Part 1: Faith, Foundations, and Fatherhood.
A. Faith in American History

When you examine the source documents, penned by the various “Founding Fathers”, you’ll discover a trend.

That trend consists of three things.

1. A reluctance – even an aversion, to establishing a particular sect
of Christianity as the “official” religion for the country.

2. A deep, abiding belief that Christian moral foundations were
absolutely required to govern this country – and that such convictions
were the primary force governing their lives.

3. That freedom to practice, express, and profess their religious beliefs was a goal of the highest sort of order.

The first English colony in the Americas was called “Jamestown”.

At the end of their “Instructions”, is found this phrase:


Lastly and chiefly the way to prosper and achieve good success is to
make yourselves all of one mind for the good of your country and your
own, and to serve and fear God the Giver of all Goodness, for every
plantation which our Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted
out. – Source (Virginial Company, 1606)

In their First Charter is found the following statement:


Wee, greately commending and graciously accepting of theire desires to
the furtherance of soe noble a worke which may, by the providence of
Almightie God, hereafter tende to the glorie of His Divine Majestie in
propagating of Christian religion to suche people as yet live in
darkenesse and miserable ignorance of the true knoweledge and worshippe
of God and may in tyme bring the infidels and salvages living in those
parts to humane civilitie and to a setled and quiet govermente, doe by
theise our lettres patents graciously accepte of and agree to theire
humble and well intended desires; – Source (First Virginia Charter, 1606)

As we can see, the Virginia charter quite specifically mentions religion, the worship of God Almighty, and missionary duties.

And of course, the Mayflower Compact.


IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal
Subjects of… &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and
Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and
Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of
Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence
of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a
civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and
Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact,
constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts,
Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought
most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which
we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have
hereunto subscribed our names at… – Source (Pilgrims, upon their arrival at Plymouth, 1620)

The Pilgrims are an interesting study. They were the first of the
Northern Colonies, and were, in reality, religious fugitives –
dissenters concerning the Anglican Church’s “official” status as the
English religion.

The Pilgrims (Early History)


The Pilgrims were English Separatists. In the first years of the 17th
century, small numbers of English Puritans broke away from the Church
of England because they felt that it had not completed the work of the
Reformation. They committed themselves to a life based on the Bible.

The term Pilgrim was first used by William Bradford to describe the
Leiden Separatists who were leaving Holland. The Mayflower’s passengers
were first described as the Pilgrim Fathers in 1799. – Source (Read more about them there, as well.)

The Puritans (Early History)


The Puritans were a group of people who grew discontent in the Church
of England and worked towards religious, moral and societal reforms.
The writings and ideas of John Calvin, a leader in the Reformation,
gave rise to Protestantism and were pivotal to the Christian revolt.
They contended that The Church of England had become a product of
political struggles and man-made doctrines. The Puritans were one
branch of dissenters who decided that the Church of England was beyond
reform. Escaping persecution from church leadership and the King, they
came to America. – Source (Prof. Robert Barger, prepared by Kay Kizer)

(Further reading – Catholic Encyclopedia treatment of “Puritans”, or, the “Puritans” page, at the Hall of Church History.)

John Winthrop


It is yourselves who have called us to this office, and, being called by you, we have our authority from God, in way of an ordinance, such as hath the image of God eminently stamped upon it,
the contempt and violation whereof hath been vindicated with examples
of divine vengeance. I entreat you to consider that, when you choose
magistrates, you take them from among yourselves, men subject to like
passions as you are. Therefore, when you see infirmities in us, you
should reflect upon your own, and that would make you bear the more
with us, and not be severe censurers of the failings of your
magistrates, when you have continual experience of the like infirmities
in yourselves and others. We account him a good servant who breaks not
his covenant. The covenant between you and us is the oath you have
taken of us, which is to this purpose, that we shall govern you and judge your causes by the rules of God’s laws and our own, according to our best skill.

For the other point concerning liberty, I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal. The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he lists: it is a liberty to evil as well as to good.
This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority, and
cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The
exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and
in time to be worse than brute beasts: omnes sumus licentia deteriores.
This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it. The other kind of liberty I
call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the
covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic
covenants and constitutions, amongst men themselves.
liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist
without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and
honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard (not only of your goods, but) of your lives, if need be.

Whatsoever crosseth this is not authority, but a distemper thereof.
This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to
authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made
us free. Source (“On Liberty”. Read the whole thing. It’s excellent.)

Powerful words! Eminently powerful. I also believe this accurately
describes the thoughts and intentions of these early Puritans.

Now, take a look at the city-level covenants of the Puritans – see how
deeply their beliefs affect both their lives, and their governments.


(Salem: Yes, that Salem.)
– “We covenant with our Lord, and one with another; and we do bind our
selves in the presence of God, to walk together in all his ways..”

Charles-Boston Church
– “In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Obedience to his holy
Will and Divine Ordinance, We whose Names are here under written, being
by his most wise and good providence brought together into this part of
America in the Bay of Massachusetts…”

– “We whose Names are hereto subscribed, having through God’s Mercy
escaped out of Pollutions of the World, and been taken into the Societe
of his People, with all Thankfulness do hereby both with Heart and Hand
acknowledge, That his Gracious Goodness, and Fatherly Care, towards us”

– “One: We whose names are here unto subscribed do, in the fear and
reverence of our Almighty God, mutually and severally promise amongst
ourselves and each to profess and practice one truth according to that
most perfect rule, the foundation whereof is ever lasting love…”

– “You shall swear by the great and dreadful Name of the High God,
Maker and Governor of Heaven and earth and by the Lord Jesus Christ,
the Prince of the Kings and rulers of the earth, that in his Name and
fear you will rule and govern his people according to the righteous
will of God, ministering justice and judgement on the workers of
iniquite, and ministering due incouragement and countenance to well
doers, protecting of the people so far as in you lieth, by the help of
God from foreigne annoyance and inward desturbance, that they may live
a quiet and peacabble life in all godliness and honesty. So God be
helpful and gracious to you and yours in Christ Jesus.”


The Puritans had a strong, strong belief in God – which also governed
their society – and discouraged any dissenting views. This made them
incredibly strong, as a community, but incredibly week, as far as
interaction with other ideals. Now, this was not a result of their religious beliefs – it was a result of their insularity from all others, and their absolute, law-centric [i]civil
order. In effect, in their escape from a “state religion” – they made
one of their own. It was this mistake, and this problem, which led to
the Witch Trials, and other issues.

It was partly upon this particular mistake, among others, that the
“establishment” clause was introduced. Puritans were the most moral of
the original settlers. They were extraordinarily so. However, their
strengths – specifically, their concentration upon legality-oriented
Christianity – was also their weakness. Their example was both
powerful, as well as subtly dangerous.

I find it odd that the word “Puritan”, even though their influence on
the burgeoning nation was tremendous, has been turned into a “dirty”
word. The Puritans had their problems – this is not at question.
However, their standards of an inalienable right to freedom from the State was the spark which ignited the powderkeg of the American Revolution. It was in Massachusetts that the fist of England fell first. It was in Massachusetts where the first shots were fired, and the Revolution began. It was in Massachusetts – Boston, to be precise, where the British first tasted defeat at the hands of Americans. At Bunker Hill.

Why is it these Puritans are considered to be “dirty laundry”, when it
was precisely those selfsame Puritans who provided the backbone to the
infant Revolution? Men like John Adams (Puritan Congregationalist), Samuel Adams (Puritan Congregationalist), John Hancock (Puritan Congregationalist), Robert Treat Paine (Puritan Congregationalist), were all Puritans. Only one of the Massachusetts signers was an Episcopalian –Elbridge Gerry. However, all were men of exceedingly strong religious convictions.

John Edwards, considered by many to be the most influential American theologian of all time, was also a Puritan!

Is the trend becoming clear yet?

Massachusetts was, perhaps, one of the most instrumental states in
creating the American Revolution – however, the religious basis on
which that state was created, and remained deeply involved in, is
rarely mentioned.

Virginia, who had 7 signers of the Declaration, was not similarly represented – not to the extent of Massachusetts, at least. Richard Henry Lee

(Robert E. Lee’s ancestor). Although he is rarely, if ever, listed as a
member of a “congregation”, Lee was a supporter of state-sponsored
religion. “refiners may weave as fine a web of reason as they please,
but the experience of all times shows religion to be the guardian of
morals” Source.

Francis Lightfoot Lee
– Brother of Richard Henry. We know much of his political actions – but
little of his religious ones. Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, in his book
“Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence”, says that he
became a Christian before he died. Not much more is known.

Carter Braxton
was a church official, and represented his church in statewide
conventions. He died in rags, after having his fortunes destroyed by
the British. He truly “pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred

Benjamin Harrison was a footloose type – he was an inveterate explorer, by many accounts. We don’t know a great deal about him otherwise.

Thomas Jefferson
was, in fact, one of the few known deists among the founding fathers.
However, he also considered Christian morality and virtue the
foundation for government, and the governed. See my essay “History: Separation of Church and State”, for a full treatment of Thomas Jefferson.

George Wythe was an Episcopalian, with a strong dash of Quaker. However, he is often portrayed as a deist. He was Jefferson’s mentor.

Thomas Nelson Jr. Died 13 years after signing the Declaration. He served mostly in a military capacity.

So, as you can see, the variances between Massachusetts and Virginia
are profound. I won’t go into a detailed list of all 56 signers – but
that was a good cross-section of the two “most influential” states. In
Massachusetts, every one

of the signers was a devoted Christian – 4 Puritans, 1 Episcopalian. In
Virginia, 1, maybe 2 of the signers were professed Christians.
Interesting contrast.

So, there was an interesting disconnect, when it comes to Declaration signers.

However, it changes, more than slightly, once we get to the signers of the Constitution.

I will submit as reference the following website:

Errant Skeptics: The Fifty Five Delegates

Contained therein, is the religious affiliations (along with copious
research concerning them) of the 55 Constitutional Congress delegates.

I also submit This page, from, with a table of the same, in database format.

Judging by these lists, as well as the references based upon them, we
can safely conclude that the historical basis of the laws, morals, and
customs of our nation, were founded directly in Christian principle and

To Be Continued.