November 8, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State

So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State

Language: English

Pages: 544

ISBN: 0151011850

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Today’s dispute over the line between church and state (or the lack thereof) is neither the first nor the fiercest in our history. In a powerful retelling of the birth of the American body politic, religious historian Forrest Church describes our first great culture war—a tumultuous yet nearly forgotten conflict that raged from George Washington’s presidency to James Monroe’s. On one side of the battle, the proponents of order—Federalists, Congregationalists, New Englanders—believed that the only legitimate ruler of men is God. On the other side, the defenders of liberty—republicans, Baptists, Virginians—cheered the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and believed that only the separation of church and state would preserve man’s freedom. Would we be a nation under God, or with liberty for all?

In this vigorous history, Forrest Church offers a new vision of our earliest presidents’ beliefs, reshaping assumptions about the debates that still reverberate across our land.

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church offered incomplete solace to advocates for a Christian commonwealth. To give but one indication of how far the equal opportunity national pulpit might stray from the established religious pasture, in 1805 the laissez faire Baptist speaker of the house, North Carolina’s Nathaniel Macon, invited a woman to preach in the Hall of Representatives. Methodist evangelist Dorothy Ripley reported praying beforehand, “the Lord direct my tongue, and open my mouth powerfully, that His Name [by a woman]

nations or any great numbers, without a splendor and majesty in some degree proportioned to them.” In Adams’s opinion, no “other name can with propriety be given [the new government], than that of a monarchical republic, or if you will, a limited monarchy.” Apart from this idiosyncratic reading of American writ, his concerns were highly personal. In his role as president of the Senate, it was only appropriate that that the senators should address him accordingly. If Washington should pay a

149. [>] “Fly, Monroe, fly!” Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, Salons, Colonial and Republican, 205. [>] “It is vain” Douglas R. Egerton, “Henry Clay,” 70. [>] “Mr. Madison is perhaps” Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812, 302. [>]–41 “I would rather” Catherine Algor, A Perfect Union, 320. [>] “I have always” DM to Edward Coles, 13 May 1813, The Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison, David B. Mattern and Holly C. Schulman, eds., 176. [>] “I insisted on” DM to Lucy Payne Washington Todd, 23–24

against slavery,” but refused to take a public stand on the matter. “He informed us that he was of our sentiments, and had signified his thoughts on the subject to most of the great men of the state,” Coke recalled. “He did not see it proper to sign the petition, but, if the Assembly took it into consideration, would signify his sentiments to the Assembly by letter.” Lacking Washington’s imprimatur, when the Methodist petitions reached the Assembly they were, as Madison reported to Jefferson, not

and most essential defense at the present hour and let us be thankful to God that he has given us a chief magistrate who, in looking to the defense of the country, has seen this important truth in its just light—has seen that we must implore and obtain the favor of God, or all other means will be ineffectual. Green’s covenant theology and Federalist politics echoed from establishment pulpits across the land. Presbyterian Samuel Miller of New York confessed that he wasn’t accustomed to drag

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