson, The Political Writings of John Dickenson, (Wilmington: Bonsal and Niles, 1801), Vol. I, pp. 111-112.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.