The REAL Greatest Generation
- Grady McMurtry
- April 04, 2020
The United States of America is in dire distress and is in danger of no longer being what it was founded to be: A Christian Federated Republic.
The term, “The Greatest Generation,” was coined by the far-left journalist, Tom Brokaw, in his 1998 book of the same name. He used the term to describe those men and women who were born basically between 1901 and 1924, the parents of the Baby Boomers. As children and teenagers, they grew up during the hardships of The Great Depression (1929-1939). These men and women either fought in, or worked at factories to provide the materials of warfare for, WW II. They were responsible for fighting against and destroying the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. Their principles were noble and righteous even if, on occasion, their actions were not.
Brokaw wrote that they did not fight for fame or recognition. They fought because it was the right thing to do. The term was also used by William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book The Fourth Turning. They used it to describe the British generation that fought in WW II.
I agree wholeheartedly with Brokaw (admittedly politically difficult for me to do) that these men and women were courageous, resolute and self-sacrificing. I have the greatest admiration for them and what they accomplished.
My parents and my wife’s parents were members of that generation. My father was an Army officer serving in Europe; and my mother was a telephone supervisor helping to handle communications from San Francisco to the Pacific Theater. My wife’s parents were equally involved in the War effort. Her father and mother were involved in military airplane manufacturing. Her mother was a real “Rosie the Riveter” making wings for PBY Flying Boats. Her story and some of her memorabilia are now part of the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond, California.
Again, I have the greatest respect for these men and women. It was been my pleasure to have known and interviewed many of them before they passed on from our midst. Anyone visiting our home would know of my great interest in the history and heroes of that time. But, Tom Brokaw is wrong. These men and women were not as he wrote: “the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”
The Greatest Generation that this country has ever produced was the one alive at the time of The Founding Fathers. It was a predominantly Christian generation.
At the end of the Declaration of Independence the Signers wrote: “... appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, ... And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
They meant what they wrote. But, they were hardly the only ones to hold the same sentiment. There were many, although hardly all, of the colonists who felt the same way.
What happened to The Founding Fathers? There is much myth about them and well intentioned people circulate wonderfully patriotic and heart-rendering false accounts of what they endured. But, I hate revisionist histories and I believe that it is only God-honoring to record history accurately. What they did do is patriotic and heart-rendering enough.
Perhaps one of the best synopses of what they really endured, and what eventually happened to them, is to be found in an article by Arthur Bernon Tourtellot, published in American Heritage Magazine, December, 1962. I will quote extensively from his article. The emphasized sections are mine.
“When the Continental Congress opened its session of Friday, August 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, the major business of the day was to continue a somewhat moribund debate on the Articles of Confederation. An incidental piece of business was the signing, by all the delegates to the Congress, of an engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence - a matter which John Adams did not consider sufficiently important to mention in his diary of the day’s events. The great day, to him, was neither that of the signing of the Declaration, August 2, nor that of its adoption, July 4. The day ‘to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations [he wrote his wife] from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever more’ would be July 2 - the day the Congress passed a resolution affirming that the states were independent of the British crown.”
“There was little ceremony about the signing. Fifty-one of the fifty-six delegates were present. The other five signed the document later, in the fall of 1776, except for Thomas McKean of Delaware, who signed it sometime after January, 1777, or - according to some evidence - as late as 1781. John Hancock, who as President of the Congress, was the only delegate to sign the original document when it was adopted on July 4, ... Franklin, the oldest of the delegates, was reported to have responded to Hancock’s worried ‘We must be unanimous … we must all hang together’ with his breezy ‘Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.’ One of the newer members of the Congress, William Ellery of Rhode Island, … stationed himself close to the secretary in order to observe the expressions on the faces of the delegates as they affixed their signatures. ‘Undaunted resolution,’ he reported of all of them.”
“The eighteenth century was an age of admirable generalists - men like Franklin and Jefferson who could turn with equal skill to many fields. Insofar as they had predominant occupations, however, more - twenty-five - were lawyers than anything else. Next most numerous were merchants (twelve) and landowners (nine). There were four physicians, two farmers, and two full-time politicians with no other occupation. Franklin was the only printer. There was also only one clergyman, although two others, Robert Treat Paine and Lyman Hall, had been clerics, Paine later turning to the law as nearer his real interests, and Hall to medicine after having been deposed from his Connecticut parish for ‘confessed immorality.’ Fifteen per cent of the signers, however, were sons of clergymen. Twelve of the lawyers were jurists, and so were two of the physicians, three of the merchants, one of the farmers, and one of the politicians - nineteen judges altogether.”
“By far the most versatile ... was Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey. Hopkinson wrote verse and essays ... practiced law, composed cantatas and liturgical music, wrote social and political satires, wrote and directed theatrical productions, was a professional artist noted for his drawings, invented several generally used devices ... served as a judge of admiralty, designed the American flag, designed the seals of the State of New Jersey, the University of Pennsylvania, and the American Philosophical Society ... excelled at the harpsichord, played a leading role as a layman in establishing the Protestant Episcopal Church after its organizational separation from the Church of England, was a merchant, and served as a collector of customs.”
“[They] had somewhat better than average educations .... Half of them, twenty-eight, were college graduates. Eight of these went to Harvard, five to William and Mary, four to Yale, two to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), and one to the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania). Eight went to college abroad, including all four of the youthful South Carolina delegates, who studied law in London. Only three were limited to a common-school education, and eleven were largely self-educated. Fourteen had the advantage of good private education by tutors and in academies below collegiate level.”
“Eighteen ... were rich men, though some were to lose all their fortunes, which they pledged along with their lives and honor that August day in Philadelphia, in support of independence. The richest of all was Charles Carroll ... of whom, as he signed the Declaration, another delegate observed ominously, ‘There go a few millions.’”
“There is no doubt that the signers of the Declaration knew they were up to something far more serious than making a brave gesture when they put their signatures on the document. Indeed, for reasons of security, the Declaration with the signatures was not published until January, 1777 ... for it was fully understood that if the Revolution failed, the signers would be rounded up, their property confiscated, and their lives forfeited.”
“Nearly all the signers, in either a civil or a military role, became involved in the prosecution of the war. Over a fourth of them - seventeen - saw military service, and twelve of these were actively in the field during the Revolution. Four of them were taken prisoner. A civilian signer, Richard Stockton of New Jersey [was] the first to be captured. Late in September, 1776, scarcely seven weeks after he had signed the Declaration ... Before he got home to Princeton, the British had invaded New Jersey and his handsome estate, Morven, was sacked. In December ... Loyalists informed the enemy of his presence there, and he was captured and taken off to a British prison, first in Perth Amboy and later in New York City. Cold, poorly fed, and badly treated, he was kept jailed until the Congress eventually succeeded in arranging his exchange. Stockton was one of those who gave both his life and his fortune to back the instrument that he had signed: his health permanently broken by the ordeal of imprisonment and his fortune virtually wiped out, he died, at fifty, before the war was over.”
“The second signer to be imprisoned was George Wallon, a Georgia lawyer, who was commanding the First Georgian Regiment at the siege of Savannah in 1778. Walton was shot from his horse, his leg shattered by an enemy ball, and captured. His energetic civil service in the cause of independence was known to the British, who informed the colonials that he was much too important to be exchanged for anything less than a brigadier general. Some ten months later, despairing of a general, the British settled for a captain of the Royal Navy. Walton survived to live an active political life for twenty-eight years after the signing.”
“... All four [delegates from South Carolina] served in the Revolutionary forces. ... Thomas Lynch [was] lost at sea. ...Thomas Heyward, Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge, fought to resist the British forces besieging Charleston. All three were captured. All three were imprisoned in ... Saint Augustine. All three were exchanged after a year’s imprisonment.”
“... the British also took as prisoner the wife of Francis Lewis of New York. Lewis, an aging retired merchant of considerable wealth, was absent ... from his country house on Long Island when the occupying British forces seized and destroyed it and captured his wife. Mrs. Lewis was deprived of any bed or change of clothes during her imprisonment. The colonials ... finally exchanged the wives of the British paymaster general and of the British attorney general in New York for Mrs. Lewis, who was, however, too weakened by the ordeal to survive long.”
“Several of the signers lost their fortunes not to enemy action but in acts of private generosity for the public good. William Paca ... used his own money to outfit troops for the Continental Army. Thomas Nelson, Jr., of Virginia ... Having succeeded Jefferson as governor of Virginia, he gathered a militia of three thousand men and joined Washington in besieging the British forces in Yorktown.”
“Others, too, lost their homes. The houses of William Ellery, Lewis Morris, and Josiah Bartlett were burned. Those of George Clymer, Lyman Hall, John Hart, William Floyd, William Hooper, Francis Hopkinson, and Arthur Middleton were destroyed or thoroughly ransacked. Altogether seventeen of the signers suffered extreme, and in some cases total, property losses. One in nine of them lost his life.”
“When the war was over, the surviving signers continued active political careers ... Two, Adams and Jefferson, became Presidents ... Three signers became Vice Presidents: Adams, Jefferson, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Two became Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Samuel Chase of Maryland and James Wilson of Pennsylvania. There were few offices in the fledgling democracy that some signer did not fill. Four became United States senators; four, ambassadors; seventeen, governors of their states; fifteen, state judges, including nine chief justices; five, speakers of their state legislatures.”
“One of the most zealous public servants ... was Thomas McKean, ... a delegate from Delaware but who had acquired a second house in Philadelphia ... While a member of Congress from Delaware, he commanded a force of Pennsylvania militia in New Jersey. In 1777, he was made chief justice of Pennsylvania, while still a member of Congress from Delaware. In 1781, he was both chief justice of Pennsylvania and president of Congress. He was also governor (acting president) of Delaware, while chief justice of Pennsylvania, but in 1799 became governor of Pennsylvania, after having occupied its top judicial post for twenty-two years. ... He retired in 1808 and died at eighty-three in 1817, the only signer to have served as chief executive of two states.”
“Political turbulence also haunted the post-Revolutionary path of Samuel Chase of Maryland, whose career was in many respects more inflammatory than the Revolution itself. He had led the independence movement in his state, getting the convention to reverse itself after it had voted against independence. He then carried the new resolution favoring independence to Philadelphia and threw himself with unprecedented energy into the war, serving on twenty-one committees in 1777 and on thirty in 1778. ... In 1788, he became a chief judge of Maryland, first in the criminal and then in the general court, holding both posts simultaneously. For this McKean-like political pluralism, he was almost removed from both offices by the Assembly.”
“Although Chase vigorously opposed the Constitution, President Washington saw fit to appoint him an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to interpret it. His performance in that tribunal was extremely impressive ... and his opinions were of outstanding distinction. Nevertheless, turbulence followed him there, too. Some injudicial behavior in court proceedings, coupled with hostility to President Jefferson, led the latter to suggest his impeachment by the House, which occurred in 1804. Chase was acquitted of all eight charges, but his powers declined steadily until his death in 1811.”
“Another sort of difficulty besieged James Wilson of Pennsylvania, as likely a prospect for the Court as Chase was unlikely, for he had been one of the architects of the Constitution. Conversely, after his appointment to the first Supreme Court by President Washington, Wilson failed to distinguish himself. He speculated heavily in lands, attempted to influence legislation, and had to move from state to state to avoid arrest for debt. He died in acute nervous collapse at fifty-six, while threatened with impeachment, his great intellectual powers wasted in an uncontrollable quest for lesser things.”
“The only other signer to incur censure was George Walton, who as governor of Georgia took sides with General Lachlan Mclntosh, the man who mortally wounded signer Button Gwinnett in the duel. Walton sent a forged letter in 1779 to Congress in connection with Mclntosh’s military service, and four years later he was censured by resolution of the state legislature for his pains. But any distress he felt was considerably alleviated by the fact that, on the day before, the same body had chosen him as chief justice of Georgia.”
“Although Jefferson directed that his authorship of the Declaration be cited in his epitaph, most of the signers, politically sophisticated and living in the midst of eventful times, did not in their later years dwell on the historic moment when they had signed it. They did not write memoirs of the event or, for the most part, even refer to it in their letters. In doing a job that had to be done, they seemed, like Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire, to have made up their minds to do it - and then to have taken it in their stride. Bartlett had written at the time, with orthodox New England respect for understatement, ‘The Declaration before Congress is, I think, a pretty good one.’”
“But not one man of the fifty-six lost his ‘sacred honor.’ Throughout the long ordeal of an often-floundering war, in a cause that at times seemed hopelessly lost, there was not among the fifty-six men a single defection - despite the reservations that some had had about independence at the beginning and despite the repeated sagging of popular support for the war.”
[This ends the article by Arthur Bernon Tourtelot.]
The questions are: where did these men get “their sacred honor” and where did they get their ideas that formulated the Declaration (and later the Constitution)?
They received them from a variety of sources, but all those sources were rooted in the Christian Bible. Not every signer of the Declaration nor every Founding Father was a Christian. They did, however, all think biblically.
The Founding Fathers were either Christians and/or they had been schooled from the book by Sir William Blackstone (July 1723 – February 1780) entitled Commentaries on the Laws of England, first published in four volumes from 1765-1769. These volumes were a commentary on English Common Law and incorporated biblical principles, referred to as Natural Law. His book still remains an important source on classical views of the common law and its principles. It is frequently quoted by strict constructionists of the Constitution.
The Founding Fathers claimed that their right to separate from England was given to them by “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” In Eighteenth Century England, the term “laws of nature” is a recognized legal term. In Blackstone’s Commentaries, Volume One, Section Two, the “laws of nature” are defined as “the will of God for his creation as revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.”
Then there were the works of the English philosopher, John Locke (August 1632 – 28 October 1704) the “Father of [Classical] Liberalism.” Locke promoted Classical Republicanism and his writings were very influential in the reasoning of the signers of the Declaration. His influence on Thomas Jefferson is obvious, as Jefferson used a quotation from Locke in writing the Declaration: “long train of abuses.”
Jefferson further expressed his admiration of Locke in one of his letters: “Bacon, Locke and Newton, whose pictures I will trouble you to have copied for me: and as I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical & Moral sciences.”
The Letters of Thomas Jefferson: 1743–1826
While the thoughts of men like Blackstone and Locke helped to frame the thoughts of the signers of the Declaration, it was men located closer to them that were far more influential. These were the men who would become called Patriot Pastors. These men were so important that John Adams credited them as the primary cause of American independence. The English parliament called them the “Black Regiment” because they would step into their pulpits in black robes and preach messages of liberty from tyrannical rule.
One of the greatest Patriot Pastors was the Rev. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. In January, 1776 after preaching a message from Ecc. 3:1 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” he stepped down from his pulpit and said, “In the language of the Holy Writ, there is a time for all things. There is a time to preach and a time to fight. And now is the time to fight.” He took off his black robe to reveal the uniform of a Colonial Army officer. He then enlisted 300 men from his congregation to join General George Washington. Their unit was called The Eighth Virginia Cavalry. Pastor Muhlenberg rose to the rank of Major General before the end of the war.
The lineage of the Patriot Pastors may be traced to 1729 and the preaching of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards taught that church membership and a State-run church could not bring salvation. His 1741 sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, is considered a classic early American sermon. Edwards studied the discoveries of Isaac Newton and other scientists. Before he became a full-time minister he wrote on various topics in natural philosophy, now referred to as “Creation Science.” He saw the Laws of Nature as being derived from the God of the Bible. The preaching of Edwards would lead directly to the period known as The First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s.
Jonathan Edwards preached an unpopular message in his time, “You must be born again.” The Colonies were full of churches, but those that attended were often lost. Many of the churches were part of the state-approved Church of England. Edwards preached to them that church membership and baptism were irrelevant without first having a personal relationship with God. Throughout New England his teaching became infectious. Following on the foundational work of Edwards, a British evangelist, George Whitefield (1714 - 1770), would lead the greatest single revival in North American history. During the period from 1730 to 1755 he would lead more than 300,000 to salvation in New England alone. Many of the Founding Fathers heard Whitefield in person. Indeed, it is estimated that up to half of all the Colonists had heard about, read about, or read something written by Whitefield.
Whitefield attended Oxford University with James and Charles Wesley. He would become one of the founders of Methodism. He disagreed with the Wesleys on slavery and on the doctrine of Arminianism. His theology was Calvinistic Methodism in line with the “moderate Calvinism” of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican faith, 1563. He explicitly affirmed God as the sole agency in salvation, but he would freely offer the Gospel, writing at the end of most of his published sermons something like: “Come poor, lost, undone sinner, come just as you are to Christ.”
Although small in stature, his was one of the greatest orators to ever live. It is said that his voice could be heard outdoors (where he usually preached) by thousands. In 1742, he preached to a crowd of 30,000.
The quality of his voice was very impressive. Benjamin Franklin (in his autobiography) says this about Whitefield’s delivery:
“By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily between sermons newly compos’d, and those which he had often preach’d in the course of his travels. His delivery of the latter was so improv’d by frequent repetitions that every accent, every emphasis, every modulation of voice, was so perfectly well turn’d and well plac’d, that, without being interested in the subject, one could not help being pleas’d with the discourse; a pleasure of much the same kind with that receiv’d from an excellent piece of musick. This is an advantage itinerant preachers have over those who are stationary, as the latter can not well improve their delivery of a sermon by so many rehearsals.”
According to Joseph Beaumont Wakeley, The Prince of Pulpit Orators: A Portraiture of Rev. George Whitefield, M.A. (p. 226), David Garrick, the great 18th century English actor commented about Whitefield:
“Garrick was a great admirer of Whitefield’s eloquence, and frequently attended his ministry. He heard him with great delight, and, like Franklin, distinguished between his new and his old sermons, saying that his eloquence advanced up to its fortieth repetition before it reached his full height, and that Whitefield could make his audiences weep or tremble merely by varying his pronunciation of the word Mesopotamia. Garrick once said, ‘I would give a hundred guineas if I could only say ‘O!’ like Mr. Whitefield.’”
On p. 276, Wakeley reproduces a letter, dated October 14, 1740, from Sarah Pierpont, Jonathan Edward’s wife, to her brother James, which includes this passage:
“[Whitefield] is truly a remarkable man, and during his visit has, I think, verified all that we have heard of him. He makes less of the doctrines than our American preachers generally do, and aims more at affecting the heart. He is a born orator. You have already heard of his deep-toned, yet clear and melodious voice. O it is perfect music to listen to that alone. And he speaks so easily, without any apparent effort. You remember that David Hume thought it was worth going twenty miles to hear him speak ... it is truly wonderful to see what a spell this preacher often casts over an audience by proclaiming the simplest truths of the Bible. I have seen upward of a thousand people hang on his words with breathless silence, broken only by an occasional half-suppressed sob.”
Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography goes on to give us more insight to Whitefield and his influence on the development of the American character.
“In 1739 arrived among us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our churches; but the clergy, taking a dislike to him, soon refus’d him their pulpits, and he was oblig’d to preach in the fields. The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much they admir’d and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seem’d as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”
“Mr. Whitefield ... went preaching all the way thro’ the colonies to Georgia. The settlement of that province had lately been begun, but, instead of being made with hardy, industrious husbandmen, accustomed to labor ... it was with families of broken shop-keepers and other insolvent debtors, many of indolent and idle habits, taken out of the jails, who, being set down in the woods ... perished in numbers, leaving many helpless children unprovided for. The sight of their miserable situation inspir’d the benevolent heart of Mr. Whitefield with the idea of building an Orphan House there ... Returning northward, he preach’d up this charity, and made large collections, for his eloquence had a wonderful power over the hearts and purses of his hearers, of which I myself was an instance.”
“... as Georgia was then destitute of materials and workmen, and it was proposed to send them from Philadelphia ... I thought it would have been better to have built the house here, and brought the children to it. This I advis’d; but he was resolute in his first project, rejected my counsel, and I therefore refus’d to contribute. I happened soon after to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me, I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the coppers. Another stroke of his oratory made me asham’d of that, and determin’d me to give the silver; and he finish’d so admirably, that I empty’d my pocket wholly into the collector’s dish, gold and all. ... there was also one of our club, who, being of my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be intended, had ... emptied his pockets before he came ... Towards the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong desire to give, and apply’d to a neighbour ... to borrow some money for the purpose.”
“Some of Mr. Whitefield’s enemies affected to suppose that he would apply these collections to his own private emolument; but I who was intimately acquainted with him (being employed in printing his Sermons and Journals, etc.), never had the least suspicion of his integrity, but am to this day decidedly of opinion that he was in all his conduct a perfectly honest man, and methinks my testimony in his favour ought to have the more weight ...”
George Whitefield was worthy of Benjamin Franklin’s praise. He would travel the world to take the gospel even to the enslaved. In a time of sailing ships he made the round trip across the Atlantic Ocean 13 times. He traveled on horseback from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina; he was the first man to make a trip that long in the Colonies.
In addition, he made 15 mission trips to Scotland, two to Ireland, and one each to Bermuda, Gibraltar, and The Netherlands. He gave an estimated 18,000 sermons. Seventy-eight of his sermons are available in printed form.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was the series of revivals that became known as the Great Awakening of 1740.
He died in the parsonage of Old South Presbyterian Church, Newburyport, Massachusetts on September 30, 1770. At his request, he was buried under the pulpit of that church. He did not live long enough to see the entire American Revolution; but, building upon the hearth constructed by Jonathan Edwards, Whitefield did live long enough to help build the fire and fan the flames.
The First Great Awakening had a major impact on the success of The American Revolution. It was the preaching of The Patriot Pastors, “The Black Regiment”, that taught the Biblical principles of a Christian Federated Republic to the Colonists.
The list of these principles includes: that all men and women are created equal in God’s sight; that all men and women can be saved; that each person may have a personal relationship with God the Father through the completed work of Jesus the Son; freedom of religion, not freedom from religion; Christian Capitalism; that all men and women are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that the purpose of government is to protect those God given rights; and, that government should be of Christian people, by Christian people and for Christian people.
And, what was the single greatest basis for these concepts? It was that they came from “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” There is a legal definition for the terminology of “the laws of Nature.” The Blackstone Commentary on Law, the legal bible of the Founding Fathers, defines the term as: “the will of God for his creation as revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.” It was from this definition that the Founding Fathers claimed the legal authority to found what became The United States of America. It was the Bible that was the foundation of The United States.
The quotes from Founding Fathers to support this statement are too many to reproduce here, but a partial list would include:
President George Washington’s 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 … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”
Noah Webster wrote in the preface of his 1828 Dictionary: “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed. ... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
Noah Webster added in the first public school history book entitled Republican Government: “It is the sincere desire of the writer that our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian Religion.”
The Founding Fathers clearly understood that, in order for American government to work, the people had to have internal Christian self-government. It had been inculcated into them by The Black Regiment that the Bible was not only to be known as the cornerstone of the Church, but also the cornerstone of the classroom and the government.
The Lawyer, Signer of the Declaration, Vice President and President, John Adams, wrote that the American legal system was to be: “A government of laws, and not of men.“ He knew that Laws come from The Law Giver and he would completely disagree with the current legal system based upon Case Law (the mere opinions of men and women and not based upon a universal God-entered opinion).
In his “Message from John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massacusetts,” October 11, 1798; John Adams said: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He and they knew that he meant the Christian faith.
The Black Regiment was composed primarily of clergy from the Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Baptist denominations.
Who were some of the members of The Black Regiment?
The Rev. Samuel Davies (1723 -1761) would become the fourth President of Princeton University (then the College of New Jersey). He was the first non-Anglican minister licensed to preach in Virginia. He promoted the ideas of religious and civil liberties. He enthusiastically beseeched the Virginians to do their part "to secure the inestimable blessings of liberty." He would gain the reputation as the best military recruiter in Virginia. Davies was the template orator for Patrick Henry. He became the first American-born hymn writer.
In 1760, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts warned the King of England that once the ministers of the colonies joined in the resistance against the power of Great Britain there would be no stopping the separatist movement. "The spirit of their religion ... will, like Moses' serpent, devour every other passion and affection."
These Patriot Pastors were so influential in their pulpits that Britain’s Prime Minister Horace Walpole said in Parliament, "Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson."
Indeed, Patriot Pastors were responsible for calling men to arms in the American Revolution. Pastors often led members of their congregation into actual battle.
On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British soldiers were coming to arrest them. That night, Adams and Hancock were staying at the home of the Pastor Jonas Clark. When they asked him if the men of his congregation would fight, Pastor Clark replied: “I have trained them for this very hour; they would fight, and, if need be, die, too, under the shadow of the house of God." At Lexington Green, on April 19, 1775, eight of his men did die in sight of their church building. Upon seeing the dead bodies of his parishioners Pastor Clark wrote: “From this day, will be dated the liberty of the world."
It was said of Pastor Clark that: “He was eminently a man produced by the times, - more than equal to them; rather a guide and leader. All his previous life, his preaching, his intercourse and conversation among his people had been but a continued and most effectual preparation for the noble stand taken by his people on the morning of the 19th of April, 1775. ... They were only carrying the preaching of many previous years into practice.”
Pastor Clark took a firm stand for the liberties of the colonies. There was no one more ready to perform the duties and endure the sacrifices of a patriot, than the minister of Lexington.
The Presbyterian minister Rev. James Caldwell (April 1734 – November 24, 1781) was a Black Regiment member. He became known as “The Fighting Parson of the Revolution.” He graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1759. He became pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. His church and his house were burned to the ground in 1780 by British forces. He served as an Army Chaplain, then as commissioner of the New Jersey militia.
He will be forever remembered for an incident that occurred during the Battle of Springfield, New Jersey in June, 1780, the last major engagement in the Northern colonies.
British and Hessian forces were attempting to attack General George Washington’s army at Morristown, New Jersey. Colonel Elias Dayton was commanding men of the New Jersey militia men and Regular Army troops when supplies ran low. Without gun wadding, muskets could not be fired. Rev. Caldwell ran into the nearby Springfield Presbyterian Church, collected the hymn books containing the hymns of Isaac Watts and ran to the troops waiting outside. Tearing pages from the hymnals he gave the men the paper to use as gun wadding and shouted “Now, boys, give‘em Watts! Give‘em Watts!” (“Give’m what for!”)
His wife was killed by the British in 1780 and he died from wounds in 1781.
Rev. Naphtali Daggett, D.D. (September 1727 – November 1780) graduated from Yale University in 1748. He became pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Smithtown, Long Island. In 1756, he became the first Professor of Divinity at Yale. When the British attacked New Haven, Connecticut in 1779, Rev. Daggett picked up his rifle and went to war. He was taken captive and died from wounds while a prisoner of the British Army.
The Congregational minister, Timothy Dwight (May 1752 – January 1817), was the eighth president of Yale College (1795–1817). He gained public attention in 1776 when he gave the Yale College “Valedictory Address.” In that address he described Americans as having a unique national identity as a new “people, who have the same religion, the same manners, the same interests, the same language, and the same essential forms and principles of civic government.” In 1777, he was appointed by Congress as chaplain to the Connecticut Continental Brigade of the Continental Army. He served with distinction.
So valuable was the work of such men that General George Washington repeatedly pleaded with the Continental Congress to provide him with more chaplains, or he feared that the Lord would turn His back upon their noble cause.
The Pastor of the Congregational Church of Dartmouth, the Rev. Samuel West (1730-1807), was a Patriot Pastor. On May 29, 1776, a month before the Drafting Committee of the Continental Congress (including Thomas Jefferson) began preparing the Declaration of Independence, Rev. West preached an election sermon that included the same references to a supreme judge, divine providence, and every theistic phrase that would later be found in the Declaration. His sermon was entitled “An Election Sermon preached to the Council and House Of Representatives of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.” The sermon was then published by the Massachusetts Assembly and distributed throughout the Colony.
The entire sermon is 23 pages long and may be read at: http://www.founding.com/founders_library/pageID.2301/default.asp
These are excerpts from what Rev. West said:
“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” Titus 3:1
“The great Creator, having designed the human race for society, has made us dependent on one another for happiness. He has so constituted us that it becomes both our duty and interest to seek the public good; ... The Deity has also invested us with moral powers and faculties, by which we are enabled to discern the difference between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and evil; ... we are the subjects of the divine law and government; that the Deity is our supreme magistrate, who has written his law in our hearts, and will reward or punish us according as we obey or disobey his commands. Had the human race uniformly persevered in a state of moral rectitude, there would have been little or no need of any other law besides that which is written in the heart, for everyone in such a state would be a law unto himself. ... The slightest view of the present state and condition of the human race is abundantly sufficient to convince any person of common sense and common honesty that civil government is absolutely necessary for the peace and safety of mankind; and, consequently, that all good magistrates, while they faithfully discharge the trust reposed in them, ought to be religiously and conscientiously obeyed. An enemy to good government is an enemy not only to his country, but to all mankind; ...”
“Nor has Christianity been deficient in this capital point. We find our blessed Saviour directing the Jews to render to Caesar the things that were Caesar’s; and the apostles and first preachers of the gospel not only exhibited a good example of subjection to the magistrate, in all things that were just and lawful, but they have also, in several places in the New Testament, strongly enjoined upon Christians the duty of submission to that government under which Providence had placed them. ...”
“In order, therefore, that we may form a right judgment of the duty enjoined in our text, I shall consider the nature and design of civil government, and shall show that the same principles which oblige us to submit to government do equally oblige us to resist tyranny; or that tyranny and magistracy are so opposed to each other that where the one begins the other ends.”
The law of nature gives men no right to do anything that is immoral, or contrary to the will of God, and injurious to their fellow-creatures; for a state of nature is properly a state of law and government, even a government founded upon the unchangeable nature of the Deity, ... The doctrine of nonresistance and unlimited passive obedience to the worst of tyrants could never have found credit among mankind had the voice of reason been hearkened to for a guide, because such a doctrine would immediately have been discerned to be contrary to natural law.”
“... This plainly shows that the highest state of liberty subjects us to the law of nature and the government of God. ...”
“The law of nature is a perfect standard and measure of action for beings ... that the end and design of civil government cannot be to deprive men of their liberty or take away their freedom; but, on the contrary, the true design of civil government is to protect men in the enjoyment of liberty.”
“From hence it follows that tyranny and arbitrary power are utterly inconsistent with and subversive of the very end and design of civil government, and directly contrary to natural law, which is the true foundation of civil government and all politic law. ... As magistrates have no authority but what they derive from the people, whenever they act contrary to the public good, and pursue measures destructive of the peace and safety of the community, they forfeit their right to govern the people. ...”
“The only difficulty remaining is to determine when a people may claim a right of forming themselves into a body politic, and assume the powers of legislation. In order to determine this point, we are to remember that all men being by nature equal, all the members of a community have a natural right to assemble themselves together, and act and vote for such regulations as they judge are necessary for the good of the whole. ... hence comes the necessity of appointing delegates to represent the people in a general assembly. And this ought to be looked upon as a sacred and inalienable right, of which a people cannot justly divest themselves, and which no human authority can in equity ever take from them, ...”
“If representation and legislation are inseparably connected, it follows, that when great numbers have emigrated into a foreign land, and are so far removed from the parent state that they neither are or can be properly represented by the government from which they have emigrated, that then nature itself points out the necessity of their assuming to themselves the powers of legislation; and they have a right to consider themselves as a separate state from the other, and, as such, to form themselves into a body politic.”
“And as nothing tends like religion and the fear of God to make men good members of the commonwealth, it is the duty of magistrates to become the patrons and promoters of religion and piety, and to make suitable laws for the maintaining public worship, and decently supporting the teachers of religion. ... let every one be allowed to attend worship in his own society, or in that way that he judges most agreeable to the will of God, ...”
“But for the civil authority to pretend to establish particular modes of faith and forms of worship, and to punish all that deviate from the standard which our superiors have set up, is attended with the most pernicious consequences to society. It cramps all free and rational inquiry, fills the world with hypocrites and superstition bigots ... And I cannot but look upon it as a peculiar blessing of Heaven that we live in a land where everyone can freely deliver his sentiments upon religious subjects, and have the privilege of worshipping God according to the dictates of his own conscience without any molestation or disturbance, a privilege which I hope we shall ever keep up and strenuously maintain. ...”
“Does not everyone know that the King and Parliament have assumed the right to tax us without our consent? ... But, as Divine Providence has placed us at so great a distance from Great Britain that we neither are nor can be properly represented in the British Parliament, it is a plain proof that the Deity designed that we should have the powers of legislation and taxation among ourselves; for can any suppose it to be reasonable that a set of men that are perfect strangers to us should have the uncontrollable right to lay the most heavy and grievous burdens upon us that they please, ... But if they have the right to take our property from us without our consent, we must be wholly at their mercy for our food and raiment, and we know by sad experience that their tender mercies are cruel.”
“But because we were not willing to submit to such an unrighteous and cruel decree, though we modestly complained and humbly petitioned for a redress of our grievances, instead of hearing our complaints, and granting our requests, they have gone on to add iniquity to transgression, by making several cruel and unrighteous acts. ... they have proceeded to commence open hostilities against us, and have endeavored to destroy us by fire and sword. Our towns they have burnt, our brethren they have slain, our vessels they have taken, and our goods they have spoiled. ...”
“This, my brethren, is done by men who call themselves Christians, against their Christian brethren, against men who till now gloried in the name of Englishmen, and who were ever ready to spend their lives and fortunes in the defense of British rights. ...”
“It is an indispensable duty, my brethren, which we owe to God and our country, to rouse up and bestir ourselves, and, being animated with a noble zeal for the sacred cause of liberty, to defend our lives and fortunes, even to the shedding the last drop of blood.” ...
“... we may observe that the British Parliament has virtually declared us an independent state by authorizing their ships of war to seize all American property, wherever they can find it, without making any distinction between the friends of administration and those that have appeared in opposition to the acts of Parliament. This is making us a distinct nation from themselves. They can have no right any longer to style us rebels; for rebellion implies a particular faction risen up in opposition to lawful authority ...”
“... according to our text [Titus 3:1], it is part of the work and business of a gospel minister to teach his hearers the duty they owe to magistrates. Let us, then, endeavor to explain the nature of their duty faithfully, and show them the difference between liberty and licentiousness; and, while we are animating them to oppose tyranny and arbitrary power, let us inculcate upon them the duty of yielding due obedience to lawful authority. In order to the right and faithful discharge of this part of our ministry, it is necessary that we should thoroughly study the law of nature, the rights of mankind, and the reciprocal duties of governors and governed. ...”
“To conclude: While we are fighting for liberty, and striving against tyranny, let us remember to fight the good fight of faith, and earnestly seek to be delivered from that bondage of corruption which we are brought into by sin, and that we may be made partakers of the glorious liberty of the sons and children of God: which may the Father of Mercies grant us all, through Jesus Christ. AMEN.”
A copy of Rev. West’s Election Sermon was sent to King George III, and in response the King put a bounty on his head.
Based upon the teachings and preachings of men like Rev. West and other members of the Black Regiment, John Adams would say:
“We are not exciting rebellion. Opposition, nay, open, avowed resistance by arms against usurpation and lawless violence, is not rebellion by the law of God or the land.” And, “Resistance to lawful authority makes rebellion.”
Not one Colony had violated their Charter with the King of England. On the contrary, it was the King of England who had violated his charters with the American Colonies. The King and the Parliament had passed laws and taxes specific to the American Colonies without legal authority to do so. The question became: Lex Rex or Rex Lex? That is, do we obey the law of God first, or the law of the king first?
The influence of the Patriot Pastors ran deep within the American Colonial psyche. Samuel Adams, the second cousin of John Adams, is referred to as “The Father of the American Revolution.” In an article entitled The Rights of the Colonist as Christians, published November 20, 1772, he wrote:
“The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, the rights of the Colonists as Christians may best be understood by reading and carefully studying the institutions of The Great Law Giver and the Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.”
Alexis de Tocqueville, a French statesman, historian and social scientist, traveled the United States for nine months in 1831. From his experiences and observations he would write his two volumes of Democracy in America. He noted that:
“Religion in America ... must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it ... This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or a party, but it belongs to the whole nation.”
“The sects that exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God ... Moreover, all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same.”
“There is no country in the whole world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence than in America ... and nothing better demonstrates how useful it is to man, since the country where it now has the widest sway is both the most enlightened and the freest.”
The Patriot Pastors and those men and women who heard them and believed what they taught were truly “The Greatest Generation” of American citizens who have ever lived. They believed in God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and that His laws were to govern human activity. Their influence would go on to guide the future generations of the United States.
Daniel Webster, lawyer, U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of State and orator stated:
“If there is anything in my thoughts of style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all of our glory in profound obscurity.”
The American educator, William Holmes McGuffey, is called “The Schoolmaster of the Nation.” He published the first edition of the McGuffey’s Reader in 1836. His Reader would be influential in American education until 1920, with 125 million copies having been printed. In the foreword he wrote:
“The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus are not only basic but plenary.”
He would further observe that:
“The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our notions on the character of God, on the great moral Governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions. From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible I make no apology.”
President William McKinley, in his First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1897, stated:
“Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps.”
Indeed, it is the beliefs of “The Greatest Generation,” the Founding Fathers, the Patriot Pastors, and the men and women whom they influenced that would in turn condition the thoughts and beliefs of those who fought World War II and endeavored to bring peace and representative government to the world.
President Harry S. Truman, on February 15, 1950, addressed the Attorney General’s Conference on Law Enforcement Problems and said:
“The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and Saint Matthew, from Isaiah and Saint Paul.”
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said:
“The purpose of a devout and united people was set forth in the pages of The Bible … (1) to live in freedom, (2) to work in a prosperous land… and (3) to obey the commandments of God … This Biblical story of the Promised land inspired the founders of America. It continues to inspire us.”
And, the message preached to the Founding Fathers, which gave us “The Greatest Generation,” was not lost from view by those of a common background and culture. In Human Events, February 5, 1996, Margaret Thatcher said:
“The Decalogue [Ten Commandments] are addressed to each and every person. This is the origin of our common humanity and of the sanctity of the individual. Each one has a duty to try to carry out those commandments. You don’t get that in any other political creed ... It is personal liberty with personal responsibility. Responsibility to your parents, to your children, to your God. This really binds us together in a way that nothing else does. If you accept freedom, you’ve got to have principles about the responsibility. You can’t do this without a biblical foundation. Your Founding Fathers came over with that. They came over with the doctrines of the New Testament as well as the Old. They looked after one another, not only as a matter of necessity, but as a matter of duty to their God. There is no other country in the world which started that way.”
Perhaps Noah Webster said it best. In the preface to his 1828 Dictionary he wrote:
“In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed. ... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”