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The Golden Verses Of The Stoic

Seneca and Epictetus refer to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras , which happens to provide a good framework for developing a daily routine, bookended by morning and evening contemplative practices. Zeno of Citium , who founded Stoicism in 301 BC, expressed his doctrines in notoriously terse arguments and concise maxims.  However, Chrysippus, the third head of the Stoic school, wrote over 700 books fleshing these ideas out and adding complex arguments to support them. 

No... What the Founding Fathers Meant Was....

George Washington at a Masonic Lodge
I fell into a conversation regarding the educational abuse that Texas has brought down on its children tonight -- and was assaulted by such arrogant ignorance that I could barely think. Apparently there lives in several minds the belief that Moses was the inspiration for the Constitution of the United States and even though the founding Fathers carefully debated, and the strongly opposed putting "God" in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, or the Manga Carter ... I was told bold faced by several people that --. The Founding Fathers were so deeply Christian that God was Assumed to be in there. 

I stuttered in amazement at the audacity of this statement, and the depth of its error. The statement is so utterly untrue, insulting and ... well.. un-American.

I really do not believe that they understand the depth of error they have stumbled into. The Constitution was not unique, really, in that it gave all men their freedom of choice regarding religion. It could be argued that several other governments allowed this before the Founding Fathers crafted those words. What was unique in this regard was that the Freedom of Religion they crafted also protected a citizen's right of "No Religion." The right not to chose was globally unique. No citizen was restricted by his unbelief from any office or any profession. And this is expressed not only as "permission" but as a protected right. If there is cause for the Exceptionalist to crow American values, this is definitely one of the most uniquely American descriptors.

I would also like to point out, that every time this line has been challenged and a molecule of favor to any one religion or another has been gained by hook and crook -- between the time of victory and the moment that victory was smashed by constitutional protection, there has always been shown by these radical and un-American Christians a devastating example of why we don't go there.

It is seriously doubtful that all of the Founding Fathers were Christian. Jefferson wasn't. There is tons of documentation supporting this fact, from his own letters and journals to the preachers of that time who campaigned against him because he was an atheist.

Ben Franklin the first American was not Christian either, again, plenty of documentation for that.

George Washington was private about his worship, but it is fairly clear that he was a Deistic, and a Freemason. There is tons of evidence for this, including the writings of preachers he befriended, and other good friends.

I'm not a historian, but I do know how to follow and look up references. This is a page I found, which did quite a bit of work:  Founding Fathers were Christian at all.

"... wish to return this country to its beginnings, so be it... because it was a climate of Freethought.  The Founders were students of the European Enlightenment. Half a century after the establishment of the United States, clergymen complained that no president up to that date had been a Christian.  In a sermon that was reported in newspapers, Episcopal minister Bird Wilson of Albany, New York, protested in October 1831: "Among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism." 
There is a small problem with that quote. It is highly possible that Bird Wilson wasn't actually the one who wrote and performed that sermon, but it was actually delivered by James Renwick Willson, a Reformed Presbyterian or Covenanter. This error of attribute is everywhere, even as far back as Paul Boller's book on Washington's religion,
It is a little telling -- regarding the vehemence of the Covenanters -- that the British during WWII named one of their most fierce tanks the same name. Perhaps also telling was that the design was prone to overheating, and was soon discontinued
Willson's sermon was still largely accurate, but it lacks the authority of being by James Wilson's son. The story of all of this is here, and though it changes nothing, I include it for accuracy. I would like to add something from that page however, just in case you decide not to follow the link, about James Renwick Wilson:
Finally, note that Rev. Willson was an early prominent member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Covenanted and they were notable dissidents on the US Constitution. They believed its lack of supplication to God, absence of a religious test, and absence of explicit covenant with the Triune God of the Bible made it a document, at the very least, inconsistent with their view of covenant theology and civil government. (At the worst it is an anti-Christian, infidel document). This is the very group to whom Gary North dedicates his ebook. And though North doesn't cite Rev. Willson, many of Willson's same arguments against the US Constitution are fleshed out in detail in North's book.
Rev. Willson was a true "dominionist," and he should remind the Reconstructionists that a dominionist theology is inconsistent with the US Constitution.
This is a far cry from Moses being on everyone's mind as they hid the word of God inside the text of the Constitution of the United States.

Further on, in that same sermon :

When the war was over and the victory over our enemies won, and the blessings and happiness of liberty and peace were secured, the Constitution was framed and God was neglected. He was not merely forgotten. He was absolutely voted out of the Constitution. The proceedings, as published by Thompson, the secretary, and the history of the day, show that the question was gravely debated whether God should be in the Constitution or not, and after a solemn debate he was deliberately voted out of it.... There is not only in the theory of our government no recognition of God's laws and sovereignty, but its practical operation, its administration, has been conformable to its theory. Those who have been called to administer the government have not been men making any public profession of Christianity.... Washington was a man of valor and wisdom. He was esteemed by the whole world as a great and good man; but he was not a professing Christian (quoted by Remsberg, pp. 120-121,).

So, that is a great deal to think about on his topic and certainly there are many references both given and named which have backed up this sermon's accusations.

In research you find quickly, that on any topic of significance there are always two or more sides. I find the topics with three sides to be the most interesting myself. As research is being done, points of interest and events are located. When a point is suspected of being of major significance to the topic, supporting documentation is then searched out to validate the point. Each of these discovered documents are then judge for validity and then appraised as "weight" This appraisal includes matters such as "who wrote it?" like I pointed out that this particular sermon would have more value if it was written by Bird, instead of James, because of the connections and position Bird had. Other factors include where was it found? Is it supported by other documentation? Was it published or private? And so on.

A prime factor, and one I always give a great deal of weight to, is when I discover that one of the contesting sides has ancestor witnesses who decry present day belief. We have that here.

The Christians of that time, and nearly every outspoken Minister of every sect,  of every state in the union, is reported by sermon, membership diary, newspaper article or non-fiction account of the day in book form to have denounced the lack of Christianity incorporated in their Government. Going so far as to condemn the government. The accusation is incessant in fact. The accounts of heathenism, barbarism, heresy and even public protests are all over the place.

This suggests to me, a strong indication that the Founding Fathers were not publically believed to be religious. A few of them, in private letters and journals suggested more than a nodding dedication to Christianity, but also these same express a strong need not to publicly demonstrate their beliefs, as it could be used by others to give them a foothold into government preference of Christianity over other religions. Indeed, the protestations of modern Christians demonstrate their fears to be all too true.

From this point however... I'l let the great men of our nation speak for themselves.



“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.
[Letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803]”
― James Madison

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 Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] 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.
[Adams submitted and signed the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797]”
― John Adams, Thoughts On Government Applicable To The Present State Of The American Colonies.: Philadelphia, Printed By John Dunlap, M,Dcc,Lxxxvi

“When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.”
― Harry A. Blackmun

“Besides the danger of a direct mixture of religion and civil government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles. The danger of silent accumulations and encroachments by ecclesiastical bodies has not sufficiently engaged attention in the U.S.”
― James Madison

“Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

[Letter to Edward Livingston, 10 July 1822 - Writings 9:100--103]”
― James Madison, Writings

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” ~George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

 “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.” ~George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792

 “The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.” ~John Adams, as stated in the signed Treaty of Tripoli in 1797

“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” ~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88)

“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and a usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.” ~James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, 1817

 “I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this county in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.” ~Andrew Jackson, statement refusing to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer, 1832

“We admit of no government by divine right, believing that so far as power is concerned the Beneficent Creator has made no distinction amongst men; that all are upon an equality, and that the only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed.” ~William Henry Harrison, Inaugural Address, 1841

“My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them.” ~Abraham Lincoln, Letter, 1862

 “The United States government must not undertake to run the Churches. When an individual, in the Church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest he must be checked.” ~Abraham Lincoln, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents by Franklin Steiner, page 143

'I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation, respecting religion, from the Magna-Charta of our country.
-- George Washington, responding to a group of clergymen who complained that the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ, in 1789, Papers, Presidential Series, 4:274, the "Magna-Charta" here refers to the proposed United States Constitution

If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.
-- George Washington, letter to Tench Tilghman asking him to secure a carpenter and a bricklayer for his Mount Vernon estate, March 24, 1784, in Paul F Boller, George Washington & Religion (1963) p. 118, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner

Among many other weighty objections to the Measure, it has been suggested, that it has a tendency to introduce religious disputes into the Army, which above all things should be avoided, and in many instances would compel men to a mode of Worship which they do not profess.
-- George Washington, to John Hancock, then president of Congress, expressing opposition to a congressional plan to appoint brigade chaplains in the Continental Army (1777)

 “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions … shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power … we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.”
~John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785,

 “And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
~James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822

Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance.”
~James Madison

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”
~James Madison; Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments

 “It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.”
~James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1817 (Listening Texas?)

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780

“Manufacturers, who listening to the powerful invitations of a better price for their fabrics, or their labor, of greater cheapness of provisions and raw materials, of an exemption from the chief part of the taxes burdens and restraints, which they endure in the old world, of greater personal independence and consequence, under the operation of a more equal government, and of what is far more precious than mere religious toleration–a perfect equality of religious privileges; would probably flock from Europe to the United States to pursue their own trades or professions, if they were once made sensible of the advantages they would enjoy, and were inspired with an assurance of encouragement and employment, will, with difficulty, be induced to transplant themselves, with a view to becoming cultivators of the land.”
~Alexander Hamilton: Report on the Subject of Manufacturers December 5, 1791

 “In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”
~Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1771)

“That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forebearance, love, and charity towards each other.”
~George Mason, Virginia Bill of Rights, 1776, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

“It is contrary to the principles of reason and justice that any should be compelled to contribute to the maintenance of a church with which their consciences will not permit them to join, and from which they can derive no benefit; for remedy whereof, and that equal liberty as well religious as civil, may be universally extended to all the good people of this commonwealth.”
~George Mason, Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776

“A man of abilities and character, of any sect whatever, may be admitted to any office of public trust under the United States.”
— Edmund Randolph, address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 10, 1788

“I never liked the Hierarchy of the Church–an equality in the teacher of Religion, and a dependence on the people, are republican sentiments–but if the Clergy combine, they will have their influence on Government”
~Rufus King, Rufus King: American Federalist, pp. 56-57

“That religion, or the duty we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.”
~Patrick Henry, Virginia Bill of Rights, June 12, 1776

“No religious doctrine shall be established by law.”
~Elbridge Gerry, Annals of Congress 1:729-731

 “Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.”
~Oliver Wolcott, Connecticut Ratifying Convention, 9 January 1788

. “Some very worthy persons, who have not had great advantages for information, have objected against that clause in the constitution which provides, that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion. But my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution, and to secure to you the important right of religious liberty. We are almost the only people in the world, who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature. In our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or in other words, he is not subject to persecution. But in other parts of the world, it has been, and still is, far different. Systems of religious error have been adopted, in times of ignorance. It has been the interest of tyrannical kings, popes, and prelates, to maintain these errors. When the clouds of ignorance began to vanish, and the people grew more enlightened, there was no other way to keep them in error, but to prohibit their altering their religious opinions by severe persecuting laws. In this way persecution became general throughout Europe.”
~Oliver Ellsworth, Philip B Kurland and Ralph Lerner (eds.), The Founder’s Constitution, University of Chicago Press, 1987, Vol. 4, p. 638

“I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Elbridge Gerry (1799)

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his 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.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT. (1 January 1802) This statement is the origin of the often used phrase "separation of Church and State”.

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 1 Whether Christianity is Part of the Common Law (1764). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904,, p. 459.

“The Pennsylvania legislature, who, on a proposition to make the belief in God a necessary qualification for office, rejected it by a great majority, although assuredly there was not a single atheist in their body. And you remember to have heard, that when the act for religious freedom was before the Virginia Assembly, a motion to insert the name of Jesus Christ before the phrase, "the author of our holy religion," which stood in the bill, was rejected, although that was the creed of a great majority of them.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Albert Gallatin (16 June 1817). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, p. 73.

“Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
-James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston (1822-07-10)

“Besides the danger of a direct mixture of religion and civil government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles. The danger of silent accumulations and encroachments by ecclesiastical bodies has not sufficiently engaged attention in the U.S.”
-James Madison, "Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments" an essay probably written sometime between 1817 and 1832. It has sometimes been incorrectly portrayed as having been uncompleted notes written sometime around 1789 while opposing the bill to establish the office of Congressional Chaplain. It was first published as "Aspects of Monopoly One Hundred Years Ago" in 1914 by Harper's Magazine and later in "Madison's Detached Memoranda" by Elizabeth Fleet in William and Mary Quarterly (1946).

“The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also; because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, who enters into any subordinate Association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the general authority; much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true, that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not. [A]ttempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to go great a proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of Society. If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case, where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? And what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the Government, on its general authority? Because finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion according to the dictates of conscience” is held by the same tenure with all his other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consider the “Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of government,” it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis.

We the Subscribers say, that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such authority: And that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous an usurpation, we oppose to it, this remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may on the one hand, turn their Councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them: and on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his [blessing, may re]dound to their own praise, and may establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity and the happiness of the Commonwealth.“
-James Madison, "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" (1785), opposing a "Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion"

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
-George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)

“We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, & in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.

Your prayers for my present and future felicity are received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities taste those blessings, which a gracious God bestows upon the righteous.”
-George Washington, Letter to the the members of The New Church in Baltimore (22 January 1793), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 201

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
-George Washington, Farewell Address

“We think ourselves possessed, or, at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact! There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself it is punished by boring through the tongue with a poker. In America it is not better; even in our own Massachusetts, which I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemers upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigating into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws. It is true, few persons appear desirous to put such laws in execution, and it is also true that some few persons are hardy enough to venture to depart from them. But as long as they continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and clumsy progress in its investigations. I wish they were repealed. The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated.”
-John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson (23 January 1825), published in Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams (UNC Press, 1988), p. 607.

“As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble.”
-Benjamin Franklin, As quoted in Benjamin Franklin: An Exploration of a Life of Science and Service (1938) by Carl Van Doren, p. 777

“In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practised, and, both by precept and example, inculcated on mankind.”
-Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1772)

“All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment or modes of worship.”
-William Penn, Declaration of Rights

“All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Draft Constitution for Virginia (June 1776)

“In the middle ages of Christianity opposition to the State opinions was hushed. The consequence was, Christianity became loaded with all the Romish follies. Nothing but free argument, raillery & even ridicule will preserve the purity of religion.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Religion (October 1776), published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, Vol. 2, p. 256.