The Theme of our Governmental Philosophy

IN GOD WE TRUST        The founders of our nation believed that Spiritual is supreme, man is of divine origin, and man's spiritual nature is of supreme value.  No other people have ever made this principle the basis of their governmental philosophy. 

America's founding philosophy that man is God's creation endowed with inalienable rights must be accepted or rejected as an indivisible whole together with its obligations, responsibilities, and benefits.  It cannot be rejected or accepted piece-meal.


        Independent America understood that man's rights are not granted by government but by God as Providential Ruler of the universe.  Man has been given unalienable rights by virtue of being God's creation, and no government can take them away.

        The concept of man over government because of America's belief in God and the rights He gave man lead America to develop a constitutionally-limited government for a sovereign people.  The Constitution which limits government by man over man was adopted primarily to make and keep individual rights secure.

        As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence.   The Federalist No. 55, James Madison.

        Weaknesses in human nature never change; therefore, the need for these safeguards cannot change.

        As it signifies the spiritual relationship of God to man and of man to man, our constitution is essentially religious in foundation and purpose.  Man's unalienable rights are sacred for the same reason that they are unalienable--because they are of Divine origin.

        Only those laws consistent with the concept that the "Spiritual is supreme" are truly, deeply American.  Any laws or rulings in conflict with this concept is non-American in the traditional sense.

        And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?  Thomas Jefferson ("Notes on the State of Virginia," 1782)


        Resolved, that the inhabitants of this Province are unalienably entitled to those essential rights "founded in the law of God and of Nature" in common with all men: and that no law of society can, consistent with the law of God and nature, divest them of those rights.  Resolutions of House of Representatives, Massachusetts, 1765


        In short it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one or any number of men at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights when the great end of civil government from the very nature of its institution is for the support, protection, and defense of those very rights: the principal of which as is before observed, are life, liberty, and property.  If men through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave....Resolutions of Town of Boston, 1772, "The Rights of The Colonists,...."


        God hath given to every Man an Unalienable Right in Matters of His Worship to Judge for himself as his Conscience reserves ye Rule from God.  Petition from Church Organizations in 19 Towns in Massachusetts, 1749




New York Spectator. August 23, 1831
        "The court of common pleas of Chester county, [New York] rejected a witness who declared his disbelief in the existence of God. The presiding judge remarked that he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of justice: and that he knew of no cause in a Christian country where a witness had been permitted to testify without such belief."


AMERICA IS NOT A CHRISTIAN ONLY NATION, BUT AMERICA IS and WAS BORN AS A CHRISTIAN NATION.   Our foundations presuppose a Christian view of nature and God's providence.


It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

 Patrick Henry

Christianity to which the sword and the fagot [burning stake or hot branding iron] are unknown! General tolerant Christianity is the law of the land!

 Daniel Webster


Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

 John Jay, America's first Supreme Court Chief Justice

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were. . . . the general principles of Christianity. . . . I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature.

 John Adams


To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.

Jedediah Morse

        "There certainly can be no doubt as to the practice of employing chaplains in deliberative bodies previous to the adoption of the Constitution.  We are, then, prepared to see if any change was made in that respect in the new order of affairs. . . . On the 1st day of May, Washington’s first speech was read to the House, and the first business after that speech was the appointment of Dr. Linn as chaplain.  By whom was this plan made?  Three out of six of that joint committee were members of the Convention that framed the Constitution.  Madison, Ellsworth, and Sherman passed directly from the hall of the Convention to the hall of Congress.  Did they not know what was constitutional? . . . It seems to us that the men who would raise the cry of danger in this state of things would cry fire on the 39th day of a general deluge. . . . But we beg leave to rescue ourselves from the imputation of asserting that religion is not needed to the safety of civil society.  It must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests.  Laws will not have permanence or power without the sanction of religious sentiment—without a firm belief that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues and punish our vices.

        Whereas, the people of these United States, from their earliest history to the present time, have been led by the hand of a kind Providence and are indebted for the countless blessings of the past and present, and dependent for continued prosperity in the future upon Almighty God; and whereas the great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it eminently becomes the representatives of a people so highly favored to acknowledge in the most public manner their reverence for God: therefore, Resolved, That the daily sessions of this body be opened with prayer and that the ministers of the Gospel in this city are hereby requested to attend and alternately perform this solemn duty."     from House Report on March 27, 1854   Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A.O.P.Nicholson,1854).

        "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. . . . When the State encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions.  For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs.  To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups.  That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe."  Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U. S. 306, 312-314 (1952).

  The ecclesiastical establishments of Europe which serve to support tyrannical governments are not the Christian religion but abuses and corruptions of it.    Noah Webster


        The government of America is not officially or forcefully Christian, but America is, by choice, a Christian nation.  Historical documents surrounding the Barbary Powers Conflict confirm that it was viewed as a conflict between Christian America and muslim nations even though America did not want countries of the world to divide themselves into categories based on religion.

        It is true that the Founders themselves openly approved of Christianity in America; but they did not believe anyone should be forced into Christianity.  A constitutional prohibition against a federal establishment in religion left religion as a matter of choice for the individual states. 

        The purpose of Article XI was to distinguish America from past strains of Christian Europeans which had shown hatred toward muslims.  It explained that the United States was not a Christian nation like those of previous centuries because muslims were free to live in our country without persecution.  America's Christianity was "wise and virtuous," (John Jay), "civilized,(John Quincy Adams) and  "rational"  (John Adams)


The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, specifically Article XI

     The article explains that America and the muslim countries should be in harmony because America is not a Christian nation with enmity against the religion of the muslims.  It further clauses that America itself is not guilty of ever being in a war against any muslim nation, nor shall harmony be interrupted because of religious differences.

     It was signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796, and at Algiers (for a third-party guarantee) on January 3, 1797, by Joel Barlow, the United States consul-general to the Barbary states of Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis. 
    The treaty was broken in 1801 by the Pasha of Tripoli and renegotiated in 1805 after the First Barbary War. 

Article 11 reads:
As the Government (Note: referring to Federal government) of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

     At the time of the Treaty, the Mediterranean Sea lanes were vulnerable to Muslim states of the Barbary Coast through piracy.  Christian cargo was seized and hostages were either ransomed or sold into slavery unless Christians paid a yearly tribute.  Once America became an independent country, she was no longer under the protection of the British tribute treaties and suffered severe losses.  Not yet having a Navy, the U.S. decided to form tribute treaties with the Barbary states, such as the Treaty of Tripoli. It was one of the many treaties in which each country gave official recognition to the religion of the other in an attempt to prevent further escalation of a "Holy War" between Christians and muslims.

    The terms of the treaty were unfavorable to America, either requiring her to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to each country in exchange for safety, or the muslims would accept other gifts such as a warship or frigate to Algiers.  Americans were directed to pay $525,000 in ransom for captured American seamen from Algiers, etc.    

    Negotiations continued, but trying to keep the peace was exasperating.  Demands grew larger and more frequent and expressed with increased bullying.  Eaton* wrote to the State Department: 

`....(t)he game of the Mediterranean Christians (has been) wrested from them by the more mighty hunters of the North and East; what have they for one hundred and twenty bloodhounds, which now lie kenneled in their ports, to be employed about?  They must be let loose upon somebody.  They already scent our merchantmen.  And finding the least plausible pretext, they will be loosed to the chase.  If then our stipulations be not punctually observed, where is the guarantee of our safety?  Shall we rely on treaty compact?  Treaties are dead languages with these regencies...We cannot place any reliance in their good faith.  Can humanity move them?  Why should we expect from inveterate pirates virtues seldom practiced among civilized and Christian nations?  Have we the vanity to believe they are afraid of us?  What should have produced this impulse?  They have seen nothing here to excite terror but the little Miss Sophia disguised in men's clothes.  The poor thing excited pity rather than alarm.  When I observed to the Bey at one of our interviews that we had whipped the English, he shrewdly asked whether we did it or whether the French did it for us?  As I have before said, nothing will prevent us from being blood-sucked by this daughter of the horseleech except formidable force, faithful fulfillment of our stipulations or further sacrifices.*   "The Sophia was a converted merchantman mounting twelve cannon  

    In March 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli demanded more tribute than previously agreed upon.  Newly inaugurated Thomas Jefferson, having long disagreed with the policy of paying tribute, refused the pasha's demand.  On May 10, 1801, the pasha declared out-and-out war against the United States.  After all, the U.S. was Christian and her ships were easy prey. 

    Eaton later complained when Jefferson sent him the old warship Hero because it served to feed an already-held opinion by the Tunis muslims of a weak America.

    (T)he weak, the crazy situation of the vessel and equipage [armaments] tended to confirm an opinion long since conceived and never fairly controverted among the Tunisians, that the Americans are a feeble sect of Christians.

    On June 4, 1805, the Treaty of Peace and Amity was negotiated with the Pasha Yusuf.  To the dismay of many Americans, this included a ransom of $60,000 for the release of prisoners from the USS Philadelphia and several U.S. merchant ships.  Below is an assessment of our problem as expressed by Eaton*: 

To the United States, they believe they can dictate terms.  Why should they not?  Or why should they believe it will ever be otherwise?  They have seen nothing in America to controvert the opinion.  And all our talk of resistance and reprisal, they view as the swaggering of a braggadocio...But whatever stratagem may be used to aid our measures, it is certain, that there is not access to the permanent friendship of these states, without paving the way with gold or cannon balls; and the proper question is, which method is preferable.

    By 1807, Algiers had gone back to taking U.S. ships and seamen hostage.  Because preludes to the War of 1812 kept America occupied, they were not able to respond to Algiers until the Second Barbary War (1815). 

     Over and over, history shows that Adams was a Christian and believed America was a Christian nation.  Additionally, the writings of General William Eaton testify how the conflict was viewed at that time.  Eaton's correspondence  confirms that the conflict was a Muslim war against a Christian America.  For example, when writing to Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, Eaton apprised him of why the Muslims would be such dedicated foes:

Taught by revelation that war with the Christians will guarantee the salvation of their souls, and finding so great secular advantages in the observance of this religious duty [the secular advantage of keeping captured cargoes], their [the Muslims'] inducements to desperate fighting are very powerful.

    After giving extortion compensations to the Barbaries, Eaton wrote to Pickering about their response:

He said, "To speak truly and candidly . . . . we must acknowledge to you that we have never received articles of the kind of so excellent a quality from any Christian nation." 

When John Marshall became the new Secretary of State, Eaton informed him:

It is a maxim of the Barbary States, that "The Christians who would be on good terms with them must fight well or pay well."

And when General Eaton finally commenced his military action against Tripoli, his personal journal noted:

April 8th  We find it almost impossible to inspire these wild bigots with confidence in us or to persuade them that, being Christians, we can be otherwise than enemies to Musselmen. We have a difficult undertaking!

May 23rd  Hassien Bey, the commander in chief of the enemy's forces, has offered by private insinuation for my head six thousand dollars and double the sum for me a prisoner; and $30 per head for Christians. Why don't he come and take it?

*Eaton was appointed by President Adams as "Consul to Tunis," and President Jefferson later advanced him to "U. S. Naval Agent to the Barbary States," authorizing him to lead a military expedition against Tripoli.

    Naval Documents related to the U.S. Wars with the Barbary Powers, six volumes, by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Records and Library (Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1939-1944).

    Treaties and Other International Acts of the U.S., 1776-1818, edited by Hunter Miller, in two volumes (Washington, D.C.: U.S. GPO, 1931)

    Treaties with the Barbary Powers: 1786-1836, "The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy," Yale Law School

    DAR Timeline Grand Old Flag Military Role of Religion Education States Represented Sources Consulted


 It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans (Muslims), pagans, etc., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President or other high office, [unless] first the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves.
Elliot’s Debates, Vol. IV, pp 198-199, Governor Samuel Johnston, July 30, 1788 at the North Carolina Ratifying Convention

The opinion that human reason left without the constant control of Divine laws and commands will preserve a just administration, secure freedom and other rights, restrain men from violations of laws and constitutions, and give duration to a popular government is as chimerical as the most extravagant ideas that enter the head of a maniac . . . . Where will you find any code of laws among civilized men in which the commands and prohibitions are not founded on Christian principles? I need not specify the prohibition of murder, robbery, theft [and] trespass.
Noah Webster, Letters, Harry A Warfel, ed., (NY: Library Publishers, 1953) pp. 453-454, to David McClure, Oct. 25, 1836.



Link to: Elias Boudinot, The Age of Revelation (1801)


While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian.

George Washington 

February 22, 1812   The patriot who feels himself in the service of God, who acknowledges Him in all his ways, has the promise of Almighty direction, and will find His Word in his greatest darkness, a lantern to his feet and a lamp unto his paths.' He will therefore seek to establish for his country in the eyes of the world, such a character as shall make her not unworthy of the name of a Christian nation....

Francis Scott Key    ^ a b c The Barbary Treaties : Tripoli 1796 - Hunter Miller's Notes. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School.

Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion. WallBuilders. 
The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. Oxford University Press. 

London, Joshua E., Victory in Tripoli, Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2005
On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding. Encounter Books. 
Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers. Baker Book House. 
Brooke Allen. "Our Godless Constitution". The Nation. Feb. 3, 2005.
The Barbary Treaties : Tripoli 1796 - Hunter Miller's Notes. The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. 
Issues and Articles - Treaty of Tripoli. WallBuilders.


  Shortly after the conflict with Tripoli was terminated, its account was written and published as:  

The Life of the Late Gen. William Eaton . . . commander of the Christian and Other Forces . . . which Led to the Treaty of Peace Between The United States and The Regency of Tripoli



The best rose-bush, after all, is not that which has the fewest thorns, but that which bears the finest roses.

   Henry Van Dyke