Declaration of Independence

On July 4th 1776, in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence. This document for the ages proclaimed the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king.

First, Our Declaration contains several references to Almighty God, active in Our affairs. They are as follows: “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” “Creator,” “Supreme Judge of the world,” and “divine Providence.”

Self-evidently

Here they are in their context:

“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 Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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.”

Declaration of Independence
The American Revolution lasts for five more years. Finally, upon signing the Treaty of Paris with Britain in 1783, the United States formally becomes a free, independent nation. This was seven years after the ratification of the Declaration of Independence.

Clearly, the acknowledgement of and dependence on Almighty God were essential to the Founding of Our nation, and its future. These are critical to the enjoyment of our “unalienable Rights.”
After all, freedom, virtue, and faith are all interdependent.

 

Declaration of Independence

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress selects Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston to draft the Declaration of Independence. We know this remarkable group as the Committee of Five.

First, here is how the Declaration begins:
“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 Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Providence and Our Pledge

Finally, how it concludes:
“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.”

Our Constitution is our ‘how’ document and this divinely inspired Declaration is our ‘why.’

Declaration of Independence

Benjamin Franklin t-shirt

On this day in 1787, delegates from every state except Rhode Island convened (appropriately) in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention.

The delegates met at what we now know as Independence Hall in order to compose the U.S. Constitution. That very building had earlier seen the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the signing of the Articles of Confederation.

Virginia delegate and Revolutionary War hero George Washington was elected convention president.  In 1789, the U.S. Constitution became the law of the land.

The Affairs of Men

At the Convention, an 81 year old Benjamin Franklin, a delegate of Pennsylvania, appealed for prayers:

“I have lived a long time, 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?”

So, that quote, and his own sketch of the bifocals he invented, inspired the artwork for Our Benjamin Franklin “See… God Governs” t-shirt:

Benjamin Franklin “See… God Governs” a quote from the Constitutional Convention

Get yours in Our Shop, HERE.

 

Benjamin Franklin Epitaph

On this day in 1790, preeminent Founding Father, and “The First American,” Benjamin Franklin dies at age 84 in his adopted home of Philadelphia.

Franklin served as a legislator in Pennsylvania, as a diplomat in England and France, and this prolific patriot (who was also a printer, scientist, statesman, etc.) is the only person to have signed the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Even in his early twenties, his wit and wisdom was on full display. For today’s post, it’s especially noteworthy that in 1728 he wrote his own epitaph, revising and sharing it with friends throughout his life. Here is one such version, with a copy below:

The Body of Ben Franklin Printer,
Like the Cover of an old Book
Its contents torn out
And stript of its Lettering & Gilding,
Lies here Food for the Worms,
yet the Work shall not be lost:
For it will, as he believed, appear once more
In a new & most beautiful Edition,
Corrected and amended by the Author.

Benjamin Franklin Epitaph

Benjamin Franklin “lived a long time…”

At age 81, as the elder statesman at the Constitution Convention in his adopted home, Franklin urged the Assembly toward morning “prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on [their] deliberations.” In so doing, he made this famous quote, which inspired Our Benjamin Franklin shirt:

Jefferson Memorial with Cherry Blossoms

On this day in 1743, preeminent Founding Father Thomas Jefferson is born. That is, “created equal.”
Jefferson was the governor of Virginia, and drafter of the Declaration of Independence. He served as secretary of state under President George Washington, as U.S. minister to France, and as vice president under John Adams, He was the third president of the United States, founder the University of Virginia.

Read these compelling quotes found on the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“…I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.”

God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Thomas Jefferson Memorial with Cherry Blossoms
Of note: In Jefferson’s time “establishment” meant mandatory membership, mandatory attendance, mandatory taxes to support it. Furthermore, no one could hold public office unless he was a member.
Also, “separation of church and state” does not appear in any of our founding documents.

 

Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg

On this day in 1789, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg is elected as the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, from 1789-1791.

Two years later, he was also the third Speaker of the House (1793-1795). In total, he served in the House from 1789 to 1797.

Then, he was a member of the Continental Congress in 1779 and 1780. He followed that by serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1780 to 1783.

Later, he presided over the Pennsylvania ratifying convention of 1787 for the U.S. Constitution.

Finally, he was the first signer of the Bill of Rights. The second was John Adams.

Before all of that, Frederick Muhlenberg was a Lutheran pastor.

Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg First Speaker of the House

 

President James Madison

On this day in 1751, James Madison is born in Conway, Virginia.

He was a key drafter of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, as well the recorder of the Constitutional Convention. Accordingly, Madison is known as the “Father of the Constitution.”
Furthermore, he was a key author of the Federalist Papers. Finally, Madison served two terms as the fourth President of the United States, from 1809 to 1817.

For all these towering achievements, James Madison stood at just 5′4″. I like him even more.

Divine Destiny

Here are portions of his Proclamation 20 – Recommending a Day of Public Thanksgiving for Peace from March 4, 1815:

“No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States.”

“And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.”

James Madison

Articles of Confederation signature page

On this day in 1781, the Articles of Confederation are ratified. This document guided the United States until it was replaced by the Constitution in 1789.

The Revolution brought Americans from living under a sovereign king, to living in sovereign states, to becoming a sovereign people.
Providentially, all of this happened over the course of just two decades.
This transformation was the fruit of the collective effort to “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”
This government was founded on the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” acknowledging our “unalienable rights” from our “Creator.”

The Great Governor of the World

Indeed, here is the first half of the last paragraph of the Articles:

“And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union, Know Ye, that we, the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do, by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said articles of confederation and perpetual union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained.”

Articles of Confederation last page

George Washington first State of the Union address

On this day in 1790, President George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address. Washington delivered the speech to Congress at Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City.

As was fitting for the new nation, Washington’s brief address stands as the shortest State of the Union address ever. What follows are a few excerpts from  to his “Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives.”

Within our reach

“Still further to realize [your constituents’] expectations and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.

Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention that of providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined;”

Sure and secure

“Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. …To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways… by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights;… to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness – cherishing the first, avoiding the last… .

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the legislature.”

Today, as during our founding, may we again seek the blessings of Providence through “exertion of [our] patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.”

George Washington first State of the Union address

Mayflower Compact

On this day in 1620, the Mayflower ship docks at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. This marked the culmination of an arduous journey to the New World. However, it also marked the start of a long winter, after which 50 of the 102 Mayflower passengers were dead.

Previously, on November 11, the Mayflower anchored across Cape Cod Bay. Then, before going ashore to begin scouting the area, the 41 male passengers wisely signed the Mayflower Compact.

“Covenant and combine”

Below is the full text of the Mayflower Compact. This document was a progenitor of the form of self-government found in the Constitution of the United States:

“In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620.”

Mayflower Compact

Bill of Rights

On this day in 1791, the United States ratifies the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The purpose of the Bill is “to prevent misconstruction or abuse of [Constitutional] powers,” thereby protecting individual liberties.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason, formed the basis of the amendments in the Bill of Rights.

In fact, at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Mason would not sign the Constitution without concurrent passage of these protections.

Ultimately, Virginia was the last state to ratify the Bill of Rights.

Sect, Society, and Separation

Let us now scale that oft-misinterpreted “wall of separation between Church and State.”
First, with George Mason’s proposed wording for the First Amendment:

“All men have and equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.”

Furthermore, Thomas Jefferson borrowed his subsequently famous phrase from a well-known Baptist minister of the time. In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut, Jefferson assured them that Congress would not violate the first amendment by placing one denomination, or sect, above the others.

Clearly, then, the intent of the First Amendment was not to harm religion, or even to isolate it from the state. Nor was it intended to appease atheists or please pluralists. Clearly, quite the opposite.

Bill of Rights