If you sincerely want to understand how our government has become the monster it has grown into, you have to learn to recognize where you’ve been had, bamboozled, took etc. as Malcolm X put it, or in common terms just plain flat-out been lied to.
If you have been following along from the beginning. you have a more truthful background of how the Constitution was put together and the background of the framers. If not, it would pay to catch up from the beginning here as there is some important background information you’ve missed.
We’ve previously covered some facts and demographics developing a context of where the framers of our Constitution actually were coming from. Clearly, you should be able to understand that they were not the dyed in wool Christian’s we have all been led to believe they were. Rather they were more secular. Many were oriented towards the popular movement of their time which was the enlightenment emphasis inspired by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense book (a hot seller at the time) and the driving ideology of the French Revolution, the Cult of Reason.
However, there are those that insist that our framers were dedicated Christians and therefore produced a Christian inspired document which was focused on Christian principles. Let’s take a look at the evidence to support that conclusion to see if it, in fact, is actually true.
At this point, you can not read on, take the blue pill and believe whatever it is you want. Or, you can take the red pill, follow me down the rabbit hole and see how deep it goes. “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
Our Nation’s Christian Beginnings- Mayflower Compact
When the pilgrims first came to this nation, they were devout Christians. There is no question about that. For example, the Mayflower Compact signed in November 1620 was intended to establish the basis for a cooperative government. It was a short one page piece of paper that was signed by 41 participants. The authority for that government of these then English citizens was clearly stated as follows (transformed to more current English but otherwise intact. Read the original here.):
One can see clearly an acknowledgement of what the basis for authority in their community was.
- Their loyalty to King James
- Their loyalty to the Christian God.
You can also see the intent or purpose of their endeavor which was to:
- Advance the Christian faith
- Advance the honor of their king and country (and in that order I may add)
This deference to the Christian God was also common among the Compacts and Agreements that made up the first colonies by in the 17th Century. For example, in the Portsmouth, RI Compact we find that it begins with:
Not only do they defer authority to God, but specifically designate “our Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords and all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given us in His Holy Word of Truth” as their guide and judge.
Also, as noted in the Highlights of History article linked above: “The inhabitants cleared land, constructed dwellings, dug wells, and established orchards. The little colony seemed to thrive and quickly grew as other families joined.”
One is left to wonder that had that community continued to defer to Christ and God’s “perfect and most absolute laws” of the Bible (“His Holy Word of Truth”) whether that initial prosperity would have continued as the God of Abraham promised to the Hebrew people of the Old Testament as long as they kept His commandments. Obviously, there have been some changes in the community: damaging fires, DUI’s, child molesters and more. Just another sign of the times now.
Agreement or Constitution of the Colony of New Haven
In another example, Fundamental Agreement, or Original Constitution of the Colony of New Haven, June 4, 1639, all the free planters gathered “to consult about setting civil government, according to GOD” (Caps in the original document, not added)
When a vote was put forth on the first question, the recorder of the proceedings, Robert Newman wrote:
Clearly, once again it was to the God of the scriptures they deferred authority and for its “rules for the direction and government of all men in all duties”. No deference to the authority of the King of England was included in this Fundamental Agreement
First Charter of Virginia
The First Charter of Virginia, April 10, 1606:
We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government: DO, by these our Letters Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires
Again, deference to the authority of the Christian God and “propagating of Christian religion” were directly referenced as authority for the purpose of establishing “a settled and quiet Government”.
Charter of Delaware
Or how about this Charter of Delaware made even as late as March 4, 1701:
AND that all Persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, shall be capable (notwithstanding their other Persuasions and Practices in Point of Conscience and Religion) to serve this Government in any Capacity, both legislatively and executively, he or they solemnly promising, when lawfully required, Allegiance to the King as Sovereign, and Fidelity to the Proprietary and Governor, and taking the Attests as now established by the Law made at Newcastle, in the Year One Thousand and Seven Hundred, entitled,
Clearly, the early colonists were not only Christian in nature assigning authority to the Christian God for their actions but also considered the law of the Bible as a valid authority in governing themselves.
Now, let’s fast forward to the time period just after the Constitution was passed.
Barbary Pirates and Tripoli
The Islamic Barbary States of Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers and Morocco had little agriculture or industry to sustain themselves with. Since they were nested on the edge of the Mediterranean, many trade routes passed close to them. Such booty was tempting to a hungry Islamic people not governed by the ten commandments (Thou shalt not steal.). So, they turned to piracy for their livelihoods. Justified by their war against Christian nations. (Yes, even that long ago.)
Their victims became the merchant vessels that used the Mediterranean ports to ply their wares. Captured vessels were looted and their crew and/or passengers transported back to the mainland to be sold into slavery, put to hard labor or killed if they resisted.
After the Revolutionary War loss, Britain (which could have snuffed out these pirates if it chose to) let it be known that American merchant vessels were no longer under the protection of the British Empire. In July of 1785 two American ships, the Maria and the Dauphin, were seized by Algerian Corsairs (small armed ships):
”Twenty-two crewmen were transported to Algiers and thrown into dungeons among the slaves of other nations. They were dressed in coarse cloths, given a single dirty blanket each and fed a daily ration of 15 ounces of bread.” (From Six Frigates by Ian Toll)
They were placed into hard labor crews, set to work on the wharves, manacled, beaten and whipped and always in fear of their lives.
Jefferson was written about this while in Paris from the prisoners who begged him to raise funds to ransom them. With no Navy, the U.S. could only negotiate a payment of ransom. A treaty and offer was the prisoners only hope.
The preliminary treaty began at the end of George Washington’s last term as President with a signing on 4 November, 1796. Joel Barlow, former chaplain in Washington’s army now diplomat served as counsel to Algiers, was responsible for the treaty negotiations. Barlow became good friends with Paine, Jefferson, and read Enlightenment literature. He eventually abandoned Christian orthodoxy for rationalism and became an advocate of secular government.
Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli
Barlow forwarded the treaty to U.S. legislators for approval in 1797. Timothy Pickering, the secretary of state, endorsed it. John Adams, now President, concurred. The document went to the Senate who approved the treaty on June 7, 1797. It was officially ratified by the Senate with John Adams signature on 10 June, 1797.
During the entire review and approval process, the wording of Article 11 was never met with opposition or raised the slightest concern, even after the treaty became public through its publication in The Philadelphia Gazette on 17 June 1797. It was published in full in all 13 states with no record of complaint or dissent.
So what exactly happened here? Colonial sentiments expressed through their governments changed from an acknowledgement of the Christian God, Jesus Christ and even biblically based laws to the complacent acceptance of a blatant statement that America was not “in any sense, founded on the Christian religion“, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen (an obsolete term meaning Muslims or Islamic people) or hostile to any Mehomitan (based on the prophet Mohammed or Islamic) nation.
This was a direct acknowledgement that the spiritual fiber of our nation had changed. This was reflected through both the framers, the Constitution itself and, in fact, “We the People”.
A Closer Look at the Article 11 Statement
First of all, this treaty was not outside of the public eye like treaty’s passed today. The public was keenly aware of what was going on with the captured sailors in Algiers. Reports in the newspapers like the Pa. Gazette, with inflammatory and biased language, aided the public focus on this issue. In our nascent nation, the people were keenly involved in issues impacting their citizens.
Consequently, both the President and the Senate were under pressure to make a decision. The monetary cost of the treaty was steep (without a Federal Reserve to generate monopoly money) and citizens were being humiliated and abused. So this was not a low profile treaty slipped through like the legislation of our apathetic times.
Many citizens had an active interest in the Tripoli situation. Yet, no one batted an eye about the declaration in Article 11.
The Devil is in the Details
The leading words which define the principal focus of the treaty referred specifically to “the Government of the United States”.
At that time, what was that government founded upon? After the ratification of the Constitution in June 1788 and adoption March 4, 1789 by all of the 13 colonies this statement could only refer to that government framed under the Constitution of the United States. Not the people, but the government.
Additionally, the initial words state “in any sense”. Not “a” sense, but in “any” sense.
In short, this clearly affirms that this constitutionally framed government was not based upon any Christian principles. Their words from that time NOT mine.
More specifically, this Constitution did not refer to the Christian religion when it framed or founded this U.S. government.
Now, one can argue and quote all the supposed or assumed evidence they want about the Christian inspired Constitution, but Article 11 in the Treaty of Tripoli should not be taken lightly as a minor misstatement. This was a high profile issue at the time and the treaty itself was well examined, framed by Washington, ratified by President John Adams, the Senate and a keenly interested public and yet not a whisper of protest was raised against the language of Article 11.
One can safely conclude this wording speaks a lot to the mind-set of the framers, the nature of the Constitution they crafted and the changing character of our nation.
What’s Up Next?
What I’d like to do next is back up just a little. Take a quick look at a key event during the Convention that points to the mindset of the delegates. Then, possibly look at the Preamble as a means of determining the nature of our Constitution. If you missed any of the beginning segments, go back to Part One and get up to speed as there will be some references in the next segment that the earlier segments will fill in.
Go on to Part 7.