Am I Really Weak In History? :)

Mark at Chesterstreet made a response to my last post.  All well and good.  I don’t really have anything to say to these particular comments:

"…your charlatan tactics of ‘religious’ persecution bullshit."


"Absolutes Dr. will remain your enemy because your ‘religion’ (world view) has nothing to do with right and wrong, good or bad, truth or lie. You have nothing but a relative opinion, something our founding fathers had no problem with you expressing, they just had the wisdom not to make laws around everyone who had one."

However, I do want to address one comment he made about me:

Speaking of Founding Fathers, their ‘religion’ was a world view that trusts in God, Christ, and the Bible. Sorry, unrevised history will not support your desperate desire to validate your religion, oops I mean world view. Absolutes were not a new concept to them… "In God we trust". History may not be one of your stronger subjects, eh?

Now, as most people know I have a Ph.D. in early Christian history (which really comes in handy sometimes, I have to admit!).  I know some history, but certainly not all.  But what I don’t know I can look up.  And if I can’t find a clear answer, then I know how to look deeper.  When someone like Mark claims "History may not be one of your stronger subjects, eh?" then to me that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  🙂

Let’s take a little look at the actual history of that motto that Mr. Mark believes is somehow related to the founding fathers.  Since I didn’t know the actual history of this motto, I just googled it (not a very hard thing to do, I might add).  The first website that comes up is from the U.S. Treasury Department.  Low and behold, the motto has nothing to do with the founding fathers (and somehow I am not surprised).  Here is a bit of what it has to say:

The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, and read:

You can read the actual letter by going to the link above.  But I will say that in this letter the reverend did not mention the "In God We Trust" motto.  He wanted something else (God, Liberty, Law).  Here is more from the website:

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.

It was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States. This meant that the mint could make no changes without the enactment of additional legislation by the Congress. In December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted designs for new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He proposed that upon the designs either OUR COUNTRY; OUR GOD or GOD, OUR TRUST should appear as a motto on the coins. In a letter to the Mint Director on December 9, 1863, Secretary Chase stated:

I approve your mottoes, only suggesting that on that with the Washington obverse the motto should begin with the word OUR, so as to read OUR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY. And on that with the shield, it should be changed so as to read: IN GOD WE TRUST.

The Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

Here is a bit more on the real history of this motto:

The use of IN GOD WE TRUST has not been uninterrupted. The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938. Since 1938, all United States coins bear the inscription. Later, the motto was found missing from the new design of the double-eagle gold coin and the eagle gold coin shortly after they appeared in 1907. In response to a general demand, Congress ordered it restored, and the Act of May 18, 1908, made it mandatory on all coins upon which it had previously appeared. IN GOD WE TRUST was not mandatory on the one-cent coin and five-cent coin. It could be placed on them by the Secretary or the Mint Director with the Secretary’s approval.

The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916. It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck since July 1, 1908.

And the motto was not the national motto until 1956, and did not show up on paper money until 1957:

A law passed by the 84th Congress (P.L. 84-140) and approved by the President on July 30, 1956, the President approved a Joint Resolution of the 84th Congress, declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States. IN GOD WE TRUST was first used on paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the one-dollar silver certificate. The first paper currency bearing the motto entered circulation on October 1, 1957. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) was converting to the dry intaglio printing process. During this conversion, it gradually included IN GOD WE TRUST in the back design of all classes and denominations of currency.

Now, when someone says that I am a bit weak on history, I would at least expect them to do a bit of historical digging themselves. And especially if they are going to accuse me of being weak in the area of history. But then again, Mark thinks I don’t know right from wrong, the truth from a lie.  I guess I will take this statement with about as much seriousness as I take his statement that I am weak in history.  So much for absolutes, eh?

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One Response to Am I Really Weak In History? :)

  1. Rob says:

    He probably thinks "under god" was part of the original pledge too.

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