Founding Fathers' Formulations Faked to Further Church in State -- Find Out Far More Below, Folks!

An intelligent and politically conservative acquaintance of mine mass-emailed the following to everyone he could think of:

“James Madison, the fourth president, known as ‘The Father of Our Constitution’ made the following statement: ‘We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.’”

The above quote isn’t very shocking—politicians have evoked the Bible for centuries, and the Founding Fathers of the young U.S. of A. were as likely as anyone to drop the word God into a conversation, axiom, or pronouncement. After all, the Western culture of that time period was even more totally entrenched in Judeo-Christian beliefs than it is today, and there was little concern for being politically correct toward religious cultures that barely existed within the geographic, social, or political sphere of Americans or Europeans. And many of the founders of America were deeply religious men.

However, it’s important to take a historic perspective on such statements. One has to ask, Would James Madison or any of the Founding Fathers make such overt references to the Ten Commandments and Judeo-Christian beliefs as being cornerstones of our government if they lived the more diversified and global culture of the 21st Century? And also, did James Madison mean to imply that the United States of America is a wholly Christian nation, as my politically conservative, mass-email loving friend seemed to be hinting? And if so, how much importance should we stake on the single statement of one man who lived a couple hundred years ago?

If we see the Founding Fathers as sacred, then can we honestly cherry pick only a handful of these men to steal quotations from? And even if we only concentrate our efforts on Madison, we can’t ignore the direct responses Madison’s views received from such fellow Founding Fathers as President Thomas Jefferson or the great American thinker Benjamin Franklin. Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe that the words of the Founding Fathers are important.

Their views and ideas were instrumental in forming the U.S. and keeping it strong well after their own lives had worn away, and, tangentially, shaping the entire world we live in today. But winning the argument that Christianity is an integral part of the U.S. Constitution, U.S. courts, U.S. schools, and so on needs more than a single quote from a single man. Especially when that quote is a lie.

Yes, that’s right. This Ten Commandment quote—which rightly or wrongly could be interpreted as implying that Judeo-Christian religious law is the basis of the U.S. Constitution and political system—is nothing more than a widely circulated piece of right-wing revisionist history. An archconservative propaganda advertising-campaign turned Internet “fact” turned endlessly forwarded email.

It’s quite a controversial quote, in point of fact: It’s been printed in hundreds of places but its true origin is unknown. According to some reports it’s a complete fabrication, although a few experts believe that the statement may simply be attributed to the wrong person, or perhaps the words were misinterpreted, although the correct version and/or attribution for the quote has not been found as far as my research has been able to uncover.

The following exposé excerpts are from a left-leaning website, so conservatives will certainly find bias afoot when the article partially blames Pat Robertson knowingly spread this false quotation amongst the populace. However, the verified and genuine Madison quotes below are edifying and undeniable. If you want to swear by the Founding Fathers, then you’d do well to first learn their true words. (And remember, compared to Jefferson and Franklin, Madison was often seen as being a right-wing chap—but these quotes show that even a conservative, religious man like Madison could make many modern-day neoconservatives seem like madmen).


National Magazine Ad For TV Preacher's Graduate School Recruits Donations With Bogus James Madison.

... The inaccurate Madison Ten Commandments quote was circulated among the Religious Right chiefly by David Barton, a Texas man who peddles a revisionist history arguing that the United States was founded as a ‘Christian nation.’ In 1996, Barton admitted that the quote is bogus and recommended that people stop using it.

In 1993, the curators of the Madison Papers at the University of Virginia were asked if they could verify the quote. They replied that they could not. Wrote Curators John Stagg and David Mattern, ‘We did not find anything in our files remotely like the sentiment expressed in the extract you sent us. In addition, the idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison's views on religion and government, views which he expressed time and time again in public and in private.’

[Madison] opposed tax funding of religion, publicly funded chaplains in the Congress and the military and even expressed regret for issuing proclamations declaring official days of prayer during his presidency. [Note] that in an 1819 letter to a friend, Madison wrote, ‘[T]he number, the industry and the morality of the Priesthood & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.’... ”

-- By Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


Madison also said: “The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.”

And he said: “Ye States of America, which retain in your Constitution or Codes, any aberration from the sacred principle of religious liberty, by giving to Caesar what belongs to God, or joining together what God has put asunder, hasten to revise & purify your systems, and make the example of your Country as pure & compleat, in what relates to the freedom of the mind and its allegiance to its maker, as in what belongs to the legitimate objects of political & civil institutions. Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt. in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

And he said: “Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease.”

More relevant quotes can be found at AU.org's post, "What God Has Put Asunder: James Madison Quotes On Church And State."

Also, I highly recommend the Snopes.com "National Capital" urban legends article, which references the much passed-around (most-likely fake) Madison Ten Commandments quote as well as expertly showing how to spot false info of this nature, including other instances of Ten Commandment and U.S. Law fact-twisting found in a popular chain emails and right-wing propaganda.

And Christian journalist James Watkins' objective, balanced, and entertaining "One Nation Under the Supreme Being of Your Choice" is required reading for Christians, Deists, Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindoos, et al., with even the slightest interest in the men behind the founding of the United States of America. Watkins takes powerful shots at both "the 'revisionist left' [that] would like to make [the founding fathers] secular and the 'religious right' [that] would like to make them saintly," juxtaposing some startling quotes from Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, and more.

1 comment:

mred said...

No doubt your primary job is agitator.

What you and so many are ignorant of is the fact the Christopher Columbus believed that God was guiding him to a continent to establish a nation whose laws were based on the word of God. That is why he discovered this continent. It didn't happen by accident.

Of course those who reject God and His son will do, say and write anything to try to prove that it didn't happen that way.

May God have mercy on your deceived soul.