Law Review: The Religious Beliefs of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and Their Role in the Beginning of a Revolution and Nation

Alex E. Wallin, The Declaration of Independence: The Religious Beliefs of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and Their Role in the Beginning of a Revolution and Nation (April 29, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1552444

Religion’s proper place in our nation and government has been a topic of discussion since the late eighteenth century and has produced the ever-popular and highly dramatized consideration of the Founders’ religious beliefs and their affect on the inception of our nation.

While this is certainly discussed in regards to the text of Bill of Rights and the Constitution, there is another document that deserves equal consideration, the Declaration of Independence. When our ancestors were still colonists the issue of religion was pervasive and our first public relations statement to the world generally referenced ‘the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.’ By invoking God as a justification for its purpose, the document invariably created the same questions we wrestle with today in regards to the Constitution. What conception of God was being invoked? Whose beliefs were being represented? By delving into the brackish nature of Thomas Jefferson’s beliefs as the initial drafter, as well as illustrating the staunch and pervasive beliefs of the editing John Adams, a generalized religious view is shown to have been expounded rather than any one person’s or sect’s particularized dogma.