Subject:	Author of Declaration of Independence: Deist?
To:	Separation of Church & State
Date:	1/13/99

In article <>, (XaosJester) writes:

>The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson a dedicated
>deist definitely not a Christian.

"Definitely not" -- if you believe the corrupt clergy, that is. But why take their word for it? How about the verdict of Andrew M. Allison, in Thomas Jefferson: Champion of History (pp.299ff.)


Another of Jefferson's projects during his last years was a compilation, in several languages, of all the New Testament passages which he understood to be the actual utterances of Jesus Christ. He referred to this "wee little book" as "the Philosophy of Jesus."

A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus—very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its Author never said nor saw.
TJ to Charles Thomson (9 Jan. 1816), Bergh 14:385-86.

Jefferson very seldom spoke with anyone, even those who were closest to him, about his religious beliefs. His grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, noted that "his codification of the morals of Jesus was not known to his family before his death, and they learned from a letter addressed to a friend that he was in the habit of reading nightly from it before going to bed." [Thomas Jefferson Randolph to Henry S. Randall (n.d.), in Randall, The Life of Thomas Jefferson, 3:672.]

It was partly because of his reticence on the subject of religion that Jefferson's political enemies had been able in earlier years to convince some voters that he was an atheist who would endanger their God-fearing republic. But his references to "our Savior" in his private letters prove that he was no atheist.[note 12: For example, see his letter to Martin Van Buren (2.9 June 1824), Bergh 16:55.] This fact is further evidenced in a personal statement he had written to Dr. Benjamin Rush during his presidency:

My views of [the Christian religion] are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be—sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others.
TJ to Dr. Benjamin Rush (2l Apr. l803), Bergh 10:379-80.

On another occasion he wrote, "I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man." [TJ to Jared Sparks (4 Nov. 1820), Bergh 15:288. "Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips," Jefferson believed, "the whole civilized world would now have been Christian." TJ to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse (26 June 1822), Bergh 15:385.]

Sharing a hope nurtured by many Americans in the early nineteenth century, Jefferson anticipated a re-establishment of the Christian religion in its "original purity" in the United States. Although he believed it would not take place until after his death, he had no doubt that it would eventually be accomplished. "Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity," he said, "I must leave to younger athletes to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages."[note 15: TJ to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse (19 July 1822), Bergh 15:391.] His own Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and later the First Amendment to the Constitution, had already prepared the way. The rest was simply a matter of time.

If the freedom of religion guaranteed to us by law in theory can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it.
[note 16: TJ to Jared Sparks (4 Nov. 1820), Bergh 15:288.]


>From paragraph 1:
>When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
>dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
>assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which
>the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the
>opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
>them to the separation.
>"...(T)he Laws of Nature and of Nature's God..." are terms used by deists to
>describe the divine. 

Name one deist who used the terms, and I will name five theocrats who also used the terms, and used them before the deist did. The terms were used by theocrats who do not allow atheists to hold political office. I have already quoted Locke to this effect.

See Gary Amos' book, *Defending the Declaration,* chap 2, for a nice history of the concept, which goes back to Paul's letter to the Romans (chapters 1 and 2), was articulated by theologians in the 13th century, was part and parcel of Blackstone, Coke, Locke, et all, and was definitely not "deistic."

>It is not unreasonable to think that if Jefferson meant
>the laws of the bible and Jesus he would have said exactly that.

It may not be unreasonable for a late-20th century fundamentalist to think or hope that the Founding Fathers and other theocrats would have said "laws of CHEEZUZ," but it is unreasonable for anyone who has read Locke and Coke and Blackstone to suppose this. They mean "laws of the Holy Scripture" and "Savior of the world" and they spoke in those terms.

>From paragraph 2:
> We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
>that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that
>among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
>You have to remember that this document was written by a deist so the
>reference to a "Creator" does not automatically mean the Christian god.

And don't forget that Jefferson's draft was revised by the Congress and reflects their more theocratic ideas, as well as the Christian people whose views they were delegated to represent. One of the members of the drafting committe was John Adams, who was castigated by the modern Supreme Court (Allegheny v. ACLU (1989)) for violating their standards of political correctness:

The history of this Nation, it is perhaps sad to say, contains numerous examples of official acts that endorsed Christianity specifically. [The footnote, 53, cites Leo Pfeffer, "quoting the explicitly Christian proclamation of President John Adams, who urged all Americans to seek God's grace "through the Redeemer of the world" and "by His Holy Spirit").]
[492 U.S. 573, 605]

Note: Adams did not say "CHEEZUZ"

>From last paragraph:
>We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in
>General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for
>the rectitude of our intentions,....
>And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the
>protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives,
>our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. 
>"(T)he Supreme Judge of the world" and "divine Providence" do not equal
>Christianity or Jesus especially when the writer of those words is a
>confirmed deist.

The writer of those words was not Jefferson. If you look in his writings, vol 1, p. 38 you will find in his autobiography that his original draft did not contain those words, but were added by the Congress. Numerous other changes were also made.

  Jefferson's Original

Final Wording

We therefore the representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled, do in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these [states reject and renounce all allegiance and subjection to the kings of Great Britain and all others who may hereafter claim by, through or under them; we utterly dissolve all political connection which may heretofore have subsisted between us and the people or parliament of Great Britain and finally we do assert and declare these colonies to be free and independent states,] and that as free and independent states, We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled, appealing to the supreme judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as free  


The Declaration of Independence reflects the thinking of a nation which barred atheists from public office and which the US Supreme Court on several occasions described as a "Christian nation."

Kevin C.
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and sit under their Vine & Fig Tree.
Micah 4:1-7

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