Saturday, February 27, 2016

Anthony J. Minna: "Why God is in the Declaration but not the Constitution"

From the Journal of the American Revolution here. A taste:
The Declaration contains several other references to a higher power. The introduction states that the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” entitle the American people to a separate and equal station among the powers of the earth. In the conclusion, Congress appeals to “the Supreme Judge of the world” for the rectitude of its intentions and professes its “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” In each case, reference to a deity serves to validate the assertion of independence.
The genius of the Declaration is the inclusive way the divine is given expression. The appellations of God are generic. Adherents of traditional theistic sects can read the words “Nature’s God,” “Creator,” and “Supreme Judge,” and understand them to mean the god they worship. The claims made on numerous Christian websites attest to this. Yet opponents of dogma read those same words and see an embracive, non-sectarian concept of divinity. This is no small testimony to the wisdom and foresight of the Founding Fathers. All Americans could support the Revolution and independence. All can regard their rights as unalienable, their liberty as inviolable.
Unlike the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution contains no reference to God. ...


Tom Van Dyke said...

Religion was left to the states. God is in every state constitution.

These godless constitution memes skip over that. The point is that there's still a higher law than man's, than the government's or Supreme Court's construal of the Constitution. Read "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

JMS said...

Tom - Your “God is in every state constitution” is another “meme that skips” over the state-by-state disestablishment trend against the Congregational church in New England, and the Anglican church in New York and from Maryland southward, from 1776 until 1833. Each of the nine colonies that had established churches in 1775 (Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware did not have established churches) and then became states after 1776, disestablished.

In alphabetical order, and I’ll abbreviate for concision: CT (1818); GA (1777); MD (1777); MA (1833); NH (1819); NY (1777); NC (1776); SC 1778) and VA (1786)

Anonymous said...

Pennsylvania Supreme Court
No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.
(Source: Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824. Updegraph v. Commonwealth; 11 Serg. & R. 393, 406 (Sup.Ct. Penn. 1824).)

John Jay
Member of Continental Congress, first Chief-Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court
Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.
[John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Henry P. Johnston, ed. (New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1890), Vol. IV, p. 365.]
The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of deliberating upon and choosing the forms of government under which they should live.
[John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Henry P. Johnston, ed. (New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1890), Vol. I, p. 161.]

We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.
(Source: Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), pp. 93-94.)

Jedediah Morse
Patriot and "Father of American Geography"
To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.
(Source: Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1799), p. 9.)