Adams, the country's second president, was drawn to the
study of law but faced pressure from his father to become a
clergyman. He wrote that he found among the
lawyers "noble and gallant achievements," but
among the clergy, the "pretended sanctity of some
absolute dunces." Late in life he wrote:
"Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I
been upon the point of breaking out. This would be the
best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in
was during Adam's administration that the Senate ratified
the " Treaty of Peace and Friendship,"**
which states in Article XI that "the government of
the United States of America is not in any sense founded on
the Christian Religion."
treaty is also know as "The Treaty of
Tripoli,") See Additional details below:
Treaty of Peace
Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw, pp. 17
(1976, North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC)
Quoting a letter by JA to Charles Cushing Oct 19,
1756, and John Adams, A Biography in his Own
Words, edited by James Peabody, p. 403 (1973,
Newsweek, New York NY) Quoting letter by JA to
Jefferson April 19, 1817, and in reference to the
treaty, Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by
Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 311 (1991, Madison Books,
Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to Dr. Benjamin
Waterhouse, June, 1814.
Jefferson, third president and author of the Declaration of
Independence, said: "I trust that there is not a young
man now living in the United States who will not die a
Unitarian." He referred to the Revelation
of St. John as "the ravings of a maniac" and
wrote: "The Christian priesthood, finding the
doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding and too
plain to need explanation, saw, in the mysticisms of Plato,
materials with which they might build up an artificial
system which might, from its indistinctness, admit
everlasting controversy, give employment for their order,
and introduce it to profit, power, and pre-eminence.
The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself
are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of
volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on
them: and for this obvious reason that nonsense can never be
Thomas Jefferson, an Intimate History by Fawn M.
Brodie, p. 453 (1974, W.W) Norton and Co. Inc. New
York, NY) Quoting a letter by TJ to Alexander
Smyth Jan 17, 1825, and Thomas Jefferson,
Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 246 (1991,
Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to
John Adams, July 5, 1814.
day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the
supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be
classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the
brain of Jupiter."
Jefferson (letter to J. Adams April 11,1823)
Jefferson's comment on the First Amendment to the
contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole
American people which declared that their legislature should
'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall
of separation between church and State."
Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist
Association in January 1, 1802:
Madison, fourth president and father of the Constitution,
was not religious in any conventional sense.
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind
and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
"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
Madisons by Virginia Moore, P. 43 (1979,
McGraw-Hill Co. New York, NY) quoting a letter by
JM to William Bradford April 1, 1774, and James
Madison, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by
Joseph Gardner, p. 93, (1974, Newsweek, New York,
NY) Quoting Memorial and Remonstrance against
Religious Assessments by JM, June 1785.
new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the
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 showing that
religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are
letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822
Allen, whose capture of Fort Ticonderoga while commanding
the Green Mountain Boys helped inspire Congress and the
country to pursue the War of Independence, said, "That
Jesus Christ was not God is evidence from his own
words." In the same book, Allen noted that
he was generally "denominated a Deist, the reality of
which I never disputed, being conscious that I am no
Christian." When Allen married Fanny
Buchanan, he stopped his own wedding ceremony when the judge
asked him if he promised "to live with Fanny Buchanan
agreeable to the laws of God." Allen refused to
answer until the judge agreed that the God referred to was
the God of Nature, and the laws those "written in the
great book of nature."
of the American Enlightenment by G. Adolph Koch,
p. 40 (1968, Thomas Crowell Co., New York, NY.)
quoting preface and p. 352 of Reason, the Only
Oracle of Man and A Sense of History compiled by
American Heritage Press Inc., p. 103 (1985,
American Heritage Press, Inc., New York, NY.)
Franklin, delegate to the Continental Congress and the
Constitutional Convention, said: "As to Jesus of
Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I
think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received
various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the
present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his
Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon,
having never studied it, and think it needless to busy
myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of
knowing the Truth with less trouble." He
died a month later, and historians consider him, like so
many great Americans of his time, to be a Deist, not a
Benjamin Franklin, A Biography in his Own Words,
edited by Thomas Fleming, p. 404, (1972, Newsweek,
New York, NY) quoting letter by BF to Exra Stiles
March 9, 1790.
"Treaty of Peace
and Friendship," also know as "The
Treaty of Tripoli," passed by the U.S. Senate in
1797, read in part: "The government of the United
States is not in any sense founded on the Christian
religion." The treaty was written during
the Washington administration, and sent to the Senate during
the Adams administration. It was read aloud to
the Senate, and each Senator received a printed copy.
This was the 339th time that a recorded vote was required by
the Senate, but only the third time a vote was unanimous
(the next time was to honor George Washington).
There is no record of any debate or dissension on the
Treaty. It was reprinted in full in three
newspapers - two in Philadelphia, one in New York City.
There is no record of public outcry or complaint in
subsequent editions of the papers.