Spiritual Heritage and The Declaration of Independence

QUESTION: Spiritual Heritage – The Declaration of Independence

ANSWER:

In 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence with its four direct religious acknowledgments referring to God as the Creator (“All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”), the Lawgiver (“the laws of nature and nature’s God”), the Judge (“appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world”), and the Protector (“with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence”).1

Upon approving the Declaration of Independence, John Adams declared that the Fourth of July “ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”2

Spiritual Heritage – The Liberty Bell, the National Seal, and the Treaty of Paris
Four days after approving the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell was rung. The Liberty Bell was named for the Biblical inscription from Leviticus 25:10 emblazoned around it: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof”.

In 1777, Congress, facing a national shortage of “Bibles for our schools, and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches,”3 announced that they “desired to have a Bible printed under their care and by their encouragement”4 and therefore ordered 20,000 copies of the Bible to be imported “into the different ports of the States of the Union.”5

In 1782, Congress pursued a plan to print a Bible that would be “a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools”6 and therefore approved7 the production of the first English language Bible printed in America that contained the congressional endorsement that “the United States in Congress assembled . . . recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.”8

In 1782, Congress also adopted (and has reaffirmed on numerous subsequent occasions) the National Seal with its Latin motto “Annuit Coeptis,” meaning “God has favored our undertakings,” along with the eye of Providence in a triangle over a pyramid, and the eye and the motto “allude to the many signal interpositions of Providence in favor of the American cause.”9

The 1783 Treaty of Paris officially ended the Revolution and establishing America as an independent nation begins with the appellation “In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.”10

NOTES

1 The Declaration of Independence.

2 John Adams, Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841), Vol. I, p. 128, to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776.

3 Letters of the Delegates to the Continental Congress, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington D. C.: Library of Congress, 1981), Vol. VII, p. 311, n1.

4 Letters of the Delegates to the Continental Congress, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington D. C.: Library of Congress, 1981), Vol. VII, p. 311, “Committee on Publishing a Bible to Sundry Philadelphia Printers,” on July 7, 1777.

5 Journals of the Continental Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1907), Vol. VIII, p. 734, September 11, 1777.

6 Memorial of Robert Aitken to Congress, 21 January 1781, original in the National Archives, Washington, D. C.; see also the introduction to the Holy Bible As Printed by Robert Aitken and Approved & Recommended by the Congress of the United States of America in 1782 (Philadelphia: R. Aitken, 1782) or the New York Arno Press reprint of 1968.

7 Journals of the Continental Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1914), Vol. XXIII, p. 574, September 12, 1782; see also cover page of the “Bible of the Revolution,” either the 1782 original or the 1968 reprint by Arno Press.

8 Journals of the Continental Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1914), Vol. XXIII, p. 574, September 12, 1782.

9 Richard S. Patterson and Richardson Dougall, The Eagle and the Shield (Washington: Department of State, 1976), p. 85, citing from the report adopted by Congress on June 20, 1782, available at Journals of the Continental Congress (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1914), Vol. XXII, p. 339, available online at http://memory.loc.gov/cgibin/ampage?collId=lljc&fileName=022/lljc022.db&recNum=348&itemLink=r%3Fammem%2Fhlaw%3A%40field%28DOCID%2B%40lit%28jc0221%29%29%230220001&linkText=1.

10 The New Annual Register or General Repository of History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1783 (London: G. Robinson, 1784), p. 113; opening line of final Treaty of Peace.

Spiritual Heritage - Learn More!

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