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James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance
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Every new & successful example 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.
The civil government ... functions with complete success ... by the total separation of the Church from the State.
The purpose of separation ... &c.
Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt 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. (See the cases in which negatives were put by J M on two bills passd by Congs and his signature withheld from another. See also attempt in Kentucky for example, where it was proposed to exempt Houses of Worship from taxes.
I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency of a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded by an entire abstinence of the Government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect against trespass on its legal rights by others.
We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth "that religion, or the duty which we owe 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 that it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.
I have ever regarded the freedom of religious opinions and worship as equally belonging to every sect.
Conscience is the most sacred of all property.
Torrents of blood have been spilt in the world in vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord, by proscribing all differences in religious opinions.
Are not the daily devotions conducted by these legal ecclesiastics already degenerating into a scanty attendance, and a tiresome formality?
The general government is proscribed from the interfering, in any manner whatsoever, in matters respecting religion; and it may be thought to do this, in ascertaining who, and who are not, ministers of the gospel.
What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on 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 the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient allies.
Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.
Religion flourishes in greater purity without than with the aid of government.
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 threepence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?
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.
Experience witnesseth that eccelsiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. 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.
That diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and to their eternal infamy the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such a business.
Among the features peculiar to the political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious sect ... Equal laws, protecting equal rights, are found, as they ought to be presumed, the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country; as well as best calculated to cherish that mutual respect and good will among citizens of every religious denomination which are necessary to social harmony, and most favorable to the advancement of truth.
[T]he bill exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions, and violates in particular the article of the Constitution of the United States which declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment...." This particular church, therefore, would so far be a religious establishment by law, a legal force and sanction being given to certain articles in its constitution and administration.
Because the bill vests in the said incorporated church an authority to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same, an authority which, being altogether superfluous if the provision is to be the result of pious charity, would be a precedent for giving to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.
Because the bill in reserving a certain parcel of land in the United States for the use of said Baptist Church comprises a principle and a precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment."
not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by
law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their
How a regulation so unjust in itself, so foreign to the authority of Congress, and so hurtful to the sale of public land, and smelling so strongly of an antiquated bigotry, could have received the countenance of a committee is truly a matter of astonishment.
Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there can ot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.
In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.
It was the Universal opinion of the Century preceding the last, that Civil Government could not stand without the prop of a Religious establishment, and that the Christian religion itself, would perish if not supported by a legal provision for its Clergy. The experience of Virginia conspicuously corroborates the disproof of both opinions. The Civil Government, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success; whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.
And may I not be allowed to ... read in the character of the American people, in their devotion to true liberty and to the Constitution which is its palladium [protection], ... a Government which watches over ... the equal interdict [prohibition] against encroachments and compacts between religion and the state.
Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U S forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them, and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does this not involve the principle of a national establishment...?
Here [in the Virginia statute for religious liberty] the separation between the authority of human laws, and the natural rights of Man excepted from the grant on which all authority is founded, is traced as distinctly as words can admit, and the limits to this authority established with as much solemnity as the forms of legislation can express. The law has the further advantage of having been the result of a formal appeal to the sense of the Community and a deliberate sanction of a vast majority, comprizing every sect of Christians in the State. This act is a true standard of Religious liberty; its principle the great barrier agst [against] usurpations on the rights of conscience. As long as it is respected & no longer, these will be safe. Every provision for them short of this principle, will be found to leave crevices, at least thro' which bigotry may introduce persecution; a monster, that feeding & thriving on its own venom, gradually swells to a size and strength overwhelming all laws divine & human.
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.
Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.
I observe with particular pleasure the view you have taken of the immunity of religion from civil jurisdiction, in every case where it does not trespass on private rights or the public peace. This has always been a favorite principal with me; and it was not with my approbation that the deviation from it took place in congress, when they appointed chaplains, to be paid from the national treasury. It would have been a much better proof to their constituents of their pious feeling if the members had contributed for the purpose a pittance from their own pockets. As the precedent is not likely to be rescinded, the best that can now be done maybe to apply to the constitution the maxim of the law, de minimis non curant.
I have received your letter of the 6th, with the eloquent discourse delivered at the consecration of the Jewish Synagogue. Having ever regarded the freedom of religious opinions and worship as equally belonging to every sect, and the secure enjoyment of it as the best human provision for bringing all either into the same way of thinking, or into that mutual charity which is the only substitute, I observe with pleasure the view you give of the spirit in which your sect partake of the blessings offered by our Government and laws.
Whilst I was honored with the Executive Trust I found it necessary on more than one occasion to follow the example of predecessors. But I was always careful to make the Proclamations absolutely indiscriminate, and merely recommendatory; or rather mere designations of a day, on which all who thought proper might unite in consecrating it to religious purposes according to their own faith & forms.... Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries ... in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov[ernment] & Religion neither can be duly supported.... Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance.
"The difficulty of reconciling the Xn [Christian] mind to the absence of a religious tuition from a University established by law and at the common expense, is probably less with us than with you. The settled opinion here is that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Govt. and exempt from its cognizance; that a connection between them is injurous to both; that there are causes in the human breast, which insure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of law; that rival sects, with equal rights, exercise mutual censorships in favor of good morals; that if new sects arise with absurd opinions or overheated imaginations, the proper remedies lie in time, forbearance and example; that a legal establishment of religion without a toleration could not be thought of, and without a toleration, is no security for public quiet & harmony, but rather a source itself of discord & animosity; and finally that these opinions are support by experience, which has shewn that every relaxation of the alliance between Law & religion, from the partial example of Holland, to its consummation in Pennsylvania Delaware NJ, &c, has been found as safe in practice as it is sound in theory. Prior to the Revolution, the Episcopal Church was established by law in this State. On the Declaration of independence it was left with all other sects, to a self-support. And no doubt exists that there is much more of religion among us now than there ever was before the change; and particularly in the Sect which enjoyed the legal patronage. This proves rather more than, that the law is not necessary to the support of religion.
Wilson: Early Presidents Not Religious
"The founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected [Washington; Adams; Jefferson; Madison; Monroe; Adams; Jackson] not a one had professed a belief in Christianity.... Among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism."
Alley: Rehnquist Wrong About Madison
"This assertion [that Madison was committed to total and complete separation of church and state] would be challenged by the nonpreferentialists, who agree with Justice Rehnquist's dissent in the Jaffree case. Contrasted with the analysis set forth above, Rehnquist insisted that Madison's 'original language "nor shall any national religion be established" obviously does not conform to the "wall of separation" between church and state which latter day commentators have ascribed to him.' Rehnquist believes Madison was seeking merely to restrict Congress from establishing a particular national church.
Garman: Madison Defines 'Establishment':
"James Madison's definitions of an 'establishment' of religion include: the use of tax money for support of teachers of the Christian religion, the donation of a piece of federal land to a Baptist Church, congressional chaplains."
A diligent search for the source of this quotation is underway among Madison scholars and our correspondent, James Haught. No source has, at this time, been found; thus, we have deleted it from the regular section of our Madison page and moved it here (November 26, 2004). Until such time as this quotation can be verified as genuine, we strongly recommend discontinuing the use of this quip. Should verification be found, we will restore it and note that activity here.
This is a complete fabrication that dates back to the 1950s. A variation of this fabrication -- and there are several -- was read into the Congressional Record by Representative Dannemeyer on October 7, 1992. Another variation was later read into the Congressional Record by Florida Representative Scarborough on March 5, 1997, in defense of Judge Roy Moore's practice of posting a condensed version of the Protestant variant of the first tables of stone rendition of the Hebrew Decalogue on his courtroom wall, in full view of the Jury Box containing what would otherwise have been an impartial jury. Scarborough used this fabrication long after David Barton, its most vehement proponent, had declared the alleged quotation "false" and had asked people to stop using it (see Rob Boston's 1996 article "Mything in Action: David Barton's 'Questionable Quotes'").
The fabrication appears on page 120 of David Barton's stunningly popular book The Myth of Separation. In the footnote, Barton cites:
"Harold K Lane, Liberty! Cry Liberty! (Boston: Lamb and Lamb Tractarian Society, 1939) pp. 32-33. See also Fedrick Nyneyer, First Principles in Morality and Economics: Neighborly Love and Ricardo's Law of Association (South Holland Libertarian Press, 1958), pp. 31."
Unfortunately for Barton's cause (and for his credibility as a man of truthfulness), John Stagg and David Mattern, editors of The Papers of James Madison issued the following statement concerning this misquotation:
"We did not find anything in our files remotely like the sentiment expressed in the extract you sent us. In addition, the idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison's views on religion and government, views which he expressed time and time again in public and in private." (Letter dated November 23, 1993, to which the editors refer all who inquire about this falsehood.)
The fabrication appears in Lane's book, say Stagg and Mattern, but only in an article by Nyneyer titled "Neighborly Love and Ricardo's Law of Association" (in Progressive Calvinism vol. 31, 1959), not a book; the article gives as its source the 1958 calendar of Spiritual Mobilization. So this appears to be a fabrication for a motivational calendar, but the trail seems to end here.
Much of the above information is based on an article by noted University of Richmond historian Robert S Alley, "Public Education and the Public Good," published in the William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Summer 1995, pp. 316-318, although some is original to Positive Athiesm.
See our "Which Ten Commandments?" for two comparisons: First we compare the Hebrew listing with the Protestant and Roman Catholic listings (the Protestant and Roman Catholic each omitting Commandments included in the Hebrew list). Then we compare the vast differences between the first tables of stone (those commonly known, from Exodus 20) which were allegedly smashed by Moses and replaced with a new set of tables, which set allegedly superceded the first set (very obscure; not popularly known, from Exodus 35). We also offer a free printable Acrobat file of our handbill explaining this very problematic question of "Which Ten Commandments?"
This misquotation is floating around the Christian Religious Right and the conservative talk shows. It is part of an attempt to promote the (false) notion that the United States has always been a Christian nation and that Founding Fathers of the United States were all pious Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth. The busiest culprit in this scheme of history revisionism is David Barton of WallBuilders, Inc. Most often, the misquotation is represented as "Religion [is] the foundation of government" or even "Religion ... [is] the foundation of government" -- putting on a veneer of honest scholarship by "admitting" that this phrase has been extracted from a larger sentence. This is a legitimate practice as long as the extracted statement reflects the sentiments expressed by the larger piece; that is, as long as no case can be made that the point made by the larger piece has been changed by the omission. Most often, people use this method to omit or replace parenthetical statements, introductory language, awkward grammatical constructions, archaic language, or off-topic remarks, often rendering the quoted fragment easier to understand than the original wording.
The clue here is that the citation refers to Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance," a document that strongly supports the separation of religion from government. In putting together this misquotation (which can only be seen as a deliberate misrepresentation of Madison's known sentiments) David Barton (or whoever) gleaned from Section 15 of "Memorial and Remonstrance."
The words Barton extracted to create this misquotation are shown here in underlined bold red type, within the context of what James Madison actually said:
In other words, the individual has certain inalienable rights (religious liberty being probably the most important), and it is the "Declaration of those rights" (the Declaration of Independence) that is the "basis and foundation of government" (in that the Declaration of Independence got the ball rolling for establishing religious liberty as well as many other rights). Pulling these words out of this paragraph to attribute to Madison the notion that "religion is the basis and foundation of government" was, in the words of Jim Allison, "no accident or simple misunderstanding." Persons who attribute this misquotation to Madison may have only a vague understanding (or misunderstanding) of Unites States history, we'll grant them the benefit of the doubt, here; but the person who put this misquotation together (probably David Barton) knew exactly what he was doing.
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