The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
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The Constitution and Separation of Church and State

Some historical references to the constitutional principle of separation of Church and state

Researched and edited by Jim Allison


Part II

From the Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Barbary, June 10, 1797

This treaty was made under the administration of George Washington, and was signed and sealed at Tripoli on the fourth Day of November 1796, and at Algiers the third day of January 1797, by Hassan Bashaw, Bey of Algiers, and Joel Barlow, Counsul- General of the United States. This treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate June 7, 1797 and signed into law by President John Adams June 10, 1797.

ARTICLE 11. As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmans; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext, arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Source of Information:

Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Barbary Communicated to the Senate, May 26, 1797, American State Papers, Class I, Foreign Relations, Volume II, Page 154) American State Papers Bearing On Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, compiled and annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington, D.C. 1911, pp 153.



The following are two newspaper articles of the day. The first clearly states that the Constitution does not give any distinction to Christianity, thus debunking the "Christian Nation" idea. The second clearly states that no authority is given in the Constitution for the government to have anything to do with religion, hence Separation of Church and State.


 MONDAY MARCH 5, 1798
 GENERAL

 A U R O R A

 ADVERTISER


Mr. Adams, before taking his oath of office, made a long exordium . . . that, although the constitution makes no distinction in favour of the Christian religion, yet that he (Mr. Adams) in nominating to public offices would always have a special eye to that point. This truth was thereafter sent to the press. In July or August last . . . in plain terms. when [former Secretary of the Treasury Mr. Alexander Hamilton] came to Philadelphia to vindicate his character by a confession of adultery. This identical and most Christian president invited him to a family dinner with Mrs. Adams. Such is his selection of company for the entertainment of his wife! Oh, Johnny! Johnny!


Source of Information:

American Aurora, A Democratic-Republican Returns: The Suppressed History of Our Nation's Beginnings and The Heroic Newspaper That Tried to Report It, by Richard N. Rosenfeld, St. Martin's Press New York, 1997, pp 17.


 MONDAY MAY 9, 1798
 GENERAL

 A U R O R A

 ADVERTISER


The other papers of this city have chosen to be silent this day, because the President has recommended a fast. We do not follow their example: Because there is nothing in the constitution giving authority to proclaim fasts . . . Because prayer, fasting, and humiliation are matters of religion and conscience, with which government has nothing to do . . . And Because we consider a connection between state and church affairs as dangerous to religious and political freedom and that, therefore, every approach towards it should be discouraged . . .

Source of Information:

American Aurora, A Democratic-Republican Returns: The Suppressed History of Our Nation's Beginnings and The Heroic Newspaper That Tried to Report It, by Richard N. Rosenfeld, St. Martin's Press New York, 1997, pp 113.

 


JANUARY 1799

Madison's Address to Virginia General Assembly

So insatiable is a love of power that it has resorted to a distinction between the freedom and licentiousness of the press for the purpose of converting the third amendment of the Constitution, which was dictated by the most lively anxiety to preserve that freedom, into an instrument for abridging it. Thus, usurpation even justifies itself by a precaution against usurpation. Thus an amendment universally designed to quiet every fear is adduced as the source of an act which has produced general terror and alarm.

The distinction between liberty and licentiousness is still a repetition of the Protean doctrine of implication, which is ever ready to work its ends by varying its shape. By its help, the judge as to what is licentious may escape through any constitutional restriction. Under it men of a particular religious opinion might be excluded from office, because such exclusion would not amount to an establishment of religion, and because it might be said that their opinions are licentious. And under it Congress might denominate a religion to be heretical and licentious, and proceed to its suppression. Remember that precedents once established are so much positive power; and that the nation which reposes on the pillow of political confidence, will sooner or later end its political existence in a deadly lethargy. Remember, also that it is to the press mankind are indebted for having dispelled the clouds which long encompassed religion, for disclosing her genuine lustre, and disseminating her salutary doctrines.


Thomas Jefferson to Postmaster- General Gideon Granger May 3, 1801

The clergy, who have missed their union with the state, the anglo men, who have missed their union with England, the political adventurers who have lost the chance of swindling & plunder in the waste of public money, will never cease to bawl, on the breaking up of their sanctuary.

Source of Information:

Original source for quote -Thomas Jefferson to Postmaster- General Gideon Granger, May 3, 1801, Works: Ford IX, 249, quote appearing in The Life of John Marshall, By Albert J Beveridge Vol III, page 15, published 1917


The following is Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists Taken from Andrew Lipscomb and Albert Bergh, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol., 16, pp. 281-282.


January 1, 1802

Gentlemen,

The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for is faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.

Thomas Jefferson


From Thomas Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address:

MARCH 4, 1805 In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercised suited to it; but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of state or church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.

Source of Information:

"Thomas Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address", March 4, 1805, The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden, pp 314.


From the Treaty of Peace, Amity, and Commerce Between the President and Citizens of the United States of America, and the Basha, Bey, And Subjects of Tripoli, in Bombay, April 1806

Like the treaty of 1797, this treaty showed the government of the United States to be impartial in matters of religion, --that it had no established religion, and that the question of religion and religious opinion was not to be considered in national affairs. It showed that it was not the policy of this government to compel those within its jurisdiction, who are not Christians, to act as though they were.

ARTICLE XIV. AS the government of the United States of America has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Mussulmen, and as the said States never have entered into any voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mahometan except in defense of their just rights to freely navigate the high seas, it is declared by the contracting parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two nations. And the consuls and agents of both nations respectively shall have liberty to exercise his religion in his own house. All slaves of the same religion shall not be impeded in going to said consul's house at hours of prayer.

Source of Information:

Treaty of Peace, Amity, and Commerce Between the President and Citizens of the United States of America, and the Basha, Bey, And Subjects of Tripoli, in Bombay, Concluded June 4, 1805; Ratified by the Senate April 12, 1806, "Treaties and Conventions Concluded between the United States of America and other Powers, Since July 4, 1776," published by the Department of State, 1889, page 1084, American State Papers Bearing on Sunday Legislation, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Compiled and Annotated by William Addison Blakely, Revised Edition Edited by Willard Allen Colcord, The Religious Liberty Association, Washington, D.C. 1911, pp 164-165.

See Part III of this topic for additional reference materials.
 
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