Jefferson, Madison and the Capitol Building Church

Christianity has played a predominant role in the building of our nation.  In fact, the Capitol building itself was used for church services, even before Congress moved into the building, and continued to be used for Sunday church services until well after the Civil War. The approval of the Capitol for church was given by both the House and the Senate on December 4, 1800, with House approval being given by Speaker of the House, Theodore Sedgwick, and Senate approval being given by the President of the Senate, Thomas Jefferson, whose approval came while he was still officially the vice- president but after he had just been elected president.

According to David Barton at wallbuilders.com:

Jefferson attended church at the Capitol while he was Vice President 5 and also throughout his presidency. The first Capitol church service that Jefferson attended as President was a service preached by Jefferson’s friend, the Rev. John Leland, on January 3, 1802. 6 Significantly, Jefferson attended that Capitol church service just two days after he penned his famous letter containing the “wall of separation between church and state” metaphor.

U. S. Rep. Manasseh Cutler, who also attended church at the Capitol, recorded in his own diary that “He [Jefferson] and his family have constantly attended public worship in the Hall.” Mary Bayard Smith, another attendee at the Capitol services, confirmed: “Mr. Jefferson, during his whole administration, was a most regular attendant.” She noted that Jefferson even had a designated seat at the Capitol church: “The seat he chose the first Sabbath, and the adjoining one (which his private secretary occupied), were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation, left for him and his secretary.” Jefferson was so committed to those services that he would not even allow inclement weather to dissuade him; as Rep. Cutler noted: “It was very rainy, but his [Jefferson's] ardent zeal brought him through the rain and on horseback to the Hall.” Other diary entries confirm Jefferson’s attendance in spite of bad weather.

…Jefferson was not the only President to attend church at the Capitol. His successor, James Madison, also attended church at the Capitol. 14 However, there was a difference in the way the two arrived for services. Observers noted that Jefferson arrived at church on horseback 15 (it was 1.6 miles from the White House to the Capitol). However, Madison arrived for church in a coach and four. In fact, British diplomat Augustus Foster, who attended services at the Capitol, gave an eloquent description of President Madison arriving at the Capitol for church in a carriage drawn by four white horses.

The series of cacophonous thuds you just heard were the “I’m-smarter than-you” atheists from both sides of the aisle, falling off their chairs.  You see, they (all 8% of them) will argue until they are blue in the face that Jefferson and Madison were not Christians, and our founding documents were not based on a Judeo-Christian system of beliefs.

Then, they’ll go out to feed the unicorns in their backyards.

Jefferson told his friend, William Bradford (who served as Attorney General under President Washington), to make sure of his own spiritual salvation:

[A] watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven.

Concerning Christianity, Jefferson said:

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.

The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses.

I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all others.

I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.

But, what about Jefferson’s re-writing of the Bible, leaving out Jesus’ miracles, you ask? David Barton answered that question in 2001, in a letter to a newspaper, in response to a reader:

The reader, as do many others, claimed that Jefferson omitted all miraculous events of Jesus from his “Bible.” Rarely do those who make this claim let Jefferson speak for himself. Jefferson’s own words explain that his intent for that book was not for it to be a “Bible,” but rather for it to be a primer for the Indians on the teachings of Christ (which is why Jefferson titled that work, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth”). What Jefferson did was to take the “red letter” portions of the New Testament and publish these teachings in order to introduce the Indians to Christian morality. And as President of the United States, Jefferson signed a treaty with the Kaskaskia tribe wherein he provided—at the government’s expense—Christian missionaries to the Indians. In fact, Jefferson himself declared, “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.” While many might question this claim, the fact remains that Jefferson called himself a Christian, not a deist.

The other Founding Father whom atheists claim was one of them is James Madison.

Per David Barton:

James Madison trained for ministry with the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon, and Madison’s writings are replete with declarations of his faith in God and in Christ. In fact, for proof of this, one only need read his letter to Attorney General Bradford wherein Madison laments that public officials are not bold enough about their Christian faith in public and that public officials should be “fervent advocates in the cause of Christ.” And while Madison did allude to a “wall of separation,” contemporary writers frequently refuse to allow Madison to provide his own definition of that “wall.” According to Madison, the purpose of that “wall” was only to prevent Congress from passing a national law to establish a national religion.

Also, as this writing shows, Madison wanted all public officials – including Bradford – to be unashamed concerning their Christian beliefs and testimony:

I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.

Did you know that Madison was a member of the committee that authored the 1776 Virginia Bill of Rights and approved of its clause declaring that:

It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.  ?

And, per Barton, Madison’s proposed wording for the First Amendment demonstrates that he opposed only the establishment of a federal denomination, not public religious activities.  The proposal reads:

The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established.

But, wait.  There’s more:

In 1789, Madison served on the Congressional committee which authorized, approved, and selected paid Congressional chaplains.

In 1812, President Madison signed a federal bill which economically aided a Bible Society in its goal of the mass distribution of the Bible.

Finally, throughout his Presidency (1809-1816), Madison endorsed public and official religious expressions by issuing several proclamations for national days of prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving.

So, if you run into one of those individuals who, when it comes to accepting the Faith of our Founding Fathers, proves that denial is not just a river in Egypt, you can respond with one or all of three things:

  1. Quote from this article.
  2. Give him/her this link to wallbuilders.com.
  3. Show them this excellent video, in which David Barton conducts a historical tour of the Capitol Building.

God Bless America!

Share
This entry was posted in History, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Jefferson, Madison and the Capitol Building Church

  1. I am Sparticus says:

    Amen to that.