to Our White BRETHREN
If a congressman or congresswoman today were to stand up in our halls of justice and say something like "it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor", our current jew run Supreme Court would go postal. But this is EXACTLY what George Washington said when he established NATIONAL Thanksgiving AND PRAYER to Almighty God on October 3, 1789, two hundred and twenty Thanksgivings ago.
At the time he said that, Mexicans were literally our mortal enemies and Mr. Washington would never have considered this Prayer to Almighty God to ever apply to them. Same for Blacks who were mostly slaves, and the notion that they would ever become citizens could not have been further from his mind. Women didn't vote so the Late Great Failed Welfare State wasn't even in his wildest nightmare.
And you couldn't even call him a racist, because that term wouldn't even be coined until a century and a half later in 1939 by H.G. Wells, and wouldn't even have the negative connotation it now has until almost another half century after that. Ditto for John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who could never conceive that the US Constitution would ever apply to anyone other than their posterity, which by definition is ONLY fellow White MEN, or their brethren.
So in keeping with the spirit and intent of the original US Constitution and "Thanksgiving AND PRAYER to Almighty God", HAPPY THANKSGIVING ONLY to our brethren, fellow WHITE men.
The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated, of course, not in Massechussetts in 1621, but two years earlier at Berkely Hundred, Virginia, 4, December, 1619. In the London company's orders to be opened upon reaching Virginia was this injunction:
" We ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall...In the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."
That idea they took from the Bible especially Deut. 8:10-20 and Deut. 14: 22-26.
The following Proclamation can be found in Vol. I of the eleven
volume set titled A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the
Presidents 1789-1908 by James D. Richardson, a representative from
the State of Tennessee, published by Bureau of National Literature
and Art 1908. PROCLAMATION A NATIONAL THANKSGIVING [From Sparks's
Washington, Vol. XII. p. 119.]
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence
of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits,
and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both
Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to
recommend to the people of the United States a day of public
thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with
grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God,
especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a
form of government for their safety and happiness:" Now, therefore, I
do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to
be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great
and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that
was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in
rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care
and protection of the people of this country previous to their
becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the
favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and
conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity,
union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and
rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish
constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and
particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil
and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we
have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general,
for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to
confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly
offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of
Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other
transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private
stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and
punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the
people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and
constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed;
to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as
have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments,
peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true
religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us;
and generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal
prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my hand, at the
city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789. Go. Washington.
VI. Religion and the Federal Government
In response to widespread sentiment that to survive the United States needed a stronger federal government, a convention met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and on September 17 adopted the Constitution of the United States. Aside from Article VI, which stated that "no religious Test shall ever be required as Qualification" for federal office holders, the Constitution said little about religion. Its reserve troubled two groups of Americans--those who wanted the new instrument of government to give faith a larger role and those who feared that it would do so. This latter group, worried that the Constitution did not prohibit the kind of state-supported religion that had flourished in some colonies, exerted pressure on the members of the First Federal Congress. In September 1789 the Congress adopted the First Amendment to the Constitution, which, when ratified by the required number of states in December 1791, forbade Congress to make any law "respecting an establishment of religion."
The first two Presidents of the United States were patrons of religion--George Washington was an Episcopal vestryman, and John Adams described himself as "a church going animal." Both offered strong rhetorical support for religion. In his Farewell Address of September 1796, Washington called religion, as the source of morality, "a necessary spring of popular government," while Adams claimed that statesmen "may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand." Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the third and fourth Presidents, are generally considered less hospitable to religion than their predecessors, but evidence presented in this section shows that, while in office, both offered religion powerful symbolic support.
RELIGION AND THE CONSTITUTION
| Franklin Requests Prayers in the Constitutional Convention|
Benjamin Franklin delivered this famous speech, asking that the Convention begin each day's session with prayers, at a particularly contentious period, when it appeared that the Convention might break up over its failure to resolve the dispute between the large and small states over representation in the new government. The eighty one year old Franklin asserted that "the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth--that God governs in the Affairs of Men." "I also believe," Franklin continued, that "without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel." Franklin's motion failed, ostensibly because the Convention had no funds to pay local clergymen to act as chaplains.
Speech to the Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787
Benjamin Franklin, Holograph manuscript
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (145)
Prohibition of Religious TestsConstitution of the United States (William Jackson Copy), Committee of Detail report
The language prohibiting religious tests as a qualification for federal office holders, ultimately incorporated into Article Six of the Constitution, was proposed by Charles Pinckney of South Carolina on August 20, 1787, and adopted by the full Convention on August 30. Here we see the language as it was added to the first working draft of the Constitution, the so-called Committee of Detail report of August 6, 1787, by the Convention secretary, William Jackson.
Broadside, August 6, 1787
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (146)
|When the Constitution was submitted to the American public, "many pious people" complained that the document had slighted God, for it contained "no recognition of his mercies to us . . . or even of his existence." The Constitution was reticent about religion for two reasons: first, many delegates were committed federalists, who believed that the power to legislate on religion, if it existed at all, lay within the domain of the state, not the national, governments; second, the delegates believed that it would be a tactical mistake to introduce such a politically controversial issue as religion into the Constitution. The only "religious clause" in the document--the proscription of religious tests as qualifications for federal office in Article Six--was intended to defuse controversy by disarming potential critics who might claim religious discrimination in eligibility for public office. |
That religion was not otherwise addressed in the Constitution did not make it an "irreligious" document any more than the Articles of Confederation was an "irreligious" document. The Constitution dealt with the church precisely as the Articles had, thereby maintaining, at the national level, the religious status quo. In neither document did the people yield any explicit power to act in the field of religion. But the absence of expressed powers did not prevent either the Continental-Confederation Congress or the Congress under the Constitution from sponsoring a program to support general, nonsectarian religion.
RELIGION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS
|Many Americans were disappointed that the Constitution did not contain a bill of rights that would explicitly enumerate the rights of American citizens and enable courts and public opinion to protect these rights from an oppressive government. Supporters of a bill of rights permitted the Constitution to be adopted with the understanding that the first Congress under the new government would attempt to add a bill of rights. |
James Madison took the lead in steering such a bill through the First Federal Congress, which convened in the spring of 1789. The Virginia Ratifying Convention and Madison's constituents, among whom were large numbers of Baptists who wanted freedom of religion secured, expected him to push for a bill of rights. On September 28, 1789, both houses of Congress voted to send twelve amendments to the states. In December 1791, those ratified by the requisite three fourths of the states became the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Religion was addressed in the First Amendment in the following familiar words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In notes for his June 8, 1789, speech introducing the Bill of Rights, Madison indicated his opposition to a "national" religion. Most Americans agreed that the federal government must not pick out one religion and give it exclusive financial and legal support.
| Proposed Constitutional Amendments|
The Virginia Ratifying Convention approved the Constitution with the understanding that the state's representatives in the First Federal Congress would try to procure amendments that the Convention recommended. The twentieth proposed amendment deals with religion; it is an adaptation of the final article in the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 with this additional phrase: "that no particular religious sect or society ought to be favored or established by Law in preference to others."
Proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States
[page one] - [page two] - [page three] - [page four]
Virginia Ratifying Convention, Broadside, June 25, 1788
Rare Book and Special Collections Division,
Library of Congress (147)
Baptist Preacher's Objections to the Constitution
The influential Baptist preacher, John Leland, wrote a letter, containing ten objections to the Federal Constitution, and sent it to Colonel Thomas Barbour, an opponent of the Constitution in James Madison's Orange County district. Leland's objections were copied by Captain Joseph Spencer, one of Madison's Baptist friends, and sent to Madison so that he could refute the arguments. Leland's final objection was that the new constitution did not sufficiently secure "What is dearest of all---Religious Liberty." His chief worry was "if a Majority of Congress with the President favour one System more than another, they may oblige all others to pay to the support of their System as much as they please." Objections to the Federal Constitution, [February 1788]
[page one] - [page two]
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (148)
| Madison's Notes for the Bill of Rights|
Madison used this outline to guide him in delivering his speech introducing the Bill of Rights into the First Congress on June 8, 1789. Madison proposed an amendment to assuage the anxieties of those who feared that religious freedom would be endangered by the unamended Constitution. According to The Congressional Register Madison, on June 8, moved that "the civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext infringed."
Notes for a speech introducing the Bill of Rights, [June 8, 1789] [page one] - [page two]
James Madison, Holograph notes
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (149)
The Bill of RightsThe Bill of Rights (the John Beckley copy) September 28, 1789.
The necessary two thirds majority in each house of Congress ratified the Bill of Rights on September 28, 1789. As sent to the states for approval, the Bill of Rights contained twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution. Amendments One and Two did not receive the required approval of three fourths of the states. As a result, Article Three in the original Bill of Rights became the First Amendment to the Constitution. This copy on vellum was signed by Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg, Vice President John Adams, and Secretary of State Samuel Otis.
Holograph manuscript on vellum
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (150)
THE RHETORICAL SUPPORT OF RELIGION:
WASHINGTON AND ADAMS
| George Washington, Episcopal Vestryman|
Washington was for many years a vestryman at Truro Parish, his local Episcopal Church. The entry of June 5, 1772, shows Washington and his neighbor, George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, engaged in parish business, including making arrangements for replacing the front steps of the church, painting its roof and selling church pews to the members as a means of obtaining revenue. The minutes of the meeting also reveal that Washington and George William Fairfax presented the parish with gold leaf to be used to gild letters on "Carved Ornaments" on the altar.
The Vestry Book of Truro Parish, Virginia, 1732-1802
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (152)
|The country's first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, were firm believers in the importance of religion for republican government. As citizens of Virginia and Massachusetts, both were sympathetic to general religious taxes being paid by the citizens of their respective states to the churches of their choice. However both statesmen would have discouraged such a measure at the national level because of its divisiveness. They confined themselves to promoting religion rhetorically, offering frequent testimonials to its importance in building the moral character of American citizens, that, they believed, undergirded public order and successful popular government. |
| George Washington|
Chalk drawing on paper, ca. 1800, by St. Memin
Prints and Photograph Division, Library of Congress. (151)
Washington's PrayerCircular to the chief executives of the states, June 11, 1783
The draft of the circular letter is in the hand of a secretary, although the signature is Washington's. Some have called this concluding paragraph "Washington's Prayer." In it, he asked God to: "dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation."
George Washington, Manuscript
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (153)
"To Bigotry no Sanction"George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in New Port, Rhode Island [page one] - [page two]
President George Washington and a group of public officials, including Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, left New York City, the temporary capital of the United States, on August 15, 1790, for a brief tour of Rhode Island. At Newport, Washington received an address of congratulations from the congregation of the Touro Synagogue. His famous answer, assuring his fellow citizens "of the Stock of Abraham" that the new American republic would give "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution not assistance," is seen here in the copy from Washington's letterbook.
Manuscript copy, Letterbook 1790-1794
Manuscript Division. Library of Congress (154)
WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESS
|George Washington's Farewell Address is one of the most important documents in American history. Recommendations made in it by the first president, particularly in the field of foreign affairs, have exerted a strong and continuing influence on American statesmen and politicians. The address, in which Washington informed the American people that he would not seek a third term and offered advice on the country's future policies, was published on September 19, 1796, in David Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser. It was immediately reprinted in newspapers and as a pamphlet throughout the United States. The address was drafted in July 1796 by Alexander Hamilton and revised for publication by the president himself. Washington also had at his disposal an earlier draft by James Madison. |
The "religion section" of the address was for many years as familiar to Americans as was Washington's warning that the United States should avoid entangling alliances with foreign nations. Washington's observations on the relation of religion to government were commonplace, and similar statements abound in documents from the founding period. Washington's prestige, however, gave his views a special authority with his fellow citizens and caused them to be repeated in political discourse well into the nineteenth century.
| Hamilton's Draft of Washington's Farewell Address|
George Washington's Farewell Address was drafted by Alexander Hamilton who made a stronger case for the necessity of religious faith as a prop for popular government than Washington was willing to accept. Washington incorporated Hamilton's assertion that it was unreasonable to suppose that "national morality can be maintained in exclusion of religious principle," but declined to add Hamilton's next sentence, written in the left margin of this page: "does it [national morality] not require the aid of a generally received and divinely authoritative Religion?"
Draft of Washington's Farewell Address, [July] 1796
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (155)
The Farewell AddressThe Farewell Address [page one] -
In his Farewell Address, the first president advised his fellow citizens that "Religion and morality" were the "great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens." "National morality," he added, could not exist "in exclusion of religious principle." "Virtue or morality," he concluded, as the products of religion, were "a necessary spring of popular government." The "religion section" is located in the lower right portion of page one and continues to the upper right portion of page two.
[page two] - [page three]
George Washington, Broadside
Rare Book and Special Collections Division,
Library of Congress (156)
| Adams on Religion|
John Adams, a self-confessed "church going animal," grew up in the Congregational Church in Braintree, Massachusetts. By the time he wrote this letter his theological position can best be described as Unitarian. In this letter Adams tells Jefferson that "Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell."
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817
[page one] - [page two] - [page three] - [page four]
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (157)
Adams's Fast Day ProclamationFast Day Proclamation, March 23, 1798.
John Adams continued the practice, begun in 1775 and adopted under the new federal government by Washington, of issuing fast and thanksgiving day proclamations. In this proclamation, issued at a time when the nation appeared to be on the brink of a war with France, Adams urged the citizens to "acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation; beseeching him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by His Holy Spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction."
John Adams. Broadside
Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (158)
THE STATE BECOMES THE CHURCH:
JEFFERSON AND MADISON
|It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson's example, although unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Worship services in the House--a practice that continued until after the Civil War--were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. (Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.) As early as January 1806 a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a "crowded audience." Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers. |
Jefferson's actions may seem surprising because his attitude toward the relation between religion and government is usually thought to have been embodied in his recommendation that there exist "a wall of separation between church and state." In that statement, Jefferson was apparently declaring his opposition, as Madison had done in introducing the Bill of Rights, to a "national" religion. In attending church services on public property, Jefferson and Madison consciously and deliberately were offering symbolic support to religion as a prop for republican government.
"A WALL OF SEPARATION"
| Jefferson Attacked as an Infidel|
During the presidential campaign of 1800, the Federalists attacked Thomas Jefferson as an infidel, claiming that Jefferson's intoxication with the religious and political extremism of the French Revolution disqualified him from public office. In this cartoon, the eye of God has instigated the American eagle to snatch from Jefferson's hand the "Constitution & Independence" of the United States before he can cast it on an "Altar to Gallic Despotism," whose flames are being fed by the writings of Thomas Paine, Helvetius, Rousseau, and other freethinkers. The paper, "To Mazzei," dropping from Jefferson's right hand, was a 1796 letter that was interpreted by Jefferson's enemies as an indictment of the character of George Washington.
The Providential Detection.
Etching by an unknown artist, c. 1800
The Library Company of Philadelphia (159)
Jefferson's Opinion of JesusThomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
In the 1790s, Thomas Jefferson, influenced by the writings of Joseph Priestly, seems to have adopted a more positive opinion of Christianity. In this letter to his friend Benjamin Rush, Jefferson asserted that he was a "Christian, in the only sense in which [Jesus] wished any one to be." In an attached syllabus, Jefferson compared the "merit of the doctrines of Jesus" with those of the classical philosophers and the Jews. Jefferson pronounced Jesus' doctrines, though "disfigured by the corruptions of schismatising followers" far superior to any competing system. Jefferson declined to consider the "question of [Jesus] being a member of the god-head, or in direct communication with it, claimed for him by some of his followers, and denied by others."
[page one] - [page two] - [page three]
Holograph letter and syllabus. (Copyprint of verso.)
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (160)
|Thomas Jefferson's reply of January 1, 1802, to an address of congratulations from the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association contains a phrase familiar in today's political and judicial circles: "a wall of separation between church and state." Many in the United States, including the courts, have used this phrase to interpret the Founders' intentions regarding the relationship between government and religion, as set down by the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ." However, the meaning of this clause has been the subject of passionate dispute for the past fifty years. |
Presented here are both the handwritten, edited draft of the letter and an adjusted facsimile showing the original unedited draft. The draft of the letter reveals that, far from dashing it off as a "short note of courtesy," as some have called it, Jefferson labored over its composition. Jefferson consulted Postmaster General Gideon Granger of Connecticut and Attorney General Levi Lincoln of Massachusetts while drafting the letter. That Jefferson consulted two New England politicians about his messages indicated that he regarded his reply to the Danbury Baptists as a political letter, not as a dispassionate theoretical pronouncement on the relations between government and religion.
| The Lord's Prayer in Jefferson's Hand|
Jefferson liked to experiment with and use cryptology. There are several different codes in his papers at the Library of Congress, including this one based on the Lord's Prayer, which Jefferson carefully wrote out as a block of consecutive letters. The Lord's Prayer
Thomas Jefferson, Holograph manuscript
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (161)
The Jefferson Bible
It is thought that Jefferson prepared what is referred to as the "Jefferson Bible" in 1820. In this volume, Jefferson used excerpts from New Testaments in four languages to create parallel columns of text recounting the life of Jesus, preserving what he considered to be Christ's authentic actions and statements, eliminating the mysterious and miraculous. He began his account with Luke's second chapter, deleting the first in which the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah by the Holy Spirit. On the pages seen here, Jefferson deleted the part of the birth story in which the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds. The text ends with the crucifixion and burial and omits any resurrection appearance.
The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth extracted textually from
the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English
[index page one] -- [index page two] -- [index page three]
Thomas Jefferson, c. 1820
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution (162a)
The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth extracted textually from
the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English.
[title page] - [page one] - [page two]
Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904
General Collections, Library of Congress (162c)
A Wall of SeparationThomas Jefferson to Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins and Stephen S. Nelson,
The celebrated phrase, "a wall of separation between church and state," was contained in Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. American courts have used the phrase to interpret the Founders' intentions regarding the relationship between government and religion. The words, "wall of separation," appear just above the section of the letter that Jefferson circled for deletion. In the deleted section Jefferson explained why he refused to proclaim national days of fasting and thanksgiving, as his predecessors, George Washington and John Adams, had done. In the left margin, next to the deleted section, Jefferson noted that he excised the section to avoid offending "our republican friends in the eastern states" who cherished days of fasting and thanksgiving.
a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association in the state of Connecticut, January 1, 1802.
Holograph draft letter, 1802
Jefferson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (163a)
The Danbury Baptist Letter, as Originally DraftedThomas Jefferson to Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins and Stephen S. Nelson,
The Library of Congress is grateful to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory for recovering the lines obliterated from the Danbury Baptist letter by Thomas Jefferson. He originally wrote "a wall of eternal separation between church and state," later deleting the word "eternal." He also deleted the phrase "the duties of my station, which are merely temporal." Jefferson must have been unhappy with the uncompromising tone of both of these phrases, especially in view of the implications of his decision, two days later, to begin attending church services in the House of Representatives.
a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association in the state of Connecticut, January 1, 1802.
Letter, digitally revised to expose obliterated sections. Copyprint
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (163b)
Jefferson at Church in the CapitolJournal entry, January 3, 1802
In his diary, Manasseh Cutler (1742-1823), a Federalist Congressman from Massachusetts and Congregational minister, notes that on Sunday, January 3, 1802, John Leland preached a sermon on the text "Behold a greater than Solomon is here. Jef[ferso]n was present." Thomas Jefferson attended this church service in Congress, just two days after issuing the Danbury Baptist letter. Leland, a celebrated Baptist minister, had moved from Orange County, Virginia, and was serving a congregation in Cheshire, Massachusetts, from which he had delivered to Jefferson a gift of a "mammoth cheese," weighing 1235 pounds.
Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library (164)
Jefferson and Family at Church
Manasseh Cutler to Joseph Torrey, January 3, 1803. [page one] -- [page two] -- [page three] -- [page four]
In this letter Manasseh Cutler informs Joseph Torrey that Thomas Jefferson "and his family
have constantly attended public worship in the Hall" of the House of Representatives.
Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library (165)
Reserved Seats at Capitol ServicesReminiscences. [left page] - [right page]
Here is a description, by an early Washington "insider," Margaret Bayard Smith (1778-1844), a writer and social critic and wife of Samuel Harrison Smith, publisher of the National Intelligencer, of Jefferson's attendance at church services in the House of Representatives: "Jefferson during his whole administration was a most regular attendant. The seat he chose the first day sabbath, and the adjoining one, which his private secretary occupied, were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation, left for him."
Margaret Bayard Smith, 1837. Manuscript volume. (Copyprint of verso)
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (166-166a)
Incident at Congressional Church ServicesCatherine Akerly Mitchill to her sister, Margaret Miller, April 8, 1806.
In this letter Catherine Mitchill, wife of New York senator Samuel Latham Mitchill, describes stepping on Jefferson's toes at the conclusion of a church service in the House of Representatives. She was "so prodigiously frighten'd," she told her sister, "that I could not stop to make an apology, but got out of the way as quick as I could."
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (167)
Madison Seen at House Church ServiceAbijah Bigelow to Hannah Bigelow, December 28, 1812. [left page] - [right page]
Abijah Bigelow, a Federalist congressman from Massachusetts, describes President James Madison at a church service in the House on December 27, 1812, as well as an incident that had occurred when Jefferson was in attendance some years earlier.
The American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts (168)
Hymns Played at Congressional Church Service"The President's Own" United States Marine Corp Band, ca. 1798.
According to Margaret Bayard Smith, a regular at church services in the Capitol, the Marine Band "made quite a dazzling appearance in the gallery . . . but in their attempts to accompany the psalm-singing of the congregation, they completely failed and after a while, the practice was discontinued."
Watercolor, Lt. Col. Donna Neary, USMCR, late twentieth century. Copyprint.
United States Marine Corp Band, Washington, D.C. (169)
The Old House of RepresentativesThe Old House of Representatives
Church services were held in what is now called Statuary Hall from 1807 to 1857. The first services in the Capitol, held when the government moved to Washington in the fall of 1800, were conducted in the "hall" of the House in the north wing of the building. In 1801 the House moved to temporary quarters in the south wing, called the "Oven," which it vacated in 1804, returning to the north wing for three years. Services were conducted in the House until after the Civil War. The Speaker's podium was used as the preacher's pulpit.
Oil on canvas by Samuel F.B. Morse, 1822. Copyprint.
In the collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund (170)
A Millennialist Sermon Preached in CongressA Sermon on the Second Coming of Christ, and on the Last Judgment.
This sermon on the millennium was preached by the Baltimore Swedenborgian minister, John Hargrove (1750-1839) in the House of Representatives. One of the earliest millennialist sermons preached before Congress was offered on July 4, 1801, by the Reverend David Austin (1759-1831), who at the time considered himself "struck in prophesy under the style of the Joshua of the American Temple." Having proclaimed to his Congressional audience the imminence of the Second Coming of Christ, Austin took up a collection on the floor of the House to support services at "Lady Washington's Chapel" in a nearby hotel where he was teaching that "the seed of the Millennial estate is found in the backbone of the American Revolution."
Delivered the 25th December, 1804 before both houses of Congress, at the Capitol in the city of Washington. John Hargrove. Baltimore: Warner & Hanna, 1805
Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (171)
First Catholic Sermon in the HouseJohn England, Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina
On January 8, 1826, Bishop John England (1786-1842) of Charleston, South Carolina, became the first Catholic clergyman to preach in the House of Representatives. The overflow audience included President John Quincy Adams, whose July 4, 1821, speech England rebutted in his sermon. Adams had claimed that the Roman Catholic Church was intolerant of other religions and therefore incompatible with republican institutions. England asserted that "we do not believe that God gave to the church any power to interfere with our civil rights, or our civil concerns." "I would not allow to the Pope, or to any bishop of our church," added England, "the smallest interference with the humblest vote at our most insignificant balloting box."
Oil on canvas
Diocese of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina (173)
The substance of a discourse preached in the hall of the House of Representatives
of the United States, January 8, 1826.
John England. Baltimore: F. Lucas, 1826
Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (172)
Communion Service in the Treasury BuildingJournal entry, December 23, 1804
Manasseh Cutler here describes a four-hour communion service in the Treasury Building, conducted by a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend James Laurie: "Attended worship at the Treasury. Mr. Laurie alone. Sacrament. Full assembly. Three tables; service very solemn; nearly four hours."
Manasseh Cutler. Manuscript
Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library (175)
The Treasury BuildingWashington City, 1820.
The first Treasury Building, where several denominations conducted church services, was burned by the British in 1814. The new building, seen here on the lower right, was built on approximately the same location as the earlier one, within view of the White House.
Watercolor sketch by Baroness Hyde de Neuville, 1820
I. N. Phelps Stokes Collection, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art,
Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations (176)
Adams's Description of a Church Service in the Supreme CourtDiary entry, February 2, 1806
John Quincy Adams here describes the Reverend James Laurie, pastor of a Presbyterian Church that had settled into the Treasury Building, preaching to an overflow audience in the Supreme Court Chamber, which in 1806 was located on the ground floor of the Capitol.
John Quincy Adams. Copyprint
Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston (177)
The Old Supreme Court ChamberThe Old Supreme Court Chamber, ca. 1810, U. S. Capitol Building
Description of church services in the Supreme Court chamber by Manasseh Cutler (1804) and John Quincy Adams (1806) indicate that services were held in the Court soon after the government moved to Washington in 1800.
Photograph by Franz Jantzen. Copyprint
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (178)
Church Services in Congress after the Civil WarFundraising brochure
Charles Boynton (1806-1883) was in 1867 chaplain of the House of Representatives and organizing pastor of the First Congregational Church in Washington, which was trying at that time to build its own sanctuary. In the meantime the church, as Boynton informed potential donors, was holding services "at the Hall of Representatives" where "the audience is the largest in town. . . .nearly 2000 assembled every Sabbath" for services, making the congregation in the House the "largest Protestant Sabbath audience then in the United States." The First Congregational Church met in the House from 1865 to 1868.
Charles B. Boynton. Washington, D.C.: November 1, 1867
Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (180)
House of Representatives, After the Civil WarThe House of Representatives, 1866
The House moved to its current location on the south side of the Capitol in 1857. It contained the "largest Protestant Sabbath audience" in the United States when the First Congregational Church of Washington held services there from 1865 to 1868.
Chromo-lithograph by E. Sachse & Co, 1866
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (179)