“…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
A collective faith in the God of the Bible has been evident in American society since the first English settlement at Jamestown in 1607. The secularists among us attempt to obscure this fact by erroneously using the First Amendment and the absence of any mention of God in the Constitution as proof that the Founders objected to any connection between politics and religion. However, the Declaration of Independence, our founding document, sometimes referred to as America’s Charter, is replete with references to God as “Nature’s God”, “Creator”, “Divine Providence” and “the Supreme Judge of this world”.
The Declaration of Independence is America’s founding document, declaring the American people to be a free and independent nation and setting forth the principles and conditions justifying that Independence. Both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution are governing documents intended to govern a people with divergent faiths, cultures and religious practices. The Articles of Confederation obliquely acknowledges God in its signing statement as “The Great Governor of the World” and in the date as “the year of our Lord”. The Constitution only references God in the date as “the year of our Lord”. As governing documents, neither of the two makes an issue of God or Religion because religion is not the proper business of government.
Most of the world’s nations throughout history have had an established state religion. Dissenting religions were, at best, only tolerated; at worst, they were persecuted, ostracized, taxed to support the established religion and otherwise oppressed by the authorities. At the time of the Constitution, the desire for religious liberty was widespread throughout the states. The absence of any reference to God or religion in the Constitution and the later addition of the First Amendment are evidence of a determination by the Founders to prevent the federal government from being able to establish a national religion or involving itself in the religious practices of its citizens.
The objective was to protect religion from the tyranny of government, not to protect government from the influence of religion. This fact is so obvious from historical and empirical evidence it should not even be a subject of debate. Expressions of faith were commonplace among the Founders, not only in their private correspondence, but in their public papers, utterances and governing acts as well.
John Adams, our second President stated, “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” George Washington declared in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens“. In another place, he stated, “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”
Every Congress since 1789 has opened with prayer. Just underneath the clock on the wall behind the chair of the Speaker of the House is inscribed our national motto, “In God We Trust”. Congress sponsors regularly scheduled Bible Study and prayer meetings for its members. It has never been without an official Chaplain other than during the Civil War when Chaplain Services were provided by volunteers from the local clergy. Presidents routinely call for national prayer during times of crisis. Public and official expressions of our reliance on the blessing of God in our national affairs are everywhere in evidence.
In spite of widespread claims to the contrary, America is still a religious nation. It is also a Christian nation. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life interviewed more than 36,000 Americans age 18 years or older and compiled a report published by the Pew Research Center (2007). In it, 78.4% of all American adults identify themselves as Christian. Only 4.7% identify themselves as adhering to a religion other than Christian. 16.1% described themselves as unaffiliated. Of these, 1.6% identified as atheist, 2.4% as agnostic, 6.3% as secular unaffiliated and 5.8% as religious unaffiliated.
Founding Principle Number Two – Equality
A widespread consciousness of the inherent equality of man was only beginning to emerge in the eighteenth century. The civilized world was still ruled by monarchs, emperors and the aristocratic elite who considered ordinary citizens as subjects obligated to subjugate their aspirations to the will of their “betters”. America was the first nation to give official recognition to the principle of equality. Even here however, it has never been universally practiced other than as an abstract ideal.
Fortunately, however, it did become one of the core principles underlying our Constitution and the number one principle in our legal system. The term was used in the Declaration for its political impact. Jefferson gives as an objective of the Declaration “…to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take…”
The principle of man’s equality is intuitively sensed by all of mankind, whether practiced or not. It is a powerful tool of persuasion when contending for justice. This use by Jefferson, however, does not diminish its universal application to the inherent status of man. The modern day detractors of our system of government often point to the use of the phrase in the Declaration of Independence as proof of America’s hypocrisy, and to discredit the Founding Fathers.
The problem many have in reconciling the Declaration’s statement on equality with what they experience and observe in the real world is due to confusing the meaning of “equality” with their own preconceived notion of “justice” or "fairness”. Jefferson was not writing about one’s station in life, possession of wealth, success in business or any of the other inequalities of life that are often compared to this phrase in an attempt to discredit him as hypocritical. He was referring to their inherent value and standing as human beings.
A study of Jefferson’s life reveals a lifelong struggle to live up to this principle, which he firmly believed in at the intellectual level, but like most of us, had a problem with its application in his personal life. Nowhere is this struggle more evident than in his position on slavery. Although he was the owner of slaves inherited from his father, wife and father-in-law, he was one of the early advocates for emancipation and an end to the slave economy.
One of his strongest condemnations of the institution of slavery is found in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence. In his indictment of King George III, Jefferson writes,
“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither…”
This clause was left out of the finished Declaration by the Congress because many of the state delegates were themselves slaveholders and they did not wish to alienate the support of southern states or northerners who profited from the slave trade. Jefferson also served in the Confederation Congress for a short time before being dispatched to France on a diplomatic mission. In 1783-84, he served as chairman of the Committee on Ordinance for the Western Territory. The revised report of the Committee issued on March 22, 1784 and presumably written by Jefferson required,
“That after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there shall be neither slavery nor involun-tary servitude in any of the said states, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been convicted to have been personally guilty”.
In his “Notes on the State of Virginia”, 1785, Jefferson rhetorically asks,
“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..; The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a context [slavery]…I think a change already perceptible, since the origin of the present revolution. The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation…”
The equality Jefferson claims in the Declaration is stated by him as being a “self-evident” truth --- “obvious without explanation or proof”. He then says this equality is common to all mankind and that it is inherent in the act of creation. Since the equality claimed by Jefferson is endowed on everyone by virtue of his or her creation, the right to be treated as an equal would be one of the unalienable rights endowed by their creator, spoken of by Jefferson later in the same sentence. If we expand our consideration further to its historical context, we see that this reference to equality, in the Declaration, referred to the relationship between the government and its citizens or in this case, between the government and its subjects. It was the unequal treatment by King George III and the English Parliament of the colonial citizens and the resident citizens of Great Britain that partially led to the Revolutionary War.
It was also this principle of civil equality that provided the philosophical basis for virtually every article in the Constitution. However, It took the Civil War (1861 – 1865), followed by another hundred years of civil strife in order to fully realize its application to the requirements of the Constitution. It is also the principle of equality that forms the basis for republicanism and capitalism and is the central theme of Thomas Paine’s book “Common Sense” in which he condemns the Monarchy.
The basic premise of this principle is that no one has the right to rule another without their consent because all humans are equal in their intrinsic being. In spite of the fact that Bernie Madoff sits in jail while Barney Frank sits in Congress, the republican application of the principle is that the law applies equally to everyone regardless of his or her position in life.
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Philosophy of Evil Socialism in America
"The struggle of History is not between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; it is between government and the governed."