Our Constitution was Made Only for a Moral and Religious People

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American Minute from William J. Federer

On OCTOBER 11, 1798, President John Adams wrote to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division of Massachusetts’ Militia:

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net…

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Massachusetts’ Constitution, 1780, written by John Adams, designated (PART 1, ARTICLE 3):

“Good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality… The legislature shall…require…suitable provision…for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality.”

New Hampshire’s Constitution, 1784, stated (PART 1, ARTICLE 6):

“As morality and piety, rightly grounded on evangelical principles will give the best and greatest security to government…

“The people of this state…empower the legislature…to make adequate provision…for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality.”

Vermont’s Constitution, 1777, stated (CHAP. 2, SEC. 41):

“Laws for the encouragement of virtue and prevention of vice and immorality, shall be made and constantly kept in force…

“All religious societies…incorporated…for the advancement of religion and learning, or for other pious and charitable purposes, shall be encouraged and protected in the enjoyment of the privileges.”

New York’s Supreme Court stated in People v. Ruggles, 1811:

“We stand equally in need, now as formerly, of all the moral discipline, and of those principles of virtue, which help to bind society together.

“The people of this State, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity, as the rule of their faith and practice; and to scandalize the author of these doctrines…is a gross violation of decency and good order. Nothing could be more injurious to the tender morals of the young.”

New York’s Legislature stated in 1838:

“Our Government depends for its being on the virtue of the people, – on that virtue that has its foundation in the morality of the Christian religion; and that religion is the common and prevailing faith of the people.”

South Carolina’s Supreme Court stated in City of Charleston v. S.A. Benjamin, 1846:

“Christianity is a part of the common law of the land, with liberty of conscience to all. It has always been so recognized… Christianity has reference to the principles of right and wrong… It is the foundation of those morals and manners upon which our society is formed…Remove this and they would fall.”

Thomas Jefferson, as Virginia’s Governor, November 11, 1779, proclaimed a day for:

“Public and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God…that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.”

Calvin Coolidge stated October 15, 1924:

“The government of a country never gets ahead of the religion of a country. There is no way by which we can substitute the authority of law for the virtue of man.”

John Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 1856, stated:

“In the state, the REPUBLIC is the proper governmental form, and VIRTUE is the mainspring (support).”

Dr. Benjamin Rush, who signed the Declaration, wrote in Thoughts Upon the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic, 1786:

“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid on the foundation of religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments…

“The religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament…All its doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society and the safety and well-being of civil government.”

Noah Webster wrote in A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary and Moral Subjects, New York, 1843:

“The virtue which is necessary to preserve a just administration and render a government stable, is Christian virtue, which consists in the uniform practice of moral and religious duties, in conformity with the laws of both of God and man.”

British Statesman Edmund Burke told the National Assembly, 1791:

“What is liberty without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils…madness without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…

“Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.”

U.S. Speaker of the House Robert Winthrop stated, May 28, 1849:

“Men, in a word, must be controlled either by a power within them, or a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”

Samuel Adams wrote to John Scollay, April 30, 1776:

“Public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals. ‘The Roman Empire,’ says the historian, ‘must have sunk, though the Goths had not invaded it. Why? Because the Roman virtue was sunk.’”

Samuel Adams, as Governor of Massachusetts, wrote February 12, 1779:

“A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.

“While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.

“If we would enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.”

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