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Fifty-Five Delegates
 

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The Fifty Five Delegates to the Constitutional Convention

The colonists were familiar with deist thinking. But deism never gained a strong foothold in America. The first Great Awakening, the religious revival of the 1740s, was partially responsible for cutting short the spread of deism,

In many states at the time of the Constitutional Convention, confessed deists were not allowed to hold public office. Deism was generally held in low esteem, as such laws indicate. Additionally, Deism as practiced at the time of America's founding was far different from what we find in our country today, and it certainly was not atheism. As but one example, Benjamin Franklin at eighty, reminded his colleagues of the National Convention (in moving unsuccessfully that there should be daily prayers before business) how in the beginnings of the contest with Britain '' we had daily prayers in this room Do we imagine we no longer need assistance?
I have lived now a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God rules in the affairs of men." That is hardly the statement of a modern Deist.

Thirty-nine of the delegates signed the Constitution, and sixteen were non-signing delegates.

New Hampshire

John Langdon, Congregationalist, signing delegate
Nicholas Gilman, Congregationalist, signing delegate

Massachusetts

Elbridge Gerry, Episcopalian, non-signing delegate
Rufus King, Episcopalian, signing delegate
Caleb Strong, Congregationalist, non-signing delegate
Nathaniel Gorham, Congregationalist, signing delegate

Connecticut

Roger Sherman, Congregationalist, signing delegate, also signed the Declaration of Independence
William Samuel Johnson, Presbyterian and Episcopalian, signing delegate
Oliver Ellsworth, Congregationalist, non-signing delegate

New York

Alexander Hamilton, Episcopalian, signing delegate
John Lansing, Dutch Reformed, non-signing delegate
Robert Yates, Dutch Reformed, non-signing delegate

New Jersey

William Paterson, Presbyterian, signing delegate
William Livingston, Presbyterian, signing delegate
Jonathan Dayton, Presbyterian and Episcopalian, signing delegate
David  Brearly, Episcopalian, signing delegate
William Churchill Houston, Presbyterian, non-signing delegate

Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin, Theist, signing delegate, also signed the Declaration of Independence
  See: Benjamin Franklin Disqualified as a Deist 
Robert Morris, Episcopalian, signing delegate, also signed the Declaration of Independence
James Wilson, Episcopalian/Presbyterian, signing delegate, also signed the Declaration of Independence
Gouverneur Morris, Episcopalian, signing delegate
Thomas Mifflin, Quaker/Lutheran, signing delegate
George Clymer, Quaker/Episcopalian, signing delegate, also signed the Declaration of Independence
Thomas FitzSimmons, Roman Catholic, signing delegate
Jared Ingersoll, Presbyterian, signing delegate

Delaware

John Dickinson, Quaker/Episcopalian, signing delegate
George Read, Episcopalian, signing delegate, also signed the Declaration of Independence
Richard Bassett, Methodist, signing delegate
Gunning Bedford, Presbyterian, signing delegate
Jacob Broom, Lutheran, signing delegate

Maryland

Luther Martin, Episcopalian, non-signing delegate
Daniel Carroll, Roman Catholic, signing delegate
John Francis Mercer, Episcopalian, non-signing delegate
James McHenry, Presbyterian, signing delegate, President of the Baltimore Bible Society
Daniel of St Thomas Jennifer, Episcopalian, signing delegate

Virginia

George Washington, Episcopalian, signing delegate
James Madison, Episcopalian, signing delegate
George Mason, Episcopalian, non-signing delegate
Edmund Jennings Randolph, Episcopalian, non-signing delegate
John Blair, Presbyterian and Episcopalian, signing delegate
James McClung, Presbyterian, signing delegate
George Wythe, Episcopalian, non-signing delegate

North Carolina

William Richardson Davie, Presbyterian, non-signing delegate
Hugh Williamson, Presbyterian/Deist (?), signing delegate
William Blount, Episcopalian and Presbyterian, signing delegate
Alexander Martin, Presbyterian/Episcopalian, non-signing delegate
Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr., Episcopalian, signing delegate

South Carolina

John Rutledge, Episcopalian, signing delegate
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Episcopalian, signing delegate
Pierce Butler, Episcopalian, signing delegate
Charles Pinckney III, Episcopalian, signing delegate

Georgia

Abraham Baldwin, Congregationalist
William Leigh Pierce, Episcopalian, non-signing delegate
William Houstoun, Episcopalian, non-signing delegate
William Few, Methodist, signing delegate

 

 

John Langdon, a Congregationalist, was a founder and the first president of the New Hampshire Bible Society. While Governor of New Hampshire he issued an official Procalamation for a General Thanksgiving in which he said:
   
"The munificent Father of Mercies, and Sovereign Disposer of Events, having been graciously pleased to relieve the United States of America from the Calamities of a long and dangerous war: through the whole course of which, he continued to smile on the Labours of our Husbandmen, thereby preventing Famine (the most inseparable Companion of War) from entering our Borders; - eventually restored to us the blessings of Peace, on Terms advantageous and honourable...." 

Rufus King, an Episcopalian, was a member of the Continental Congress, aide to General Sullivan in the War for Independence, minister to England, and a U.S. Senator. At a convention considering amendments to the New York Constitution in 1821 he said:
   
"[In o]ur laws...by the oath which they prescribe, we appeal to the Supreme Being to deal with us hereafter as we observe the obligation of our oaths. The Pagan world were and are without the mighty influence of this principle which is proclaimed in the Christian system - their morals were destitute of its powerful sanction while their oaths neither awakened the hopes nor fears which a belief in Christianity inspires."

Nathaniel Gorham, a Congregationalist, helped write the Massachusett's Constitution, which required:
   
"Any person chosen governor, or lieutenant-governor, cousellor, senator, or representative, and accepting the trust, shall before he proceed to execute the duties of his place or office, take, make, and subscribe the following declaration, viz. 'I, ____, do declare, that I believe the Christian religion, and have a firm persuasion of its truth.'"
   
Such a religious test was Constitutional until 1947 when the Supreme Court rewrote the Constitution by making the First Amendment apply to the states, not just the federal government.

Roger Sherman, a Congregationalist, was the only Founder to sign the Articles of Association, the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. He was a member of the committee that drafted the Declaration and the First Amendment. He also drafted the creed of the White Haven Congregationalist church, which he attended. Sherman, John Adams, and George Wythe drafted the instructions to American embassy to Roman Catholic Canada in 1776, which said:
   
"You are further to declare that we hold sacred the rights of conscience, and may promise to the whole people, solemnly in our name, the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion. And...that all civil rights and the right to hold office were to be extended to persons of any Christian denomination."

William Samuel Johnson, Episcopalian, son of Anglican (Episcopalian) minister Samuel Johnson and president of Columbia University from 1787-1800. In his remarks to the first graduating class at Columbia after the War for Independence he said:
   
"You this day, gentlemen, assume new characters, enter into new relations, and consequently incur new duties. You have, by the favor of Providence and the attention of your friends, received a public education, the purpose whereof hath been to qualify you the better to serve your Creator and your country...."
   
"Your first great duties, you are sensible, are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer. Let these be ever present to your minds, and exemplified in your lives and conduct."
   
"Imprint deep upon your minds the principles of piety towards God, and a reverence and fear of His holy name. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and its consummation is everlasting felicity. Possess yourselves of just and elevated notions of the Divine character, attributes, and administration, and of the end and dignity of your own immortal nature as it stands related to Him."
   
"Reflect deeply and often upon those relations. Remember that it is in God you live and move and have your being, - that in the language of David He is about your bed and about your path and spieth out all your ways, - that there is not a thought in your hearts, nor a word upon your tongues, but lo! He knoweth them altogether, and that he will one day call you to a strict account for all your conduct in this mortal life."
   
"Remember, too, that you are the redeemed of the Lord, that you are bought with a price, even the inestimable price of the precious blood of the Son of God. Adore Jehovah, therefore, as your God and your Judge. Love, fear, and serve Him as your Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Acquaint yourselves with Him in His word and holy ordinances."
   
"Make Him your friend and protector and your felicity is secured both here and hereafter. And with respect to particular duties to Him, it is your happiness that you are well assured that he best serves his Maker, who does most good to his country and to mankind."

Alexander Hamilton, an Episcopalian, not only signed the Constitution but wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers with Madison and Jay. He believed agreement on the Constitution could not have been obtained "without the finger of God." Although he agreed to duel with Burr, he told others that his duty as a Christian would prevent him from shooting and in his dying words claimed "a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ." When he was killed he was planning the creation of "The Christian Constituional Society," as he explained in an 1802 letter to James Bayard:
   
"I now offer you the outline of the plan they have suggested. Let an association be formed to be denominated 'The Christian Constitutional Society,' its object to be first: The support of the Christian religion. Second: The support of the United States."

William Paterson, a Presbyterian, was a state attorney general, Governor of New Jersey, and a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He studied law after attending the College of New Jersey, though, given his interests, if he was alive today he might have earned a criminal justice degree online. The town of Paterson, New Jersey was named in his honor. As a Supreme Court Justice, a newspaper account of his visit to the federal court in Portsmouth, New Hampshire shows he opened court in this fashion:
   
"On Monday last the Circuit Court of the United States was opened in this town. The Hon. Judge Paterson presided. After the Jury were impaneled, the Judge delivered a most eloquent and appropriate charge....Religion and morality were pleasingly inculcated and enforced as being necessary to good government, good order, and good laws, for 'when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice [Proberbs 29:2].'... After the [jury] charge was delivered, the Rev. Mr. Alden addressed the Throne of Grace in an excellent and well adapted prayer."

William Livingston, a Presbyterian, was a delegate to both Continental Congresses, the first Governor of New Jersey, and a Brigadier General in the militia. He published articles defending Christianity in The Independent Reflector and offered this resolution in Congress on March 16, 1776, passed without objection:
   
"We earnestly recommend that Friday, the 17th day of May next, be observed by the colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer, that we may with united hearts confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life appease God's righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ obtain His pardon and forgiveness."

David Brearly, an Episcopalian, served as a colonel in the War for Independence, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and was appointed to the federal bench by George Washington.
   
He was a warden of St. Michael's Church, a delegate to the Episcopal General Convention in 1786, and helped compile the Protestant Episcopal Prayer Book.

Benjamin Franklin, "I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- God Governs in the Affairs of Men, And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, Is it possible that an empire can rise without His aid?
    "Except the Lord build the house, They labor in vain who build it." "I firmly believe this." Benjamin Franklin, June 28, 1787 Constitutional Convention

James Wilson, "Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine....Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other."James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution and an original Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court

In 1776 William Blount, a Presbyterian, helped draft the Tennessee Constitution which said:
   
Article VIII, Section II: No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.
   
Article XI, Section IV: That no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this State.
   
The quotation shows the Founders did not consider a belief in God to be a "religious test," which in the history of England in the century before our Constitution meant allegiance to a particular denomination.
   
Equally important, modern political scientists now understand that man's rights arise from the prohibition's of God's moral rules, and the branch of modern mathematics known as Game Theory has now proven that it is not rational to follow God's rules unless one believes in a God who can see into the hearts and in the existence of eternal rewards and punishments. Evidently our Founders understood these ideas innately, though our own science has only recently been able to demonstrate them rigorously.

American History Resources

 

 

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