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America's Christians Roots

 

Were the Founding Fathers of America really Christians?  Is the American Constitution really based on Christian principals?  Yes to both questions.  Below is a listing of quotes by our Christian Founding Fathers.

Liberalism's Revisionist Historians are quite upset about the use of Unconfirmed Quotations.  In the typical style of Liberalism, these revisionists insist on a double standard regarding the use of quotations. They have used this double standard regarding quotes by the founding fathers.  Of course, a large volume of quotes, which meet even the most stringent standards, exist in source documents and these many quotes show that almost all of the Founding Fathers were Christians.  We have listed some of them on this page.

What Liberalism's revisionists insist on is that any quote that seems to indicate that a founding father had the faith of Jesus Christ not be used unless the original source in which the quote exists, is found and documented. On the other hand, almost any quote is accepted providing that the quote seems to indicate that the person quoted was not a believer in Jesus Christ. The liberals allow partial quotes, distorted quotes, and unconfirmed quotes providing that the quotes further Liberalism's purposes.

Interestingly, Liberalism's revisionists have used a very deceptive presentation of a part of the Treaty of Tripoli to try to fool people into falling in line with their warped point of view.  They have taken a quote out of context, leaving out the end of a sentence.  Without the end of the sentence, the quote appears to say that America is not a Christian country.  The sentence must be understood in the light of backslidden Christian Europe which had in itself a character of enmity [hatred] against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims].  The Christianity of America was not and is not repressive.  If the complete sentence from the treaty is read, it can be seen that America is not a Christian country of the type that has in itself a character of enmity [hatred] against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] and as the said States [America] have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The type of trickery being used by Liberalism in regard to the Treaty of Tripoli and other documents is typical of Liberalism's way.  For Liberalism, there is no lie or truth.  There is only winning and losing.  Any trick is OK, because they think that the end justifies the means.    
   
The following list is taken from a list prepared by David Barton on WallBuilders.com. David Barton has made a list of quotes that are commonly used to show the Christian roots of America but that are disputed by liberal revisionists. All of these quotes would be acceptable in a scholarly work or a university text. 

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! -- Patrick Henry (original source document not yet found)

Consistent with Henry's life and character, See the following quotes as typical examples of quotes for which source documents have been found:

I know, sir, how well it becomes a liberal man and a Christian to forget and forgive. As individuals professing a holy religion, it is our bounden duty to forgive injuries done us as individuals. But when the character of Christian you add the character of patriot, you are in a different situation. Our mild and holy system of religion inculcates an admirable maxim of forbearance. If your enemy smite one cheek, turn the other to him. But you must stop there. You cannot apply this to your country. As members of a social community, this maxim does not apply to you. When you consider injuries done to your country your political duty tells you of vengeance. Forgive as a private man, but never forgive public injuries. Observations of this nature are exceedingly unpleasant, but it is my duty to use them.4

(note that the word liberal has changed meaning over the years.  It's use in the above quote is in no way consistent with the goals and ideals of Liberalism)

In a 1796 letter to his daughter Henry stated:

Amongst other strange things said of me, I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of their number; and, indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appelation of Tory; because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics; and I find much cause to reproach myself that I have lived so long and have given no decided and public proofs of my being a Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is a character which I prize far above all this world has, or can boast.5

Bishop Meade also describes a letter from Rev. Dresser, who was addressing two Church historians. Concerning Patrick Henry, Dresser wrote:

It is stated, in an article which I saw some time ago, from the Protestant Episcopalian, and, I presume, from one of you, that Patrick Henry was once an infidel, &c. His widow and some of his descendants are residing in this county, and I am authorized by one of them to say that the anecdote related is not true. He ever had, I am informed, a very abhorrence of infidelity, and actually wrote an answer to Paine's Age of Reason, but destroyed it before his death. His widow informed me that he received the Communion as often as an opportunity was offered, and on such occasions always fasted until after he had communicated, and spent the day in the greatest retirement. This he did both while Governor and afterward. Had he lived a few years longer, he would have probably done much to check the immoral influence of one of his compatriots [?], whose works are now diffusing the poison of infidelity throughout our land. 6 that a visiting neighbor recalled Henry holding up the Bible and stating:

This book [the Bible] is worth all the books that ever were printed, and it has been my misfortune that I have never found time to read it with the proper attention and feeling till lately. I trust in the mercy of Heaven that it is not yet too late. 7

This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.8

 

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. -- George Washington (original source document not yet found)

Consistent with Washington's life and character, See the following quotes as typical examples of quotes for which source documents have been found:

You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.

"The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations." George Washington's letter of August 20, 1778 to Brig. General Thomas Nelson

"Almighty and eternal Lord God, the great Creator of heaven and earth, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down from heaven in pity and compassion upon me Thy servant, who humbly prorate myself before Thee." George Washington's prayer at Valley Forge

"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency...We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven cannot be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained." -- George Washington in his Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789

"Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the council of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States.." "...Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency" From President George Washington's Inaugural Address, April 30th, 1789, addressed to both Houses of Congress.

"Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion."--George Washington, ca. 1789, Maxims of Washington, ed. John F. Schroeder (Mt. Vernon: Mt. Vernon Ladies Association, 1942), p. 106.

"The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man, will endeavor so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country." General George Washington, July 9, 1776

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports... And let us indulge with caution the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion... Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle." From President George Washington's Farewell Address

The General most earnestly requires and expects...of all officers and soldiers, not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance on divine service, to implore the blessings of heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.  General Orders. Fitzpatrick 3:309. (1775.)

The honorable Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a chaplain to each regiment,...the colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure chaplains accordingly, persons of good characters and exemplary lives, [and] to see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary, but especially so in times of public distress and danger.  General Orders. Fitzpatrick 5:244. (1776.)

The commander-in-chief directs that divine service be performed every Sunday at eleven o'clock in those brigades [in] which there are chaplains; those which have none [are] to attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that officers of all ranks will by their attendance set an example to their men. 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. The signal instances of providential goodness which we have experienced, and which have now almost crowned our labors with complete success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of gratitude and piety to the Supreme Author of all good.  General Orders. Fitzpatrick 11:342. (1778.)

Divine service is to be performed tomorrow in the several brigades or divisions. The commander-in-chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of deportment and gratitude of heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.  General Orders. Fitzpatrick 23:247. (1781.)

The commander-in-chief orders the cessation of hostilities between the United States of America and the king of Great Britain to be publicly proclaimed tomorrow at twelve o'clock,...after which the chaplains with the several brigades will render thanks to almighty God for all his mercies, particularly for his overruling the wrath of man to his own glory, and causing the rage of war to cease among the nations....

The proclamation...must afford the most rational and sincere satisfaction to every benevolent mind, as it puts a period to a long and doubtful contest, stops the effusion of human blood, opens the prospect to a more splendid scene, and, like another morning star, promises the approach of a brighter day than has hitherto illuminated the Western Hemisphere; on such a happy day, a day which is the harbinger of peace, a day which completes the eighth year of the war, it would be ingratitude not to rejoice!  General Orders. Fitzpatrick 26:334. (1783.)

James K. Paulding declares Washington to have said:

It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe without the agency of a Supreme Being. It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being.9

 

Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise. In this sense and to this extent, our civilizations and our institutions are emphatically Christian. --Holy Trinity v. U. S. (Supreme Court) (This is error but is consistent with many correct quotes that are available in source documents examples of which are given below)

These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.10

Justice David J. Brewer, author of the Holy Trinity opinion, also wrote a book in 1905 called The United States: A Christian Nation. Brewer opened his work with these words:

We classify nations in various ways. As, for instance, by their form of government. One is a kingdom, another an empire, and still another a republic. Also by race. Great Britain is an Anglo-Saxon nation, France a Gallic, Germany a Teutonic, Russia a Slav. And still again by religion. One is a Mohammedan nation, others are heathen, and still others are Christian nations. This republic is classified among the Christian nations of the world. It was so formally declared by the Supreme Court of the United States. But in what sense can it be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that the people are in any manner compelled to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or name Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in the public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation-in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world. 11

Other courts have stated ideas similar to Holy Trinity. In 1952, the Supreme Court declared:

We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.

When the State encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. 12

"One thing is clear: the quote in question, while not characteristic of late twentieth century judicial expressions, is consistent with those of the eighteenth and nineteenth century state and federal courts. However, this quote is obviously not in the case, and should not be used." David Barton

 

We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves... according to the Ten Commandments of God. -- James Madison (original source document not yet found)

Consistent with Madison's life and character, See the following quotes as typical examples of quotes for which source documents have been found:

While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe, the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to them whose minds have not yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.14

Waiving the rights of conscience, not included in the surrender implied by the social state, & more or less invaded by all Religious establishments, the simple question to be decided, is whether a support of the best & purest religion, the Christian religion itself ought not, so far at least as pecuniary means are involved, to be provided for by the Government, rather than be left to the voluntary provisions of those who profess it. 15 [emphasis added]

Whatever may have been the private sentiments of Mr. Madison on the subject of religion, he was never known to declare any hostility to it. He always treated it with respect, attended public worship in his neighborhood, invited ministers of religion to his house, had family prayers on such occasions,-though he did not kneel himself at prayers. Episcopal ministers often went there to see his aged and pious mother and administer the Holy Communion to her. I was never at Mr. Madison's but once, and then our conversation took such a turn-though not designed on my part-as to call forth some expressions and arguments which left the impression on my mind that his creed was not strictly regulated by the Bible. At his death, some years after this, his minister-the Rev. Mr. Jones-and some of his neighbors openly expressed their conviction, that, from his conversation and bearing during the latter years of his life, he must be considered as receiving the Christian system to be divine. Bishop Meade 16

 

Religion... [is] the basis and foundation of government. -- James Madison (error)

The actual phrase refers to the "Declaration of those rights 'which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of Government.'" 17 See example quotes by James Madison in the previous paragraphs to prove Madison's Christian beliefs.

 

Whosoever shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world. --Benjamin Franklin (original source document not yet found)

Consistent with Franklin's life and character, See the following quotes as typical examples of quotes for which source documents have been found:

History will also afford the frequent opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion, from its usefulness to the public; the advantage of a religious character among private persons; the mischiefs of superstition, and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern. 18

Go constantly to church, whoever preaches. The act of devotion in the Common Prayer Book is your principal business there, and if properly attended to, will do more towards amending the heart than sermons generally can do. For they were composed by men of much greater piety and wisdom, than our common composers of sermons can pretend to be; and therefore I wish you would never miss the prayer days; yet I do not mean you should despise sermons, even of the preachers you dislike, for the discourse is often much better than the man, as sweet and clear waters come through very dirty earth. I am the more particular on this head, as you seemed to express a little before I came away some inclination to leave our church, which I would not have you do.19

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is like to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive, that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure. 20

We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, 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 that the builders of Babel. 21

 

The principles of all genuine liberty, and of wise laws and administrations are to be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man therefore who weakens or destroys the divine authority of that book may be assessory to all the public disorders which society is doomed to suffer. Noah Webster (original source document not yet found)

There are two powers only which are sufficient to control men, and secure the rights of individuals and a peaceable administration; these are the combined force of religion and law, and the force or fear of the bayonet. Noah Webster (original source document not yet found)

Consistent with Webster's life and character, See the following quotes as typical examples of quotes for which source documents have been found:

Almost all the civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of the christian religion.

[T]he religion which has introduced civil liberty, is the religion of Christ and his apostles.

This is genuine christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government. 22

 

The only assurance of our nation's safety is to lay our foundation in morality and religion. Abe Lincoln (original source document not yet found)

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. Abe Lincoln (original source document not yet found)

Consistent with Lincoln's life and character, See the following quotes as typical examples of quotes for which source documents have been found:

Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulties.23

That every man may receive at least a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the Scriptures, and other works both of a religious and moral nature for themselves. 24

 

A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader. Samuel Adams (original source document had not yet been found but now is confirmed)

... we [David Barton's organization] found the statement in an original source document, a letter to James Warren dated February 12, 1779. 25

 

I have always said and always will say that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make us better citizens. Thomas Jefferson (original source document not yet found)

Consistent with Jefferson's life and character, See the following quotes for which source documents have been found:

An eloquent preacher of your religious society, Richard Motte, in a discourse of much emotion and pathos, is said to have exclaimed aloud to his congregation, that he did not believe there was a Quaker, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist in heaven, having paused to give his hearers time to stare and to wonder. He added, that in heaven, God knew no distinctions, but considered all good men as his children, and as brethren of the same family. I believe, with the Quaker preacher, that he who steadily observes those moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven, as to the dogmas in which they all differ. That on entering there, all these are left behind us, and the Aristides and Catos, the Penns and Tillotsons, Presbyterians and Baptists, will find themselves united in all principles which are in concert with the reason of the supreme mind. Of all the systems of morality, ancient and modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.26

To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others. 27

But the greatest of all the reformers of the depraved religion of His own country, was Jesus of Nazareth.28

 

America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great. Alexis de Tocqueville (original source document not yet found)

Consistent with Alexis's life and character, See the following quotes as typical examples of quotes for which source documents have been found:

Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same.

In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live.

There are certain populations in Europe whose unbelief is only equaled by their ignorance and their debasement, while in America one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world fulfills all the outward duties of religion with fervor.

Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country. 30

 

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. John Quincy Adams (original source document not yet found?)

The original source document is John Wingate Thornton's The Pulpit of the American Revolution, 32 which was published in 1860, only 15 years after John Quincy Adam's death.

Consistent with Alexis's life and character, See the following quotes as a typical example of quotes for which source documents have been found:

Why is it that, next to the birth day of the Saviour of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [July 4th]?... Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birth-day of the Saviour? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.. ? 33

David Barton's Footnotes

1. Patrick Henry, Life, Correspondence and Speeches, William Wirt Henry, editor (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1891), Vol. II, p. 490.

2. Wirt Henry's, Life, vol. II, p. 621.

3. Bishop Meade, Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1857), Vol. I, p. 221.

4. Wirt Henry's, Life, vol. III, pp. 606-607.

5. S. G. Arnold, The Life of Patrick Henry (Auburn: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1854), p. 250.

6. Meade, Old Churches, Vol. II, p. 12.

7. Wirt Henry's, Life, vol. II, p. 621.

8. From a copy of Henry's Last Will and Testament obtained from Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, Red Hill, Brookneal, VA.

9. James K. Paulding, A Life of Washington (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1835), Vol. II, p. 209.

10. Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States; 143 U. S. 457, 471 (1892).

11. David J. Brewer, The United States A Christian Nation (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, 1905), pp. 11-12.

12. Zorach v. Clauson; 343 U. S. 306, 312-314 (1952).

13. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist, on the New Constitution Written in 1788 (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), pp. 203-204, James Madison, Number 39.

14. James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance (Massachusetts: Isaiah Thomas, 1786). This can be found in numerous documentary histories and other resources.

15. Religion and Politics in the Early Republic: Jasper Adams and the Church-State Debate, Daniel L. Dreisbach, ed. (Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1996), p. 117.

16. Meade, Old Churches, Vol. II, pp. 99-100.

17. Madison, Memorial, p. 12.

18. Benjamin Franklin, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1749), p. 22.

19. Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, ed. (Boston: Tappan, Whittmore, and Mason, 1838), Vol. VII, pp. 269-271, letter to his daughter, Sarah, on November 8, 1764.

20. Sparks, Works of Franklin, Vol. X, p. 424.

21. James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, Henry D. Gilpin, ed. (Washington: Langtree & O'Sullivan, 1840), Vol. II, p. 985.

22. Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 300, Sec. 578.

23. A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, James D. Richardson, editor (Published by Authority of Congress, 1899), Vol. VI, p. 11, from his First Inaugural, March 4, 1861).

24. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, editor (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953), Vol. I, p. 8, from his "Communication to the People of Sangamo County," March 9, 1832)

25. Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, ed. (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1905), Vol. IV, p. 124.

26. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Ellery Bergh, ed. (Washington, D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, pp.377-78, letter to William Canby on September 18, 1813.

27. Bergh, Writings of Jefferson, Vol. X, p.380, letter to Benjamin Rush on April 21, 1803.

28. Bergh, Writings of Jefferson, Vol. XIV, p.220, letter to William Short on October 31, 1819.

29. Thomas Jefferson, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904), House of Representatives, Document No. 755, 58th Congress, 2d Session.

30. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, (New York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1851), pp. 331, 332, 335, 336-7, 337, respectively.

31. For an interesting account of the Tocqueville quote, see John J. Pittney's "The Tocqueville Fraud," in The Weekly Standard, November 13, 1995.

32. John Wingate Thornton, The Pulpit of the American Revolution (Boston: Gould And Lincoln, 1860), p. xxix.

33. John Quincy Adams, An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at Their Request, on the Sixty-first Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837 (Newburyport: Charles Whipple, 1837), p.

Raising The Academic Standard For Quoting The Founding Fathers

In 1988, David Barton published The Myth of Separation, documenting the Founding Fathers religious beliefs and practices with over 700 footnotes. In that work, he cited from several sources, including history professors, legal scholars, and early textbooks. Although this is common practice in the academic community, David came to believe that historical debates undergirding public policy should be conducted using a standard of evidence that would be accepted by courts: only the "best evidence" should be used (e.g., eyewitness testimony, direct statements and actions by the participants, etc.). In other words, instead of quoting what a professor or judge said about Thomas Jefferson's (or the other 200+ Founding Fathers') views on the First Amendment, let Jefferson's (and the other Founders') own words and actions speak for themselves.

Consequently, David authored a second book (Original Intent, with over 1,400 footnotes) on the same theme as The Myth of Separation in which he does not use Founder's quotes unless they are documented to a primary source; he dropped all "historical" quotes from attorneys, professors, texts, etc.

In using this higher standard, he discovered there were about a dozen or so popular and widely-used quotes by historians and others (David had quoted these sources with documentation properly footnoted in The Myth of Separation) that he could not find in the Founders' own writings. Importantly, some of those quotes had come from works nearly a century-and-a-half old and therefore would seem to have been credible; yet David could not find those quotes in original documents.

David therefore released a paper entitled "Unconfirmed Quotations" in which he listed those dozen or so quotes that he had used in Myth of Separation and which he would voluntarily no longer use. He called on those on all sides of the debate to refrain from using these quotes in any subsequent writings until their veracity could be established in a source that would meet the legal standard of "best evidence." (Since the release of that article, we have actually been able to find the original documentation for some of those quotes that we originally listed as "unconfirmed" - and which antagonists claim that David had made up!)

Despite David's clear statement in the preface of "Unconfirmed Quotations" that he intended to raise the academic bar, David's antagonists (such as Rob Boston, et. al) claimed David had "admitted he made up his quotes," a complete mischaracterization of what occurred. On the contrary, David had simply challenged authors on all sides, whether writing for the American Atheist Association or the National Association of Evangelicals, for Americans United for Separation of Church and State or for Christian Coalition - that they should not allege that the Founders said or believed something unless it could be documented in the Founders' own writings or some other equally authoritative source (e.g., the Records of the Continental Congress, Madison's notes on the Constitutional Convention, the Debates of the First Congress, etc.).

It is significant that David's critics point to The Myth of Separation when they claim he "admits that he made up his quotes" but they remain completely silent about Original Intent. Both works arrive at exactly the same historical conclusion, but the history is "made up" in the one but not the other? To date, none of David's antagonists have ever been able to point out a single example in Original Intent in which he "made up a quote." They cannot do so. For that matter, they could not do so in The Myth of Separation either. Rather, they claim that he "admits that he makes up his quotes."

The mischaracterizations of what David did were so egregiously untrue that distinguished attorneys who practice law before the U. S. Supreme Court asked David if they could sue these groups and individuals for libel and slander. Despite the difficult free-speech standards that courts have established to prove libel and slander, the attorneys still believed that they would prevail. To date, David has declined to proceed on the legal front, although such a suit remains a definite possibility. (By the way, some members and supporters of the organizations criticizing David actually resigned in protest over the mischaracterizations made about him by their own organizations; while they did not share David's philosophical viewpoint, they were offended by the blatant misportrayals their own organizations had made about David's work in a scurrilous effort to discredit him.) In short, there is no factual basis behind this charge, nor has any antagonist ever successfully pointed out even one occasion in which David fabricated any quote. David's work stands on its own merits for those who wish to verify his documentation rather than simply accepting mischaracterizations of his work without personal investigation.

 

   



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Last updated: Feb, 2011
 
 




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