“We fix on our Standards and Drums the Colony arms, with the motto, Qui Transtulit Sustinet, round it in letters of gold, which we construe thus: God, who transplanted us hither, will support us.” – A letter regarding the Lexington Alarm dated Wethersfield, CT., April 23, 1775 Record of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution 1775-1783, Adj. Gen., Hartford, 1889
Historical Series, Number Eleven, February 2005
The Educational Outreach of the General Israel Putnam Branch No. 4
of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
REVOLUTIONARY HIGH GROUND:
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
In Congress, July 4, 1776. A DECLARATION By the REPRESENTATIVES of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, In GENERAL CONGRESS assembled.” is known as The Declaration of Independence and is the defining document of the founding of the “United States of America”. The Declaration of Independence listed the causes to justify our separation from Great-Britain, but also defined the doctrinal basis on which the newly designated “United States of America” was founded, the Revolution Pursued, the peace treaty concluded and the Constitution ratified. The declared separation from Great-Britain was later secured on September 3, 1783 by the “Treaty With Great Britain”, known as the Treaty of Paris. The Preamble of The Treaty With Great Britain begins with an awesome declaration “In the Name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity”. Negotiated and signed by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay (our 1st Chief Justice) and Henry Laurens, this Treaty was ratified by Congress on January 14, 1784 establishing the early boundaries of the United States of America and is acknowledged to be “the greatest triumph in the history of American diplomacy”. The Third Document, the Constitution for the United States of America, became effective in 1789 as the basis for Civil Government. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay had authored “The Federalist Papers” as a primer for constitutional thought. Various concerns of the delegates had delayed ratification, but an agreement to add a “Bill of Rights” which became the First Ten Amendments to the Constitution, finally resolved the matter. The Constitution begins with the words, “We, the People of the United States…”. These were the same “one People” who declared themselves the United States of America in 1776, with its boundaries declared in the “Treaty with Great Britain”. – In a profound sense, these Three Documents are also “Undivided”. –
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, a Virginian and friend of Patrick Henry, introduced a resolution for Independence for the United Colonies, during the second continental congress meeting at Philadelphia. The Resolution was seconded by John Adams. Appointed to the committee to draft a Declaration were Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjain Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert Livingston of New York. While Thomas Jefferson actually drafted the document, the Puritan Roger Sherman of Connecticut understood the significance of the Word of God as law over the church and the world (“and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword:” Rev. 1:16). John Adams also understood it in terms of his 1776 “Thoughts on Government”: “A man must be indifferent to the sneers of modern Englishmen, to mention in their company the names of Sidney, Harrington, Locke, Milton, Nedham, Neville, Burnet, and Hoadley. No small fortitude is necessary to confess that one has read them. The wretched condition of this country, however, for ten or fifteen years past, has frequently reminded me of their principles and reasonings. They will convince any candid mind, that there is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; because the very definition of a republic is “an empire of laws and not of men”. The Declaration was unanimously adopted on July 4, 1776.
The “United States of America” was thus conceived in The Declaration of Independence by the entitlement of the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”. It declared that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness–“… and having warned our British Brethren “from Time to Time of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us”, “We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here.” Appealing to the “Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions” and Declaring “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States”, as supported “with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence”. The basis for the text is primarily attributed to John Locke (Scarlet Standard # 8) whose writings had a powerful effect on Thomas Jefferson as well as others in England and France. John Locke certainly understood nature and the God of nature as earlier expressed as “The Pulley” by the Welshman George Herbert in his 1633 poem “The Temple”. While the ideas of John Locke would be integrated into the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, the words of Algernon Sydney in his “Discourses Concerning Government” and his “Paper delivered to the Sheriffs Upon the Scaffold on Tower-hill” would have a greater effect on revolutionary thought in America.
The background for our founding doctrine can be found in 17th Century England, where in 1649 the “Good Old Cause” had established an English Commonwealth replacing the Absolute Rule of the King in all matters whatsoever. Despite Sir Henry Vane’s plea for an English Constitution in his “Healing Question”, the political and religious climate in England was too volatile during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was a Puritan Independent, who during the 1640’s understood natural liberty that became so familiar to John Locke and colonial Americans. He had stated: “We look at ministers as helpers of, not lords over, the faith of God’s people”, “It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deny a man the liberty he hath by nature upon a supposition he may abuse it. When he doth abuse it, judge.”
Before the English Commonwealth was proclaimed, Jeremiah Burroughs (again Emmanuel College, Cambridge) was also a Puritan Independent like Cromwell, and had Preached a Sermon titled “The Natural Man’s Bondage to the Law, and the Christian’s Liberty Under the Gospel”. On this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Declaration of Independence had stated, “We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here”. Synonymous with that Emigration and Settlement was John Winthrop who brought the Charter of Massachusetts Bay. In his often quoted Sermon “A Model of Christian Charity”, Preached in 1630, he speaks of a double law; the law of nature and the law of grace; the moral law (justice) or the law of the Gospel (mercy). “The Lord make it like that of New England. For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” In 1645, his “Little Speech on Liberty” would mirror Jeremiah Burroughs. “There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal. The First is common to man with beasts and other creatures…it is a liberty to evil as well as good…The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal…and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard (not only of your goods, but) of your lives, if need be,,,it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” Sounds like Liberty or Death 68 years before Addison’s “Cato”.
After the death of Cromwell the monarchy was restored in 1660, ending New England’s hope for a model system of Government that would purify the Church of England. Within the conflict between Commonwealth and King, Sir Robert Filmer defended the Monarchy in his Book, published in 1680, titled “Patriarcha: A Defense of the Natural Power of Kings against the Unnatural Liberty of the People”. John Locke responded with his “Two Treatises of Government”: “In this last age a generation of men has sprung up among us, who would flatter princes with an Opinion, that they have a a Divine Right to absolute Power,” (I,3). More than fifty years before Jonathan Mayhew preached his famous “UnKings himself” Sermon in Massachusetts, John Locke wrote (II, 239) “When a King has Dethron’d himself in a state of War with his people, what shall hinder them from persecuting him who is no King, as they would any other Man, who has put himself into a state of War with them;”. His philosophy is based on “who shall be judge? (II, 241-3). When earthly judges fail “the Body of the People”, in a State of War, “God in Heaven is Judge.”
The Frenchman, Alexis De Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831, a time when Massachusetts retained its established Church. His well read “Democracy in America” provides a valuable insight to the American Spirit 55 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed: “no form of government can be more natural or more appropriate than a republic.” “methinks I see the destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who landed on these shores, just as the whole human race was represented by the first man.” “It must never be forgotten that religion gave birth to Anglo-American society. In the United States, religion is therefore mingled with all the habits of the nation and all the feelings of patriotism, whence it derives a peculiar force.” “In the United States, Christian sects are infinitely diversified and perpetually modified; but Christianity itself is an established and irresistible fact,” (of the Signers of the Constitution, at least 90% were what John Hancock had called “Christians of all denominations”). “Fixed ideas about God and human nature are indispensable to the daily practice of men’s lives;” “And I am inclined to think that, if faith be wanting in him, he must be subject; and if he be free, he must believe.” “Liberty regards religion as its companion in all its battles and its triumphs,-as the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.”
James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution”, knew “If men were angels, there would be no need for government”. Though not angels, the founders had a relative understanding of the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” because of their widespread reading of the Bible, as well as ancient and modern histories and philosophies available at that time; from the Natural freedom of survival of the fittest, to God’s Providential Grace. The Declaration of Independence and the Founders are said to be a product of the Enlightenment. John Locke and the Founders were reasonable men and for the most part they were also men of faith who understood the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. They understood the difference between Liberty and License and they would Enlighten the world. Noah Webster had volunteered and marched with militia to the Hudson to oppose Burgoyne in 1777. In his 1828 “American Dictionary of the English Language”, Noah Webster would illuminate the Word “Enlighten” – “His lightnings enlightened the world. Ps xcvii.” (the earth saw, and trembled). The American victory over General Burgoyne’s Army at the Battle of Saratoga on October 17, 1777 would provide an opportunity for Congress to express their “Enlightened” feelings in a “Resolution of the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777:
“Forasmuch as it is the indispensible Duty of all Men, to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God:-To acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to Him for Benefits receivd, and to implore such further Blessings as they stand in Need of:-And, it having pleased Him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of His common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War for the Defence and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties. Particularly in that He hath been pleased, in so great a Measure to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal Success.
It is therefore recommended to the Legislative or Executive Powers of these United States, to set apart Thursday the Eighteenth Day of December, next, for solemn Thanksgiving and Praise. That at one Time, and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their divine Benefactor. And, that together with their sincere Acknowledgements and Offerings, they may joyn the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble & earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance. That it may please Him, graciously to afford His Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the publick Council of the whole. To inspire our Commanders both by Land and Sea, & all under them with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, Independence and Peace. That it may please Him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the people, and the Labor of the Husbandman,, that our Land may yet yield its Increase. To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue, & Piety, under His nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion for the Promotion and Enlargement of that Kingdom which consisteth “in Righteousness Peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
And it is further recommended, that servile Labor, and such Recreation as, though at other times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, may be omitted on so solemn an occasion.”
Note that “the greatest of all human blessings” are “Independence and Peace”. The 4th Psalm is “An evening prayer of trust in God” …”I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” (remember our coinage and the 3rd stanza of our National Anthem). The apostle Paul writes: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them,” (1Thess. 5:3). Ben Franklin similarly said “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. The Founders chose Creation with Unalienable rights and responsibilities; not evolutionary nihilism.
George Washington had a “firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence” as a continual faith in God’s Providential care for this Nation. By divine Providence his Father was named after St. Augustine, he was educated by his Mother using Matthew Hale’s “The Great Audit”; he had survived the War, lived to concur with publication of his original “Maxims”; and at the end of his oath of office, his first official act was to add “So help me God”, and then kissed the open Bible. Two different sources have claimed that the Bible was either open to Deuteronomy 28 (blessings of obedience) or Genesis 49 (Jacob’s blessings).