American Minute with Bill Federer
Thomas Jefferson on Jesus, Religious Freedom, Rights of Conscience, Government, Indians, Islam, & more
was born APRIL 13, 1743.
He was baptized in the
His father died when he was 14 years old.
In 1760, he began attending the
College of William and Mary,
where he was educated by
Anglican ministers and professors.
On January 1, 1772,
Martha Wayles Skelton
on the Wayles estate, the service being presided over by a pair of
helped raise money for the state's militia during the Revolution.
five died before Jefferson,
being buried with
Anglican religious services.
was an established
Anglican Colony, Jefferson
could never have held
there unless he had been a faithful
had to take the
Oath of Supremacy.
In the Continental Congress,
Declaration of Independence,
1776, which refers to God four times:
- Laws of Nature and of Nature's God;
- All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights;
- Appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World;
- Firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.
Signers of the Declaration of Independence
were "Low Church"
In 1785, after the Revolutionary War, the
in America became the
was a member.
He was a regular donor to
St. Anne’s Episcopal Church
in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Henry S. Randall,
The Life of Thomas Jefferson
(NY: Derby & Jackson, 1858), was the only biographer who interviewed
immediate family personally.
with as much regularity as most of the members of the congregation—sometimes going alone on horse-back, when his family remained at home ...
He generally attended the
and when he did so, always carried his
joined in the responses and prayers of the congregation
He contributed freely to the erection of
gave money to
and other religious objects, and was a liberal and
regular contributor to the support of the clergy."
On May 24, 1774,
drafted a Virginia Resolution calling for a
Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer
to be observed the day British ships blockaded Boston's harbor.
became a friend of the Baptist dissenters, taking a public stand for
He helped to
as Virginia's official state denomination.
organized the independent
Calvinistical Reformed Church,
which met in the Charlottesville Courthouse.
That same year, fellow church member Col. John Harvie introduced
Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom in the Virginia Legislature.
The Boston newspaper
printed on July 14, 1826 an unverified story that
Baptist Pastor Andrew Tribble:
was the Pastor of a small
which held its monthly meetings at a short distance from
house, eight or ten years before the American Revolution.
Mr. JEFFERSON attended the meetings of the church
for several months in succession, and after one of them, asked
to go home and dine with him, with which he complied.
how he was pleased with their
replied, that it had struck him with great force, and had interested him much; that he considered it
the only form of pure democracy that then existed in the world,
and had concluded that it would be the
best plan of Government for the American Colonies."
Thomas F. Curtis wrote in
The Progress of Baptist Principles in the Last Hundred Years
(Charleston, S.C.: Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1856):
"A gentleman ... in North Carolina ... knowing that the venerable
Mrs. (Dolley) Madison
had some recollections on the subject, asked her in regard to them. She expressed a distinct remembrance of
speaking on the subject, and always declaring that it was
a Baptist church
from which these views were gathered."
President Calvin Coolidge
stated at the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1926:
"This preaching reached the neighborhood of
who acknowledged that his
'best ideas of democracy'
had been secured at
Governor of Virginia,
he signed a Proclamation in 1779 appointing a
Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer:
"Whereas ... Congress ... hath thought proper ... to recommend to the several States ... humbly to approach the
throne of Almighty God
that he hath ... been a shield to our troops in the hour of danger, pointed their swords to victory ...
and above all, that he hath diffused
the glorious light of the Gospel,
whereby, through the merits of
our gracious Redeemer,
we may become the heirs of his eternal glory.
... Resolved ... to appoint ... a day of public and solemn
Thanksgiving to Almighty God ...
that he would grant to H
the plentiful effusions of
pour out his Holy Spirit on all Ministers of the Gospel;
that he would bless and prosper the means of education, and
spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth
and finally, that he would establish the
of these United States
upon the basis of religion and virtue ...
Given under my hand and the seal of the commonwealth, at Williamsburg, this 11th day of November,
in the year of our Lord,
1779, and in the fourth of the commonwealth.
died in 1782, and was buried with an
In grief over her death,
burned their personal letters and closed himself in his room for three weeks, only coming out to ride horseback through his estate.
Martha 'Patsy' Jefferson,
described how he wept for hours:
"In those melancholy rambles I was his constant companion ... a solitary witness to many a violent burst of grief ... the violence of his emotion ... to this day I do not describe to myself."
Trying to help,
in 1784 to be the U.S. ambassador to
was going through
a deistic period of "French infidelity"
prior to the
bloody French Revolution and Reign of Terror.
After this time,
more liberal "deist-Christian" leaning views,
through in later life he was described simply as a
In 1826, the year he died,
donated $200 toward the construction of
Christ Episcopal Church
, his Bill finally passed the Virginia Legislature as the
Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom,
January 16, 1786:
hath created the mind
All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments ... tend only to begat habits of hypocrisy ... and are a departure from the plan of
the Holy Author of religion,
both of body and mind, yet
chose not to propagate it by coercions
on either, as was in
His Almighty power
to do, but to extend it by its
influence on reason alone."
would not have allowed sharia "ridda" apostasy laws, which impose the death penalty on those who leave Islam.
In 1789, just as the
left Paris and returned to America.
He served as
Secretary of State
President John Adams,
was inaugurated the 3rd U.S. President, stating:
a benign religion,
professed, indeed, and
practiced in various forms,
yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man;
acknowledging and adoring
an overruling Providence,
which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the
happiness of man
his greater happiness hereafter
And may that
rules the destinies of the universe
lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity."
Protestant Sunday church services
held in the
U.S. House of Representatives.
Margaret Bayard Smith,
wife of Samuel Harrison Smith, publisher of the
attendance at church services in the House of Representatives:
during his whole administration was
a most regular attendant.
The seat he chose the first day sabbath, and the adjoining one, which his private secretary occupied, were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the
left for him."
Catherine Mitchill, wife of New York Senator Samuel Latham Mitchill, wrote to her sister of how she accidentally stepped on
at end of the House Chamber church service, being:
"so prodigiously frighten'd ... that I could not stop to make an apology, but got out of the way as quick as I could."
In his first Annual Message, December 8, 1801,
“We devoutly return thanks to the
who has been pleased to breathe into them the spirit of conciliation and forgiveness.”
In his second Annual Message, December 15, 1802, he stated:
“Those pleasing circumstances which mark the goodness of that
from whose favor they flow and ... for
... still blessed with peace and friendship abroad; law, order, and
approved purchasing the
doubling the size of the United States.
Lewis and Clark
to explore it, 1804-1806.
administration negotiated a
Treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians,
December 3, 1803:
"And whereas, the greater part of the said tribe have been
baptized and received into the Catholic church
they are much attached,
United States will give annually for seven years one hundred dollars towards the support of a priest of that religion,
who will engage
to perform for the said tribe the duties of his office
and also to
instruct as many of their children
as possible in the rudiments of literature.
And the United States will further give the sum of
three hundred dollars
to assist the said tribe in the
erection of a church."
The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French and English
first in 1804, then again in 1816.
He initially prepared this with the intention of having a book of ethics to help
Christianize and civilize the Indians,
reasoning that if they were given the entire Bible, they may want to emulate the Old Testament accounts of warfare.
He wrote on the cover page:
"The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth
-- extracted from the account of his life and doctrines as given by Matthew, Mark, Luke & John -- being an abridgement of the New Testament
for the use of the Indians
unembarrassed with matters of fact or faith
beyond the level of their comprehensions."
wrote to Charles Thomson, Jan. 9, 1816:
"I have made this wee-little book ... which I call
The Philosophy of Jesus.
It is a paradigm of
made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time and subject.
A more beautiful or precious morsel of
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 an infidel, and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its
never said nor saw."
said on the
400th Anniversary of the Printing of the English Bible,
October 6, 1935:
was in the best of the ancient philosophers, he turned to the
as the source of his higher thinking and reasoning ...
He held that the
noblest ethical system
the world has known.
His own compilation of the selected portions of this
in what is known as
bears evidence of the
in which he held it."
In 1904, the 57th Congress, in order to restrain unethical behavior among politicians, voted:
"That there be printed ... for the use of Congress, 9,000 copies of
Thomas Jefferson's Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,
as the same appears in the National Museum."
Though he owned and studied a Qur'an,
concluded that the
ethics and morals of Jesus
superior to all others,
as he wrote to William Canby, Sept. 18, 1813:
"Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern,
which have come under my observation, none appear to me so
as that of
He wrote to Jared Sparks, November 4, 1820:
"I hold the precepts of
as delivered by Himself, to be
the most pure, benevolent and sublime which have ever been preached to man.
wrote to Joseph Priestly of
April 9, 1803:
"His system of morality
the most benevolent and sublime
probably that has been ever taught, and consequently
more perfect than those of any of the ancient philosophers."
wrote to John Adams, July 5, 1814:
that flowed from the lips of
himself are within the comprehension of a child."
lived in Virginia, which had the Anglican Church established from 1606 to 1786.
- mandatory membership,
- mandatory attendance,
- mandatory taxes to support it, and
- no one could hold public office unless he was a member.
Other Protestant Christian denominations were considered "dissenters," and Catholics were prohibited from entering the colony, not having a church there till 1795.
King of England
being the head of the
there were conflicting allegiances for
during the Revolution, with many defending the King, which patriots considered a corruption of the Gospel.
wrote in his "Notes on Religion":
were always mere
tools of the crown."
He wrote to Henry Fry, June 17, 1804:
"I consider the doctrines of
as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the
sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught
but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invented."
wrote to John Adams:
"In extracting the pure principles which
taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled ... there will be found remaining the
most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man."
On April 21, 1803,
wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, also a signer of the Declaration:
"My views ... are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and
very different from the 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 any one to be;
sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others ..."
He continued, stating of
"His system of morals
... if filled up in the style and spirit of the rich fragments He left us, would be
the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man ...
1. He corrected the Deism of the Jews, confirming them in their belief of
one only God,
and giving them juster notions of
His attributes and government.
His moral doctrines
more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers ...
gathering all into one family under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince the peculiar
superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.
3. The precepts of philosophy, and of the
laid hold of
He pushed his scrutinies into
the heart of man;
erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head.
4. He taught, emphatically, the
doctrines of a future state
... and wielded it with efficacy as
an important incentive,
supplementary to the other
motives to moral conduct."
told Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822:
"The doctrines of Jesus are simple,
and tend all to the
happiness of man.
1. That there is
one only God,
and he all perfect.
2. That there is
a future state of rewards and punishments.
3. That to
love God with all thy heart
thy neighbor as thyself,
the sum of religion.
These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews ...
Now, which of these is
the true and charitable Christian?
He who believes and acts on
the simple doctrines of Jesus?
the doctrines of Jesus
been preached always as pure as they came from his lips,
the whole civilized world would now have been Christian
How much wiser are the Quakers, who, agreeing in
the fundamental doctrines of the gospel,
schismatize about no mysteries, and, keeping within the pale of common sense, suffer no speculative differences of opinion ... to impair
the love of their brethren."
"Notes on Religion,"
possibly in October of 1776 for use in speeches to Virginia's House of Delegates regarding the disestablishment of the Episcopal Church
(The Works of Thomas Jefferson,
Paul Leicester Ford, editor, New York & London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1904-5, Vol. 2):
"Episcopal government in Religion in England
is it's similarity to the
political government by a king. No bishop, no king.
This then with us is a plea for
government by a presbytery
republican government ...
The Presbyterian spirit
is known to be
so congenial with friendly liberty,
after the restoration finding that the humor of people was running too strongly to exalt
the prerogative of the crown
dissenting interest as a check and balance,
& thus was produced the Toleration Act ..."
added in his "Notes on Religion":
"The Gentiles have the law written in their hearts, i.e. the law of nature: to which adding a faith in
& his attributes that
on their repentance he would pardon them,
they also would be justified.
This then explains the text
'there is no other name under heaven by which a man may be saved,'
i.e. the defects in good works shall not be supplied by a faith in
or any other
except Christ ..."
"The fundamentals of Christianity
as found in the Gospels are:
That faith is everywhere explained to be a belief that
Jesus was the Messiah
who had been promised.
was to be
sincerely by good works ...
The fundamentals of Christianity
were to be found in the
preaching of our Saviour,
which is related in the
What are fundamentals? The
will say those doctrines which are clearly & precisely delivered in the
If we are
we reject all tradition, & rely on the
for that is the essence & common principle of all the
The care of
every man's soul
belongs to himself.
But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or estate, which more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he shall not be poor or sick?
Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves.
himself will not save men
against their wills."
In his papers at the
Library of Congress,
carefully wrote out as a block of consecutive letters.
In his third Annual Message, October 17, 1803, Jefferson wrote:
“Let us bow with gratitude to that kind
In his second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805,
“I shall need, too, the favor of that
in whose hands we are,
who led our fore fathers, as Israel of old,
from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life: who has covered our infancy with his
... and to whose goodness I ask you to
join with me in supplications."
died in 1818,
“... it is of some comfort to us both that the term is not very distant at which we are to deposit, in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to
in essence to
an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved & los
whom we shall still love and never lose again.”
University of Virginia
U.S. Minister to France,
1785-1789, he met with the
from Tripoli to
negotiate freeing hundreds of captured U.S. sailors held in dungeons.
asked what the United States had done to provoke the
He recorded the answer, March 28, 1786:
answered us that it was written in their
all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners,
whom it was the right and
duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave;
slain in this warfare
was sure to
go to paradise."
in 1788, arranged for
John Paul Jones
to fight for
Muslim Ottoman navy.
Immediately after being inaugurated the
third U.S. President, Jefferson
a demand from the Muslim Pasha of Tripoli for $225,000
extortion tribute payment
or he would declare war on the United States.
refused and sent over the
U.S. Navy and Marines
First Muslim Barbary Pirate Wars.
In his First Annual Message, December 8, 1801,
"Tripoli ... of the
... permitted itself to (announce)
on our failure to comply ... The style of the demand admitted but one answer.
I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean
We are bound with peculiar gratitude to be thankful to
that our own peace has been
preserved through a perilous season."
was captured by
Navy and Marines,
- Commodore Edward Preble,
- Consul General William Eaton,
- Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, and
- Lieutenant Presely O'Bannon.
The victory is remembered in the
line "to the
shores of Tripoli."
Echoing Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death" speech, March 23, 1775,
The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms,
which was passed by the Continental Congress on July 6, 1775:
"A reverence for
our great Creator
... must convince all ... that
was instituted to
promote the welfare of mankind
We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the
towards us, that
would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were
grown up to our present strength
We most solemnly, before
and the world, declare ...
we have been compelled by our enemies to assume,
we will ... employ for the preservation of our liberties;
being with one mind
resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves."
followed by James Madison writing the Virginia Resolutions, both of which
defended States' Rights
by the Federal Government:
"That in cases of
powers are assumed which have not been delegated,
a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy ...
of their own authority
all assumptions of power by others
within their limits;
without this right
they would be
under the dominion, absolute and unlimited,
of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment
John F. Kennedy
remarked at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere. April 29, 1962:
"Ladies and gentlemen:
I want to welcome you to the White House ...
I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when
Someone once said that
was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet."
Inscribed on the
in Washington, DC, are his words:
who gave us
liberties of a nation
be secure when we have removed a conviction that
these liberties are the gift of God?
Indeed I tremble for my country when
I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever."
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