The Everson vs Board of Education is an important case as it was the case that completely redefined the First Amendment. In David Barton’s book Original Intent, he effectively describes the results of this case: “The question of what the Founders intended as the proper relationship between religious expressions and “public” life (whether in education, law, government, or throughout society in general) is clearly documented in their numerous writings on the subject. Those records establish their intent and thus clarify their two references to religion in the Constitution.
The first reference is in Article VI, Section 3:[No] religious test shall ever be acquired as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The second is in the First Amendment:
Do you think Cubans are fighting for healthcare or freedom from Communism?
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .
Through the years, these two constitutional requirements have formed the basis of many judicial decisions. Historically, legal scholars have examined both phrases when seeking the intent of the either; the understanding of each was made more complete through examination of both.12 The goal was always to identify and establish the original context and purpose of those two religious provisos before attempting to apply them.
However, in Everson (1947) the modern Court discarded this objective. It first divorced the First Amendment from its original purpose and then reinterpreted it without regard to either historical context or previous judicial decisions. The result was that the Court abandoned the traditional constitutional meaning of “religion” as a single denomination or system of worship and instead substituted a new “modern” concept which even now remains vague and the Court created a new and foreign purpose for the First Amendment and completely rewrote its scope of protections and prohibitions.”13
From this case we see a complete turnaround concerning the meaning of the First Amendment. This new ‘meaning’ is almost the opposite of what the Founders established. If you ask “How do we know this?”, it is simple. The Founders did everyday what the Court today says is unconstitutional. This 1947 misinterpretation has been a cancer to our Constitution and to our rights. At this point I feel that we need to look at historical evidence of the religious grounding of the Founding Fathers. There is a term used in the courts that describes admissible evidence and that term is ‘organic utterances’. This consists of the bulk of historical documents and previous legal rulings which makes up what is known as ‘common law’. We will look at some of these ‘organic utterances’ and see if the Founders were as un-religious as the Courts have declared.
As the colonies began to be populated each colony would establish a charter that declared the desire of the settlers for that colony. In 1606 a colony in Virginia established a charter that stated: “To make habitation and to deduce a colony of sundry of our people into that part of America commonly called Virginia in propagating of Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness.” 14 (Emphasis added)
In 1609 another colony in Virginia established a charter stating: “The principal effect which we can desire or expect of this action is the conversion of the people in those parts unto the true worship of God and Christian religion.” 15 (Emphasis added)
In 1629 a colony was established in Massachusetts and its charter stated: “Our said people. . . be so religiously, peaceably, and civilly governed [that] their good life and orderly conversation may win and incite the natives of. . . [that] country to the knowledge and obedience of the true God and Savior of mankind, and the Christian faith, which. . . is the principal end of this plantation [colony].” 16 (Emphasis added)
When the Quakers began to settle in North Carolina in 1653 their charter read: “Excited with a laudable and pious zeal for the propagation of the Christian faith . . . in the parts of America not yet cultivated of planted, and only inhabited by . . peoples who have no knowledge of Almighty God.” 17 (Emphasis added)
The charters for Pennsylvania 18, Rhode Island19, Connecticut20, New Hampshire21, New Jersey22 were of the same mind and goal as these listed above.
To understand why there was such a concentration on Christianity we have to look at three of the people that influenced the pilgrims and the Founders. What was it that shaped their thinking and their political philosophies and their Christian principles? One of the most influential persons in the early years America was a man by the name of John Locke. John Locke was a political philosopher, theologian, educator, diplomat, received his bachelor’s degree from Christ Church College of Oxford University in 1656, his master’s degree in 1658, lectured at the College on the Creek and his major works include Two Treatises of Government (1690) and The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695). The Two Treatises of Government was one of the major influences on the Founders in establishing our Constitution. His influence in America was strong. In 1669 he helped draft the Constitution of Carolina which stated that no man could be a citizen unless he acknowledged God, was a member of a church, and used no “reproachful, reviling, or abusive language” against any religion.23 It was his Two Treatises of Government that the Founders used in developing our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
John Locke was the third most cited man in what is known as early American political thought. John Locke ‘perfected’ the concept of social compact. He explained it in this way: “Men . . join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another in a secure enjoyment of their properties and a greater security against any that are not of it.” 24 Locke’s theory of social compact was manifested in the Declaration of Independence phrase that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Locke also believed that successful governments could be built only upon the transcendent, unchanging principles of natural law that were a subset of God’s law:25 “The Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men’s actions must . . be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e. to the will of God. 26 Laws human’s make must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.” 27
It is without argument that Locke depended on Scripture in establishing his political theories. When writing his first treatise on government, one of the books the Founders used in developing our form of government, he referred to scripture one thousand three hundred and forty nine times. In his second treatise he referenced Scripture another one hundred and fifty seven times. To discount Biblical influence in the developing of our government which many of the revisionist historians have done is complete foolishness.
Another of the most influential men whose philosophies about government were incorporated into our form of government was a French attorney and author and was the most invoked political influence during the Founding era. His name is Baron Charles Secondat de Montesquieu. His book the Spirit of Laws (1748) had a profound effect on the philosophies of the Founders. He believed that national stability and longevity would not be successful unless that society was founded on unchanging, transcendent laws: “Society, notwithstanding all it revolutions, must repose on principles that do not change,” 28 The question that has to be asked here is ‘What did Montesquieu believe to be so established that they could never change?’ He stated “The Christian religion, which ordains that men should love each other, would without doubt have every nation blest with the best civil, the best political laws; because these, next to this religion, are the greatest good that men can give and receive.” 29 One of Montesquieu’s political theories that was embraced by the Founders was the concept that the powers of government needed to be kept separate with one power able to check the power of another. This is what we call our ‘checks and balances’. John Adams noted concerning Montesquieu: “At the time of the Declaration of Independence, Montesquieu was one of the most recent and esteemed writers upon government, and he had shown the division of powers to be essentially necessary to the preservation of liberty.” 30 This separation of power is Biblically based on mans tendencies for corruption. Jeremiah 17: 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 31 George Washington, in his farewell address confirmed that the separation of power was something that needed to be held on to. “A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us for the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power by dividing and distributing it into different depositories . . . has been evinced [established].” 32
Consolidated power has been proven throughout history to be detrimental to the citizens of any nation where it exists. Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution saw power solely in the hands of one man and it resulted in the deaths of twenty million people. Germany in the late twenties began to go in that same direction and in the early thirties when Hitler came to power, fifty million died because of his consolidation of total power. These are the types of things that our Founders knew would result from too much power given to too few people. Alexander Hamilton sided with Washington on this matter: “Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint. . .[T]he infamy of a bad action is to be divided among a number, than. . . to fall singly upon one.” 33
Again we see a strong Biblical influence being incorporated into the government developed by the Founders. We will see this course continue with the third person who was exponentially influential to the Founders in developing their political philosophies. This man’s name is Sir William Blackstone. He was second most person of influence to the Founders concerning law. He was an English judge and law professor who authored the four-volume Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-69). He was so influential in America that the U.S. Senate purchased the Commentaries on the Laws of England for their guide to passing proper laws. James Madison encourages the use of Blackstone’s Commentaries: “I very cheerfully express my approbation of the proposed edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries.”34
Many other Founders found that Blackstone was an invaluable source for political theories.35 His theories can be found in the opening of the Declaration of Independence: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Natures God entitles them. . .(Emphasis added)
Blackstone defined the “law of Nature” and the laws “of Natures God”. “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 Maker’s will. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature.. . . This law of nature, being coeval [coexistent] with mankind and dictated 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; and such of them as are valid derive all their force , and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original. . . The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed of divine law and they are to be found only in the holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed, are found upon comparison to be really a part of the original law of nature. . . Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say no human law should be suffered to contradict these.”36
These three men of great influence were themselves influenced by Scripture. They based their political philosophies on Biblical principles. It was these Biblically inspired philosophies that had the most profound effect on the Founders and even those afterwards proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christianity was the prominent influence on the political beliefs of the Founders. This could be researched further but we would only see a repeat of what we have seen thus far.
12) Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, 492 U.S. 573, 614 (1989) (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).
13) David Barton, Original Intent (Aledo: Wallbuilders Press 2005) p. 21
14) Historical Collections: Consisting of State Papers and other Authentic Documents: Intended as Materials for an History of the United States of America, Ebenezer Hazard, editor (Philadelphia: T. Dobson, 1792) Vol. I, p.72
15) Hazards Historical Collection, Vol. I, p. 72
16) Hazards Historical Collection, Vol. I, p. 252
17) North Carolina History, Hugh Talmage Lefler. editor (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1934, 1956), p. 1
18) A Collection of Charters and Other Public Acts Relating to the Province of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1740), p. 1
19) Hazards Historical Collection, Vol. II, pp.612-613
20) Benjamin Trumbull, A Complete History of Connecticut, Civil and Ecclesiastical, From the Emigration of its First Planters from England (Hartford: Hudson & Goodwin, 1797), pp.528-533
21) Hazards Historical Collection, Vol. I, p. 463
22) The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the province of New Jersey, Aaron Leaming and Jacob Spicer, editors (Philadelphia: W. Bradford, 1758), Preface
23) John Locke, A Collection of Several Pieces of Mr. John Locke Never Before Printed or Not Extant in His Works (London: J. Bettenham for R. Francklin, 1720), pp. 3, 41, 45, 46.
24) John Locke, Two Treatises on Government (London: J. Winston, etc., 1772), Book II, p. 252, Chapter VIII, § 95.
25) David Barton, Original Intent (Aledo: Wallbuilders Press 2005) p. 218
26) John Locke, Two Treatises, Book II, p. 285, Chapter XI, § 135.
27) Locke at p. 285, Chapter XI, § 135 n., quoting Hooker’s Eccl. Pol. 1. iii, sec. 9.
28) George Bancroft, History of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1859), Vol. V, p. 24; see Baron Charles Secondat de Montesquieu, Spirit of Laws (Philadelphia: Isaiah Thomas, 1802), Vol. I, p. 18, ad passim.
29) Montesquieu, Vol. II, pp. 125-126.
30) John Quincy Adams, An Oration Addressed to the Citizens of the Town of Quincy, on the Fourth of July, 1831, the Fifty-Fifth Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America (Boston: Richardson, Lord and Holbrook, 1831), p. 27.
31) The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Je 17:9). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc
32) George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States. . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George & Henry S. Keatinge, 1796), p. 22.
33) Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist, on the New Constitution Written in 1788 (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 80, Alexander Hamilton, Number XV.
34) James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, (New York:mR Worthington, 1884), Vol III, Pp. 39, 41-42.
35) Blackstone is invoked as a key legal authority in the writings of Founders James Wilson, John Adams, Henry Laurens, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Madison, James Otis, James Kent , Joseph Story, Fisher Ames, et. al. David Barton, Original Intent (Aledo: Wallbuilders Press 2005) p. 216, footnote
36) Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, (Philadelphia: Robert Bell, Union Library, 1771), Vol. I, pp.39, 41-42.Tags: American History Founding fathers Religious Freedom
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.