Some of the Christian Inputs to the Declaration of Independence

Gary Amos says of the Declaration of Independence, “The ideas were not Jefferson’s, but the writing was. And it was magnificent.”[1] The important point, too, is that these were Christian ideas.

In 1775, an assembly of Presbyterian elders from Mecklenburg, North Carolina, led by Elder Ephraim Brevard (a man who had studied under John Witherspoon at Princeton) declared independence. This was a full year before the Continental Congress did.

These 27 Presbyterians of Scotch-Irish origin sent their resolves to Great Britain. What’s amazing is to see some of the similarities of their short declaration, dated May 20, 1775, from “the Crown of Great Britain” to what ended up in the Declaration of Independence. Said the Mecklenburg Presbyterians:

That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people; are, and of right ought to be a sovereign and self-governing association, under the control of no power, other than that of our God and the General Government of the Congress: To the maintainance of which Independence we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual co-operation, our Lives, our Fortunes, and our most Sacred Honor.[2]

More than a year later, Jefferson and the Continental Congress produced the Declaration of Independence, including the following portions:

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions . . . declare that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown. . . . And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.[3]

We see clearly that Jefferson is thinking along the same lines as the Presbyterian elders who wrote their document a year before. Both shared a Christian worldview.

[1] Amos, Defending the Declaration (Charlottesville, Virginia: Providence Foundation, 1994), 33.

[2] “Mecklenburg County, Declaration of Independence,” May 20, 1775. Raleigh (North Carolina) Register, April 30, 1819. Charles W. Eliot, LL.D., ed., American Historical Documents 1000-1904 (New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company, The Harvard Classics, 1910), Vol. 43, 166.

[3] Bruce Frohnen, ed., The American Republic: Primary Sources (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002), 190-191.

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