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Chapter 2 - The Northwest Ordinance
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Read the Foreword, Introduction, and the first few pages of each chapter:
Foreword by Rev. William N. Esborn
1. Congress and the Bible
2. The Northwest Ordinance
3. Indian Treaties and Indian Schools
4. Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen?
5. Thomas Jefferson and Public Education
6. Did Prayer Save the Constitutional Convention?
7. Treaties with the Barbary States
8. Treaties with Christian Nations
9. James Madison's Detached Memoranda
10. The Election of 1800
11. More Lies About Benjamin Franklin
12. More Lies About Thomas Jefferson
13. Jefferson, Madison, and Blackstone?
About the author: Chris Rodda is someone who never intended to be a writer,
but got pissed off enough at the rampant Christian nationalist revisionism of
American history that she decided to write a book about it, which somehow led
to her "day job" as Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. She is also a blogger on the Huffington Post and Talk2Action,
writing about historical revisionism, religious issues in the military, and
whatever else she feels like writing about.
The "No, Mr. Beck"
year, pseudo-historian David Barton hooked up with Fox News crazy
person Glenn Beck, becoming a recurring guest "historian"
on Beck's TV show and appearing at a number of Beck's events, gaining a whole new, and much larger, audience for his historical hogwash.
So, back in June 2010, I began posting an ongoing video series on the Huffington Post, debunking the lies told by Barton on Beck's show.
(Text versions/transcripts for most of these videos can be found by clicking on the titles to go to the original posts on Huffington Post.)
More Free Book
Chapters Available Online
In order to rebut
certain articles and television
contained lies debunked in Liars
I decided to use what I had already written in the book, in two cases serializing entire chapters, and in another
making an entire chapter and several other excerpts available as PDFs.
Chapter 7, Treaties
with the Barbary States, is presented in its entirety in this
three-part series rebutting
Chuck Norris's WorldNetDaily articles on the subject.
United States Treaties with the Barbary States
United States Treaties with the Barbary States (continued)
United States Treaties with the Barbary States (conclusion)
Chapter 4, Propagating
the Gospel Among the Heathen?, is presented in
two parts in
these two articles from my
series on House Resolution 888, Congressman Randy Forbes's lie-packed resolution for the designation of an
"American Religious History Week."
Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen? -- Another Lie from H. Res. 888
H. Res. 888 -- It's Got Lots of Footnotes!
Chapter 1, Congress
and the Bible, is available as a PDF here.
to these entire chapters, links to
of other book excerpts can be found in
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Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History
— CHAPTER ONE — Congress and the Bible Myths regarding the printing, financing, distribution, or recommending of Bibles by our early Congresses are among the most popular of all the religious right American history lies. Most are variations of the same three stories – two involving the Continental Congress, and one an act signed by James Madison. The first is the story of the Continental Congress importing Bibles in 1777. According to William Federer, in his book America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations: “Continental Congress September 11, 1777, approved and recommended to the people that 20,000 copies of The Holy Bible be imported from other sources. This was in response to the shortage of Bibles in America caused by the Revolutionary War interrupting trade with England. The Chaplain of Congress, Patrick Allison, brought the matter to the attention of Congress, who assigned it to a special Congressional Committee, which reported: That the use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great that your committee refers the above to the consideration of Congress, and if Congress shall not think it expedient to order the importation of types and paper, the Committee recommends that Congress will order the Committee of Com-merce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different parts of the States in the Union. Whereupon it was resolved accordingly to direct said Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 copies of the Bible.” While most versions of this story are similar to William Federer’s, some authors turn it into a completely different story. According to Tim LaHaye, in his book Faith of Our Founding Fathers : “The Bible, the greatest book ever written, is indispensable to Christianity. That fact was clear in the very first act of Congress, authorizing the printing of twenty thousand Bibles for the Indians.” It also appears in various lists of lies circulated by email, and eventually copied onto hundreds of websites. From History Forgotten, the most widely circulated of the internet lists: “Did you know that 52 of the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence were orthodox, deeply committed, Christians? The other three all believed in the Bible as the divine truth, the God of Scripture, and His personal intervention. It is the same Congress that formed the American Bible Society.1 Immediately after creating the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress voted to purchase and import 20,000 copies of Scripture for the people of this nation.” William Federer’s version of the 1777 Bible story is typical of those found in the majority of religious right American history books. It tells half of the real story, includes a quote from an actual committee report, but ends with a fabricated resolution. The resolution is created to change the outcome of the story from Congress dropping the matter, which is what really happened, to Congress proceeding to import the Bibles. Tim LaHaye’s version, that Congress printed Bibles for the Indians, has absolutely no basis in fact. But, as drastically different as their stories are, both Federer and LaHaye cite the same pages from the Journals of the Continental Congress as their source. In addition to changing the outcome of the story, none of the religious right American history books fully explain why Congress was considering importing the Bibles in the first place. Most mention that the war with England caused a shortage of Bibles, which is true, but this is only half the story. Congress’s consideration of the matter had to do with the prevention of price gouging. Not all Americans during the Revolutionary War were the virtuous, Christian citizens portrayed in the religious right version of American history. Many were taking advantage of war shortages and charging outrageous prices for just about anything they could get their hands on. No product was safe – not even Bibles. The widespread problem of price gouging prompted numerous attempts by individual states, groups of states, and Congress to regulate prices, none of which were very successful. With less than half the country in favor of the war to begin with, Congress was very concerned with minimizing hardships like high prices and shortages of items previously imported from England. In 1777, three ministers from Philadelphia, Francis Alison, John Ewing, and William Marshall, came up with a plan to alleviate the Bible shortage. Their idea was to import the necessary type and paper, and print an edition in Philadelphia. The problem with this plan, however, was that, if the project was financed and controlled by private companies, the Bibles would most likely be bought up and resold at prices that the average American couldn’t afford. Rev. Alison wrote a memorial to Congress, explaining the dilemma and asking for help. What the ministers wanted Congress to do was finance the printing, as a loan to be repaid by the sale of the Bibles. As Rev. Alison explained in the memorial, if Congress imported the type and paper, and Congress contracted the printer, then Congress could regulate the selling price of the Bibles. We therefore think it our duty to our country and to the churches of Christ to lay this danger before this honourable house, humbly requesting that under your care, and by your encouragement, a copy of the holy Bible may be printed, so as to be sold nearly as cheap as the common Bibles, formerly imported from Britain and Ireland, were sold. The number of purchasers is so great, that we doubt not but a large impression would soon be sold, But unless the sale of the whole edition belong to the printer, and he be bound under sufficient penalties, that no copy be sold by him, nor by any retailer under him, at a higher price than that allowed by this honourable house, we fear that the whole impression would soon be bought up, and sold again at an exorbitant price, which would frustrate your pious endeavours and fill the country with just complaints.2 Rev. Alison’s memorial was referred to a committee, who concluded that it would be too costly to import the type and paper, and too risky to import them into Philadelphia, a city likely to be invaded by the British. The committee proposed the less risky alternative of importing already printed Bibles into different ports from a country other than England. If Congress did this, they would still be able to regulate the selling price, and would still be reimbursed by the sales. The report of this committee is cited by every religious right American history author as their source, whatever their version of this story, including Tim LaHaye, with his tale of Congress printing the Bibles for the Indians. The committee’s report is misquoted in various ways. Usually omitted is anything indicating that importing the Bibles was proposed an alternative to Rev. Alison’s original request that Congress import the type and paper. Always omitted is that what Congress was considering was only a loan. With these omissions, no real explanation for Congress’s involvement is necessary. The committee’s report appears to fit the story that the ministers simply alerted Congress to the shortage of Bibles, and Congress considered this to be such a serious problem that they immediately imported some. In his book Original Intent, David Barton quotes only the following pieces of one sentence from the committee’s report: “[T]hat the use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great...your committee recommend that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different ports of the States in the Union.” The following is the entire report, as it appears in the Journals of the Continental Congress. The committee appointed to consider the memorial of the Rev. Dr. Allison and others, report, “That they have conferred fully with the printers, &c. in this city, and are of opinion, that the proper types for printing the Bible are not to be had in this country, and that the paper cannot be procured, but with such difficulties and subject to such casualties, as render any dependence on it altogether improper: that to import types for the purpose of setting up an entire edition of the bible, and to strike off 30,000 copies, with paper, binding, &c. will cost £10,272 10, which must be advanced by Congress, to be reimbursed by the sale of the books:” “That, your committee are of opinion, considerable difficulties will attend the procuring the types and paper; that, afterwards, the risque of importing them will considerably enhance the — CHAPTER TWO — The Northwest Ordinance In his books The Myth of Separation and Original Intent, David Barton, using one sentence from the Northwest Ordinance, and a number of misquotes from early state constitutions, leads his audience to the erroneous conclusion that the founders of our country not only intended, but required, that religion be included in public education. Barton’s claim, like similar claims found in many other religious right American history books, is based on the following sentence from the ordinance’s Article III. Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.1 Although mentioning in his earlier book, The Myth of Separation, that the Northwest Ordinance was initially passed by the Continental Congress, Barton omits this in Original Intent, the later book in which he refined many of the lies from The Myth of Separation. In Original Intent he attributes the ordinance entirely to the framers of the First Amendment, concluding from this that the men who wrote the First Amendment didn’t consider promoting religion in public schools to be a violation of that amendment. In Original Intent, Barton begins his Northwest Ordinance story with the following statement: “Perhaps the most conclusive historical demonstration of the fact that the Founders never intended the federal Constitution to establish today’s religion-free public arena is seen in their creation and passage of the ‘Northwest Ordinance.’ That Ordinance (a federal law which legal texts consider as one of the four foundational, or ‘organic’ laws) set forth the requirements of statehood for prospective territories. It received House approval on July 21, 1789; Senate approval on August 4, 1789 (this was the same Congress which was simultaneously framing the religion clauses of the First Amendment); and was signed into law by President George Washington on August 7, 1789. Article III of that Ordinance is the only section to address either religion or public education, and in it, the Founders couple them, declaring: Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. The Framers of the Ordinance—and thus the Framers of the First Amendment—believed that schools and educational systems were a proper means to encourage the ‘religion, morality, and knowledge’ which they deemed so ‘necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.’” In The Myth of Separation, Barton claims: “A strong declaration that the First Amendment was never intended to separate Christianity from public affairs came in the form of legislation approved by the same Congress which created the First Amendment. That legislation, originally entitled ‘An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-west of the River Ohio’ and later shortened to the ‘Northwest Ordinance,’ provided the procedure and requirements whereby territories could attain statehood in the newly United States.” Also from the The Myth of Separation: “Since the same Congress which prohibited the federal government from the ‘establishment of religion’ also required that religion be included in schools, the Framers obviously did not view a federal requirement to teach religion in schools as a violation of the First Amendment.” The 1789 dates on which the ordinance was approved by the House and the Senate and signed by George Washington are correct. In Original Intent, Barton just leaves out that the 1789 Congress was merely reenacting an ordinance passed over two years earlier by the Continental Congress to give it force under the new Constitution. Of the twenty-eight senators and over sixty representatives in the 1789 Congress, only six, four senators and two representatives, were present when the Continental Congress passed the ordinance in 1787. It was not framed by the same Congress that was “simultaneously framing the religion clauses of the First Amendment.” Before getting to the rest of Barton’s lie, it’s important to understand how the religious wording ended up in Article III of the ordinance in the first place, and why the Congress of 1789 would not have seen it as conflicting with the First Amendment. Article III was the work of a Massachusetts man named Manasseh Cutler. Dr. Cutler, a minister and former army chaplain, was also one of the directors of the Ohio Company of Associates, a land speculating company comprised mainly of former army officers. In the summer of 1787, the Ohio Company was negotiating with the Continental Congress to buy a large amount of land in the Northwest Territory. To pay off the large public debt from the Revolutionary War, Congress asked those states with sparsely populated western lands to cede these lands to the United States. The ceded lands would then be sold by Congress to reduce the debt. Most of the Northwest Territory was ceded by Virginia, but it also contained the smaller cessions of Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 1785, two years before the Northwest Ordinance, Congress passed the first ordinance for the disposal of land in the territory. One problem with this earlier ordinance, however, was that few people could afford the large tracts it required them to buy. Land speculating companies began negotiating with Congress to buy large tracts at a low price. These tracts could then be divided into smaller lots and resold at a profit. This was the plan of the Ohio Company when they sent Manasseh Cutler to meet with the Continental Congress in July 1787. The Ohio Company knew they had the upper hand in these negotiations, and would not make a move towards purchasing the land until Congress adopted a new ordinance that better suited their plans. The result was the Northwest Ordinance. Nathan Dane, a delegate from Massachusetts, has been credited with drafting the ordinance, but there is little doubt that Dr. Cutler arrived in New York with the provisions required by his company already written in some form. On his way to New York, Cutler met with two other founders of the Ohio Company, General Putnam in Boston and General Parsons in Connecticut, to decide on the conditions their company would require. This, along with the fact that parts of the ordinance were borrowed from the laws of Massachusetts, explains how the committee was able to draft the ordinance literally overnight. Cutler had his first meeting with what he referred to in his journal as “the committee” on the morning of Monday, July 9, 1787. This meeting was actually only with Edward Carrington and Nathan Dane, two of the five members of the committee originally appointed. The other three were not in New York when Cutler arrived. Two of them, James Madison and Rufus King, were in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention. It wasn’t until later on that first day that Richard Henry Lee, John Kean, and Melancton Smith were appointed to replace the three absent members. By the next morning, the committee had finished drafting the ordinance and submitted a copy to Dr. Cutler for his approval. Within a matter of hours, Dr. Cutler returned it to the committee with a few additional provisions, including the education provision that became part of Article III. Cutler knew the Ohio Company had Congress over a barrel. — CHAPTER THREE — Indian Treaties and Indian Schools The religious right version of American history is full of tales about government efforts to promote Christianity to the Indians. The reason for the large number of lies on this subject is the availability of material that can be turned into lies. There were no actual instances, for example, of the early Congresses passing legislation that aided sectarian schools for children who were American citizens. There was, however, a good deal of cooperation between the government and the Indian mission schools of the 1800s. Although the government’s reasons for this were always secular, the fact that this cooperation existed means there are actual acts, reports, etc., that can be misrepresented or misquoted to support claims that the government aided sectarian schools. The same is true of Indian treaties. Congress never funded the building of churches for the American people. It did, however, appropriate funds to fulfill treaty provisions, which occasionally included things such as the building of a church. The most popular of the Indian treaty stories involves a treaty signed by Thomas Jefferson in 1803. Almost every religious right American history book and website contains some version of this story. This is the version found in William Federer’s book America’s God and Country: “On December 3, 1803, it was recommended by President Thomas Jefferson that the Congress of the United States pass a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians. Included in this treaty was the annual support to a Catholic missionary priest of $100, to be paid out of the Federal treasury. Later in 1806 and 1807, two similar treaties were made with the Wyandotte and Cherokee tribes.” During his presidency, Thomas Jefferson signed over forty treaties with various Indian nations. The treaty with the Kaskaskia is the only one that contained anything having to do with religion. No other Indian treaty signed by Jefferson, including the other two listed by William Federer, contained any mention of religion. The following is the third article from the 1803 treaty with the Kaskaskia. And whereas the greater part of the said tribe have been baptized and received into the Catholic Church, to which they are much attached, the United States will give annually, for seven years, one hundred dollars toward the support of a priest of that religion, who will engage to perform for said tribe the duties of his office, and also to instruct as many of their children as possible, in the rudiments of literature, and the United States will further give the sum of three hundred dollars, to assist the said tribe in the erection of a church.1 The Kaskaskia treaty is used by different religious right authors in different ways. For those attempting to prove that Jefferson was a devout Christian, it is evidence that he wanted to promote Christianity to the Indians. Much more often, however, it is used as evidence that he approved of using government funds to promote religion. The problem with using this provision as evidence that Jefferson approved of using government funds to promote religion is that it was in a treaty with a sovereign nation. Unless a treaty provision threatened the rights or interests of Americans, there was no constitutional reason not to allow it, even if that same provision would be unconstitutional in a law made by Congress. This was made very clear in a lengthy 1796 debate in the House of Representatives on the treaty making power, excerpts of which appear later in this chapter. The problem with using the provision as evidence that Jefferson was trying to promote Christianity to the Indians is that the Kaskaskia were already Catholic, and had been for some time. Article 3 of the treaty even begins by stating that “the greater part of the said tribe have been baptized and received into the Catholic Church.” The support of a priest and help building a church were provisions that the Kaskaskia asked for, not things the government recommended or pushed on them. The Kaskaskia Indians began converting to Catholicism over a century before this treaty. A Jesuit priest from France, Father Jacques Marquette, first encountered the tribe in 1673 while exploring the Mississippi River with Louis Jolliet. Jolliet had hoped that the Missis-sippi would lead them to the Pacific Ocean, but when they reached what is now Arkansas, they were told by the natives that it flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. Fearing that if they continued they might be captured by the Spanish, they turned around. On their way back up the Mississippi, they met and befriended the Kaskaskia, who told them about a short cut back to Quebec. Upon leaving, Father Marquette promised that he would come back. He kept his promise, returning in 1675 and establishing the Immaculate Conception mission. The Kaskaskia were one of a loose confederation of tribes known as the Illinois. At the time that Father Marquette established his mission, the Illinois population is estimated to have been well over ten thousand, the Kaskaskia being one of the larger tribes. During the 1700s, their numbers dwindled due to epidemics, attacks by other tribes, and intermarriage with the French. By the time the treaty was signed in 1803, only about two hundred and fifty Illinois were left. No longer able to defend themselves against other tribes, the remaining Illinois wanted the protection of the United States. In exchange for a promise of protection and a few other provisions, the Illinois, represented by the Kaskaskia chief Jean Baptiste DuQuoin, ceded almost nine million acres to the United States. Almost every version of the Kaskaskia story contains the second claim in William Federer’s version, that Jefferson signed two other Indian treaties that contained provisions for Christian ministers – one with the Wyandots in 1806, and one with the Cherokees in 1807. This lie usually comes in the form of an implication. The statement that the Kaskaskia treaty contained a provision for a priest is immediately followed by a phrase such as “two similar treaties were enacted during Jefferson’s administration,” implying, of course, that the similarity was a provision for a priest. These other two treaties first became part of the Kaskaskia story in Robert L. Cord’s 1982 book Separation of Church and State: Historical Fact and Current Fiction. Cord, however, did not lie about these treaties. This is a case of the Liars for Jesus misquoting one of their own to create a better lie. While Cord’s book does contain its share of lies, this isn’t one of them. Cord in no way implies that these other two treaties contained religious provisions. In fact, he mentions them specifically because they did not contain religious provisions. What they did contain were provisions for money that wasn’t designated for a particular purpose. Cord uses these provisions to argue that Jefferson, if he had wanted to avoid provisions for religious purposes in the Kaskaskia treaty, could have done so with a similar provision that did not specify what the money was for. The following is Cord’s argument: “Lest it be argued to the contrary, if Jefferson had thought the ‘Kaskaskia Priest-Church Treaty Provision’ was unconstitutional, he could have followed other alternatives. An unspecified lump sum of money could have been put into the Kaskaskia treaty together with another provision for an annual unspecified stipend with which the Indians could have built their church and paid their priest. Such unspecified sums and annual stipends were not uncommon and were provided for in at least two other Indian treaties made during the Jefferson Administration – one with the Wyandots and other tribes, proclaimed April 24, 1806, and another with the Cherokee nation, proclaimed May 23, 1807.” Cord’s words were first twisted by John Eidsmoe in his 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution. According to Eidsmoe: “In 1803 President Jefferson recommended that Congress pass a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians which provided, among other things, a stipend of $100 annually for seven years from the Federal Treasury for the support of a Catholic priest to minister to the Kaskaskia Indians. This and two similar treaties were enacted during Jefferson’s administration – one with the Wyandotte Indians and other tribes in 1806, and one with the Cherokees in 1807.” Eidsmoe gives the impression that this is what appears in Cord’s book by summing up the paragraph containing his altered version of the story with this sentence: “Citing these and other facts, Professor Robert Cord concludes, ‘These historical facts indicate that Jefferson ...did not see the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause requiring ‘complete independence of religion and government’.’” David Barton, in his 1991 book The Myth of Separation, copies Eidsmoe’s version of the story word for word, presenting it as a quote. He does not, however, cite Eidsmoe as the source of this quote. Barton cites Daniel Dreisbach’s 1987 book Real Threat and Mere Shadow: Religious Liberty and the First Amendment. But, Dreisbach’s book contains nothing even close to Eidsmoe’s lie. Dreisbach, like Cord, does not in any way imply that these other two treaties contained religious provisions. Dreisbach doesn’t even mention these treaties in the text of his book. He uses Cord’s argument that the Kaskaskia could have been given money for an unspecified purpose, but names the other two treaties only in a footnote. This story is a good example of how the religious right lies evolve, and, by being copied from book to book, and then to the internet, eventually lose any connection to their original sources. Robert Cord, whose book was published in 1982, mentions the other two treaties, but does not imply that they contained religious provisions. Daniel Dreisbach, whose book was published in 1987, uses these treaties for the same reason as Cord. John Eidsmoe, whose book was also published in 1987, twists Cord’s words and creates the lie. David Barton, in 1991, copies Eidsmoe’s lie, but cites Dreisbach as his source. In 2000, William Federer, whose version of the lie appears at the beginning of this chapter, cites both Dreisbach and Barton. In 2003, the lie appears in D. James Kennedy’s book What If America Were A Christian Nation Again — CHAPTER FOUR — Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen? As mentioned at the end of chapter two, in the companion book to the Religion and the Founding of the American Republic Exhibit, James T. Hutson, Chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress, follows his comments about the Northwest Ordinance with what he describes as “a little noticed action two weeks later” in which Congress offered “financial support to a church.” This little noticed action, used by Hutson as an example of “Congress’s broad program to promote religion,” was a land grant which, for reasons that had nothing to do with religion, was put in trust in the name of a society of Moravian missionaries by the Continental Congress. According to Hutson: “In response to a plea from Bishop John Ettwein (1721-1802), Congress voted, July 27, 1787, that ten thousand acres on the Muskingum River in the present state of Ohio ‘be set apart and the property thereof be vested in the Moravian Brethren...or a society of the said Brethren for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity.’” Hutson uses this story to vindicate the Continental Congress for neglecting to provide financial support for churches in the Northwest Ordinance, claiming that “rhetorical encouragement for religion was all that was possible on that occasion.” He follows this claim with a misleading version of the Moravian land grant story, presenting this as evidence that the omission of financial support for churches in the Northwest Ordinance didn’t mean that Congress was opposed to the government financially supporting them. Because the real story of the Moravian land grant spans four decades, it is sometimes used, as by Hutson, to create lies about the Continental Congress, but it is also used for lies about later Congresses and several presidents. In the majority of religious right American history books it is used for a lie about Thomas Jefferson, and almost always follows the story about the Kaskaskia Indian treaty. This lie is based solely on the titles of certain acts signed by Jefferson. Besides the fact that none of these acts actually had anything to do with this land grant, the grant, as already mentioned, didn’t even have anything to do with religion in the first place. According to William Federer, in his book America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations: “President Thomas Jefferson also extended, three times, a 1787 act of Congress in which special lands were designated: For the sole use of Christian Indians and the Moravian Brethren missionaries for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity.” It is unclear exactly what Federer is quoting here in his “Encyclo-pedia of Quotations,” but it is not the 1787 act of Congress, which appears on page 133. According to Mark Beliles, in the introduction to his version of the Jefferson Bible: “On April 26, 1802, Jefferson signed into law the Act of Congress which assisted the Society of the United Brethren ‘for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen’ in the Northwest territory.” The first thing that needs to be understood about any mention of The Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen in any act of Congress or other official document is that this was the legal name of an incorporated society. Every act of Congress referring to this society, whatever its purpose, contains the words “propagating the Gospel among the Heathen” because it was part of the society’s name, not because the government was propagating the Gospel. Mark Beliles, like many Liars for Jesus, puts only the words “propagating the Gospel among the Heathen” in quotation marks to make it appear that this was the purpose of the act. Others take advantage of a convenient printing error to achieve this effect. In the title of one of the several acts related to this land trust, a comma was mistakenly inserted in the society’s name after the word “Brethren,” inadvertently giving the impression that what followed the comma was the purpose of the act. This, of course, is the act that most religious right authors choose to quote. Although the United Brethren were a religious society, and their purpose was to propagate the Gospel, Congress’s reason for putting a land grant in their name had nothing to do with religion. It was done to protect the land granted to a group of Indians. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, a declaration of Con-gress promised that any Indians who did not aid the British would have “all the lands they held confirmed and secured to them”1 when the war was over. In the years following the war, the United Brethren, concerned that a particular group of Indians, who not only remained neutral throughout the war, but had been both displaced by the British and attacked by American militiamen, might lose the lands they were entitled to. Because these Indians were unable to return at this time to claim the land themselves, the United Brethren petitioned the Continental Congress on their behalf. Congress agreed that these Indians had a right to the land, but, in order to secure their claim, the land had to be put in someone’s name. The solution that Congress agreed to was that the United Brethren form an incorporated society to hold the land in trust. The Indians involved in this story, who, for reasons explained later, were referred to by Congress as the “Christian Indians,” were permanently settled in 1772 by the great council of the Delaware nation on land along the Muskingum River, in what is now Ohio. With the help of Moravian missionaries, these Indians, numbering about three hundred and seventy at that time, built three settlements, Gnadenhutten, Schoenbrun, and Salem, which became thriving agricultural communities. Shortly after settling on the Muskingum, the Christian Indians adopted a constitution of sorts, laying down the rules that everyone had to follow in order to live at their settlements. In 1778, although the Delaware nation was still officially neutral in the war, many Delawares were attaching themselves to other tribes, joining the fight on the British side. That year, at their annual public meeting, the mostly Delaware Christian Indians voted to add the following articles to their constitution. 19. No man inclining to go to war—which is the shedding of blood—can remain among us. 20. Whosoever purchases goods or articles of warriors, knowing at the time that such have been stolen or plundered, must leave us. We look upon this as giving encouragement to murder and theft.2 Throughout the war, the Christian Indians and their Moravian missionaries, suspected of spying for the Americans, were harassed by British Indian allies. In August 1781, a group of British Indians, led by a British Indian agent, broke up their settlements. The Christian Indians were forcibly moved to Sandusky, more than a hundred miles from their settlements, and left there with no food or supplies. The Moravians were taken to Detroit for questioning. The following spring, nearly a third of the Christian Indians were murdered – not by the British, but by American militiamen. In February 1782, some of the Christian Indians returned to their settlements to gather whatever food and supplies they could find to take back to Sandusky. Shortly after the Christian Indians returned, another band of Indians from Sandusky attacked a frontier family, killing a woman and taking her children captive. Under the guise of pursuing the Indians who attacked this family, several hundred Pennsylvania years before the University of Virginia opened. The second is that, although the Geneva Academy was originally founded by John Calvin in 1559 as theological seminary, by the late 1700s it had been transformed into an academy of science. The plan considered by Jefferson was not to import a religious school. It was to import a group of Europe’s top science professors. In 1794, François D’Ivernois, an economist and political writer from Geneva, wrote to Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Political upheaval in Geneva had forced D’Ivernois into exile in England, and was threatening the future of the Geneva Academy. D’Ivernois, who had met both Jefferson and Adams when they were foreign ministers in Europe, wrote separately to each of them proposing that the faculty of the academy be relocated to the United States. In a letter to George Washington, who was also anxious to establish a public university in America, Jefferson described the Geneva Academy and its faculty. ...the revolution which has taken place at Geneva has demolished the college of that place, which was in a great measure supported by the former government. The colleges of Geneva & Edinburgh were considered as the two eyes of Europe in matters of science, insomuch that no other pretended to any rivalship with either. Edinburgh has been the most famous in medicine during the life of Cullen; but Geneva most so in the other branches of science, and much the most resorted to from the continent of Europe because the French language was that which was used. a Mr. D’Ivernois, a Genevan, & man of science, known as the author of a history of that republic, has proposed the transplanting that college in a body to America. he has written to me on the subject, as he has also done to Mr. Adams, as he was formerly known to us both, giving us the details of his views for effecting it. probably these have been communicated to you by Mr. Adams, as D’Ivernois desired should be done; but lest they should not have been communicated I will take the liberty of doing it. his plan I think would go to about ten or twelve professorships. he names to me the following professors as likely if not certain to embrace the plan. Monchon, the present President, who wrote the Analytical table for the Encyclopedists, & which sufficiently proves his comprehensive science. Pictet, known from his admeasurements of a degree, & other works, professor of Natural philosophy. his brother, said by M. D’Ivernois to be also great. Senebier, author of commentaries on Spallanzani, & of other works in Natural philosophy & Meteorology; also the translator of the Greek tragedies. Bertrand both mathematicians, and said to be inferior to L’Huillier} nobody in that line except La Grange, who is with- out an equal. Prevost, highly spoken of by D’Ivernois. De Saussure & his son, formerly a professor, but who left the college to have more leisure to pursue his geological researches into the Alps, by which work he is very advantageously known.1 Like many of D. James Kennedy’s lies about Thomas Jefferson, the version of the story about the Geneva Academy in What If America Were A Christian Nation Again? is borrowed from Mark Beliles’s introduction to his version of the Jefferson Bible, and then changed a bit. In his chapter about Jefferson, Kennedy paraphrases dozens of lies from Beliles’s book, changing them just enough to reveal his complete ignorance of the actual events on which Beliles based the original versions of the lies. In his version of the Geneva Academy story, Beliles does connect John Calvin with this school to imply that Jefferson wanted to import a theological seminary, but Beliles claims only that the proposed relocation was to “form the foundations of a state university,” not that the decades away University of Virginia was the destination. Kennedy’s addition of this anachronism makes it pretty clear that he has no idea that the lie he is copying is about something that happened thirty years before the University of Virginia opened. This doesn’t make Beliles’s version of the story any less of a lie. It just shows that, unlike Kennedy, Beliles knows what he’s lying about. According to Beliles’s version of the story: Jefferson “attempted to move the entire faculty of John Calvin’s University of Geneva to form the foundations of a state university (but was thwarted by the legislature).” Beliles mentions that the plan was thwarted by the legislature, but the truth is that it never even got as far as being proposed to the legislature. Of course, since the Geneva Academy was not a religious school, this had nothing to do with religion. Jefferson wanted to find out if the Virginia legislature would be receptive to the plan before actually proposing it, but didn’t want his name associated with it, so he asked Wilson Nicholas, a friend and member of the legislature, to run the idea by a few of his colleagues to see if they thought it stood any real chance of passing.2 Nicholas reported back to Jefferson that, although the members he spoke to liked the idea, they didn’t think the majority of the legislature would go for it. Nicholas gave three reasons for this, which Jefferson listed in his reply to D’Ivernois. The reasons which they thought would with certainty prevail against it, were 1, that our youth, not familiarized but with their mother tongue, were not prepared to receive instructions in any other; 2, that the expense of the institution would excite uneasiness in their constituents, and endanger its permanence; and 3, that its extent was disproportioned to the narrow state of the population with us. Whatever might be urged on these several subjects, yet as the decision rested with others, there remained to us only to regret that circumstances were such, or were thought to be such, as to disappoint your and our wishes. I should have seen with peculiar satisfaction the establishment of such a mass of science in my country, and should probably have been tempted to approach myself to it, by procuring a residence in its neighborhood, at those seasons — CHAPTER SIX — Did Prayer Save the Constitutional Convention? According to the religious right version of American history, without the power of prayer, the Constitution would never have been written. This claim is based on a speech made by Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787. Franklin’s speech, made at a point when disagreements among the delegates had brought things almost to a standstill, recalled the practice of daily prayers in Congress during the Revolutionary War, and ended with a motion that prayers be held each morning from that point on. Although no action was taken on Franklin’s motion, and no prayers were ever held at the Convention, many Liars for Jesus still insist that prayers were held, and that the Constitution never could have been written without them. Most of the myths regarding Franklin’s motion for prayers are not about the motion itself, but what followed the motion. The following are two recent versions of the story from the internet. “Benjamin Franklin then proposed that the Congress adjourn for two days to seek divine guidance. When they returned they began each of their sessions with prayer. The stirring speech of Benjamin Franklin marked a turning point in the writing of the Constitution, complete with a Bill of Rights.” “The Assembly of 55 of America’s greatest intellects and leaders solemnly and humbly adopted Benjamin Franklin’s motion, and each session was thereafter begun with prayer for God’s guidance and wisdom. The effect on the Convention was nothing short of miraculous. A sense of order and direction emerged resulting in the adoption of what leaders throughout the world have acknowledged as the greatest document ever crafted by the human mind.” Many versions of the story, like the second example above, contain a claim that, following Franklin’s speech, the Convention adjourned for two or three days to pray. A few even say that George Washington immediately got up and marched the entire Convention to a church. Neither of these things happened. The Convention met on both of the next two days, and the subject of prayers was never brought up again. During the first month of the Constitutional Convention, there were various disagreements and close votes, but things didn’t get really ugly until the debate over how much representation each state would have in Congress. While the majority of the delegates agreed that representation in the House of Representatives should be based on population, the question of representation in the Senate divided the Convention, pitting the small states against the large states. The small states thought every state should have an equal representation; the large states thought the Senate should also based on population. It wasn’t until the end of June that the real debate on this began, a debate that came dangerously close to putting an end to the Convention altogether. It was at this critical point that Benjamin Franklin made his famous motion for prayers. Mr. President The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other – our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances. In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.1 According to James Madison’s records of the Convention, the following is what occurred after Franklin’s speech. Mr. Sherman seconded the motion. Mr. Hamilton & several others expressed their apprehensions that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the convention, it might at this late day, 1. bring on it some disagreeable animadversions. & 2. lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissentions within the convention, had suggested this measure. It was answered by Docr. F. Mr. Sherman & others, that the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission – that the rejection of such a proposition would expose the Convention to more unpleasant animadversions than the adoption of it: and that the alarm out of doors that might be excited for the state of things within. would at least be as likely to do good as ill. Mr. Williamson, observed that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The Convention had no funds. Mr. Randolph proposed in order to give a favorable aspect to ye. measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence,—& thenceforward prayers be used in ye Convention every morning. Dr. Frankn. 2ded. this motion. After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing the matter by adjourng. the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.2 Alexander Hamilton’s objection at least made some sense. What would people think if a minister was seen entering the the building? Because of the complete secrecy of the Convention, curious people were constantly hanging around outside hoping to get some idea of what was going on. If a minister was suddenly allowed in, it might appear that the Convention was in trouble. Hugh Williamson’s objection that they had no money to pay a chaplain is ridiculous. Some of the wealthiest men in the country were there. If they had really wanted prayers, they could have scraped together the small amount of money needed to pay a minister. They were also in a city full of Quakers, whose ministers weren’t even allowed to accept money. There was even a minister among the delegates. Abraham Baldwin was a former army chaplain who had been offered the professorship of divinity at Yale. If they were really concerned about a minister attracting the attention, they could have asked Baldwin to lead their prayers. The delegates were clearly just trying to find excuses to dismiss Franklin’s motion. They even avoided voting on Edmund Randolph’s motion to postpone prayers until the Fourth of July, which would also have solved the problem of a minister being seen. Apparently, neither Randolph, or Franklin, who seconded Randolph’s motion, saw a lack of funds as the problem, unless they thought the Convention would suddenly be able to come up with money on July 4 that it couldn’t on June 28. Franklin made the following note at the end of his handwritten copy of his speech. The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.3 The religious right American history books contain many variations of what occurred after Franklin’s motion, most of which end up with prayers being held. In their book America’s Providential History, for example, Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell not only claim that a vote was taken, but that the Convention found volunteer chaplains. According to Beliles and McDowell: “Mr. Sherman sec — CHAPTER SEVEN — Treaties with the Barbary States One of the most often used arguments that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation is Article 11 of the 1797 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary. This is a pretty good argument, considering that the first sentence of that article begins with the words, “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...” Because the authors of the religious right version of American history can’t deny that these words are there, they attempt to dismiss them, usually using one, or a combination of, several different arguments. The first argument is really just a diversion, created by pointing out a mistake sometimes made by those who bring up this treaty. The mistake is attributing the words of Article 11 to George Washington. Because the treaty is dated January 4, 1797, two months before Washington left office, an assumption has occasionally been made that he was the president who signed it. The treaty, however, did not reach the United States until after Washington left office, so it was actually signed by John Adams. It really doesn’t matter, of course, whether it was Washington or Adams who signed the treaty. This doesn’t change the fact that it contained these words. Instances of this treaty being attributed to Washington can be found as early as the mid-1800s, not only in arguments about the separation of church and state, but also in articles about the Barbary conflict or treaties in general. With the exception of appearing on the websites of a few overzealous separationists who, like their religious right counterparts, copy quotes without checking their sources, the wrong attribution isn’t seen much anymore. Nevertheless, the Liars for Jesus continue to use it an example of secularist history revisionism. This serves two purposes. First, of course, pointing out this error provides a way to dismiss the treaty. Second, there are only two separationist misquotes that have ever appeared with any frequency, and this is one of them. The second is an out of context sentence from a lettter written by John Adams. Religious right authors who claim that there are many such misquotes need to use both of these because they can’t find any other examples, although David Barton implies that he has found a third. According to David Barton, in his book Original Intent: “Those who advance the notion that this was the belief system of the Founders often publish information attempting to prove that the Founders were irreligious. Some of the quotes they set forth include: This would be the best of all possible Worlds, if there were no Religion in it. JOHN ADAMS The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion. GEORGE WASHINGTON I disbelieve all holy men and holy books. THOMAS PAINE Are these statements accurate? Did these prominent Founders truly repudiate religion? An answer will be found by an examination of the sources of the above statements.” Barton throws in a Thomas Paine misquote to fill out his meager list of some of the quotes used by separationists, only to pretend, five pages later, that this could possibly be a genuine quote, saying that “the real story is not the accuracy of Paine’s quote, but rather how the other Founders reacted to Paine’s declarations.” Barton’s source for this Paine misquote is an obscure document from the Society of Separationists that is never actually used or copied by any separationists. A search on Google for this misquote, for example, does not produce a single hit. Yet Barton implies that this is a commonly used misquote by presenting it along with the two misquotes that are actually used. Adding this virtually unheard of misquote, of course, also gives him a reason to present several pages of quotes from founders who denounced Paine and his writings. Barton’s footnote for his three misquote examples says to “see also” an op-ed piece by Steven Morris entitled America’s Unchristian Beginnings, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 3, 1995. Morris, however, did not misquote Paine, and did not wrongly attribute the quote from the Treaty of Tripoli to George Washington. He accurately quoted a passage from Paine’s Age of Reason – “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of...Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all” – and correctly said of the Treaty of Tripoli that it “was during Adam’s administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty.” There is no great number, or widespread use, of separationist misquotes. In fact, there are far more religious right websites pointing out and correcting the Adams and Washington misquotes than separationist websites that actually use these misquotes. Similarly, a search for Barton’s sources turns up only rebuttals of the Morris piece, and copies of Barton’s citation of the Society of Separationists document, but no instances of anybody using or quoting from either. The only part of Barton’s straw argument that has any merit is the use of the out of context quote from John Adams, which was, in fact, used by Morris in his 1995 article. This misquote still appears on a significant number of websites, and is occasionally seen elsewhere. The majority of separationists, however, know that this quote is taken out of context, and not only do not use it, but point it out to others as a misquote. For example, the foreword to one popular collection of separationist quotes, which is available in print and on the internet, contains the following statement: “All of these quotes have been throughly researched. None are ‘out of context’ or otherwise misleading. For example, the bogus John Adams’ quote, ‘...this would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it ...’ is not included.”1 According to Barton: “The John Adams quote is taken from a letter he wrote to Thomas Jefferson on April 19, 1817, in which Adams illustrated the intorlerance often manifested between Christians in their denominational disputes. Adams recounted a comversation between two ministers he had known: [S]eventy years ago....Lemuel Bryant was my parish priest, and Joseph Cleverly my Latin schoolmaster. Lemuel was a jocular [humorous] and liberal scholar and divine. Joseph a scholar and a gentleman....The Parson and the Pedagogue lived much together, but were eternally disputing about government and religion. One day, when the schoolmaster [Joseph Cleverly] had been more than commonly fanatical and declared ‘if he were a monarch, he would have but one religion in his dominions;’ the Parson [Lemuel Bryant] cooly replied, ‘Cleverly! you would be the best man in the world if you had no religion.’ Lamenting these types of petty disputes, Adams de-clared to Jefferson: Twenty times, in the course of my late reading — CHAPTER EIGHT — Treaties with Christian Nations According to the religious right version of American history, references to Christianity in treaties with European powers are to be interpreted as acknowledgements by the Americans who signed those treaties that America was a Christian nation. D. James Kennedy, in his book What If America Were A Christian Nation Again?, states: “The Treaty of Paris of 1783, negotiated by Ben Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay, acknowledged the Trinity as it made official our separation with Britain.” David Barton, in his book Original Intent, uses the same example: “...on September 8, 1783, the formal peace treaty with Great Britain was signed by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay. Like so many of the other official records of the Revolution, that document, too, openly acknowledged God. The opening line of the peace treaty declared: In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.” This reference to the trinity was not an acknowledgement by the government of the United States that America was a Christian nation. It was an acknowledgement by the government of England that England was a Christian nation. “In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity” was the customary way that England, like most of the Christian nations of Europe, began their treaties and other documents. The United States had nothing to do with this wording. Unlike the Arabic and Turkish treaties in the previous chapter, where the religious references of the other party were removed during the translation process, treaties with England were already in English, so they were just copied as is. Where the customary “may God strengthen” after the names of Barbary rulers was omitted, the customary “by the grace of God” between the name and title of Christian monarchs remained. Most treaties began with a preamble that included the reason for the treaty, the names and titles of the parties involved, and the agents each had authorized to make the treaty. In these statements, the names of monarchs, and sometimes of agents, were followed by all of the titles they held. Some of these titles were religious and others were not, like those of George III. ...the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenbourg, arch-treasurer and elector of the holy Roman Empire...1 In religious right history books, these strings of titles are sometimes edited to show only the religious titles, such as Defender of the Faith. This title, bestowed on Henry VIII by Pope Leo X in the 1520s for taking a stand against Martin Luther continued to be used by Henry, even after breaking with the Catholic Church. It was defiantly included in the Preface to the 39 Articles of the Church of England – “being by God’s Ordinance, according to Our just Title, Defender of the Faith...” – and has been used by all monarchs of Great Britain since. Although also containing religious references, what aren’t included in the religious right history books are the silly sounding titles, — CHAPTER NINE — James Madison’s Detached Memoranda In 1946, a lost document written by James Madison was found among the family papers of one of his biographers. This small collection of essays, which Madison called Detached Memoranda, includes some anecdotes about Benjamin Franklin, explanations of some key events from the Washington administration, thoughts on banks and elections, and recollections of writing the Federalist. It also includes an essay titled Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments, much of which is about religion and the government. In this essay, Madison detailed his objections to mixing religion and government in even the smallest ways. A few of the practices he singled out as being unconstitutional or potentially dangerous were tax supported chaplains in Congress and in the military, and government proclamations of days of prayer and thanksgiving. Religious right American history authors hate this document, and usually attempt to discredit it in some way before even getting to its actual content. Some begin by subtlety shedding a little doubt on the document’s authenticity. According to Daniel Dreisbach, in his book Real Threat and Mere Shadow: “The ‘Detached Memoranda’ is a problematic document thought to be in the hand of James Madison, discovered in 1946 in the family papers of Madison’s biographer, William Cabell Rives.” The Detached Memoranda are not “thought to be” in the hand of James Madison. They are in the hand of James Madison. There has never been any question about this. According to David Barton, on his WallBuilders website: “Significantly, the ‘Detached Memoranda’ was ‘discovered’ in 1946 in the papers of Madison biographer William Cabell Rives and was first published more than a century after Madison’s death by Elizabeth Fleet in the October 1946 William & Mary Quarterly.” There is nothing at all significant about the fact that this document was discovered in 1946, and 1946 was not the first time that the document, at least the part regarding religion and government, was published. The entire essay Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments was published in Harper’s Magazine in 1914. This prior publication was mentioned by Elizabeth Fleet in her 1946 William and Mary Quarterly article, the same article that Barton refers to and cites as his source. The interesting history of the Detached Memoranda, and how a copy of one of its essays came to be in the hands of Harper Brothers, was explained in part by Gaillard Hunt, who wrote an introduction to Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments for Harper’s Magazine in 1914. Hunt, of course, had no way of knowing that this essay was copied from a larger document that wouldn’t be found until 1946, or that this document was used and quoted from by William Cabell Rives when he wrote his biography of Madison in the 1860s. This part of the document’s history was filled in by Elizabeth Fleet in her 1946 article. The following was Gaillard Hunt’s introduction to the 1914 publication of Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments in Harper’s Magazine. James Madison retired from the Presidency in 1817 and died in 1836, nineteen years later. This was the growing period of American nationality, and it was during these years that an enduring attachment was formed for the frame of government under which the growth took place. So, as — CHAPTER TEN — The Election of 1800 Most religious right American history books contain at least a few quotes from various founders warning of the danger of atheists and infidels in the government. While the majority of these quotes, and misquotes, come from debates and letters about the Constitution’s no religious test clause, there are some that come from another source – the anti-Jefferson pamphlets distributed by religious leaders during the presidential campaign of 1800. Quoting these pamphlets, however, is a bit tricky for those authors who, elsewhere in their books, attempt to prove that Thomas Jefferson was a devout Christian. The problem is that the religious leaders who wrote these pamphlets weren’t trying to prove that Jefferson was a Christian. They were trying to prove that he wasn’t. Today’s religious right authors, not wanting to pass up a goldmine of quotes about the importance of electing only Christians to the government, have found a few ways to get around the fact that their predecessors considered Jefferson not only irreligious, but a danger to religion. Some claim that the pamphleteers of 1800 were wrong about Jefferson but right about everything else. Others quote the statements about the dangers of electing infidels, and simply omit that Jefferson was the infidel these statements were aimed at. One of Jefferson’s biggest adversaries was a Dutch Reformed minister from New York, Rev. William Linn. During the campaign of 1800, Rev. Linn published Serious Considerations on the Election of a President: Addressed to the Citizens of the United States, a pamphlet in which he argued that Jefferson was unfit to be elected president because he was at best a deist, and at worst an atheist. Much of the evidence presented by Linn to support his assertions came from Jefferson’s own book, Notes on the State of Virginia. Although a number of other ministers wrote similar pamphlets, Rev. Linn’s Serious Considerations is the one most often quoted in the religious right American history books. The reason for this is that, eleven years earlier, Linn had been elected by the House of Representatives as their first chaplain. By coupling quotes from his 1800 pamphlet with his election by the House of Representatives in 1789, the authors of these books are able to imply that the same Congress that wrote the Bill of Rights also endorsed Linn’s opinion that allowing atheists and infidels to hold public office was a danger to America. In his book America’s God and Country, William Federer describes Rev. Linn, and uses what is probably the most popular quote from Serious Considerations: “William Linn on May 1, 1789, was elected by the United States House of Representatives as its chaplain, and a salary of $500 was appropriated from the Federal treasury. Being a respected minister in New York City, and the father of the famous poet John Blair Linn (1777-1804), William Linn alleged: Let my neighbor once persuade himself that there is no God, and he will soon pick my pocket, and break not only my leg but my neck. If there is no God, there is no law; no future account; government then is the ordinance of man only, and we cannot be subject for conscience sake.” What William Federer neglects to mention is that this quote was Rev. Linn’s response to the following statement from Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.1 David Barton, in his book The Myth of Separation, does mention that Serious Considerations was an attack on Jefferson. He even quotes Jefferson’s statement from Notes on Virginia, and acknowledges that this is what Rev. Linn was responding to. Barton just fails to attribute Jefferson’s statement to Jefferson, attributing it only to an anonymous prominent man of the founding era. Then, to eliminate any possible connection to Jefferson, he places these statements about two hundred pages after the part of his book on the election of 1800, and omits the fact that Linn’s statement came from Serious Considerations. According to Barton: “The argument of whether religion is necessary to society and government is not new. The same dispute occurred between two prominent men in the founding era. The first asserted: The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. William Linn, an outspoken critic of this philosophy, responded with a statement that summarized the convictions of the majority of the Founders and that has since been confirmed by experience in this country: Let my neighbor once persuade himself that there is no God, and he will soon pick my pocket, and break not only my leg but my neck. If there is no God, there is no law; no future account; government then is the ordinance of man only, and we cannot be subject for conscience sake.” The following is the section of Linn’s Serious Considerations in which the quote used by Barton and Federer appears. THERE is another passage in Mr. Jefferson’s Notes which requires the most serious attention. In showing that civil rulers ought not to interfere with the rights of conscience, and that the legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as they are injurious to others, he says, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” The whole passage is written with a great degree of spirit, it is remarkable for that conciseness, perspicuity and force which characterize the style of Mr. Jefferson. Some have ventured from the words I have quoted, to bring even the charge of atheism against him. This is a high charge, and it becomes carefully to examine the ground upon which it rests. Though the words themselves, their connection, and the design for which they are introduced may be insufficient to support it, yet there are concurrent circumstances to be taken into consideration, and which will fix at least a suspicion. These circumstances are, a general disregard of religious things, the associates at home and abroad, and the principles maintained in conversation. with these things I am not so well acquainted as many. I shall only mention what passed in conversation between Mr. Jefferson and a gentleman of distinguished talents and services, on the necessity of religion to government. The gentleman insisted that some religious faith and institutions of worship, claiming a divine origin, were necessary to the order and peace of society. Mr. Jefferson said that he differed widely from him, and that “he wished to see a government in which no religious opinions were held, and where the security for property and social order rested entirely upon the force of the law.” Would not this be a nation of Atheists? Is it not natural, after the free declaration of such a sentiment, to suspect the man himself of Atheism? Could one who is impressed with the existence of a God, the Creator, — CHAPTER ELEVEN — More Lies About Benjamin Franklin While his famous motion for prayers at the Constitutional Convention is by far the most popular, and often the only, Benjamin Franklin story in religious right American history books, some books contain a number of other Franklin lies. Many of these are simply out of context quotes, such as the following from David Barton’s book Original Intent, which has become a favorite on websites that support censorship. According to Barton: “Concerning the balance between the freedom of the press and the responsibility of the press, printer and publisher Benjamin Franklin ex-plained: If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please; But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating [falsely accusing], and defaming one another, I, for my part...[am] willing to part with my share of it when our legislators shall please so to alter the law, and shall cheerfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others for the privilege of not being abused myself.” What Barton quotes is from a satire written by Franklin in 1789 entitled An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz., The Court of the Press. Franklin was condemning abuses of the press, as well as people who supported these abuses by creating a market for them, but he wasn’t seriously proposing limiting the freedom of the press. By the end of this article, Franklin had arrived at what he thought was a very practical solution to the problem – leave the freedom of the press alone, but change the battery laws to make it perfectly legal for a victim of libel to give their libeller “a good drubbing.” ...since so much has been written and published on the federal constitution, and the necessity of checks in all other parts of good government has been so clearly and learnedly explained, I find myself so far enlightened as to suspect some check may be proper in this part also; but I have been at a loss to imagine any that may not be construed an infringement of the sacred liberty of the Press. At length, however, I think I have found one that, instead of diminishing general liberty, shall augment it; which is, by restoring to the people a species of liberty, of which they have been deprived by our laws, I mean the liberty of the Cudgel.—In the rude state of society prior to the existence of laws, if one man gave another ill language, the affronted person would return it by a box on the ear, and, if repeated, by a good drubbing; and this without offending against any law. But now the right of making such returns is denied, and they are punished as breaches of the peace; while the right of abusing seems to remain in full force, the laws made against it being rendered ineffectual by the liberty of the Press. My proposal then is, to leave the liberty of the Press untouched, to be exercised in its full extent, force, and vigour, but to permit the liberty of the Cudgel to go with it pari passu. Thus, my fellow-citizens, if an impudent writer attacks your reputation, dearer to you perhaps than your life, and puts his name to the charge, you may go to him as openly and break his head. If he conceals himself behind the print — CHAPTER TWELVE — More Lies About Thomas Jefferson While different types of lies about Thomas Jefferson are created for different purposes, most of those regarding the years of his presidency are designed primarily to make it appear that he approved of government financial support for religion. One such lie, found in religious right American history books for years, has recently become very popular among the supporters of faith-based initiatives. According to David Barton’s WallBuilders website: “Jefferson assured a Christian religious school that it would receive ‘the patronage of the government.’” According to Mark Beliles, in the introduction to his version of the Jefferson Bible: “ ...in an 1804 letter to the Ursuline nuns in New Orleans, he personally promised his government would help their Catholic school.” Jefferson did not promise any government funding whatsoever to the school referred to in this lie. When the United States purchased Louisiana from France in 1803, the nuns at the Ursuline convent in New Orleans, like many of the territory’s inhabitants, were concerned about the status of their property. The Ursulines’ convent and school had been built on land granted by government of France in 1734, and much of the income that supported these institutions came from two other properties, granted by the later Spanish government. Following the purchase of the territory, a wide variety of rumors were spread by anti-American natives of New Orleans. Among these were two about the convent. One was that the United States government planned to confiscate the convent’s property and immediately expel the nuns from the country. The other was that no new novices would be allowed to enter the convent, but that the government would let the nuns who were already there stay, and then take the property after they all died off. The nuns’ uncertainty about their future in New Orleans actually began before the United States’ purchase, when the French prefect, Pierre-Clemént Laussat, arrived to take possession of Louisiana from Spain in March 1803. On June 10, 1803, the territory’s twenty-six priests were given permission by their superiors to return to Spain if they wanted to, and all but four did. Although the Ursulines were assured by Laussat that they had nothing to fear from the French government, most of them, including the convent’s mother superior, also left New Orleans, requesting to be sent to Havana. Only nine of the twenty-five decided to stay, electing Sr. Therese de St. Xavier Farjon to be their new mother superior. Within a week of the official proclamation of the treaty ceding Louisiana to the United States, William C.C. Claiborne, the territorial governor, attended a ceremony at the convent and personally assured the remaining nuns that both their property and religious liberty would be protected by their new government. On December 27, 1803, Claiborne wrote to Secretary of State James Madison that he had visited the convent, and that the nuns who had fled to Havana would soon be returning. As far as Claiborne could tell, he had successfully convinced the nuns that their property and other rights were protected by the treaty of cession and the Constitution. In June 1804, however, he was asked by Mother Farjon to forward a letter from the convent to Thomas Jefferson. Claiborne sent this to Jefferson, accompanied by the following cover letter. At the particular request of the Superior of the Convent in this city, I have the honor to enclose you a communication from the Ursuline Nuns. These respectable ladies merit and possess a great share of the public esteem; their conduct is exemplary, and their time is usefully employed in the education of female youth. During my short residence in this city, I have paid the Nuns very great respect and given them assurances of the protection and friendly regard of the Government of the United States. I believe I have succeeded in conciliating their affections, and rendering their minds tranquil: it seems however that, they of late entertain some fears that their property cannot be secured to them and their successors without an act of Congress, and I understand that it is on this subject they have addressed you.1 Mother Farjon’s letter, as Claiborne had expected, was a request from the nuns to have their property officially confirmed to them by Congress. Emboldened by the favorable mention you have been pleased to make of their order, the Nuns of St. Ursula at New Orleans take the liberty of addressing you on a subject highly interesting to their institution! They believe that without any direct application, the treaty of Cession, and the sence of Justice which marks the character of the United States, would have secured to them the property they now possess, but considering a sacred deposit, they would fail in a duty they deem essential were they to ommit requesting, that it may be formally confirmed to them & their successors, & that you may be pleased to communicate this request to the Congress of the United States in such a manner as you may deem proper....2 Jefferson’s reply to this letter is the source of the lie that he promised financial support to a Catholic school. The sentence this lie is based on, however, had nothing to do with money. Jefferson obviously suspected from the timing of the nuns’ request that this sudden renewal of concern about their property might have been caused by a recent incident in which another Catholic church in New Orleans was shut down by United States officials. Claiborne had been promising the nuns for months that there was no truth to the rumors that their property might be confiscated, and that the government of the United States would never interfere with a religious institution, so the closing of this church, and the fact that Claiborne had apparently done nothing to stop it, would naturally have given them cause to doubt his promises. The situation that caused the closing of the church had to do with a dispute between two rival priests. Laussat had replaced the priest at this church, but the head of the Catholic church in Louisiana objected to the appointment and reinstated the old priest. When both priests, along with their supporters, showed up for mass on the same Sunday, the district commandant closed the church to prevent a riot from breaking out. Jefferson did not approve of this preemptive action, as he wrote to Madison on July 5, 1804. I think it was an error in our officer to shut the doors of the church, and in the Governor to refer it to the Roman catholic head. The priests must settle their differences in their own way, provided they commit no breach of the peace. If they break the peace they should be arrested. On our principles all church-discipline is voluntary; and never to be enforced by the public authority; but on the contrary to be punished when it extends to acts of force. The Govr. should restore the keys of the church to the priest who was in possession.3 About a week after writing this to Madison, Jefferson received the letter from the Ursuline convent. Jefferson knew that there was no point in laying the convent’s request before Congress because they were not yet making determinations about land claims in the territory, so he began his reply by assuring the nuns that their property was secure even without an official confirmation. The rest of his letter, based on his assumption that the nuns’ concern was caused by the clos — CHAPTER THIRTEEN — Jefferson, Madison, and Blackstone? One name almost always found in arguments that our laws are based on the Bible is Sir William Blackstone, an English jurist and law professor, whose lectures were published in the 1760s as a four volume work entitled Commentaries on the Laws of England. Blackstone’s Commentaries contains many references to Christianity, most found in a chapter entitled “Of Offences Against God and Religion.” The first step of these Blackstone arguments is to present a few passages from this chapter. The following are two of the most popular. [T]he preservation of Christianity, as a national religion, is, abstracted from its own intrinsic truth, of the utmost consequence to the civil state, which a single instance will sufficiently demonstrate....1 To deny the possibility, nay, actual existence of witchcraft and sorcery, is at once to contradict the revealed word of God in various passages both of the Old and New Testaments...2 Once they’ve established that Blackstone considered Christianity to be an integral part of English common law, and pointing out the widespread use of his Commentaries in America, the Liars for Jesus single out Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, claiming that they were two of Blackstone’s biggest fans. But, the truth is that Jefferson and Madison were among those who most strongly disapproved of the use of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America. According to David Barton, in his book Original Intent: Blackstone’s “influence in America was so great that Edmund Burke told the British Parliament: I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England.” The reason for pointing out the popularity of Blackstone’s in America is, of course, to imply that all of our founders considered Christianity to be an integral part of American law. The real reason that so many copies of Blackstone’s were sold in America, however, had nothing to do with religion, or even American law. When Blackstone’s first became available in America, it wasn’t only lawyers who were running out to buy it. It was average colonists who wanted to educate themselves on the laws of England in order to understand their rights as British subjects and to be able to recognize when these rights were being violated. For this reason, sales of all law books had increased to some degree in the years leading up to the Revolution. When Blackstone’s was printed in America in 1771, it was an instant best-seller. This was the first law book written in language and arranged in a way that non-lawyers could easily understand. It was The Laws of England for Dummies, and every American who could read was reading it. The sentence that David Barton takes out of context from Edmund Burke’s March 1775 speech comes from a part of that speech in which Burke attributed the “disobedient spirit in the colonies” in part to the large number of colonists reading law books. ...The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England. General Gage marks out this disposition very particularly in a letter on your table. He states, that all the people in his government are lawyers, or smatterers in law; and that in Boston they have been enabled, by successful chicane, wholly to evade many parts of one of your capital penal constitutions. The smartness of debate will say, that this knowledge ought to teach them more clearly the rights of legislature, their obligations to obedience, and the penalties of rebellion. All this is mighty well. But my honourable and learned friend on the floor, who condescends to mark what I say for animadversion, will disdain that ground. He has heard, as well as I, that when great honours and great emoluments do not win over this knowledge to the service of the state, it is a formidable adversary to government. If the spirit be not tamed and broken by these happy methods, it is stubborn and litigious. Abeunt studia in mores. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defence, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.3 After establishing that Blackstone’s Commentaries was very religious, and that it sold well in America, the next step is to connect its use to some prominent founders. The two founders whose opinions of Blackstone’s are most often lied about are, of course, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. According to David Barton, in his book Original Intent: “Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws, introduced in 1766, became the law book of the Founding Fathers. (In fact, so strong was its influence in America that Thomas Jefferson once quipped that American lawyers used Blackstone’s with the same dedication and reverence that Muslims used the Koran.)” The quip referred to by Barton is found in an 1810 letter from Jefferson to John Tyler, a Virginia judge, Governor of Virginia, and father of the future president. I have long lamented with you the depreciation of law science. The opinion seems to be that Blackstone is to us what the Alcoran is to the Mahometans, that everything which is necessary is in him, and what is not in him is not necessary. I still lend my counsel and books to such young students as will fix themselves in the neighborhood. Coke’s institutes and reports are their first, and Blackstone their last book, after an intermediate course of two or three years. It is nothing more than an elegant digest of what they will then have acquired from the real fountains of the law.4 Because the sole purpose of the authors of the religious right version of American history is to promote the notion that America is a Christian nation, they present everything only in reference to religion. Most of these books are little more than lists of isolated quotes and events, completely separated from any other factors that led to these quotes or events. The Blackstone lies are a good example of this. Of course Thomas Jefferson didn’t think the religious laws in Blackstone’s were part of American law. That goes without saying. His two biggest reasons for disliking Blackstone’s, however, had nothing to do with it’s religious content. The first is that Jefferson just didn’t consider Blackstone’s to be very instructive for law students. He often described it as nothing more than a summary of what was found in earlier books, and told the students that he advised to read it only after studying everything else. Jefferson’s opinion was that reading Blackstone’s led students to think they knew a lot more than they actually did, as he wrote in 1812 in another letter to John Tyler. A student finds there a smattering of everything, and his indolence easily persuades him that if he understands that book, he is master of the whole body of the law. The distinction between these, and those who have drawn their stores from the deep and rich mines of Coke on Littleton, seems well understood even by the unlettered common people, who apply the appellation of Blackstone lawyers to these ephemeral insects of the law.5 The second, and most important, reason that Jefferson disapproved of Blackstone’s was that it contained British principles that were incompatible with, and even dangerous to, the republican principles of American government. It wasn’t the founding generation that was heavily influenced by Blackstone, as the religious right authors claim. Most lawyers among the founders had studied law before Blackstone’s Commentaries was even published. It was Blackstone’s influence on the next generation of lawyers that Jefferson was worried about. The use of Blackstone’s as a primary text book was part of Jefferson’s overall concern about what was being taught in America’s colleges in the early 1800s, particularly in the Northern states, where lawyers who had been among the “British” Federalists in the 1790s were teaching the next generation. This was the faction that had always favored hanging on to the aristocratic and monarchical customs of England, ideas which were glorified by Blackstone. Jefferson wrote about this in an 1814 letter to Horatio Spafford, who had just published A Gazetteer of the State of New York and sent him a copy. Spafford noted in this book that, in his state, the British principles that had never ceased to exist among merchants and the clergy had also crept into the law profession. One of the influences Jefferson blamed this on was Blackstone’s Commentaries. They [lawyers] have, in the Mother country, been generally the firmest supporters of the free principles of their constitution. But there too they have changed. I ascribe much of this to the substitution of Blackstone for my Lord Coke, as an ele American History, Religious Right, history revisionism, history revisionists, Religious right history lies, Christian history lies, revisionists, WallBuilders, David Barton, Myth of Separation, Original Intent, Church and State, Separation of Church and State, Christian nation, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Detached Memoranda, Benjamin Franklin, Liars for Jesus, Northwest Ordinance, Treaty of Tripoli, William Federer, D. James Kennedy, Gary DeMar, John Eidsmoe, Mark Beliles, Religious Freedom, First Amendment, Bill of Rights, Founding Fathers, Founders, Christian America, Church State Separation, Ten Commandments, Pledge of Allegiance, Bible in Public schools, prayer in public schools, school prayer, Franklin's motion for prayers