American Heritage: The signers of the DeclarationPublished 10:35pm Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The mindset in this day and age concerning the individuals who run for government is that they must be college graduates and, as many believe, they must be lawyers. Was this a requirement or was it the qualification of those who gave us the Declaration of Independence, or as the document itself is titled “The Unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States of America?” Let’s take a few minutes to look at some of these individuals and their qualifications and their accomplishments.
One of the first things that we will see is that they were not of one particular age. The age of the signers was between 30 and 65. This was considered the age span of maturity.
Next we will notice that their education varied considerably. Roger Sherman of Connecticut was a “self-taught” man. Lewis Morris was “home-schooled” by his father, then went on to Yale College. Yale was, at that time, a college that was founded by 10 preachers for the purpose of planting and spreading the Protestant religion under the divine blessing of God.
Then we have other men, such as Abraham Clark, who was also “self-taught,” as well as Samuel Chase (who after being self-taught went on to become a lawyer) andThomas Stone who was self-taught but who became a professor of religion and a lawyer.
George Ross, of Pennsylvania, was home-schooled and became a lawyer and jurist.
Benjamin Rush was educated at Princeton College, which was founded by Presbyterians in 1746 and under Dr. John Witherspoon, required all students to attend worship services at the appointed times in the morning and evening, as well as worship on the “Sabbath.” (Dr. Witherspoon was also a signer from New Jersey).
After his death, Benjamin Rush was considered in prominence along with George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. He was the founder of the First Day Society, which became what is known as today’s Sunday School. He also assisted in starting the first Bible Society, which was the Bible Society of Philadelphia.
Benjamin Harrison was educated at the College of William and Mary, which was founded upon the principles of propagating the Christian faith to the glory of God.
He was a college drop-out. He never finished his college education because of a misunderstanding with an officer of the college. His youngest son was William Henry Harrison, who became the ninth president of the United States. His great-grandson (also named Benjamin Harrison) became the 23rd president of the United States.
Finally, we come to Thomas Jefferson, one of the best known signers. He was from Virginia. Jefferson was educated by “tutors.” He then went on to the College of William and Mary. He was known as a very lenient master to his servants and a good, friendly neighbor and an ardent and lasting friend. As far as his religious beliefs, he was considered a free-thinker. As for his moral character, he was known as a good, moral, patriot – an honest and benevolent man.
In October 1776 he took his seat in the Virginia legislature. His desire was to be remembered for his proposed statute for religious freedom, which stated (in part), “We the General Assembly, do enact, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or beliefs; but that all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”
Contrary to the opinions of many so-called historians today, that is based strictly on Jefferson’s statements that are taken out of their context, Jefferson did not believe in the separation of church and state as is understood today. His beliefs were not those of “separation from religion.” From the above statute, one can see that he did not believe in the government establishing a state religion. He never said that God or religion should be totally kept out of government or schools. He just stood for no state religion. There’s a big difference in the two positions. Jefferson wanted all men to be able to express their religious beliefs and to worship freely, no matter where they were or what positions they held, whether in government or not.
During his years as president (1801-1809), Bibles were used as text books and children learned to read from the Bible and from books based on Biblical beliefs. He never made any move to stop this practice. Children learned Bible morals and were taught Bible verses, such as the Golden Rule, which is found in Matthew 7:12.
Finally, the signers came from all walks of life. Some were farmers, others were clergymen, doctors, manufacturers, merchants, lawyers, landowners, iron masters, judges and surveyors.
So, as we can see, men came from all educational backgrounds and walks of life. But they all had something in common. They contributed much to this country that they came to love. They believed in this nation and they believed in this new experiment called “freedom.”
They believed in what Abraham Lincoln said was a government “…of the people, by the people and for the people.” They were willing to lay their lives on the line so that they, and we, can enjoy this new experiment in a government unlike anything that man had known in their age. A government structure that was centered around the Biblical principle of individual rights and freedoms and following the leadership of God as a nation.
What can we learn from this? Education and one’s previous livelihood is not all that is important. Observe the lives of those who run for office. Do not take what others say that they stand for, or tell us from their own slanted perspective, what a candidate has said, but observe them personally and you listen to them yourself.
Let’s ask ourselves: Have they proven that they believe in upholding the personal, “unalienable” rights that were given to us (not by man or government) by the “Nature’s God”(Declaration of Independence)? Have they proven that they will not trample on the Constitution that they will be sworn to uphold, if elected? Have they proven that they can be trusted to do what they say they will attempt to do if elected? We must realize that no one will always be able to succeed in their efforts to get their promises accepted. But have they proven from past actions that they will make every, sincere effort to do what they have promised?
Will they, themselves, live under the laws that they place us under?