George Read (September 18, 1733-September 21, 1798), was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; a signer of the U.S. Constitution; a delegate from Delaware to the Constitutional Convention; a U.S. Senator, 1789-93; and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware.
As a youth, George Read studied at the seminary of Rev. Dr. Allison at New London. At the age of 17, he began reading law with John Moland Esq., and two years later was admitted to the bar. In 1769, he married the daughter of Reverend George Ross, who was the pastor of Immanuel Church in Newcastle for 50 years.
Known as “the Father of Delaware,” George Read wrote “the first edition of her laws,” and the Constitution of the State. The requirements, stated in the Delaware Constitution, necessary for holding office include:
DELAWARE 1776. Article XXII. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or 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 evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706-April 17, 1790), was an American printer, writer, scientist, philosopher and statesmen. He initially gained literary acclaim through the annual publication of his book, Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732-57). At the age of forty-two he was successful enough to retire and devote himself to science, writing and public life. In 1743, he helped found the American Philosophical Society.
Benjamin Franklin was very close friends with George Whitefield, the renowned preacher of the Great Awakening. In his Autobiography, Franklin wrote of having attended the crusades of George Whitefield at the Philadelphia Courthouse steps. He noted over 30,000 people were present, and that Whitefield’s voice could be heard nearly a mile away. Benjamin Franklin became very appreciative of the preaching of George Whitefield, even to the extent of printing many of his sermons and journals.
So great was the response of the Colonies to Whitefield’s preaching of the Gospel, that the churches were not able to hold the people. Benjamin Franklin built a grand auditorium for the sole purpose of having his friend George Whitefield preach in it when he came to Pennsylvania. After the crusades, Franklin donated the auditorium to be the first building of the University of Pennsylvania. A bronze statue of George Whitefield still stands in front, commemorating the Great Awakening Revivals in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War.
In 1739, noting the effects of George Whitefield’s ministry and the resulting Christian influence on city life, Benjamin Franklin later recorded in his Autobiography :
It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.
During the Constitutional Convention that set out to pen the Constitution, seemingly irreparable dissension had broken out between the larger states and the smaller. On Thursday, June 28, 1787. The elder statesman Franklin made this famous speech:
In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. – Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?
We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.
From that day until this every session of Congress is opened in prayer.
Benjamin Rush (January 4, 1745-April 19, 1813), was a physician, educator and philanthropist. He was a member of the Continental Congress, 1776-77, and signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1774, he helped found and was president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. He helped found and was vice-president of the Philadelphia Bible Society; was a principal promoter of the American Sunday School Union; and a member of the Abolition Society. He also served as the Surgeon General of the Continental Army, 1777-78; helped to write the Pennsylvania Constitution, 1789-90; and was Treasurer of the U.S. Mint, 1797-1813. In 1783, Dr. Benjamin Rush helped found Dickinson College and joined the staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital. In 1786, he established the first free medical clinic.
In his work, A Plan for Free Schools, 1787, Dr. Benjamin Rush counseled:
Let the children…be carefully instructed in the principles and obligations of the Christian religion. This is the most essential part of education.
On July 13, 1789, in a letter to Jeremy Belknap, Dr. Benjamin Rush stated:
The great enemy of the salvation of man, in my opinion, never invented a more effectual means of extirpating Christianity from the world than by persuading mankind that it was improper to read the Bible at schools.
In Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, Dr. Benjamin Rush explained:
Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and that in proportion as mankind adopts its principles and obeys its precepts, they will be wise and happy.
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 the means of the Bible.
For this Divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.
James Wilson (September 14, 1742-August 21, 1798), was a Supreme Court Justice appointed by President George Washington, 1789-98. Born and educated in Scotland, he held the distinction of being one of six Founding Fathers to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. James Wilson was very active in the Constitutional Convention, having spoken 168 times. In 1790, James Wilson became the first Law Professor of the University of Pennsylvania.
In his Lectures on Law, delivered at the College of Philadelphia, 1789-91, James Wilson explained that all law comes from God, and can be divided into four categories: “law eternal,” “law celestial,” “laws of nature,” and:
That law, which God has made for man in his present state; that law, which is communicated to us by reason and conscience, the divine monitors within us, and by the sacred oracles, the divine monitors without us…. As promulgated by reason and the moral sense it has been called natural; as promulgated by the holy scriptures, it has been called revealed law. As addressed to men, it has been denominated the law of nature; as addressed to political societies, it has been denominated the law of nations. But it should always be remembered, that this law, natural or revealed, made for men or for nations, flows from the same divine source; it is the law of God…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. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.
In expounding on the “Will of God,” James Wilson described it as the:
Efficient cause of moral obligation – of the eminent distinction between right and wrong…[and therefore the] supreme law…[It is revealed] by our conscience, by our reason, and by the Holy Scriptures.
John Adams (October 30, 1735-July 4, 1826), was the 2nd President of the United States, 1797-1801, being the first president to live in the White House; established the Library of Congress and the Department of the Navy; Vice-President under George Washington, 1789-97; a member of the First and Second Continental Congress, 1774, 1775; a signer of the Declaration of Independence, 1776; distinguished for having personally urged Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration, as well as for having recommended George Washington as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army; authored the Constitution of Massachusetts in 1780; U.S. Minister to France, 1783, having signed the Treaty of Paris, along with John Jay and Benjamin Franklin, which officially ended the Revolutionary War; U.S. Minister to Great Britain, 1784-88, during which time he greatly influenced the American states to ratify the Constitution by writing a three-volume work entitled, A Defense of the Constitution of the Government of the United States.
On February 22, 1756, John Adams made the entry in his diary, his idea of a “Eutopian Nation”:
Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God…What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.
On October 11, 1798, President John Adams stated in a letter to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
On June 28, 1813, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams wrote:
The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite….And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.
Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.
Samuel Adams (September 27, 1722-October 2, 1803), was a Revolutionary leader and signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was the cousin John Adams, the second President. Samuel Adams was known as the “Father of the American Revolution.” He labored over 20 years as a patriot and leader. He instigated the Boston Tea Party, signed the Declaration of Independence, called for the first Continental Congress and served as a member of Congress until 1781. He helped draft the Massachusetts Constitution, 1779; served as the state’s Lieutenant Governor under Governor John Hancock, 1789-93; and Governor of Massachusetts, 1793-97. The State of Massachusetts, as evidence of the high esteem in which he was held, chose to be represented by a statue of Samuel Adams in the U.S. Capitol.
On November 20, 1772, in the section of The Rights of the Colonists entitled, “The Rights of the Colonist as Christians,” Samuel Adams declared:
The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, the rights of the Colonists as Christians may best be understood by reading and carefully studying the institutions of The Great Law Giver and the Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.
Samuel Adams wrote in his Last Will and Testament :
Principally, and first of all, I resign my soul to the Almighty Being who gave it, and my body I commit to the dust, relying on the merits of Jesus Christ for the pardon of my sins.
John Hancock (January 12, 1737-October 8, 1793), was an American merchant and Revolutionary leader. He was a graduate of Harvard, 1754, a member of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, 1766-72; and a member of the Continental Congress, 1774-78. He became well known for being the first to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was the Governor of Massachusetts, 1780-85, 1787-93.
The Massachusetts Provincial Congress agreed with John Hancock, concurring in late 1774:
Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual….Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.
On March 5, 1774, on the occasion of the Boston Massacre, John Hancock gave an oration in Boston, which was printed in five pamphlet editions and widely circulated:
Some boast of being “friends to government”: I am a friend to “righteous” government, to a government founded upon the principles of reason and justice….I have the most animating confidence that the present noble struggle for liberty will terminate gloriously for America. And let us play the man for our GOD, and for the cities of our GOD; while we are using the means in our power, let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great LORD of the universe, who loveth righteousness and hateth inequity.
Richard Henry Lee (January 20, 1732-June 19, 1794), was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, a delegate to the First Continental Congress and a U.S. Senator. On November 1, 1777, as recorded in the Journals of Congress, Richard Henry Lee, along with the committee of Samuel Adams and General Daniel Roberdeau, recommended a resolution setting apart:
Thursday, the 18th of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance.
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743-July 4, 1826), was the 3rd President of the United States, 1801-09; approved the Louisiana Purchase and commissioned the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1803; Vice-President under John Adams, 1797-1801; Rector of the University of Virginia, 1819; Secretary of State under George Washington, 1789-93; U.S. Minister to France, 1785-89; delegate to the Continental Congress, 1783-85; drafted the Virginia Constitution, 1783; Governor of Virginia, 1779-81; drafted the Declaration of Independence, 1776; alternate delegate to the Second Continental Congress, 1775-76; member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1768-79; married Martha Wayles Skelton, 1772; admitted to bar, 1767; graduated from the College of William and Mary, 1762; in addition to being an author, architect, educator and scientist.
In Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Notes on Religion and an Act Establishing Religious Freedom, Passed in the Assembly of Virginia, in the Year 1786, reference is made to a law passed in 1705:
By our own act of assembly of 1705, c. 30, if a person brought up in the Christian religion denies the being of a God, or the Trinity, or asserts there are more gods than one, or denies the Christian religion to be true, or the Scriptures to be of divine authority, he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office of employment, ecclesiastical, civil or military; on the second by disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, executor, or administrator, and by three years’ imprisonment without bail.
In 1781, Thomas Jefferson made this statement in Query XVIII of his Notes on the State of Virginia. Excerpts of these statements are engraved on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.:
God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.
Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a committee was appointed to draft a seal for the newly united states which would express the spirit of this new nation. Thomas Jefferson proposed:
The children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.
George Wythe (1726-June 8, 1806), was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was a member of the Continental Congress, a member of the House of Burgesses and the Mayor of Williamsburg. He served as the attorney general of the Virginia Colony and established the first law professorship in the United States at the College of William and Mary.
In February of 1776, George Wythe, Roger Sherman and John Adams, comprised a committee responsible for establishing guidelines for an embassy bound for Canada. Their instructions stated:
You are further to declare that we hold sacred the rights of conscience, and may promise to the whole people, solemnly in our name, the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion. And….that all civil rights and the right to hold office were to be extended to persons of any Christian denomination.
Richard Stockton (October 1, 1730-February 28, 1781), was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was a member of the Continental Congress, 1776; an associate justice on the Supreme Court of New Jersey, 1774-76; and a member of the Executive Council of New Jersey, 1768-76.
In his Last Will and Testament, Richard Stockton wrote:
As my children will have frequent occasion of perusing this instrument, and may probably be peculiarly impressed with the last words of their father, I think proper here, not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great leading doctrine of the Christian religion…but also in the heart of a father’s affection, to charge and exhort them to remember “that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
John Witherspoon (February 5, 1723-November 15, 1794), was an American Revolutionary patriot and clergyman. Born in Scotland, being a descendant of John Knox on his mother’s side, John Witherspoon’s influence as an educator was widely felt in America. He signed the Declaration of Independence and was a member of the Continental Congress. He was a primary proponent of separation of powers insisting on inclusions to check and balance the power of government. He served on over 120 Congressional committees, including: the Board of War, the Committee on Secret Correspondence, or Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Clothing for the Army.
As president of Princeton University, 1768-94, he graduated 478 students who directly shaped America, including: James Madison, who served eight years as Secretary of State and eight years as U.S. President; Aaron Burr, Jr., who was a U.S. Vice-President; 3 U.S. Supreme Court justices; 10 Cabinet members; 13 state governors; 21 U.S. Senators; 39 U.S. Representatives; and 114 ministers. Through his students, John Witherspoon’s views were reflected in our Constitution, as 9 (one-sixth) of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention were graduates of Princeton University: Gunning Bedford Jr. of Delaware; David Brearley of New Jersey; William Richardson Davie of North Carolina; Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey; William Churchill Houston of New Jersey; James Madison of Virginia; Alexander Martin of North Carolina; Luther Martin of Maryland; and William Paterson of New Jersey.
On May 17, 1776, the same day the Continental Congress declared a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, Reverend John Witherspoon delivered a sermon at Princeton University entitled “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men,” in which he stated:
While we give praise to God, the Supreme Disposer of all events, for His interposition on our behalf, let us guard against the dangerous error of trusting in, or boasting of, an arm of flesh…. If your cause is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts.
What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy of his country.
It is in the man of piety and inward principle, that we may expect to find the uncorrupted patriot, the useful citizen, and the invincible soldier. – God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both.
Roger Sherman (April 19, 1721-July 23, 1793), was an American Revolutionary patriot, jurist and politician. He was distinguished as the only Founding Father to sign all four major founding documents: The Articles of Association, 1774; The Declaration of Independence, 1776; The Articles of Confederation, 1777; and The Constitution of the United States, 1787. Roger Sherman was a shoe cobbler, surveyor and merchant prior to his political career. He was a self-taught lawyer; a state senator; a superior court judge; and a judge in Connecticut for fourteen years. He was member of the Continental Congress and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention, where he made 138 speeches. He was a U.S. Representative, 1789-91, and at the age of 70, was elected a U.S. Senator, 1791-93.
On Thursday, June 28, 1787, during an almost fatal crisis in the Constitutional Convention, Roger Sherman seconded a motion to enact Dr. Benjamin Franklin’s request that Congress be opened with prayer each day.
In February 1776, along with John Adams and George Wythe of Virginia, Roger Sherman, served on a committee responsible for creating instructions for an embassy headed for Canada. The instructions directed:
You are further to declare that we hold sacred the rights of conscience, and may promise to the whole people, solemnly in our name, the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion. And…that all civil rights and the right to hold office were to be extended to persons of any Christian denomination.
Roger Sherman joined the Congregational Church in 1742 and faithfully served as clerk, deacon and treasurer. He spoke very highly of his pastor, the Reverend Jonathan Edwards, the younger:
In 1788, as a member of the White Haven Congregational Church, Roger Sherman was asked to use his expertise in revising the wording of their creed. In his own handwriting, he wrote the following (EXCERPTS):
I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the same in substance equal in power and glory.
That the scriptures of the old and new testaments are a revelation from God, and a complete rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
I believe that God…did send his own Son to become man, die in the room and stead of sinners and thus to lay a foundation for the offer of pardon and salvation to all mankind, so as all may be saved who are willing to accept the gospel offer.
Charles Carroll (September 19, 1737-November 14, 1832), was a member of the Continental Congress and one of the first signers of the Declaration of Independence. Born at Annapolis, Maryland, he became one of the richest men in the Colonies. Charles, who outlived all the other signers, made many daring speeches and greatly supported the patriot cause with his finances. When he signed his name to the Declaration, someone commented that there were many men with the name “Charles Carroll” and that the British would not know which one was him. He at once added “of Carrollton,” and was known by that title ever since.
On November 4, 1800, in a letter to James McHenry, Charles Carroll, stated:
Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure [and] which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.
On September 27, 1825, in a letter to Charles W. Wharton, Esq., written from Doughoragen, Maryland, Charles Carroll stated:
On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts.
On October 9, 1827, in a letter to the Rev. John Stanford, Charles Carroll stated:
To obtain religious as well as civil liberty I entered jealously into the Revolution, and observing the Christian religion divided into many sects, I founded the hope that no one would be so predominant as to become the religion of the State. That hope was thus early entertained, because all of them joined in the same cause, with few exceptions of individuals.
Samuel Chase (April 17, 1741-June 19, 1811), was an attorney, jurist and politician. The son of an Anglican clergyman, he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, served as the Chief Justice of the State of Maryland, 1791, and was appointed by George Washington as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1796-1811.
In the case of Runkel v. Winemiller, 1799, Justice Chase gave the court’s opinion:
Religion is of general and public concern, and on its support depend, in great measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness of the people. By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty.