Part 4 David Barton: Were Founding Fathers Deists?
Only 5% of the original 250 founding fathers were not Christians (Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen, Joe Barlow, Charles Lee, Henry Dearborn, ect)
1. It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! – Patrick Henry (unconfirmed)
Few could dispute that this quotation is consistent with Henry’s life and character. (Interestingly, those who advocate a secular society today view Henry as an arch enemy.) One early biographer describes how Henry reprinted and distributed Soame Jennings book, View of the Internal Evidence of Christianity, and also that Henry looked to the restraining and elevating principles of Christianity as the hope of his country’s institutions. Bishop Meade, writing of Virginia families in general, says of Henry that, despite possible periods of alienation, his attachment to the [Episcopal] Church of his fathers is clearly established. In one of many courtroom speeches, Henry offered these thoughts (one need not agree with his ideas to understand the context):
I know, sir, how well it becomes a liberal man and a Christian to forget and forgive. As individuals professing a holy religion, it is our bounden duty to forgive injuries done us as individuals. But when the character of Christian you add the character of patriot, you are in a different situation. Our mild and holy system of religion inculcates an admirable maxim of forbearance. If your enemy smite one cheek, turn the other to him. But you must stop there. You cannot apply this to your country. As members of a social community, this maxim does not apply to you. When you consider injuries done to your country your political duty tells you of vengeance. Forgive as a private man, but never forgive public injuries. Observations of this nature are exceedingly unpleasant, but it is my duty to use them.
In a 1796 letter to his daughter Henry stated:
Amongst other strange things said of me, I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of their number; and, indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appellation of Tory; because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics; and I find much cause to reproach myself that I have lived so long and have given no decided and public proofs of my being a Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is a character which I prize far above all this world has, or can boast.
Bishop Meade, mentioned above, also describes a letter from Rev. Dresser, who was addressing two Church historians. Concerning Patrick Henry, Dresser wrote:
It is stated, in an article which I saw some time ago, from the Protestant Episcopalian, and, I presume, from one of you, that Patrick Henry was once an infidel, &c. His widow and some of his descendants are residing in this county, and I am authorized by one of them to say that the anecdote related is not true. He ever had, I am informed, a very abhorrence of infidelity, and actually wrote an answer to Paine’s Age of Reason, but destroyed it before his death. His widow informed me that he received the Communion as often as an opportunity was offered, and on such occasions always fasted until after he had communicated, and spent the day in the greatest retirement. This he did both while Governor and afterward. Had he lived a few years longer, he would have probably done much to check the immoral influence of one of his compatriots [?], whose works are now diffusing the poison of infidelity throughout our land.
Henry’s religious persuasion is well-established. However, there is more evidence that should be considered. Biographer William Wirt Henry relates that a visiting neighbor recalled Henry holding up the Bible and stating:
This book is worth all the books that ever were printed, and it has been my misfortune that I have never found time to read it with the proper attention and feeling till lately. I trust in the mercy of Heaven that it is not yet too late.
Despite his regret for not having spent more time in the Bible, Henry knew the value of Scripture. Taken together with his efforts while in public life, there is an ample foundation for this excerpt from his Last Will and Testament:
This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.From a copy of Henry’s Last Will and Testament obtained from Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation, Red Hill, Brookneal, VA
As a final thought, there is a possibility that the unconfirmed quote came from Henry’s uncle, the Reverend Patrick Henry. We find no record of the Reverend’s letters or writings. Therefore, until more definitive documentation can be presented, please avoid the words in question.
This below is a profile of a State Lawmaker from a 2009 interview from the Morning News:
Senate District 9
Serving his second term in the state Senate in the age of term limits, although he served earlier in the Senate from 1979 to 1983. Served one term in the House from 2001 to 2003.
Committees: Chairman of Energy; Rules; Joint Budget; Legislative Council; Education.
Special connections: An engineer and businessman whose interests include car dealerships.
How to reach him: E-mail address: email@example.com. Business number: 479-787-6500. “If my office doesn’t answer you’ll get my voice mail, which I check.”
What you should know: Has a special chagrin against state laws and regulations that try to micromanage school districts.
His priority: “Everybody’s priority is education, both higher education and general.” Will repeat earlier attempts to pass a law requiring that cell phones used in cars be hands-free. Wants state scholarships to higher education to include some “sweat equity” requirements.
Firmest prediction: “We will ask for more efficiency in the education area to save public money. There will also be resistance to any increase in taxes.”