Words From Our Founders: George Mason, Part 2

Today we continue our Words From Our Founders series examining the Founding Fathers’ own words on religion, religious liberty, and virtue.

Last week we wrote about George Mason’s work on the Virginia Declaration of Rights and ultimate influence on the U.S. Bill of Rights. Below is the original draft Mason wrote  concerning virtue and religious freedom for the Virginia Declaration of Rights. It offers a little more insight into Mason’s beliefs about God and the free exercise of religion.

George Mason’s Original Draft (written May 20 – 26, 1776):

A Declaration of Rights, made by the Representatives of the good People of Virginia, assembled in full Convention; and recommended to Posterity as the Basis and Foundation of Government. …

That no free Government, or the Blessings of Liberty can be preserved to any People, but by a firm adherence to Justice, Moderation, Temperance, Frugality, and Virtue and by frequent Recurrence to fundamental Principles.

That as Religion, or the Duty which we owe to our divine and omnipotent Creator, and the Manner of discharging it, can be governed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or Violence; and therefore that all Men should enjoy the fullest Toleration in the Exercise of Religion, according to the Dictates of Conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the Magistrate, unless, under Colour of Religion, any Man disturb the Peace, the Happiness, or Safety of Society, or of Individuals. And that it is the mutual Duty of all, to practice Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity towards Each other.

Final Draft Ratified in Virginia on June 12, 1776

Made by the Representatives of the good People of Virginia, assembled in full and free Convention, which rights to pertain to them and their posterity as the basis and foundation of government. …

XV. That no free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

XVI. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love and charity towards each other.

Words From Our Founders: George Mason

Today we continue our Words From Our Founders series examining the Founding Fathers’ own words on religion, religious liberty, and virtue.

On June 12, 1776, just a few weeks before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, The Fifth Virginia Convention unanimously ratified the Virginia Declaration of Rights. The chief author of the declaration was George Mason. Below are the final two enumerations of the declaration — pertaining to morality and religious liberty — as written by George Mason and edited by the Convention. In addition to the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Mason’s work was influential in the adoption of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Made by the Representatives of the good People of Virginia, assembled in full and free Convention, which rights to pertain to them and their posterity as the basis and foundation of government. …

XV. That no free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

XVI. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love and charity towards each other.

Words From Our Founders: Benjamin Franklin on Christmas

Today we continue our Words From Our Founders series examining our Founding Fathers’ own words on religion, religious liberty, and morality.

Below is an excerpt from Poor Richard’s Almanack by Benjamin Franklin relating to the celebration of Christmas.

“How many observe Christ’s Birth-day! How few, his Precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.”

Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1743

Words From Our Founders: Congress’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1781

Today we continue our Words From Our Founders series examining our Founding Fathers’ own words on religion, religious liberty, and morality.

Below is a proclamation agreed to by Congress on October 26, 1781. The proclamation establishes December 13, 1781, as a day of thanksgiving and prayer. The proclamation also takes a retrospective look at the American Revolution, which, by the end of 1781, was drawing to a close with the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown (referenced in the third paragraph of the proclamation).

PROCLAMATION

Whereas, it hath pleased Almighty God, the supreme Disposer of all Events father of mercies, remarkably to assist and support the United States of America in their important struggle for liberty, against the long continued efforts of a powerful nation: it is the duty of all ranks to observe and thankfully acknowledge the interpositions of his Providence in their behalf. Through the whole of the contest, from its first rise to this time, the influence of divine Providence may be clearly perceived in many signal instances, of which we mention but a few.

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Words from Our Founders: Congressional Prayer Proclamation, 1780

Today we continue our Words From Our Founders series examining our Founding Fathers’ own words on religion, religious liberty, and morality.

In honor of Thanksgiving, below is a proclamation issued by the Continental Congress on October 18, 1780. The proclamation establishes December 7, 1780, as a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” The proclamation also makes a reference to Benedict Arnold’s treason, which was exposed before it could be fully executed.

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and thankful acknowledgments, more especially in the late remarkable interposition of his watchful providence, in rescuing the person of our Commander in Chief and the army from imminent dangers, at the moment when treason was ripened for execution; in prospering the labours of the husbandmen, and causing the earth to yield its increase in plentiful harvests; and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace;

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