posted on Nov, 27 2009 @ 10:41 PM
IV. Religion and the Congress of the Confederation, 1774-89
The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of
deeply religious men. The amount of energy that Congress invested in encouraging the practice of religion in the new nation exceeded that expended by
any subsequent American national government. Although the Articles of Confederation did not officially authorize Congress to concern itself with
religion, the citizenry did not object to such activities. This lack of objection suggests that both the legislators and the public considered it
appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity.
Congress appointed chaplains for itself and the armed forces, sponsored the publication of a Bible, imposed Christian morality on the armed forces,
and granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians. National days of thanksgiving and of "humiliation, fasting, and prayer" were
proclaimed by Congress at least twice a year throughout the war. Congress was guided by "covenant theology," a Reformation doctrine especially dear
to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people. This agreement stipulated that they "should
be prosperous or afflicted, according as their general Obedience or Disobedience thereto appears." Wars and revolutions were, accordingly, considered
afflictions, as divine punishments for sin, from which a nation could rescue itself by repentance and reformation.
The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the "public prosperity" of a society depended on the vitality of its
religion. Nothing less than a "spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens," Congress declared to the American
people, would "make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people."
Congressional Prayer Proclamation, 1779
March 20, 1779
With the war grinding on In to Its fourth year, this Congressional prayer proclamation evoked a somber tone about the "calamitous" war. They asked
for Divine guidance to their commander In chief and asked God to be "be our Shield in the Day of Battle."
March 20, 1779
WHEREAS, in just Punishment of our manifold Transgressions, it hath pleased the Supreme Disposer of all Events to visit these United States with a
calamitous War, through which his Divine Providence hath hitherto in a wonderful Manner conducted us, so that we might acknowledge that the Race is
not to the Swift, nor the Battle to the Strong: AND WHEREAS, notwithstanding the Chastisements received and Benefits bestowed, too few have been
sufficiently awakened to a Sense of their Guilt, or warmed with Gratitude, or taught to amend their Lives and turn from their Sins, that so he might
turn his Wrath:
In just Punishment of our manifold Transgressions, it hath pleased the Supreme Disposer of all Events to visit these United States with a calamitous
AND WHEREAS, from a Consciousness of what we have merited at his Hands, and an Apprehension that the Malevolence of our disappointed Enemies, like the
Incredulity of Pharaoh, may be used as the Scourge of Omnipotence to vindicate his slighted Majesty, there is Reason to fear that he may permit much
of our Land to become the Prey of the Spoiler, our Borders to be ravaged, and our Habitations destroyed:
THAT it be recommended to the several States to appoint the First Thursday in May next to be a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer to Almighty
God, that he will be pleased to avert those impending Calamities which we have but too well deserved: That he will grant us his Grace to repent of our
Sins, and amend our Lives according to his Holy Word: That he will continue that wonderful Protection which hath led us through the Paths of Danger
and Distress: That he will be a Husband to the Widow, and a Father to the fatherless Children, who weep over the Barbarities of a Savage Enemy: That
he will grant us Patience in Suffering, and Fortitude in Adversity: That he will inspire us with Humility, Moderation, and Gratitude in prosperous
Circumstances: That he will give Wisdom to our Councils, Firmness to our Resolutions, and Victory to our Arms: That he will bless the Labours of the
Husbandman, and pour forth Abundance, so that we may enjoy the Fruits of the Earth in due Season: That he will cause Union, Harmony, and mutual
Confidence to prevail throughout these States: That he will bestow on our great Ally all those Blessings which may enable him to be gloriously
instrumental in protecting the Rights of Mankind, and promoting the Happiness of his Subjects: That he will bountifully continue his paternal Care to
the Commander in Chief, and the Officers and Soldiers of the United States: That he will grant the Blessings of Peace to all contending Nations,
Freedom to those who are in Bondage, and Comfort to the Afflicted: That he will diffuse Useful Knowledge, extend the Influence of True Religion, and
give us that Peace of Mind which the World cannot give: That he will be our Shield in the Day of Battle, our Comforter in the Hour of Death, and our
kind Parent and merciful Judge through Time and through Eternity.
Done in CONGRESS, this Twentieth Day of March, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Nine, and in the Third Year of our
JOHN JAY, President.
Attest. CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary.
PHILADELPHIA: PRINTED BY HALL AND SELLERS.
Message from John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massacusetts
October 11, 1798
In this letter Adams declares point blank that, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the
government of any other."
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she
continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us
by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which
assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays I have received from Major-General Hull
and Brigadier, General Walker your unanimous address from Lexington, animated with a martial spirit, and expressed with a military dignity becoming
your character and the memorable plains on which it was adopted. in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and
sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the Nvorld; because we have no
government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry,
• would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious
people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
An address from the officers commanding two thousand eight hundred men, consisting of such substantial citizens as are able and willing at their own
expense completely to arm and clothe themselves in handsome uniforms, does honor to that division of the militia which has done so much honor to its
country. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken and so solemnly repeated on that
venerable spot, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.