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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

 

“QUOTES”

September 9th, 2011

“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.”

Thomas Jefferson

Endnotes

-Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.
-Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

PHILLIP LIVINGSTON, SIGNER OF DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

January 10th, 2011

In 1774, Livingston was chosen as a member of the New York delegation to the First Continental Congress. Eventually, after repeated appeals to the British king were denied, he

Phillip Livingston, January 15, 1716 – June 12, 1778

accepted the fact that fighting was inevitable.

While serving in Congress, he continued to be active in politics in New York and was appointed president of a provincial congress in 1775. In February 1776, he was unanimously appointed as member of the colonial general assembly. In April of 1777, after a constitution for the state of New York was adopted, he was chosen as state senator and served on the board of treasury and as a member of the marine committee.

He was also a member of the Secret Committee which imported weapons and gunpowder for the army. He spent a huge amount of his own personal resources in purchasing military supplied for the army.

Phillip Livingston, the austere aristocrat who feared the Sons of Sons of Liberty, did not escape the wrath of the British. Before the British landed, his lucrative mercantile business was already bankrupt. In 1774, Livingston had strongly supported the voluntary boycott of British imports, which was so effective that imports to the value of 437,937 pounds at New York in 1774 dropped to only 1,228 pound in 1775,

When Phillip Livingston signed the Declaration, he believed he was putting his vast fortune in jeopardy, and indeed it was so. All his business interests fell to the enemy. His mansion on Duke Street was seized by the British and turned into a barracks for enemy troops. His country estate on Brooklyn Heights was turned into a British naval hospital. Homeless, his family fled up the Hudson River to Kingston, New York. They were again endangered when the British burned Kingston. Phillip Livingston was never able to return home, and his health was devastated because of the strain from the war. Remaining faithful to the cause, he and his family sold some of their remaining property to help maintain the country’s credit.

For Phillip Livingston, the revolution meant personal ruin and yet his spirit remained strong. Although in poor health by 1778, his country’s great need impressed upon him so much that despite his doctor’s report of dropsy in the chest with no rational prospect of recovery, he bid his final goodbye to his loved ones and pressed himself to take his seat in Congress. The British had taken possession of Philadelphia, forcing Congress to leave the city and meet in New York.

Yet in this dubious and anxious state, his love to his country continued strong
And unwavering. For her good he had made many sacrifices; and now that her
Interests seemed to require his presence in Congress, he hesitated not to relinquish
His comforts of home, and those attentions which, in his feeble and declining state,
He peculiarly needed from a beloved family.

His son Henry, who was now a member of George Washington’s family by marriage, attended his father in the last few days of his life. On June 12, 1778, he breathed his last and was deeply mourned by family, friends and all of Congress.

His last moments were correspondent with the tenor of his well-spend life.
He met, with characteristic firmness and Christian fortitude, the trying hour
With separated him from this world.

He never lived to see Cornwallis’ surrender and freedom procured.

End Note: This edited version of Philip Livingston is taken from For You They Signed by Marilyn Boyer (see Bibliography). This wonderful book tells the story of each of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. As noted in the Introduction, King George ordered his troops to hunt down and kill every signer to quash the rebellion. These  stories of our founding fathers and brave men should be known by everyone of us. We recommend you read the book.  Go to New Leaf Publishing Company website at http://tinyurl.com/4j5tvsc to review the book for purchase. We will publishing more edited versions of these signers stories in future postings.

Bibliography: Marilyn Boyer, For You They Signed, Copyright © 2009 Marilyn Boyer (Master Books, P O Box 726, Green Forest, AR 72638) Printing 2009 and 2010. Reprinted by permission of the Publisher.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

October 29th, 2010

Benjamin Franklin

You will find a mixed bag of beliefs when it comes to Benjamin Franklin and his religion. He believed in God and His supremacy. Although he grew up under Calvinist teaching, he later came under the influence of British Deistic thought and he eventually became a prominent Deist, but rejected the more radical Deism. Yet, mixed in with his Deist belief was Calvinistic doctrine. One could say that Franklin became a new and prudent Deist.
Benjamin Franklin’s character demonstrates that from early youth he became independent in thought and actions. Enrolled in the Boston Latin School at the age of eight his father had to withdraw him after the first year. The Boston Latin School was well known for many of the famous Puritan divines, a future Franklin apparently did not want to follow. One author stated that while a youth he was reported not as pious or faithful, but as “skeptical, puckish . . . irreverent.”(1) He went to another school but soon educated himself from the age 10 and on.
Many would argue that because Franklin was a known Deist, our country could not have a Christian foundation. That argument ultimately denies the sovereignty of God to work through all of His creation. It also is an argument that clearly objects to and denies the true God of Christianity. They may say ‘not so;’ why then do they protest so much against Christianity? Benjamin Franklin held a firm belief and faith in God. He also believed in Divine intervention and God’s sovereignty. Although he did not conform to the traditional Christian faith, he embraced a firm and unmovable faith in God and His works in the founding of America. Read what he spoke when after four to five weeks the Constitutional Convention was stalled:

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and 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 that 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 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 little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter 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 blessings 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.”(2)

Franklin’s belief in God was firm. He was fully convicted of His existence and sovereignty and he firmly believed that without the blessings and guidance of God they would not succeed. One can imagine that Franklin, who broke with traditional Christianity, is the one to stand before the Convention delegates and rebuke them for not seeking God’s guidance. The irony of it is humorous. God’s providence truly does work through all of humanity. That day the Constitutional Convention moved on and brought forth the foundation of America.
Franklin wrote a paper in 1732 entitled On the Providence of God in the Government of the World. He proceeds to “. . . go about to prove this first Principle, the Existence of a Deity and that he is the Creator of the Universe. . .”. He continues to make two more points of God giving life, sustenance, and His sovereignty over all of creation. After completing these arguments, Franklin then establishes his theme on the providence of God in the government of the world. He directly states that God “sometimes interferes by His particular providence and sets aside the effects which would otherwise have been produced by . . . causes.”(3)  He did not quote scripture, but many of his statements were built on specific scriptures he learned in his youth.
When Benjamin Franklin died on April 17, 1790, there was a picture of the Day of Judgment by his bedside. There is no question that Benjamin Franklin not only played a critical role in the founding of our country, he boldly declared that the United States of America was formed through the sovereignty of God.
1 Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), page 10
2 The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, Reported by James Madison, a delegate from the state of Virginia. Ed. by Gaillard Hund and James Brown Scott, Oxford University Press, 1920.
3 Benjamin Franklin, “On the Providence of God in the Government of the World”, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, eds. Leonard W. Labaree, et al. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959-), 1:264; or online at http://www.franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp Volume 1: 1706-34
Bibliography: The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, David L. Holmes, © David L. Holmes 2006; Published by Oxford University Press, Inc., New York, NY; The Religious Views of Benjamin Franklin, Chapter 5, Pages 53-57.

THE FOUNDERS OF NEW ENGLAND

October 27th, 2010

New England Colonies (2)

Within twenty years from the planting of the Plymouth Colony all the other chief colonies in New England were founded, their governments organized, and the Atlantic coasts, from the Kennebec River almost to the Hudson, was marked by various settlements. Such were the founders of New England. They were iconoclasts, reformers, in church and State, men of strong religious convictions. To them the bible was everything; the source of religious principles, the basis of civil law, the supreme authority in matters of common life. Numbering many men of great learning who had been educated at the English university, they gave great prominence to classical education, and established schools, seminaries and colleges. They were men of self-denying, abstemious and industrious habits. Far in advance of their times in respect to integrity of conscience, they were nevertheless very defective in their views of toleration; but they were eminently religious, with high conceptions of the duty of living for God and advancing his kingdom in the world. “In coming to this new continent they were influenced by a double hope: the enlargement of Christ’s kingdom by the conversion of heathen tribes, and the founding of an empire of their own children in which his religion should gloriously prevail.”

The fathers of New England were no mean men. John Cotton, John Wilson, Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepherd, Governor Winthrop, Dunstan and Chauncy, associates or correspondents of Milton, Bunyan, Lightfoot, Selden, Baxter, etc., are names which can never be obscured in history. They have left a deep and lasting impress upon New England.(1)

1. Christianity in the United States, Daniel Dorchester, D.D., © 2009 American Vision Press, Powder Springs, GA; originally published by Phillips & Hunt, New York, 1888; Page 29

2. New England Colonies map, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior

IT TOOK 180 YEARS

July 22nd, 2010

It took the American Founding Fathers 180 years (1607-1787) to arrive at writing the Constitution of the United States. During that time there were many tribulations, trials, and mistakes made. Yet, in the end these men gathered and began the process of developing practical and true principles by which the United States of America has become a great nation. The final document, our Constitution, established the principles of government and freedom that has led us to this place.

George Washington wrote,

The United States enjoy a scene of prosperity and tranquility under the new government that could hardly have been hoped for.” (1)

Tranquility reigns among the people with that disposition towards the general government which is likely to preserve it . . . Our public credit stands on the [high] ground which three years ago it would have been considered as a species of madness to have foretold.” (2)

(1) The Writings of George Washington, 39 volumes; Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-44, 31:316-17
(2) Ibid., pp. 318-19

The Importance of Christianity

July 8th, 2010

The following is an article by Dr. Peter Lillback entitled “This Fourth of July, Remember the Importance of Christianity” posted at Townhall.com on July 4, 2010

Myths have always surrounded George Washington. As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, it’s time to dispel the most dangerous – that he was not a Christian.

Since the 200th anniversary of his birth in 1932, the consensus of historians has been that Washington was a Deist – someone who believes in a remote and impersonal God who plays no role in human affairs.

In recent years, several books have been published, often referring to Washington as more “a man of honor than … a man of religion” or not a Christian “if one defines ‘Christian’ as the evangelicals do.”

Many of the leaders of the Revolutionary War were Deists, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, author of “The Age of Reason.” But calling Washington one of them – that’s just sloppy scholarship. I challenge these historians to produce one verifiable statement from Washington’s writings that shows he was a Deist.

Scholars today, by and large, consider all the research to have been done on Washington’s faith. They think that there is nothing new to discover, and that the conclusion already reached, that Washington was not a Christian, is unimpeachable. The fact is that these secular scholars simply read their own unbelief into Washington to draw the desired conclusion.

Discovering the truth was made more difficult by Washington’s introspective nature. He didn’t like talking about himself. His personal faith was more often expressed in actions, according to his motto, “deeds, not words.”

But a careful examination of his thoughts, words and deeds shows that he was a devout 18th-century Anglican – what today would be called an Episcopalian.

Washington never claimed to be a Deist and never used the word Deist or Deism, and yet he does refer to himself as a Christian, using such phrases as “on my honor and the faith of a Christian.”
Washington believed in a God who was active in history, calling his faith the “blessed religion revealed in the Word of God,” speaking of Christ as the “Divine Author of our blessed religion,” and continually referring to the role of Divine Providence in the affairs of men.

Washington read sermons to his family. His writing was thick with Biblical allusions. He composed more than 100 prayers in his own hand – Deists don’t believe that God answers prayers.
In Washington’s writings, he used the word “God” at least 146 times, “divine” at least 95 times, “heaven” at least 133 times and “providence” at least 270 times.

His first act as president was a prayer. When he finished his oath of office at his first inaugural, he added the words, “So help me God,” and bent down to kiss the Bible. Then he led the crowd across the street to a chapel for a two-hour service. Alexander Hamilton’s wife said she was at Washington’s side when he took communion that day.

In his General Orders to the troops at Valley Forge, Washington wrote, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian.”

On Sept. 28, 1789, he wrote to the Rev. Samuel Langdon: “The man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf. And it is my earnest prayer that we may so conduct ourselves as to merit a continuance of those blessings with which we have hitherto been favored.”

Where a nation starts determines where it ends. If our Founding Father was a Deist, we should certainly be secularists today.

But if our Founding Father was committed to a Christian worldview, Christianity today is not an interloper in the public square but rather has a legitimate role in addressing the secular assault against the historic values and beliefs of America.

End Notes:

DIVERSE CURRENTS IN COLONIAL CHRISTIANITY

June 7th, 2010

The separation of Church and state, secularism and Statism are not new. In fact, early Colonial Christianity, strengthened by the Puritans and responsible for establishing a Christian foundation in our country, came under attack by false doctrines that started to infiltrate the orthodox Christian theology and faith. Beginning in Europe and spread to the colonies, these beliefs had a significant impact in changing the headway the Puritans had made. In the larger scope of  our country’s early days, it remains evident that God was acknowledged as the Supreme Being and Provider. The founding fathers said and wrote as much and relied on these truths to establish this country. Divine Providence ruled in the end.

The following excerpts from “Diverse Currents,” Chapter 8 of Christianity in the United States by Daniel Dorchester [American Vision Press, Powder Springs, Georgia, 2009; originally published by Philips & Hunt, 1888] provides us with a glimpse of how these diverse currents began and the course it took. These excerpts cannot and do not capture the full story. If you are interested in learning more, check our endnotes for the web site and contact information for American Vision Press. [1]

DIVERSE CURRENTS

An inspection of the religious life of the colonial era reveals new currents of theological sentiment, silently but steadily setting in, at various points, against the long accepted theories. In the subsequent periods they will appear as more active assailing forces, openly antagonizing the old beliefs and seriously engaging the attention of the world.

Section 1. – The Inception of American Skepticism

As early as the middle of the seventeenth century symptoms of this great revolt appeared, in the English mind, in the gradual unfolding of the principle that the natural consciousness of the Divine existence and man’s conscience are all the materials necessary for the construction of a perfect religion, and that Christianity is of no value except as containing germs of this natural religion. In the course of the following century these sentiments obtained a formal recognition under the name of English deism, accompanied often with a denial of the historic verity of the Christian records and a denunciation of the Christian system as priestcraft. The history of English deism covers a period of about one hundred and seventy-five years (1625-1800) [2]  from Herbert to Gibbon, embracing groups of essayists, poets and novelists distinguished for splendid talents and extensive acquisitions. A large portion of the English mind was tainted with these ideas, and a serious deterioration in faith and morals became apparent.

Introduction into America


The celebrated French and Indian war, extending through a period of nine years (1754-1763), afforded an opportunity for their inculcation. During this war American citizens were brought into deistical sentiments. “Most of their American companions had never heard the divine origin of the Scriptures questioned, and their minds were, of course, unprovided with answers even to the most common objections. To such objections as were actually made was added the force of authority. The British officers were from the mother country—a phase of high import—until after the commencement of the Revolution. They came from a country renowned for arts and arms, and regarded by the people of New England as the birth-place of science and wisdom.

The period of intervening between the French war and the Revolution was characterized by a perceptible relaxation of morals, and it is certain that religion suffered serious decline.

The Unitarian departure had its inception in the introduction of the famous “halfway covenant,” which was adopted in the infancy of the colonies, only forty-two years after the landing of the Pilgrims. This measure was a politico-religious expedient resorted to for the purpose of relieving themselves from embarrassments growing out of an extreme and impracticable application of Christianity to the relations of the Church and the civil power.

It has been already observed that the early churches of New England held very strictly to the necessity of saving faith and spiritual regeneration as conditions of membership. And their religion was not a dreamy speculation, or a mere sentiment, or an abstraction, but it was carried out in concrete forms in the practical details of life. Religion was the stock upon which every things must be rejected. Hence we find the State growing out of the Church. Under their regimen no person could hold public office, or vote in elections, or enjoy any of the ordinary privileges of citizenship, who was not a member of the Church.

In 1633, Rev. John Cotton preached a sermon in Boston, entitled, “A Discourse About Civil Government, in a New Plantation, whose Design is Religion.” Its object was “to prove the expediency and necessity of intrusting free burgesses, who are members of churches, gathered amongst them according to Christ, with the power of choosing from among themselves magistrates and men to whom the managing of all public and civil affairs of importance is to be committed.” This was in accordance with the general usage of the New England colonies. [3]

Religious ideas were carried into everything they did. The recluses of the Middle Ages had removed religion from practical life, into caves and cloisters, but the Puritans reversed the order and carried it into the most common affairs. Thus actuated, they made the franchise of the Commonwealth dependent upon church membership, and the latter upon a genuine religious experience. A solemn form, too, was observed in the relation of religious experience before the Church, and inquiries were made into the previous conviction for sin and the radical character of the change. Thus were the membership of the Church and the franchise of the State hedged in with impressive and uncompromising religious ideas and usages. [4]

[1] Editor’s note to article
[2] Herbert died 1648; Hobbes, 1679; The Earl of Shaftesbury, 1713; Toland, 1722; Mandeville, 1733; Collins, 1729; Woolston, 1733; Morgan, 1743; Tindal, 1733; Chubb, 1747; Bolingbroke, 1751; Hume, 1776; Gibbon, 1794
[3] The Ecclesiastical History of New England, By Joseph B. Felt. Vol. l, pg. 169
[4] Endnote: These excerpts are taken from “Diverse Currents,” Chapter 8 of Christianity in the United States by Daniel Dorchester [American Vision Press, Powder Springs, Georgia, 2009; originally published by Philips & Hunt, 1888]. For further information, visit their web site at www.americanvision.org or telephone 1-800-628-9460

JAMES MADISON, CHRISTIAN FOUNDING FATHER

May 25th, 2010

James Wilson; Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress

James Wilson of Pennsylvania may be a name you do not recognize. He arrived in Pennsylvania in 1765. As one of the eight framers of the Constitution, it is said that Wilson was second only to James Madison, and was perhaps on a par with him, in terms of influence on the Constitution. [1] He was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

There is much to say about this amazing man that we can not cover in one blog. There are two very important points to be made this time; one, he held the vision for a nation, and second, he was a devout Christian.

Christianity has been a major influence on the founding of our nation and in spite of increasing secularism it still is very much a force today. To say that our political tradition is not influenced by Christianity raises the question of why presidential candidates deem it so important to address Christians. That in itself demonstrates the recognition of reality – there is a practicing Christian population that influences politics. Political questions are ultimately moral questions and most moral views are framed by one’s religious commitments. James Wilson, without a doubt, was a major Christian influence on the framing of our nation’s constitution and law (he became a Supreme Court Judge later). He based formulating constitutional law on Christian natural law.

James Wilson was born in 1742 (Carskerdo, Scotland) and dedicated to the ministry at birth. He entered the University of St. Andrews and studied there for four years before entering their Divinity School. He was unable to complete his studies and had to withdraw due to his father’s death. After caring for family matters he came to Pennsylvania in 1765. He began his life in Pennsylvania by teaching Latin and Greek at the College of Philadelphia and then studied law under John Dickinson. He then became a lawyer and entered politics. It was one of his writings the jumpstarted him into the national scene.

“Wilson achieved national recognition in 1774 with the publication of ‘Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament,’ the first essay to argue that Americans had absolutely no obligation to obey Parliament. He was able to put his theory of resistance into practice after he was appointed to the Continental Congress in 1775. He became an important participant in the debates over the controversy with Great Britain, and eventually cast the tie-breaking vote in the Pennsylvania delegation in favor of independence.” [2]

All this led to his being one of eight framers of the Declaration of Independence and he also attended the Constitutional Convention where he was one of only six to sign both documents. Significantly, he also was among the few delegates that attended the convention from beginning to the finish. It is stated that he spoke 168 times, more than any other member. This is why he is ranked as the second most influential participant of the Constitutional Convention.

“Wilson clearly and consistently appealed to Christian principals throughout his works, something particularly evident and relevant with respect to his natural law theory. Given this reality, why do most contemporary students of Wilson ignore or refuse to take seriously his religious views?” [3]

“Wilson contended that because God created the world and has ‘infinite power-infinite wisdom-and infinite goodness,’ he has ‘supreme right to prescribe a law for our conduct, and that we are under the most perfect obligation to obey that law.’ [4] Similarly, he stated several times that our obligation to obey natural law is rooted in the ‘will of God.’ [5][6]

Space does not permit us to eleborate more fully on Wilson’s faith and Christian reasoning, but an excellent publication for this may be found at Google Books at http://goo.gl/SpTR starting at Page 181.

[1] James Bryce, “James Wilson: An Appreciation”, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (October 1936), Pg 360.
[2] Daniel L. Dreisback, Mark D. Hall, Jeffrey H. Morrison, Editors, The Founders On God and Government, 2004, Page 182, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
[3] Daniel L. Dreisback, Mark D. Hall, Jeffrey H. Morrison, Editors, The Founders On God and Government, 2004, Page 186, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
[4] Robert McClosky, Editor, The Works of James Madison, 2 Volumes (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967) Pages 128, 126, 132-33
[5] Robert McClosky, Editor, The Works of James Madison, 2 Volumes (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967) Pages 132, 150, 153
[6] Daniel L. Dreisback, Mark D. Hall, Jeffrey H. Morrison, Editors, The Founders On God and Government, 2004, Page 189, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

RELIGION AND EDUCATION

April 26th, 2010

“[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be aid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments. Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”

Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children” Isaiah 54:13