Unfortunately for the youth of America and those who study American history at the college level, Washington’s Farewell Address has been absent from textbooks for some time. This is attributed to the four religious warnings mentioned in the text. Thankfully, the speech has been returned to the textbooks; however, the warnings have been removed.
The Founding Fathers were in full agreement that for political prosperity to exist in America, religion and morality were required. According to them, no one could wear the title ‘American Patriot’ if s/he tried to separate politics from its two foundations – religion and morality.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality indispensably supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars. George Washington.
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The United States of America is history’s longest ongoing constitutional republic. For 200+ years, the US has been governed by the same document and has had only one form of government.
At the time the United States was established, the countries of Russia, Italy and France all underwent their own revolutions. The outcomes of these conflicts would prove to be much different than that of the American Revolution. While the United States has had only one form of government during that timeframe, the government of France has changed seven times and Italy 51.
Great minds would ask, “Why has the government of the United States continued to exist while that of other countries have fallen by the wayside over time?” This question was posed to a number of political science professors at the University of Houston. The professors responded they felt they would be able to determine the source of the Founding Fathers’ ideas through the comments they made and the sources they quoted.
Over a period of 10 years, a collection of 15,000 writings by the Founders was assembled. From these writings, 3,154 direct quotes from the Founders were referenced and the source of each identified. Out of this collection, 8.3% of the quotes referenced Baron Charles de Montesquieu. Sir William Blackstone was second with 7.9% and John Locke third with 2.9%. Even more surprising to the professors was the fact the Founders quoted the Bible four times more than they did either Montesquieu or Blackstone and 12 times more than they did Locke, with 34% of the Founders’ quotes emanating directly from the Bible. Following this discovery, the professors researched the sources of the quotes by Montesquieu, Blackstone and Locke which had been cited by the Founders.
In 1768, Blackstone published his commentaries on the law. For the next 100 years, American courts referenced Blackstone’s commentaries to settle disputes, define words and examine procedure. The Supreme Court of the United States considered Blackstone’s commentaries to be the final word on a subject.
One can only wonder what reference source Blackstone used to create such a highly esteemed masterpiece. To satisfy that curiosity, the professors looked to Charles Finney for the answer. Born August 29, 1792, Charles Finney was later referred to by some as the greatest evangelist and theologian since the days of the apostles. It is estimated that during the year 1857-58, more than 100,000 people were led to Christ through the direct or indirect efforts of Charles Fenney, along with 500,000 who converted during the great revivals which began in many of his meetings. With such outstanding results from his efforts, one must consider Fenney’s understanding and love for the Scriptures to be worthy of respect. When Fenney’s life prior to becoming an evangelist is researched, something very interesting is learned.
Starting out as a young man, Charles Fenney had chosen the legal profession as his course of study. Following in the typical course of his day, Blackstone’s Commentaries was one of the textbooks Fenney used. While researching the commentaries, Fenney soon discovered Blackstone provide both the laws and the biblical concepts on which the laws were based. In the process of reading Blackstone’s work, Fenney received not only a legal education, but a biblical one as well – so much so he became a Christian, went into the ministry and, as they say, the rest is history.
Of the Founders’ quotes cited by the professors, 34% came directly from the Bible. Other quotes the Founders included in these referenced documents were from various named individuals and contained biblical quotes those individuals used to reach their own conclusions.
Fast forward to 1892. That year the case Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States was heard by the Supreme Court. The Court later said: “No purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation – state or national – because this is a religious people. . . This is a Christian nation.” The case comprises only 16 pages in the Court’s records; however, within the text of those few pages, the Justices included 87 historical precedents to support its ruling. Among these precedents were acts by the Founding Fathers, the Congresses and state governments. The Court concluded by stating that many more than the 87 precedents included were available; however, they felt the fact 87 had been included proved sufficient.
Would it not make sense to return to Washington’s Farewell Address the four religious warnings he included – AND – to return to the tradition of reading the entire address each year in Congress during the celebration of our first president’s birthday?
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