Spiritual Heritage and the Presidential Inauguration

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Spiritual Heritage – The Presidential Inauguration

America’s first Presidential Inauguration – that of President George Washington – incorporated seven specific religious activities, including (1) the use of the Bible to administer the oath;1 (2) affirming the religious nature of the oath by the adding the prayer “So help me God!” to the oath;2 (3) inaugural prayers offered by the president;3 (4) religious content in the inaugural address;4 (5) civil leaders calling the people to prayer or acknowledgement of God;5 (6) inaugural worship services attended en masse by Congress as an official part of congressional activities;6 and (7) clergy-led inaugural prayers7 – activities which have been replicated in whole or part by every subsequent president.

Spiritual Heritage – Quotes from the Presidents
President George Washington declared “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”8

President John Adams, one of only two signers of the Bill of Rights and First Amendment, declared “As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him.”9

President Thomas Jefferson not only attended Divine services at the Capitol throughout his presidency10 and had the Marine Band play at the services11 but during his administration church services were also begun in the two Executive Branch buildings under his direct control: the War Department and the Treasury Department,12 thus allowing worshippers on any given Sunday the choice to attend church at either the United States Capitol, the War Department, or the Treasury Department if they so desired.

Thomas Jefferson urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes,13 provided Federal funding for missionary work among Indian tribes,14 and declared that religious schools would receive “the patronage of the government.”15

President Andrew Jackson declared that the Bible “is the rock on which our Republic rests.”16

President Abraham Lincoln declared that the Bible “is the best gift God has given to men ... But for it, we could not know right from wrong.”17

President William McKinley declared that “Our faith teaches us that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, Who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and Who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps.”18

President Teddy Roosevelt declared “The Decalogue and the Golden Rule must stand as the foundation of every successful effort to better either our social or our political life.”19

President Woodrow Wilson declared that “America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.”20

President Herbert Hoover declared that “American life is built, and can alone survive, upon . . . [the] fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago.”21

President Franklin D. Roosevelt not only led the nation in a six-minute prayer during D-Day on June 6, 1944,22 but he also declared that “If we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to destruction.”23

President Harry S. Truman declared that “The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul.”24

President Harry S. Truman told a group touring Washington, D. C., that “You will see, as you make your rounds, that this Nation was established by men who believed in God. . . . You will see the evidence of this deep religious faith on every hand.”25

President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that “Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first – the most basic – expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be”26 – a declaration later repeated with approval by President Gerald Ford.27

President John F. Kennedy declared that “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”28

President Ronald Reagan, after noting “The Congress of the United States, in recognition of the unique contribution of the Bible in shaping the history and character of this Nation and so many of its citizens, has . . . requested the President to designate the year 1983 as the ‘Year of the Bible’ ,” officially declared 1983 as “The Year of the Bible.”29

Every other president has similarly recognized the role of God and religious faith in the public life and spiritual heritage of America.

NOTES

1 See, for example, The History of the Centennial Celebration of George Washington as First President of the United States, Clarence Winthrop Bowen, editor (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1892), p. 51; Benson J. Lossing, Washington and the American Republic (New York: Virtue & Yorston, 1870), Vol. III, p. 93; and numerous others.

2 See, for example, The History of the Centennial Celebration of George Washington as First President of the United States, Clarence Winthrop Bowen, editor (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1892), p. 52; Benson J. Lossing, Washington and the American Republic (New York: Virtue & Yorston, 1870), Vol. III, p. 93; and numerous others.

3 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Published by Authority of Congress, 1897), George Washington, Vol. 1, p.44, April 30th, 1789.

4 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Published by Authority of Congress, 1897), George Washington, Vol. 1, pp. 44-45, April 30th, 1789.

5 The Daily Advertiser, New York, Thursday, April 23, 1789, p. 2; see also The History of the Centennial Celebration of George Washington as First President of the United States, Clarence Winthrop Bowen, editor (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1892), p. 41, and many other sources.

6 Senate: Annals of Congress (1834), Vol. I, p. 25, April 27, 1789; House: Annals of Congress (1834), Vol. I, p. 241, April 29, 1789.

7 George Bancroft, History of the Formation of the Constitution of the United States of America (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1882), Vol. II, p. 363; see also The History of the Centennial Celebration of George Washington as First President of the United States, Clarence Winthrop Bowen, editor (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1892), p. 54, and many other sources.

8 George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States and Late Commander-inChief of the American Army, to the People of the United States, Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge, 1796), pp. 22-23.

9 John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 169, proclamation for a National Thanksgiving on March 23, 1798.

10 See, for example, William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler, Life, Journal, and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler (Cincinnati: Colin Robert Clarke & Co., 1888), Vol. II, p. 66, 119, in a letter to Dr. Joseph Torrey on January 3, 1803; see also his entry of December 12, 1802 (Vol. II, p. 113) and December 26, 1802 (Vol. II, p. 114); Bishop Claggett’s (Episcopal Bishop of Maryland) letter of February 18, 1801, available in the Maryland Diocesan Archives; The First Forty Years of Washington Society, Galliard Hunt, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 13; James Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1998), p. 84; etc.

11 James Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1998), p. 89.

12 James Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, D. C.: Library of Congress, 1998), p. 89; see also John Quincy Adams, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1874), Vol. I, p. 265, October 23, 1803.

13 Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Bishop Carroll (Sept. 3, 1801) (on file with the Library of Congress, #19,966).

14 American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States, Walter Lowrie and Matthew St. Claire Clarke, editors (Washington, D. C.: Gales and Seaton, 1832), Vol. IV, p. 687, “The Kaskaskia and Other Tribes”; Debates and Proceedings (Washington, D. C.: Gales and Seaton, 1851), 7th Cong., p. 1332, “An Act in addition to an act, entitled ‘An act in addition to an act regulating the grants of land appropriated for military services, and for the Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen’”; Debates and Proceedings (Washington, D. C.: Gales and Seaton, 1851), 7th Cong., 2nd Sess. , p. 1602, “An Act to revive and continue in force an act, in addition to an act, Entitled ‘An act in addition to an act regulating the grants of land appropriated to military services, and for the Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen,’ and for other purposes.”; Debates and Proceedings (Washington, D. C.: Gales and Seaton, 1852), 8th Cong., p. 1279, “An Act Granting Further Time for Locating Military Land Warrants, and for Other Purposes.”

15 Letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Nuns of the Order of St. Ursula at New Orleans on May 15, 1804, original on file with the New Orleans Parish.

16 American Presidency Project, “Ronald Reagan: Proclamation 5018 – Year of the Bible, 1983, February 3rd, 1983” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=40728); see the same quote in a proclamation from President George H. W. Bush on February 22, 1990, “International Year of Bible Reading,” in Code of Federal Regulations (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1991), p. 21.

17 Abraham Lincoln, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, editor (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), Vol. VII, p. 542, reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon presentation of a Bible, September 7, 1864.

18 American Presidency Project, “William McKinley: Inaugural Address, March 4th, 1897” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25827).

19 Theodore Roosevelt, American Ideals, The Strenuous Life, Realizable Ideals (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), pp. 498-499.

20 Woodrow Wilson, The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Arthur S. Link, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977), Vol. 23, p. 20, An Address in Denver on the Bible, May 7, 1911.

21 American Presidency Project, “Herbert Hoover: Radio Address to the Nation on Unemployment Relief, October 18, 1931” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=22855).

22 American Presidency Project, “Franklin D. Roosevelt: Prayer on D-Day, June 6th, 1944 (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=16515&st=&st1=).

23 American Presidency Project, “Franklin D. Roosevelt: Address at Dedication of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, September 2nd, 1940” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=16002).

24 American Presidency Project, “Harry S. Truman: Address Before the Attorney General’s conference on Law Enforcement Problems,” February 15, 1950” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13707).

25 American Presidency Project, “Harry S. Truman’s Address to the Washington Pilgrimage of American Churchmen, September 28th, 1951” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13934); see also “Address at the Cornerstone Laying of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, April 3rd, 1951 (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14048).

26 American Presidency Project, “Dwight D. Eisenhower: Remarks Recorded for the “Back-to-God” Program of the American Legion. February 20th, 1955” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=10414&st=&st1=).

27 American Presidency Project, “Gerald Ford: Proclamation 4338 – National Day of Prayer, 1974, December 5th, 1974” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=23888).

28 American Presidency Project, “John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address, January 20th, 1961” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=8032).

29 American Presidency Project, “Ronald Reagan: Proclamation 5018—Year of the Bible, 1983, February 3rd, 1983” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=40728).



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