Welcome to the American Christian Heritage Group blog where we give you glimpses of our country's early Christian foundations. We hope you enjoy these, learn more about our Christian heritage and undertake reading of the many cited sources and end notes. Please feel free to register and leave comments.

The day our government forbid praying in schools

March 14th, 2012

On MARCH 15, 1984, the Senate voted down voluntary prayer in public schools.

President Reagan said:

I am deeply disappointed that, although a majority of the Senate voted for it, the school prayer amendment fell short.”

On September 25, 1982, Ronald Reagan said:

“Unfortunately, in the last two decades we’ve experienced an onslaught of such twisted logic that if Alice were visiting America, she might think she’d never left Wonderland. We’re told that it somehow violates the rights of others to permit students in school who desire to pray to do so. Clearly this infringes on the freedom of those who choose to pray, the freedom taken for granted since the time of our Founding Fathers.”

Reagan continued:

“To prevent those who believe in God from expressing their faith is an outrage…The relentless drive to eliminate God from our schools…should be stopped.”

Ronald Reagan said February 25, 1984:

“Sometimes I can’t help but feel the First Amendment is being turned on its head.”

Reagan told the Alabama Legislature, March 15, 1982:

“The First Amendment was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.”

Endnotes:

American Minute with Bill Federer MARCH 15.

Reagan, Ronald Wilson. May 20, 1984, on School Prayer Amendment.

President Reagan, February 25, 1984, radio address.

Ronald Reagan, September 25, 1982, candle-lighting ceremony for prayer in schools.

Ronald Reagan, March 15, 1982, to the Alabama Legislature.

David R. Shepherd, ed., Ronald Reagan: In God I Trust (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1984), pp. 79-80, 146. Reagan, Ronald Wilson. Aug. 23, 1984 at an ecumenical prayer breakfast at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, on the occasion of the    enactment of the Equal Access Bill of 1984. Jeremiah O’Leary, “Reagan Declares that Faith Has Key Role in Political Life,” The Washington Times (Aug. 24, 1984).

Walter Shapiro, “Politics & the Pulpit,” Newsweek (Sept. 17, 1984), p. 24.

The Speech That Shook The Nation (Forerunner, Dec. 1984), p. 12.

Nadine Strossen, “Constitutional Analysis of the Equal Access Act’s Standards Governing School Student’s Religious Meetings,” Harvard Journal on Legislation, Winter, 1987. p. 118.

Ronald Reagan, Alabama State Legislature, March 15, 1982.

Source: AmericanMinute.com

 

A Founding Father and President – Elias Boudinot

February 22nd, 2012

Elias Boudinot

When you think of the Founding Fathers of our country certain popular and well-known names come to mind. The fact is there are many Founding Fathers with names we may never have heard. Some of these were very influential in shaping our country, and one is Elias Boudinot.

The most important fact about Elias Boudinot, as you will read,  is the clear-cut establishment of Christianity in the founding of the American society, its laws and Constitution.

Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) is a name not known by many. Would it surprise you that he was President? Probably the biggest surprise is that we had Presidents before George Washington, and Boudinot was the tenth President of the Continental Congress in 1782-1783.1

Elias Boudinot was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 2nd 1740 and died in Burlington, New Jersey October 24th, 1821. His great-grandfather, Elias, was a French Huguenot, who fled to this country after the revocation of the decree of Nantes. After receiving a Liberal Arts education, Elias Boudinot studied law with Richard Stockton of New Jersey and became distinguished in this profession in the early 1770’s. Boudinot was dutiful to the cause of independence in New Jersey, serving as a member of the Committee of Correspondence for Essex County in 1774. He often used his influence and great legal mind to persuade the New Jersey Provincial Congress to approve the resolutions of the Continental Congress and the United States in Congress Assembled. Boudinot was appointed NJ Commissary-General of Prisoners in 1777. In the same year he was elected a delegate to Continental Congress from New Jersey, serving from 1778 until 1779. He also served in the United States in Congress Assembled from 1781 until 1784.

Boudinot, a wealthily New Jersey lawyer and leader of the Presbyterian Church, won the presidency by a narrow margin The delegate count was 16 to 11. The law however of One state One Vote ended the tally seven states to four and two states not voting.

The other four states cast their votes for three different southern delegates. Eliphalet Dyer wrote to Jonathan Trumbull, November 8, 1782:

 Mr. Boudinot of the State of New Jersey, a gebtn of good character, virtuous, and decent behavior, was elected President of Congress on Monday last for the year ensuing; the choice was clear, no strift, as it is the prevailing inclination of Congress, to proceed in course through the States when it can be done with propriety, Jersey having none before.2

Boudinot was elected President of the United States in Congress Assembled on November 4th, 1782. Boudinot was a humble man who did not seek position or stature. Yet, his diplomacy, manner, and intelligence had a great influence as a Founding Father.

Justice Rehnquist, in his dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), listed Elias Boudinot (1740-1821) as one of the Christian founding fathers whose views contributed to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Boudinot is one example proving the authenticity of America’s Christian heritage. He set out his Christian viewpoint in The Age of Revelation (excerpted below), which was a pamphlet, written as a letter to his daughter in 1795, to uphold Christian beliefs and to refute Thomas Paine’s pamphlet (The Age of Reason) which advocated “the religion of nature” and sought to discredit the accuracy and infallibility of the Bible. (Boudinot, in contrast, upheld the Bible’s accuracy.) At the time Boudinot wrote this pamphlet, he was the Director of the United States Mint.

Consider this Boudinot statement: “There is no other instance (than that of the Mosaic code) of a body of laws being produced at once, and remaining without addition afterwards….” American society (including its early laws) were based primarily on Christianity, which in turn was based on the Mosaic code (the Ten Commandments). That was the view of many Early Americans, including founders like Elias Boudinot, who certainly would know their own generation better than we would.3

Earlier, in 1782, Boudinot was a member of the third (final) committee to design the Great Seal of the United States (especially the Coat of Arms portion). This committee turned the task of designing the United States Coat of Arms over to attorney William Barton, an expert in heraldry, upon whose knowledge the committee depended.3

When the United States government was formed in 1789, New Jersey sent Boudinot to the House of Representatives. He was elected to the second and third congresses as well, where he generally supported the administration, but refused to join the growing forces that led to formal political parties. In 1794, he declined to serve another term, and left Congress in early 1795. In October 1795, President Washington appointed him the Director of the United States Mint, a position he held until his retirement in 1805. He was scrupulous in his accounting, as reported to Congress, and left the US Mint in excellent order for the future.

In addition to serving in political office, Elias supported many civic, religious, and educational causes during his life. In Revolutionary times, Princeton was the College of New Jersey, and Boudinot served as one of its trustees for nearly half a century, from 1772 until 1821. When the Continental Congress was forced to leave Philadelphia in 1783 while he was its president, he moved the meetings to Princeton, where they met in the University’s Nassau Hall.

A devout Presbyterian, Boudinot supported missions and missionary work. He was one of the founders of the American Bible Society, and served as its President after 1816. He argued for the rights of black and American Indian citizens, and sponsored students to the Board School for Indians in Connecticut. One of these, a young Cherokee named Gallegina Watie, stayed with him while traveling to the school. The two so impressed each other that Gallegina asked for and was given permission to use his name. He later was known as Elias Boudinot.4

 1 There were 16 presidents of Congress. John Hanson (#9) was the first President elected under the terms of the Articles of Confederation with Boudinot being the second Continental Congress President. The presiding officer of the Continental Congress was usually styled “President of the Congress” or “President of Congress.” After the Articles of Confederation were adopted on March 1, 1781, the Continental Congress, previously officially known as simply “The Congress”, became officially known as “The United States in Congress Assembled.” Thereafter, the president was referred to as the “President of the United States in Congress Assembled”, although “President of (the) Congress” was used in some official documents.

2  Read his letters and other correspondence at http://eliasboudinot.com/

3 Belcher Foundation, ©2001, All Rights Reserved; http://www.belcherfoundation.org/boudinot.htm

4  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elias_Boudinot

 

Birthdays – January 1st

January 1st, 2012

Today we celebrate two patriot’s birthdays. Paul Revere (1735-1818) is the great U.S. Revolutionary War hero who took a midnight ride to warn colonists that the British were coming.

Betsy Ross (1752-1836) shares this birthdate and was purportedly responsible fo sewing America’s first flag.

JEFFERSON’S LETTERS RELECT SOME OF TODAY’S POLITICS

November 11th, 2011

Thomas Jefferson

You probably have heard the phrase “There is nothing new under the sun.” Thomas Jefferson wrote the following letters that discuss voters dissatisfaction with members of Congrress, weather conditions, and dissatisfaction with public expenses – unlike what we are going through today.

TO ALBERT GALLATIN

j. mss.
Monticello, September 8, 1816
Dear Sir,

—The jealousy of the European governments rendering it unsafe to pass letters through their postoffices, I am obliged to borrow the protection of your cover to procure a safe passage for the enclosed letter to Madame de Staël, and to ask the favor of you to have it delivered at the hotel of M. de Lessert without passing through the post-office.

In your answer of June 7 to mine of May 18, you mentioned that you did not understand to what proceeding of Congress I alluded as likely to produce a removal of most of the members, and that by a spontaneous movement of the people, unsuggested by the newspapers, which had been silent on it. I alluded to the law giving themselves 1500 D. a year. There has never been an instant before of so unanimous an opinion of the people, and that through every State in the Union. A very few members of the first order of merit in the House will be re-elected, Clay, of Kentucky, by a small majority, and a few others. But the almost entire mass will go out, not only those who supported the law or voted for it, or skulked from the vote, but those who voted against it or opposed it actively, if they took the money; and the examples of refusals to take it were very few. The next Congress, then, Federal as well as Republican, will be almost wholly of new members.

We have had the most extraordinary year of drought and cold ever known in the history of America. In June, instead of 3¾ inches, our average of rain for that month, we only had ? of an inch; in August, instead of 9? inches our average, we had only 8/10 of an inch; and still it continues. The summer, too, has been as cold as a moderate winter. In every State north of this there has been frost in every month of the year; in this State we had none in June and July, but those of August killed much corn over the mountains. The crop of corn through the Atlantic States will probably be less than one-third of an ordinary one, that of tobacco still less, and of mean quality. The crop of wheat was middling in quantity, but excellent in quality. But every species of bread grain taken together will not be sufficient for the subsistence of the inhabitants, and the exportation of flour, already begun by the indebted and the improvident, to whatsoever degree it may be carried, will be exactly so much taken from the mouths of our own citizens. My anxieties on this subject are the greater, because I remember the deaths which the drought of 1755 in Virginia produced from the want of food.

There are not to be the smallest opposition to the election of Monroe and Tompkins, the Republicans being undivided and the Federalists desperate. The Hartford Convention and peace of Ghent have nearly annihilated them.

Our State is becoming clamorous for a convention and amendment for their constitution, and I believe will obtain it. It was the first constitution formed in the United States, and of course the most imperfect. The other States improved in theirs in proportion as new precedents were added, and most of them have since amended. We have entered on a liberal plan of internal improvements, and the universal approbation of it will encourage and insure its prosecution. I recollect nothing else domestic worth noting to you, and therefore place here my respectful and affectionate salutations.(1)
Thomas Jefferson

The next letter reveals concerns with public expenses and comments on the two political parties. These revealing comments are reflecting a similar situation today, although our current state of public spending is plunging us into financial disaster

TO ALBERT GALLATIN

j. mss.
Monticello, October 29, 1822
Dear Sir,

—After a long silence, I salute you with affection. The weight of eighty years pressing heavily upon me, with a wrist and fingers almost without joints, I write as little as possible, because I do it with pain and labor. I retain, however, still the same affection for my friends, and especially for my ancient colleagues, which I ever did, and the same wishes for their happiness. Your treaty has been received here with universal gladness. It was indeed a strange quarrel, like that of two pouting lovers, and a pimp filching both; it was nuts for England. When I liken them to lovers, I speak of the people, not of their governments. Of the cordial love of one of these the Holy Alliance may know more than I do. I will confine myself to our own affairs. You have seen in our papers how prematurely they are agitating the question of the next President. This proceeds from some uneasiness at the present state of things. There is considerable dissatisfaction with the increase of the public expenses, and especially with the necessity of borrowing money in time of peace. This was much arraigned at the last session of Congress, and will be more so at the next. The misfortune is that the persons most looked to as successors in the government are of the President’s Cabinet; and their partisans in Congress are making a handle of these things to help, or hurt those for or against whom they are. The candidates, ins and outs, seem at present to be many; but they will be reduced to two, a Northern and Southern one, as usual; to judge of the event the state of parties must be understood. You are told, indeed, that there are no longer parties among us; that they are all now amalgamated; the lion and the lamb lie down together in peace. Do not believe a word of it. The same parties exist now as ever did. No longer, indeed, under the name of Republicans and Federalists. The latter name was extinguished in the battle of Orleans. Those who wore it, finding monarchism a desperate wish in this country, are rallying to what they deem the next best point, a consolidated government. Although this is not yet avowed (as that of monarchism, you know, never was), it exists decidedly, and is the true key to the debates in Congress, wherein you see many calling themselves Republicans and preaching the rankest doctrines of the old Federalists. One of the prominent candidates is presumed to be of this party; and the other a Republican of the old school and a friend of the barrier of States rights, as provided by the Constitution against the danger of consolidation, which danger was the principal ground of opposition to it at its birth. Pennsylvania and New York will decide this question. If the Missouri principle mixes itself in the question, it will go one way; if not it may go the other. Among the smaller motives, hereditary fears may alarm one side, and the long line of local nativities on the other. In this division of parties the judges are true to their ancient vocation of sappers and miners.(2)
Thomas Jefferson

Footnotes
1 The Online Library of Liberty, http://goo.gl/qDs6A
2 The Online Library of Liberty, http://goo.gl/K8Us8

ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN

October 24th, 2011

Abraham Lincoln

Historians have argued whether or not Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s best-known presidents, ever became a committed Christian. As a youth Lincoln mocked the scriptures. After the death of his favorite son, Willie, he groped for some hope which could give him solace. His wife Mary and he attended seances, but eventually renounced them as fraudulent. The cares and trials of the war drove Lincoln increasingly to his Bible.

As a youth, Lincoln mocked the scriptures. After the death of his favorite son, Willie, he groped for some hope that could give him solace. His wife Mary and he attended séances, but eventually renounced them as fraudulent. The cares and trials of the war drove Lincoln increasingly to his Bible. Increasingly he saw himself as an instrument of the Lord’s will, inscrutable though that might be.

His lifelong friend Joshua Speed remembered, “As I entered the room near night, [Lincoln] was sitting near a window reading his Bible. Approaching him, I said, ‘I am glad to see you profitably engaged.’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘I am profitably engaged.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if you have recovered from your skepticism I am sorry to say that I have not!’ Looking me earnestly in the face, and placing his hand upon my shoulder, he said: ‘You are wrong Speed; take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier and better man.'”

He wrestled to understand why the North continued to lose although its cause, the abolition of slavery and preservation of the union, seemed the more justifiable side. In the end, in a note not written for public consumption, Lincoln concluded that …1

 “The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true—that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Like a figure from Israel’s ancient history, Lincoln was arguing with God. But it was no longer a domesticated deity, an American God, but the ruler of the nations. The truth had begun to dawn to Lincoln that this God was not at the nation’s beck and call, but the nation at his. His thinking was beginning to diverge from the paths followed by Beecher, Dabney, and the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries.2

He issued a proclamation in the Northern States for a day of public humiliation, prayer, and fasting “to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnities. … It is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals to humble ourselves before Him, and to pray for His mercy…3

1 Dan Graves, MSL, President Lincoln’s Fast (Christianitytoday.com)

2 Mark A. Knoll, The Puzzling Faith of Abraham Lincoln (Christianitytoday.com)

 3 Dan Graves, MSL, President Lincoln’s Fast (Christianitytoday.com)

Bibliography:

  1. Current, Richard N. The Lincoln Nobody Knows. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958.
  2. Gross, Ernie. This Day in Religion. New York, N.Y. : Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1990.
  3. Lincoln, Abraham. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Roy P. Basler; Marion Dolores Pratt and Lloyd A. Dunlap, assistant editors. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953 – 1955.

“QUOTES”

October 11th, 2011

“It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.”

Source: Farewell Address, George Washington, 1796 (The Avalon Project,© 2008 Lillian Goldman Law Library, 127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511)

IN THE HAND OF GOD: U.S. CONSTITUTION DAY – SEPT. 17, 1787

October 10th, 2011

By Attorney Rees Lloyd

On September 17, 1787, after weeks of often bitter debate by delegates of the States gathered at the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Constitution of

United States Constitution

the United States, beginning with the words, “We, the People,” was signed by thirty-nine of the fifty-five delegates. The world was changed forever as America began its ‘great experiment’ in self-government.

Never before had a constitution been established in the name of “the People” of a nation, rather than by and in the name of a monarch, a state, or other governmental power. Many of the most erudite thinkers of the so-called “Age of Enlightenment,” did not believe that a constitutional republic of limited government “by, for, and of the people” could survive in a broad land containing a large and diverse population. America is still an ongoing experiment in liberty.

The Constitutional Convention had commenced on May 14, 1787, with a challenge to the conscience and integrity of delegates by George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army which had won the Revolutionary war. Washington, then and now the model American patriot, was elected President of the Constitutional Convention by unanimous vote.

“If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the event is in the Hand of God,” said Washington, who would later become the First President of the United States and be regarded as “the Father of his country.”

The delegates were learned American patriots who had studied history deeply to meet the task of creating a constitution fit for a free people. Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence but did not participate in the Constitutional Convention because he was in Paris representing the United States, wrote of the delegates with utmost respect as “a gathering of demigods.”

The Constitution the framers wrought in the name of “We, the People,” was one creating a government of expressly limited powers – a limited federal government of not a national government of self-expanding powers.

The subsequently adopted “Bill of Rights,” contained in the First Ten Amendments, for which the efforts of James Madison earned him recognition as “the Father of the Constitution,” begin with five words limiting powers of the federal government over the people:

‘”Congress shall make no law…,” respecting an establishment of religion nor abridging the fundamental rights of free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of petition for redress of grievance. These are rights which the Founding Fathers believed Americans were “endowed by their Creator,” as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That is, the Founders believed these were natural rights, rights granted by the “hand of God, not the hand of a generous government.,” as the late President John F. Kennedy would express it.

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments reinforced the words “Congress shall make no law…” by mandating that the people and the states retained all rights not enumerated as possessed by the central government.

Never before in history had “We, the people,” had their natural rights so expressly protected by a constitution so expressly limiting the government as to its powers. By changing the relationship of the people and their government, limiting the power of government and making the retained rights of the people superior, the Founding Fathers changed the world. Ever after, the people of the world who have dreamed of the freedoms of Americans, have looked to the values expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution, as a model for liberty in a constitutional republic.

The framers of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers of America, were faced with a great challenge, and they met it. The Constitution which they framed was finally ratified by all states by January 10, 1791. It has now endured for 224 years since it was signed on Sept. 17, 1787.

“What kind of government have you given us, Mr. Franklin,” an American woman asked Founding Father Benjamin Franklin at the close of the convention.

“A republic, Madam,” Ben Franklin replied. “If you can keep it.”

That, the keeping of the free constitutional republic that the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us, is our challenge.

We owe a great debt to all those Founding Fathers and other Americans who came before us who preserved our freedom. We pay that debt by what we do to preserve freedom for those Americans who will come after us.

By Attorney Rees Lloyd, September 20, 2011; NewsWithViews.com

Reprinted with permission; © 2011 Rees Lloyd – All Rights Reserved; E-Mail: ReesLloydLaw@gmail.com

 

FIRST NEW ENGLAND HISTORY

October 5th, 2011

We have read about the signing of the Mayflower Compact. One can imagine that it was crowded in that small ship when they gathered with wives and children to watch the 41 men sign the Mayflower Compact. It was a profound moment and a model of self-government and was the beginning of our country as a Christian nation. God and his law were guiding the basic and simple principles in the Compact.

The New England's Memorial_1669 Edition

To get a first-hand history, we are going to rely on a book written by Nathaniel Morton. The book, The New England’s Memorial, along with William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation comprise of a comprehensive history of the Plymouth Colony.

From December 1645 until his death, Morton was annually elected Secretary of Plymouth Colony, and most of the colony records are in his handwriting. His careful maintenance of the records enabled him [to] compile New England’s Memorial, considered the first comprehensive history of the colony, published at Cambridge in 1669 – and widely considered the first book of history published in the United States. Much of Memorial was based on the history of the colony written by Morton’s uncle, Gov. Bradford, a manuscript that was lost for many years following the American Revolutionary War, when it was likely appropriated by an English soldier. It later turned up in the library of the Bishop of London in 1855, and was returned to Massachusetts.

Morton also wrote First Beginnings and After Progress of the Church of Christ at Plymouth, in New England. Annually since 1961, The Wall Street Journal publishes an excerpt from Morton’s history of Plymouth Colony as an op-ed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day.

Morton was also the first to record the list of signers of the Mayflower Compact in his work of 1669. The document itself was lost.

Nathaniel Morton was born in England in 1613 and immigrated to Plymouth with his father on the ship Ann in 1623. After his father’s premature death, Nathaniel was taken into the household of his Uncle William Bradford, then governor of Plymouth.

Morton married Lydia Cooper (1615-23 Sep 1673) on 25 Dec 1635. They had nine children: Remember, Mercy, Hannah, Eleazer, Lydia, Nathaniel, a stillborn daughter, Elizabeth and Joanna. After the death of Lydia, Nathaniel married Anne Pritchard (ca. 1624-26 Dec 1691). Remember Morton, daughter of Nathaniel Morton, married Abraham Jackson of Plymouth, another initial proprietor of the colony. Their descendant Lydia Jackson became the second wife of philosopher, poet and Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.1

Many scholars consider the Bradford history the better-written volume of the two, and some even classify Morton’s book as an abridgment of his uncle’s work.2

For the early years he drew directly on his uncle’s book, transcribing large portions of it. Until the discovery of the Fulham manuscript, Morton’s book was the best source for Bradford’s text. The part which was concerned with the years following Bradford was written by Morton himself, and is meagre and disappointing, but Johnson and he were long the standard historians for the average New Englander. They may be considered the last of the early group, and in their manner and purposes they looked forward to the second group, men who were either born in America or who arrived after the American ideals were well enough formed to master the newcomers.3

Nathaniel Morton, in his Dedication to the Right Worshipful, Thomas Prince, Esq., Governor of the Jurisdiction of New Plymouth; with The Worshipful, The Magistrates, his assistants in the said government; wrote “N.M. wisheth Peace and Prosperity in this life, and Eternal Happiness in that which to come.” He stated the reason of writing was “…to commemorize to future generations the memorable passages of God’s providence to us and our predecessors in the beginning of this plantation …”4

Morton states the Plymouth colony came about by God’s will; “I have made bold to present your Worships with, and to publish to the world, something of the very first beginnings of the great actions of God in New England, begun at New Plimoth”5 He ties God’s will with the founding of Plymouth and New England; “I should gladly have spoken more particularly of the neighboring united colonies, whose ends and aims in their transplanting of themselves and families, were the same with ours, viz.., the glory of God, the propagation of the gospel, and enlargement of his Majesty’s dominions;” Morton closes his dedication statement by sealing that he not only sees God’s will directing them, but the foundation of Plymouth and other colonies is a ‘City on the Hill’, a divine manifest destiny of our new country; “Your good acceptance whereof, shall ever oblige me to answerable returning of gratitude, and administer to me further cause of thankfulness, that God hath given me an habitation under your just and prudent administrations; and wish for a succession of such as may be skillful to lead our Israel in this their peregrination; and when God shall take you hence, to receive the crown of your labors and travels.”5

Nathaniel Morton addresses the readers as “Christian Reader” and states “Grace and Peace be multiplied; with profit by this following narration.”  The spirit of this world absolutely rejects God. To say that we are a Christian nation nearly stirs up hatred. Yet, we see Nathaniel Morton clearly declaring in his history [for future generations] it was God’s Will.  His letter to the Christian Reader clarifies the godly foundation of our country. This is from the original 1669 book:

Gentle Reader,

I have for some length of time looked upon it as a duty incumbent, especially on the immediate successors of those that have had so large experience of those many memorable and signal demonstrations of God’s goodness, viz. The first beginners of this plantation in New-England, to commit to writing his gracious dispensations on that behalf; having so many inducements thereunto, not only otherwise, but so plentifully in the sacred Scriptures, that so, what we have seen, and what our fathers have told us, we may not hide from our children, shewing to the generations to come the praises of the Lord. Psal. 78. 3, 4. That especially the seed of Abraham his servant, and the children of Jacob his chosen, may remember his marvellous works (Psal. 105. 5, 6.) in the beginning and progress of the planting of New-England, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; how that God brought a vine into this w^ilderness; that he cast out the heathen and planted it; and he also made room for it, and he caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land; so that it hath sent forth it’s boughs to the sea, and it’s branches to the river. Psal. 80. 8, 9. And not only 30, but also that He hath guided his people by his strength to his holy habitation, and planted them in the mountain of his inheritance, (Exod. 15. 13.) in respect of precious gospel-enjoyments. So that we may not only look back to former experiences of God’s goodness to our predecessors,”* (though many years before) and so have our faith strengthened in the mercies of God for our times; that so the Church being one numerical body, might not only even for the time he spake with us in our forefathers, (Hos. 12. 4.) by many gracious manifestations of his glorious attributes, Wisdom, Goodness, and Truth, improved for their good, but also rejoyce in present enjoyments of both outward and spirituall mercies, as fruits of their prayers, tears, travels and labours; that as especially God may have the glory of all, unto whom it is most due; so also some rays of glory may reach the names of those blessed saints that were the main instruments of the beginning of this happy enterprize.

So then, gentle Reader, thou mayest take notice, that the main ends of publishing this small history, IS, that God may have his due praise, his servants the mstrumcnts have their names embalmed, and the present and future ages may have the fruit and benefit of God’s great work in the relation of the first planting of New-England. Which ends, if attained, will be great cause of rcjoycing to the publisher thereof, if Psal. G6. C. God give him life and opportunity to take notice thereof.

The method I have observed, is (as I could) in some measure answerable to the ends aforenamed, in inserting some acknowledgement of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and truth upon special occasions, with allusion to the Scriptures; and also taking notice of some special instruments, and such main and special particulars as were pej’spicuouslj remarkable, in way of commendation in them, so far as my intelligence would reach; and especially in a faithful commemorizing, and declaration of God’s wonderful works for, by, and to his people, in preparing a place for them by driving out the heathen before them; bringing them through a sea of troubles; preserving and protecting them from, and in those dangers that attended them in their low estate, when they were strangers in the land; and making this howling wilderness a chamber of rest, safety, and pleasantness, whiles the storms of his displeasure have not only tossed, but endangered the overwhelming of great states and kingdoms, and hath now made it to us a fruitful land, sowed it with the seed of man and beast; but especially in giving us so long a peace, together with the Gospel of peace, and so great a freedom in our civil and religious enjoyments; and also in giving us hopes that we may be instruments in his hands, not only of enlarging of our prince’s dominions, but to enlarge the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, in the conversion of the poor blind natives.

And now, courteous Reader, that I may not hold thee too long in the porch, I only crave of thee to read this following discourse with a single eye, and with the same ends as I had in penning it. Let not the smallness of our beginnings, nor weakness of instruments, make the thing seem little, or the work despicable, but on the contrary, let the greater praise be rendered unto God, who hath effected great things by small means. Let not the harshness of my style, prejudice thy taste or appetite to the dish I present thee with. Accept it as freely as I give it. Carp not at what thou dost not approve, but use it as a remembrance of the Lord’s goodness, to engage to true thankfulness and obedience; so it may be a help to thee in thy journey through the wilderness of this world, to that eternal rest which is only to be found in the heavenly Canaan, which is the earnest desire of

Thy Christian friend,

Nathaniel Morton.6

1  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Morton

2 IBID, footnote

3 The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I; II. The Historians, 1607-1783, 9. Nathaniel Morton; http://www.bartleby.com/225/0209.html

4 Nathaniel Morton, Epistle Dedicatory, The New England’s Memorial, p1 (Cambridge: Printed by S.G. and M.J. for John Usher of Boston, 1669)

5 IBID, p2, 3

6 Nathaniel Morton, Christian Reader, The New England’s Memorial, p1 (Cambridge: Printed by S.G. and M.J. for John Usher of Boston, 1669)

“QUOTES”

October 1st, 2011

“America’s past is a bright and shining light. America was, and is, the city on the hill, the fountain of hope, the beacon of liberty.   “… every colonial settler and every western pioneer understood (that) character was tied to liberty and liberty to property. And the surest way to ensure the presence of good character was to keep God at the center of one’s life, community and ultimately, nation. ‘Separation of church and state’ meant freedom to worship, not freedom from worship. ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (2 Corinthians 3:17).'”

 

Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States, Introduction – select excerpts (Penguin Group, copyright 2004, All rights reserved )

The Mayflower Compact – Self Government

September 29th, 2011

William Brewster signing the Mayflower Compact (19th century painting by Tomkins Harrison Matteson)

We discussed The Mayflower Farewell Letter to the passengers sailing to America.  It reveals God’s Sovereignty in the founding of our country, its government and social order as a Christian nation.  The next blog was an overview of how God’s Sovereignty has led nations. We then examined the Mayflower trip and the reasons for it. We now come to the Mayflower Compact.  It is an amazing event that took place, yet very profound in its outcome.

Imagine the situation: over 100 people, cut off from any government, with a rebellion brewing. Only staunch determination would help the Pilgrims land and establish their colony. If they didn’t work as a group, they could all die in the wilderness.

The Pilgrim leaders realized that they needed a temporary government authority. Back home, such authority came from the king. Isolated as they were in America, it could only come from the people themselves. Aboard the Mayflower, by necessity, the Pilgrims and “Strangers” made a written agreement or compact among themselves.

The Mayflower Compact was probably composed by William Brewster, who had a university education, and was signed by nearly all the adult male colonists, including two of the indentured servants. The format of the Mayflower Compact is very similar to the written agreements used by the Pilgrims to establish their Separatist churches in England and Holland. Under these agreements the male adult members of each church decided how to worship God. They also elected their own ministers and other church officers. This pattern of church self-government served as a model for political self-government in the Mayflower Compact.

The colonists had no intention of declaring their independence from England when they signed the Mayflower Compact. In the opening line of the Compact, both Pilgrims and “Strangers” refer to themselves as “loyal subjects” of King James. The rest of the Mayflower Compact is very short. It simply bound the signers into a “Civil Body Politic” for the purpose of passing “just and equal Laws . . . for the general good of the Colony.” But those few words expressed the idea of self-government for the first time in the New World.

Self-Government Takes Root

Immediately after agreeing to the Mayflower Compact, the signers elected John Carver (one of the Pilgrim leaders) as governor of their colony. They called it Plymouth Plantation. When Governor Carver died in less than a year, William Bradford, age 31, replaced him. Each year thereafter the “Civil Body Politic,” consisting of all adult males except indentured servants, assembled to elect the governor and a small number of assistants. Bradford was re-elected 30 times between 1621 and 1656.

In the early years Governor Bradford pretty much decided how the colony should be run. Few objected to his one-man rule. As the colony’s population grew due to immigration, several new towns came into existence. The roving and increasingly scattered population found it difficult to attend the General Court, as the governing meetings at Plymouth came to be called. By 1639, deputies were sent to represent each town at the other General Court sessions. Not only self-rule, but representative government had taken root on American soil.

The English Magna Carta, written more than 400 years before the Mayflower Compact, established the principle of the rule of law. In England this still mostly meant the king’s law. The Mayflower Compact continued the idea of law made by the people. This idea lies at the heart of democracy.

From its crude beginning in Plymouth, self-government evolved into the town meetings of New England and larger local governments in colonial America. By the time of the Constitutional Convention, the Mayflower Compact had been nearly forgotten, but the powerful idea of self-government had not. Born out of necessity on the Mayflower, the Compact made a significant contribution to the creation of a new democratic nation.1

When creating the Mayflower Compact, the signers believed that covenants were not only to be honored between God and man, but also between each other. They had always honored covenants as part of their righteous integrity and agreed to be bound by this same principle with the Compact. John Adams and many historians have referred to the Mayflower Compact as the foundation of the U.S. Constitution written more than 150 later.

America was indeed begun by men who honored God and set their founding principles by the words of the Bible. They lived their lives with honesty, reliability, and fairness toward establishing this country “for the sake of its survival.” A great many of America’s Founding Fathers have been quoted in regard to living by Biblical values.

Edmund Burke (1729-1794), outstanding orator, author, and leader in Great Britain, defended the colonies in Parliament. “There is but one law for all, namely, that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator.”

Patrick Henry (1736-1799), five-time Governor of Virginia, whose “Give me liberty or give me death” speech has made him immortal, said: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly, nor too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . . .”

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third U.S. President, chosen to write the Declaration of Independence, said: “I have little doubt that the whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator, and, I hope, to the pure doctrines of Jesus also.” He proclaimed that it was the God of the Bible who founded America in his 1805 inaugural address: “I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in this country.”2

THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT

by William Bradford

November 11, 1620

A copy of The Mayflower Compact with signatures

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 advancement 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 of 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 hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the 11 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. Anno Domine 1620.3

1 The Mayflower Compact, © 2002, Constitutional Rights Foundation, 601 South Kinglsey Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90005. http://goo.gl/XY7jW

2  Mayflower Compact-The Common Anchor, © 2002 – 2011 AllAboutHistory.org, All Rights Reserved. http://goo.gl/v0zlQ

3 The Mayflower Compact, The National Center for Policy Research, http://www.nationalcenter.org/MayflowerCompact.html