Saturday, September 26, 2009

William Paterson, Founding Father: All Have Duty to God

William Paterson was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a Supreme Court justice. We see many lawsuits today that would seem to say government has no right to suggest anything remotely religious in nature. This belief is usually based on a misguided interpretation of the First Amendment. Yet the same year the First Amendment was ratified, no eyebrows were raised by the following action.

Paterson was Governor of New Jersey and on November 21, 1791, he signed a Thanksgiving Day proclamation. In it he declared that " is, at all times, our duty to approach the throne of Almighty God with gratitude and praise..."

The complete document, as found on Wallbuilders, says:

By His Excellency
William Paterson, Esquire,
Governor, Captain-General, and Commander in Chief in and over the State of New-Jersey, and territories thereunto belonging, Chanceler, and Ordinary in the same.


Whereas it is, at all times, our duty to approach the throne of Almighty God with gratitude and praise, but more especially in seasons of national peace, plenty, and prosperity; I have, therefore, thought fit, by and with the advice and consent of the Honorable the Privy Council, to assign Thursday the eighth day of December next, to be set apart and observed as a day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer for the great and manifold mercies conferred upon this land and people; and particularly for the abundant produce of the earth, during the present year, for the spirit of industry, sobriety, and economy which prevails: for the stability and extension of our national credit and commerce, for the progress of literature, arts and science, and for the good order, peace and plenty, and the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed. And also that we may unite in our supplications, and humbly implore the Almighty Ruler of the Universe, that he would be pleased to continue his protection and goodness to this land and people, to smile upon all schools and seminaries of learning; to promote agriculture, manufactures and commerce, to illuminate and guide our public councils, to bless our national and state governments, to enable us all to discharge our official, social and relative duties with diligence and fidelity, to eradicate prejudice, bigotry and superstition; to advance the interest of religion, and the knowledge and practice of virtue; and for this purpose to pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel, and to spread the saving light thereof to the most distant parts of the earth.

Given under my hand and seal at arms, at Trenton, the twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-one.

William Patterson.

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