Did America’s Founding Fathers believe that morality and religion were essential to preserving liberty?
In addition to establishing a representative republic with all sorts of checks and balances to protect against the biblically defined evil nature of Man, our Founding Fathers repeatedly expressed the belief that Christian morality was absolutely essential for both the preservation of liberty and the stability of law.
They emphasized this crucial point in their writings over and over again: Consider, for example, Samuel Adams who served as Governor of Massachusetts, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and was the organizer of the Boston Tea Party. He wrote: “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 they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader. Religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness.”
The first governor of Virginia was Patrick Henry. He also served as member of the Continental Congress. He explained the significance of religion in these words: “The great pillars of all government and of social life are virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor… and this alone, that renders us invincible.”
The most significant of all our Founding Fathers was, of course, George Washington. He served as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, overseer of the Constitutional Convention, and first President of the United States. He wrote these words: “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, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”
Another member of the Continental Congress was John Adams. He was one of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence, and he served as the second President of the United States. Here are his strong and eloquent words concerning the necessity of religion. He wrote: “We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion… Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Thomas Jefferson was the renowned author of the Declaration of Independence. Additionally, he served as Governor of Virginia, he was our first Secretary of State, and he was our third President. He wrote: “No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man, and I as Chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example.”
James Madison was a political philosopher who is considered to be the “Father of the Constitution” and the “Father of the Bill of Rights.” Madison served as a member of the House of Representatives and as our nation’s fourth President. Here’s what he had to say about the essentiality of religion to a government of freedom and liberty: “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 mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
In the third segment of this series on the Christian heritage of America, we will be warned by America’s early leaders that our nation’s freedom and liberty last only as long as its morality.