In 1772, to confront the unjust acts of Great Britain, citizens of Boston formed a Committee of Correspondence to coordinate their efforts with those of the other colonies. The citizens charged the Committee with several tasks, one of which was to create a statement of the rights of the colonists. This duty was given to none other than one of the leaders of the original Tea Party, the "Father of the American Revolution" himself, Samuel Adams.
"Among the natural rights of the Colonists," began Adams, "are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property." On liberty, Adams later added that, "‘Just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty,' ... is a thing that all men are clearly entitled to by the eternal and immutable laws of God and nature, as well as by the law of nations and all well-grounded municipal laws, which must have their foundation in the former."
Adams was a Congregationalist who was raised by devout Puritans. As the governor of Massachusetts, he was dubbed "the last Puritan." Adams was quite proud of his Puritan heritage, and rightly so, for more than any other group the Puritans were most responsible for the Christian foundation that America enjoyed.
The Puritans were not the sin-obsessed, witch-hunting killjoys in tall black hats that many have made them out to be. As David Marshall and Peter Manuel note in The Light and the Glory, "Far from fleeing the persecutions of King and Bishop, they determined to change their society in the only way that could make any lasting difference: by giving it a Christianity that worked."
In June 1630, 10 years after the Pilgrims founded the Plymouth Colony, John Winthrop and 700 other Puritans landed in Massachusetts Bay. This was the beginning of the Great Migration, which over 16 years saw more than 20,000 Puritans leave Europe for New England. On June 11, 1630, aboard the Arbella, Winthrop, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, penned A Model of Christian Charity, which became a model for future constitutional covenants of the Colonies.
Under the leadership of their ministers, the Puritans established a representative government with annual elections. By 1641, they had a "Body of Liberties" (essentially a Bill of Rights), which was penned by the Rev. Nathaniel Ward. This was the first legal code established by the colonists.
In 1636, the Rev. Thomas Hooker, along with other Puritan ministers, founded Connecticut. They also established an elective form of government. In 1638, after hearing a sermon by Hooker, Roger Ludlow wrote the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. This was the first constitution written in America. It served as a model of government for other colonies and, eventually, a union of colonies. It also served as a model for the U.S. Constitution.
However, as historian David Barton notes, "While Connecticut produced America's first written constitution, it definitely had not produced America's first written document of governance, for such written documents had been the norm for every colony founded by Bible-minded Christians. ... This practice of providing written documents had been the practice of American ministers before the Rev. Hooker's constitution of 1638 and continued long after."
Like Samuel Adams, another Founding Father understood well who was most responsible for the founding of our great nation, and upon what that foundation rested. America's Schoolmaster, Noah Webster, noted, "The learned clergy ... had great influence in founding the first genuine republican governments ever formed and which, with all the faults and defects of the men and their laws, were the best republican governments on earth."
Webster concluded that "the Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government ... and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence."
This explicitly Christian heritage, more than any other reason, is why the United States stands alone in the world. It is why the U.S. is the world's longest ongoing constitutional republic, enjoying unprecedented longevity among contemporary nations of the world, with over 220 years under the same documents and the same form of government.
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," wrote the Apostle Paul. Of all the nations of the world, this has never been more evident than with the United States of America. God Bless America.
Trevor Thomas is a Hall County resident and regular columnist.