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Commentary - Was America really founded by deists?

By Melva Jean Ruckheim, Parkers Prairie, MN

Policies are often justified by saying that they reflect the intent of the deists who founded America. Deists didn't believe God was actively involved in human affairs. Was America really founded by deists?

April 15, 1775, John Hancock, president of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts proclaimed A Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer: "In circumstances dark as these, it becomes us as men and Christians to reflect that whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgments ... all confidence must be withheld from the means we use and reposed only on ...God ..."

The Journals of the 1776 Second Continental Congress record the fact that Congress set aside May 17, 1776, as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer throughout the colonies to "confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his [God's] righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness, humbly imploring his assistance to..." (A long list of requests for God's help followed.)

The "Declaration of Independence" closed with: "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

During the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin reminded the delegates, "In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered..."

President George Washington's "First Inaugural Address" included these statements: "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency..."

On September 14, 1814, after witnessing the successful defense of Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key wrote the following words in the fourth stanza of what is now known as "The Star Spangled Banner:" "Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto - "In God is our trust."

President Abraham Lincoln said this as he called the nation to prayer and fasting on March 30, 1863: "We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God...we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own...It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the Offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."