Moses Didn’t Write the Constitution

In discussions on whether it’s appropriate for government agencies and/or courts to display religious documents such as the Ten Commandments, people often suggest that doing so is legitimate because The Founders were all deeply religious men, their beliefs — and the Constitution — ultimately shaped by Christianity.

At Common Dreams, in Moses Didn’t Write The Constitution, Thom Hartmann makes the case that, Christian or not, Jefferson was adamant about not including the Commandments in the Constitution, and that they are not, in fact, “the very basis of American law.”

The reason was simple, Jefferson said. British common law, on which much American law was based, existed before Christianity had arrived in England … In a February 10, 1814 letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, Jefferson addressed the question directly. “Finally, in answer to Fortescue Aland’s question why the Ten Commandments should not now be a part of the common law of England we may say they are not because they never were.”

More interesting stuff in the piece…

Music: Seu Jorge :: Five Years

4 Replies to “Moses Didn’t Write the Constitution”

  1. Indeed, in the Treaty Of Tripoli, ratified unanimously by the Senate in 1796, we find in Article XI:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    (My emphasis)

  2. “James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine, among other founding fathers, were Deists. John Adams was a Unitarian. Deists emphasize the exclusive application of reason and personal experience to religious questions. Deism is concerned with those truths which humans can discover through a process of reasoning, independent of any claimed divine revelation through scripture or prophets”.

  3. Jamie’s right. See for more details (homepage has a very nice image of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.).

    Didn’t know that Adams was a Unitarian…cool!

  4. From what I understood, British law (and all our derivatives – me being an Aussie an all) was based on Roman law. Roman law ultimately was concerned with property ownership (land, slaves, etc).

    I know Christians often say that our laws are based on the 10 Commandments and Biblical foundations – but they aren’t. At least, not directly anyway. We have the Romans to thank for most of them.

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