The thirteen colonies in 1775 had charters or constitutions. Only
Rhode Island’s charter allowed men of no trinitarian confession to be
elected to civil office, i.e., to serve as part of the voice of civil authority.
Therefore, only Rhode Island refused to identify the God of the
Bible as the sovereign incorporating agent of the colony.
The Articles of Confederation (1781)served as a halfway national
covenant. They identified “the Great Governor of the World” as the
sovereign incorporating agent (Article XIII).
The United States Constitution (1788) identifies “We the People”
as the sovereign incorporating agent.
This book is the story of this covenantal transition: new covenant,
8. Tench Coxe, An Examination of the Constitution (Fall, 1787), in The Founders’
Constitution, edited by Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, 5 vols. (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1987), IV, p. 639.
No religious test is ever to be required of any officer or servant of the
United States. The people may employ any wise or good citizen in the execution
ofthe various duties ofthe government.In Italy, Spain, and Portugal,
no protestant can hold a public trust. In England every Presbyterian, and
other person not of their established church, is incapable of holding an
office. No such impious deprivation of the rights of men can take place
under the new foederal constitution. The convention hasthe honour of proposing
the first public act, by which any nation has ever divested itself of
a power, every exercise of which is a trespass on the Majesty of Heaven.
No qualification in monied or landed property is required by the proposed
plan; nor does it admit any preference from the preposterous distinctions
of birth and rank. The office of the President, a Senator, and a Representative,
and every other place of power or profit, are therefore open to the
whole body of the people. Any wise, informed and upright man, be his
property what it may, can exercise the trusts and powers of the state, provided
he possesses the moral, religious and political virtues which are
necessary to secure the confidence of his fellow citizens.
Tench Coxe (1787)8
1. Daniel Dreisbach, “In Search of a Christian Commonwealth: An Examination of Selected
Nineteenth-CenturyCommentaries and Referencesto God and the Christian Religion in
the United States Constitution,” Baylor Law Review, 48 (Fall 1996), pp. 928–30.
One of the most striking features of the United States Constitution
of 1787 is the absence of an explicit acknowledgment of the Deity or
the Christian religion. The invocation of a deity to authenticate or
attest to divine sanction for public acts or decrees is a tradition that
pre-dates the Christian era and is found in non-Western, as well as
Western, cultures. In thisrespect, the Constitution departed from the
pattern of most public documents of the day. The Declaration of the
Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (1775), The Declaration
of Independence (1776), The Articles of Confederation (1781),
virtually all state constitutions, and other official documents are
replete with claims of Christian devotion and supplication for the
Supreme Being. However, the federal Constitution makes no such
religious affirmation or declaration, even of the perfunctory kind that
was typical of other documents written by the framers. . . . This
omission is remarkable since, despite any revolutionary ardor of the
time, there was little sentiment that the new republican order broke
with the prevailing Christian traditions of the American people.
Daniel Dreisbach (1996)1
This book is my attempt to explain this historical anomaly: a significant
break in history that did not seem to be a break at the time. It
still doesn’t. I explain it in a way that Dr. Dreisbach does not. He
defends the traditional view of Protestant Christians in the United
States. They have believed, from 1788 onward, that the United States
has been a Christian nation under its Constitution. This is an odd
belief on the face of it, since the United States Constitution’s sole
Conspiracy in Philadelphia
reference to God is indirect: the words, “the year of our Lord,” referring
to 1787. If this is the sole judicial basis of the Christian American
national civil covenant, then the case for America as a Christian
civil order rests on a very weak reed.
The Received View Among Protestants
There have been many detailed intellectual defenses of the United
States as aChristian nation. These studiesinvariably rest on a conceptual
error: equating state (civil government) with nation (society).
That the United States has been a Christian society during its post-
1788 period is obvious. This is not the same thing as the United
States civil order when considered in terms of its defining judicial
document, on which the United States rests its civil covenant.
In contrast, humanistic historiansturn to the U.S. Constitution and
point out that it is a secular document, and uniquely secular for the
eighteenth century. They, too, confuse state with nation. They conclude
that the United Statesis a non-Christian nation because it operates
under a non-Christian civil constitution.
The most detailed defense of the United States as a Christian state,
as far as I am aware, is B. F. Morris’ 1864 book, Christian Life and
Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States. He presented
a strong case until he reached the Constitution. At that point, he not
only reached, he stretched. His defense of the Union’s 1861 invasion
of the South concludes his argument, all in the name of Christianity.
That the book did not sell well in the South after 1865 is understandable.
But it did not sell well in the North, either. After 1865, theological
unitarians, whose denominational peers had led the abolitionist
movement,steadily took control over the political order, leaving
Christian evangelicals, who had served as the foot soldiers of
2. Richard J. Carwardine, Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America (New Haven,
Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1993), chaps. 5–9; C. C. Goen, Broken Churches, BrokenNation
(Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1985); BertramWyatt-Brown, Lewis
Tappen and the Evangelical War Against Slavery (Cleveland, Ohio: Case Western Reserve
University, 1969); Timothy L. Smith, Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism
on the Eve of the Civil War (New York: Peter Smith,  1976), chaps. 12, 13.
3. I was informed of all this by David Keyston, a Christian Scientist, whose mother was
in Mrs. LeBlond’s study group before Miss Hall took over. On Mrs. LeBlond’s continuing
influence in Christian Science circles, see the Mary Baker Eddy Letter, #4 (July 1, 1997).
She is quoted as teaching that “America” means “the second coming of the Christ.”
as the political losers, a position that their covenantal
heirs retain. Morris’ thesis surely did not appeal to unitarians.
Beginning at about the time ofthe rise ofthe independentChristian
day school movement, 1960–65, there has been a growing market for
Christian history textbooks that proclaim some variation of Morris’
book, though without the cheerleading for the North in 1861–65. One
marker of this revival of interest in America as a Christian nation, at
least within conservative Protestant circles, is Verna Hall’s book,
Christian History of the Constitution (1960), a compilation of primary
source documents. It was the first in a series of books, sometimes
known as the “red books,” despite the fact that Consider and
Ponder, the final volume, was published in blue. This series had a
crucial defect: it never did reach the era of the Constitutional
Convention, and so never got around to presenting the case for the
Constitution as a Christian document. What is not widely known is
that Miss Hall had been trained privatelyin colonial American history
by a politically conservative Christian Science teacher, Mildred
LeBlond. On the title page of Christian History of the Constitution,
we read that the editor was Joseph Allan Montgomery. Mr. Montgomery
had been part of Miss Hall’s Christian Science study group
after she replaced Mrs. LeBlond.3 Miss Hall abandoned Christian
Science before her book appeared, but there is no doubt that its
Conspiracy in Philadelphia
origins were not in Protestantism.
I first met Miss Hall at a 1963 summer conference sponsored by
the Center for American Studiesin Burlingame, California. The Center
was a spin-off of the William Volker Fund. The conference had
been organized by Rousas J. Rushdoony, who was a full-time staff
member at the Center. The idea of America as a Christian nation
received supportfromRushdoony’s book, ThisIndependentRepublic,
which was printed by the Center in a spiral binding format in 1962
and in book format by Craig Press in 1964. Neither that book nor his
follow-up volume, The Nature of the American System (1965), is a
systematic history. Both are collections of essays.
Chapter 6 of The Nature of the American System, “The Religion of
Humanity,” is a study of the political implications of American Unitarianism
and the impact that these implications have had in American
history.It begins with these words: “The Civil War was a triumph
for the religion of humanity.” He treats Unitarianism as a nineteenthcentury
phenomenon. Ecclesiastically, it was, but ecclesiastically, it
was always a tinymovement.It gained influence politicallyafter 1830
in the North because most American Protestants in the North had
already adopted its political conclusion regarding the necessity of a
unitary state, a state that matched Unitarianism’s doctrine of God.
Theologically and philosophically, unitarianism was an eighteenthcentury
phenomenon, with theological roots in the late seventeenth
century, especially in the systematically concealed theology of the
most influential unitarian in Western history, Sir Isaac Newton.
Chapter 5 of The Nature of the American System is “Neutralism.”
Rushdoony rejects the concept in principle, as well as its political
uses. “Politicians must assure every last plundering faction of its
sanctimonious neutralismwhile also insisting on their own. Each particular
faction, of course, insists on its own impartial, neutral and
objective stance while deploring the partisan and subjective position
4. See Appendix A, below.
5. G. Adolph Koch, Religion of the American Enlightenment (New York: Crowell, 
1968), ch. 1.
of its adversaries. All men are equally committed to the great modern
myth that such a neutrality is possible. The myth is basic to classical
liberalism and most schools of thought, conservative and radical,
which are derived from it” (p. 68). This is a fine statement of the
modern politics of self-proclaimed neutralism. What his followers
(including me until the mid-1980’s) and even Rushdoony himself did
notrecognize isthat this view of political neutralism produces a headon
collision with Rushdoony’s arguments in his early years that the
Constitution is an implicitlyChristian document, and in hislater years
as a procedurally neutral document.4
I argue in this book that the interpretation of the American Revolution
as a revolt justified by its promoters in the name of Christianity
– Tom Paine and Ethan Allen5
excepted – is correct, but that any
interpretation of the United States Constitution as a Christian document
I argue that the Constitution was a covenantal break
with theChristian civilreligion oftwelve ofthe thirteen colonies.The
exception was Rhode Island. Rhode Island was the first civil order in
the West to be established self-consciously on a secular foundation.
That took place in 1644, when Parliament during the English Civil
War issued a charter to Rhode Island. The colony’s founder, Roger
Williams, was the first self-consciously secular political theorist in
the West to receive a covenantal charter for a supposedly religiously
neutral civil order. The story of the Constitution isthe story of Rhode
Island’s conquest of America. It did this withoutsending delegatesto
the Convention. This has not been the conventional view of the
origins of the United States Constitution.
Conspiracy in Philadelphia
6. John Murray Allison, Adams and Jefferson: The Story of a Friendship (Norman: University
of Oklahoma Press, 1966), pp. 294–97. Cf. Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers:
Religion and the New Nation (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), ch. 5.
A Successful 200-Year Deception
In this book, I argue that the United States Constitution is the
product of eighteenth-century unitarianism, though not Unitarianism,
which was a nineteenth-century movement. The supposed Founding
Fathers (Framers) of repute were trinitarians in much the same way
that Sir Isaac Newton had been: members of publicly confessing
churches, but not personally believing the confession. John Adams
and Thomas Jefferson were self-conscious about their rejection of
trinitarianism, as their later correspondence reveals.6
was less identifiably unitarian, but he refused as an adult to
take the Lord’s Supper, and he avoided the use of the word “Christ”
assystematically as Abraham Lincoln did, fourscore and seven years
later. Benjamin Franklin’s religion was a religion of practical gentility,
devoid of the disturbing concept of hell. Madison, to the extent
that he wrote about religion, was self-conscious in his attempt to
reduce the impact of confessions of faith and theology on politics,
which he regarded as religiously neutral.
In response, critics of my thesis argue along these lines: “If what
you say is true, then good Christian men who attended the Constitutional
Convention were deceived by the men who called together the
Convention.” This is my conclusion. But this admission does not
satisfy the critics. “You are saying that there was a hard-core group
of conspirators who actively deceived the other attendees.” This is
exactly what I am saying. “But how could you say this terrible thing
about our Founding Fathers?” On this basis:
The Convention was assembled under false pretenses…………