What did the founders of America think about religion? Until now, there has been no reliable and impartial compendium of the founders' own remarks on religious matters that clearly answers the question. This book fills that gap. A lively collection of quotations on everything from the relationship between church and state to the status of women, it is the most comprehensive and trustworthy resource available on this timely topic.
The book calls to the witness stand all the usual suspects--George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams--as well as many lesser known but highly influential luminaries, among them Continental Congress President Elias Boudinot, Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll, and John Dickinson, "the Pennsylvania Farmer." It also gives voice to two founding "mothers," Abigail Adams and Martha Washington.
The founders quoted here ranged from the piously evangelical to the steadfastly unorthodox. Some were such avid students of theology that they were treated as equals by the leading ministers of their day. Others vacillated in their conviction. James Madison's religious beliefs appeared to weaken as he grew older. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, seemed to warm to religion late in life. This compilation lays out the founders' positions on more than seventy topics, including the afterlife, the death of loved ones, divorce, the raising of children, the reliability of biblical texts, and the nature of Islam and Judaism.
Partisans of various stripes have long invoked quotations from the founding fathers to lend credence to their own views on religion and politics. This book, by contrast, is the first of its genre to be grounded in the careful examination of original documents by a professional historian. Conveniently arranged alphabetically by topic, it provides multiple viewpoints and accurate quotations.
Readers of all religious persuasions--or of none--will find this book engrossing.
"Seeking to let the Founders speak for themselves on religion, James Hutson has succeeded in producing a book of quotations that is not agenda driven and duly satisfies the canons of historical scholarship."--Terry Eastland, Books & Arts
"[James H.] Hutson offers quotes on religion not only from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other famous Founding Fathers but also from less well known figures, like Elias Boudinot, president of the Continental Congress, and the Founding Mothers Abigail Adams and Martha Washington. . . .This well-rounded selection of quotes provides fascinating reading material good for discussion."--C. Robert Nixon, Library Journal
"James Hutson comes at this project from a different perspective than most. . . . Dr. Hutson is a historian and tries hard to be fair. He organizes the material by subject rather than by author. The strength of his decision is that it underscores the depth and breadth of the Founders' religious interests. . . . This is a most interesting book!"--Jeff Zell, Dallas Morning News
"The book . . . represents, with great balance, the Founders' differing religious viewpoints. . . . All in all, this is the most balanced collection of quotations representing the Founders' religious views published thus far."--Jonathan Rowe, First Things
"[James H. Hutson is] a scholar friendly to religion--one who shows little bias in his writings and in his current work. Thus since the Founders differed so much from each other, Hutson offers some conflicting and contradictory comments by these leaders."--Martin E. Marty, The Christian Post
"The Founders on Religion might go a long way toward settling disputes...[Hutson] takes us straight to the sources, with some surprising results. In easy-to-reference form, he shows the founders loved their country but were quite capable of thinking outside the pew."--Susan Campbell, The Hartford Courant
Table of Contents