Many of our political leaders over the years, not only believed that America was founded on Christian values, but were also devout Christians.
In 1787, twelve of the original 13 States sent delegates to meet together at the Philadelphia Convention, where they drafted the U.S. Constitution (Rhode Island boycotted the Convention.)
The 55 delegates who wrote the U.S. Constitution belonged to the following denominations:
-2 Dutch Reformed
-2 Roman Catholic
Benjamin Franklin, who called for prayer at the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787, stated:
“In the beginning of the contest with Great 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. ..”
“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? …”
New Hampshire Governor John Langdon called for a Day of Fasting, February 21, 1786, to pray for the new government:
“That He would be pleased to bless the great Council of the United States of America and direct their deliberations …that he would rain down righteousness upon the earth, revive religion, and spread abroad the knowledge of the true God, the Savior of man.”
New Hampshire’s annual Fasting Day, a date fixed by the Governor, was observed April 10, 1788:
“to be observed and kept as a day of fasting of humiliation and prayer.”
Our 2nd U.S. President, John Adams once said, “Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company — I mean hell.”
Our 6th U.S President, John Quincy Adams, chastised “the liberal class who consider religion as merely a system of morals.” He celebrated the Bible because “when duly read and meditated on, it is of all books in the world, that which contributes most to making men good, wise, and happy.”
Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, was raised in his parents’ Baptist faith. The toll of the Civil War led Lincoln to undergo a profound spiritual journey; before the war, Lincoln had imagined Providence, the power sustaining and guiding human destiny, as a remote and mechanistic force. When he was president, however, Providence began to emerge in his mind as an active and more personal God, a mysterious presence whose purpose eluded human understanding. Lincoln received the casualty lists and toured military hospitals. In February 1862, his son Willie died of typhoid fever.
In September 1862, one of the darkest moments of the conflict, Lincoln committed his thoughts about God on a small piece of paper that his secretary later titled “Meditation on the Divine Will”:
“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 cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. … 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.”
The 20th president, James Garfield, was known as the “preacher president.” He converted to Christianity at a camp meeting in 1850. The next day he was baptized in the Disciples of Christ Church. “Today I was buried with Christ in baptism and arose to walk in the newness of life,” he wrote.
The son of a Presbyterian minister, Stephen Grover Cleveland, our 22nd and 24th president, attended Sunday school and multiple services in his father’s church each Sunday. He would remain a member of the Presbyterian Church his entire life.
In a letter accepting his nomination to run for president in 1884, Cleveland promised to rely “upon the favor and support of the Supreme Being Who, I believe, will always bless honest human endeavor in the conscientious discharge of public duty.” He became more visibly religious while in the White House and attended the First Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., throughout his time as president.
Harry S. Truman, our 33rd president, was a member of the First Baptist Church in Grandview, Mo. As president, Truman made frequent references to religion and Christianity in his public speeches. On April 16, 1945, in a statement before a joint session of Congress, Truman asked God for guidance, saying, “I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people.” Truman repeatedly referred to America as a “Christian nation” and declared that it “was established by men who believed in God. You will see that our Founding Fathers believed that God created this nation. And I believe it, too.”
Our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, wrote to Brazil’s President, Janio da Silva Quadros, on January 31, 1961:
“Once in every 20 years presidential inaugurations in your country and mine occur within days of each other. This year of 1961 is signalized by the happy coincidence… To each of us is entrusted the heavy responsibility of guiding the affairs of a democratic nation founded on Christian ideals.”
On October 28, 1961, Kennedy proclaimed the National Thanksgiving Day these words, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.”
Let us go forth to lead this land that we love, joining in the prayer of General George Washington in 1783:
‘that God would have you in His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the citizens…to entertain a brotherly love and affection one for another…
And finally that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with…the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, without an humble imitation of whose example we can never hope to be a happy nation.”
Ronald Reagan, our 40th president, was raised and baptized in the Disciples of Christ Church, Reagan did not shy away from encouraging Christianity as president. Early in his presidency, he wrote a letter saying: “My daily prayer is that God will help me to use this position so as to serve Him. Teddy Roosevelt once called the presidency a bully pulpit. I intend to use it to the best of my ability to serve the Lord.”
William “Bill” Federer/American Minute
PBS.org/God in the White House