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What did our nation's founders really say about God, religion and virtue? God of Our Fathers: Advice and Prayers of Our Nation's Founders presents their own statements on these subjects in historical context.
More than 250 important observations on religion, morality, duty and liberty by the leaders of the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention have been collected in this single volume for ready reference and reflection.
The accurate quotations in this book reflect the founders' genuine opinions about the relationship between freedom and religious observance. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason and edited by James Madison in 1776, described their sense of obligation in a succinct phrase: the duty which we owe to our Creator. Revealing the spiritual principles that guided the establishment of the United States, their statements are both inspiring and challenging.
In today's discussion of national and personal values, every American should once again become familiar with the actual words of the architects and early builders of our country. Quotations from the personal correspondence and official statements of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison emphatically convey their recognition of the vital role of religion in a democratic republic.
The words of other once-prominent participants in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, John Jay, Benjamin Rush, John Dickinson and James Wilson are also included, together with biographical information and a useful historical timeline. Although some of these early leaders are nearly forgotten today, their statements reinforce George Washington's observation: Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.
John Adams, second President of the United States, agreed with his predecessor: Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and in all the combinations of human society.
By presenting the actual words of our nation's founders for personal examination, God of Our Fathers enables every reader to form an independent judgment about their beliefs and intentions without relying on the interpretation of professional commentators.
During the ongoing debate about the scope of religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, it is interesting to note that James Madison, leader of the effort to obtain passage of the Bill of Rights, wrote: The belief in a God, all powerful, wise, and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world, and to the happiness of man, that arguments which reinforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources.
Thomas Jefferson summarized the central theme of the quotations in this book: The relations which exist between man and his Maker, and the duties resulting from those relations, are the most interesting and important to every human being, and the most incumbent on his study and investigation. To make informed decisions today, we need to understand the principles on which the government of the United States was founded.
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The compiler and editor of God of Our Fathers: Advice and Prayers of Our Nation's Founders has prepared this book under the pseudonym Josiah Benjamin Richards to focus attention on their words, not his.
This volume of more than 250 quotations from the writings of the men who served in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention is not a platform for the author's personal views. Instead, it is the product of his independent research.
Some years ago the editor and compiler, a professional author in the field of financial management, was searching for a general reference book combining two of his son's interests: religion (his son's undergraduate major) and history (his graduate study). After a thorough investigation, it became apparent that there was no readily available collection of statements about God, religion and virtue by the men who led our country during the Revolutionary War and the development of the Constitution of the United States.
The spiritual words and actions of our early leaders for example, their call for prayer during the first days of the Continental Congress have virtually disappeared from most depictions of our nation's founding. A modern book setting forth their beliefs about the role of faith in a free society was clearly needed.
Josiah Benjamin Richards has accepted the challenge of preparing an objective, straightforward compilation of the advice and prayers of our nation's founders. He conducted his research in the library of Independence National Historical Park, the library of the American Philosophical Society, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Philadelphia and the Reading Public Library.
God of Our Fathers is the most useful collection of the founders' statements about the duty which we owe to our Creator (as described in the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776). The research by Josiah Benjamin Richards reveals that they heartily concurred in George Washington's observation: Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
This book has no single author. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the other early leaders of this nation put their ideas on paper many generations ago. With profound respect for the founders of the United States, Josiah Benjamin Richards has devoted his time and energy to the important task of bringing together a selection of their religious statements in one concise volume for reference and reflection by today's readers.Review:
The sale of nearly 5,000 copies of God of Our Fathers: Advice and Prayers of Our Nation's Founders in the bookstores of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, where the research for this book was conducted, may be more persuasive than the comments of professional reviewers.
Begun as a project of historical inquiry and completed with enthusiasm for informing Americans about the spiritual nature of our nation's founders, God of Our Fathers is being offered for sale beyond Independence Park for the first time. As a means of benefiting the birthplace of the United States, retail sales were previously restricted to a single venue. However, privatization of the visitors' center bookstore during 2007 has diminished the incentive to maintain that exclusive relationship.
The publisher, Reading Books, has never relied on professional reviews of God of Our Fathers as a means of generating interest. Sales in the Independence Park bookstores, together with additional orders from individuals and organizations who have purchased the book there, sustain this work. The enthusiastic response from readers has also encouraged research for a companion volume (to be released later this year) examining the origins of religious freedom in the United States.
We have received many notes of appreciation from around the country. Most are not formal reviews, just letters of thanks for making the religious statements of our nation's founders available to the public.
Occasionally, we receive a comment on official stationery. A former member of the United States Senate wrote: Your splendid book, God of Our Fathers: Advice and Prayers of Our Nation's Founders, is not merely another notable literary and historical undertaking; it is a handbook for the survival of America.
This recognition came from a retired Congressman: I am delighted that someone with the scholarship and persistence of the author, Mr. Richards, took on this labor of love.
The publisher regards the personal notes from readers as the best reviews. --Compilation of comments received by the publisher
This compendium of reflections and prayers from such men as John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and others would serve as a useful supplement to any school's American History course or in debates on the place of religion in public policy and discourse. There is a surprising array of thoughts from men like Franklin on the acknowledgement of God as the seed of human happiness to Adams' thoughts on the necessity of religion in informing social order to Washington's and Madison's reckoning of liberty as a divine blessing. This is the fruit of someone who was concerned over the paucity of references in current history books to the religious convictions of these men. In many ways, it exists as a helpful corrective to that lapse of scholarship. My thanks to Josiah Richards for this volume. --James Goodmann, The Council for Religion in Independent Schools
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