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But I want to get away from the partisan politics and the nasty allegations that have been made in here just prior to me speaking, and back and forth throughout this year, because this may well be the last hour that we have here in the House before we recess for Christmas and before we come back next year. So, instead of getting into all this rancor, I thought it would be good to help address an area that some people have just not had education about, and that this is the appropriate place, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that the record is correct, because we have so much wonderful history in this building, in this House. For example, I hear people really concerned around this building, around the Supreme Court, across the way, around Capitol Hill here, about someone -- my goodness -- praying in public. Well, we begin every day we're in session here in the House and the Senate's in session with a prayer.
Many are ignorant from the place in which that tradition started, where it came.
You have to go back to 1787, the Constitutional Convention.
The Constitutional Convention, people may recall, began in 1787 as a result of
the failure of the Articles of Confederation. And for those that know history,
they would know that the revolution was won in 1783. It was the
Treaty of Paris
in which England finally recognized the United States' right to exist as a
nation. And George Washington did something that had never been done in the
history of mankind before or since then -- and that is lead a revolutionary
military, win the revolution, and
then resign and go home when he could be Caesar, he could be king, emperor,
whatever. That was not his goal. His goal, as he said, was to do his duty to
God, basically, and his country, kind of like the Scout oath.
Anyway, here they are in Philadelphia, Independence Hall, 1787. It's June. Benjamin Franklin is 80 years old. Now, many people say, "Well, we know he was a deist from history. That means he believed there was a creator out there but that he believed God, the creator, created things and then stood back and let everything happen and that he never interfered." Well, those who also know history know that there were times in his life when Benjamin Franklin sowed some wild seeds, and that included some in Europe and in England. But by the time of the Constitutional Convention, there in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, 1787, Benjamin Franklin was between 2 and 3 years away from meeting his Judge, meeting his Maker, and he knew that. He was as brilliant as ever, as witty -- an amazing man, the genius that he was, and there he sits.
There is a picture right outside the House floor depicting that area in Independence Hall where they were meeting. Now, in the beautiful painting, the windows are open. Well, the windows were covered. It may have been by blankets instead of beautiful lined curtains depicted in the scene. But for nearly 5 weeks, they went without accomplishing much of anything. Finally, the 80-year-old Ben Franklin rose and was recognized by the President of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington. And we have these words because James Madison recorded them as secretary of that convention.
These are the exact words of Benjamin Franklin, June 28, 1787, in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Congress. Benjamin Franklin said:
Mr. President, the small progress we have made after 4 or 5 weeks' close attendance and continual reasonings with each other, our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ayes, is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of human understanding. We, indeed, seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we've been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all around Europe but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this assembly groping, as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room. Our prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance?
Ben Franklin goes on and says:
I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth--that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that, `except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we, ourselves, shall become a reproach and a byword down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.1
His motion was seconded, and then Ben Franklin's motion was adopted unanimously.
And from that day to this day, we do not begin Congress in this body without a
prayer to begin.
Now, for those who say Ben Franklin obviously was a deist who didn't believe, believed a God or creator created things but never intervened, his own words seem to defy that. He begged and implored Congress to begin with prayer every day because, as he said, "Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered."
So, Mr. Speaker, also, here again, in the spirit of bipartisanship, in the spirit, for me, of Christmas that has been so historically observed in this Nation, we want to just go through and make sure people understand our heritage.
Now, the great thing about our Constitution, it does allow for freedom of religion and a freedom not to worship at all. That is because they're based on the teachings of Christ and his willingness to allow all men to make their own decisions for themselves, knowing, as he did, that one day, all people will meet their Maker.
But let's go back to the person that found the New World, as it was called. This was Christopher Columbus. You don't find many history books which have these kinds of quotes in it. This is Christopher Columbus in his own hand, in his own journal. He said:
It was the Lord who put it into my mind (I could feel His hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with the rays of marvelous inspiration from the Holy Scriptures.
Now there are those today who say the real lesson of Columbus is that it's
amazing what you can do, even when you don't know where you're going, you don't
know where you are when you get there, so long as you get the government to pay
for it. But I would submit that there was a creator, a creator as Christopher
Columbus believed, who put this into his mind to sail west and discover this
area so that the greatest nation in the history of mankind could arise.
Now if you go to the Pilgrims who came across, originally from the Netherlands to England and to America by way of stopping in England, this was 1620. Part of the Pilgrims' compact, these are their words:
In the name of God, Amen....Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together in a civil body politick.
That was the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, November 11, 1620.
I have had people I have met from Harvard University who are not familiar with
their history and the fact that Harvard University, September 26, 1642, this was
part of their code. It was part of their handbook.
Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth the wisdom, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him, Proverbs 2:3.
That's Harvard University at
its founding back around the year around 1642.
In George Washington's own personal prayer book, which he read from daily, this is one of the entries in that prayer book that was in Washington's possession when he passed away:
O most glorious God and Jesus Christ, I acknowledge and confess my faults in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of sins, but so coldly and carelessly that my prayers are come my sin and stand in need of pardon. I have heard Thy holy word, but with such deadness of spirit that I have been an unprofitable and forgetful hearer....Let me live according to those holy rules which Thou hast this day, according to those holy rules which Thou hast this day prescribed in Thy holy word.... Direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and life. Bless, O Lord, all the people of this land.
That's George Washington's
Here is a quote from Thomas Jefferson, as we know, who wrote basically the Declaration of Independence at the urging of John Adams, and it was Jefferson who was the third President after John Adams. Jefferson in 1782 -- and for those who visit Washington, this is inscribed inside the Jefferson Memorial.
Jefferson said: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that their liberties are the gift of God?"
Jedidiah Morse, who is called the father of the American geography, also father of Samuel Morse--folks who know history know who that is. On April 25, 1799, Jedidiah Morse said: "Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them."
James Madison, the fourth President, March 4, 1815, in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation said:
No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of events and of the destiny of nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care, their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government.
Then John Quincy Adams, who was the son of John Adams, John Quincy Adams was the
sixth President. Some think he may have been the smartest President, but there's
no way to know. He was a brilliant man, the youngest diplomat ever appointed in
America when he was 11 years of age. He knew all the Founders. His father, John
Adams, allowed him to accompany him to so many events and things. He knew the
Founders. He knew the founding.
And John Quincy Adams in 1821 on July 4 said:
The highest glory of the American Revolution was this, it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of the civil government with the principles of Christianity, wherefrom the day of the Declaration they, the American people, were bound by the laws of God which they all, and by the laws of the Gospel which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct.
Noah Webster, 1833, said:
The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from, vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.
Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835, said:
There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free Nation of the Earth.
Again, John Quincy Adams, he was defeated in 1828 for a second term by Andrew
Jackson. Then in 1830, he believed it was God's call for him to run for
Congress, run for the House of Representatives, after having been President. He
was elected and served for 17 years in the House of Representatives, just down
the hall in Statuary Hall. It was John Quincy Adams who was retained to
represent the Africans who were aboard the Amistad in their case before the
Supreme Court. Anthony Hopkins did a wonderful
job of portraying John Quincy Adams in the movie "Amistad."' I think in the
his closing argument was around 10 to 12 minutes, whereas in real life it
spilled into a third day.
John Quincy Adams, 1837, after he had been in the House 6 years, he said:
Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the Foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon Earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?
And all of these people believed. People in America will be able to worship the
way they choose or do not choose because the Nation was founded upon Christian
precepts that allowed that freedom as no other nation in the history of mankind.
Andrew Jackson, 1845, this was just a few weeks before his death, and of course, people that know Jackson know that he was quite a rounder and he had quite a life. But, again, as he was just a few weeks before his death, he knew he was going to meet his Maker. Andrew Jackson said these words:
Sir, I am in the hands of a merciful God. I have full confidence in His goodness and mercy. The Bible is true. I have tried to conform to its spirit as near as possible. Upon that sacred volume I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
That was Andrew Jackson just a few weeks before his death, May 29, 1845.
Daniel Webster, considered the greatest orator probably of all times in this country, served in the House, served in the Senate, thought perhaps he might be President one day, but he urged a compromise which cost him the election. Whether he was right or wrong, he believed if we didn't have the Compromise of 1850 then the Nation was doomed, that there would be a civil war in 1850 from which the Nation may not survive. So he did a very selfless thing and stood up and urged the Compromise of 1850, knowing that he would lose his base. But he believed it was to save the country. Daniel Webster said in 1852:
If we and our posterity shall be true to the Christian religion, if we and they shall live always in the fear of God and shall respect His Commandments, we may have the highest hopes of the future fortunes of our country. But if we and our prosperity neglect religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political Constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.
Daniel Webster, 1852.
Now the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1853 stated this as a committee:
We are a Christian people, not because the law demands it, nor to gain exclusive benefits or to avoid legal disabilities, but from choice and education; and in a land thus universally Christian what is to be expected, what desired, but that we shall pay due regard to Christianity?
Senate Judiciary Committee, January 19, 1853.
Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, February 11, 1861, said this:
Unless the great God who assisted Washington shall be with me and aid me, I must fail; but if the same Omniscient Mind and Mighty Arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me, I shall not fail. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now.
Abraham Lincoln, February 11, 1861.
We can skip over to the President's inaugural address, 1865, again, Abraham Lincoln. He said: "Both" -- talking about both sides of the Civil War, the North and the South. He said:
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because of offenses; for if it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.
Lincoln, in that same inaugural address, went on and said: "If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which'' -- and he knew it was an offense. He knew it to his soul that slavery was an offense and that it would be difficult for God to ever bless America as long as slavery existed. And Christian people in this country did not treat their brothers and sisters as brothers and sisters. So Lincoln goes on in that address. And you can feel the analysis that he did as he went back and forth within himself trying to figure out how a just and mighty God could allow this type of injustice.
So Lincoln goes on and he says:
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the Providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God ascribe to Him?
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so it must still be said `the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
Lincoln went on:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the Nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all Nations.
Abraham Lincoln, 1865.
Edward Everett, the Massachusetts Governor also served as U.S. Secretary of
State, U.S. Senator, he spoke immediately before Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
He said this: "All the distinctive features and superiority of our Republican
institutions'' -- and he wasn't talking about the Republican Party, he was talking
about the Nation. This is considered a Republic. Senator Everett said the
"superiority of our Republican institutions are derived from the teachings of
William Seward was a U.S. Senator, a Governor of New York, Secretary of State under Lincoln. And it was interesting, Lincoln had such a diverse cabinet. Many of them didn't like each other, didn't like him, and yet he took all of that information together and made executive decisions. William Seward said:
I know not how long a Republican Government can flourish among a great people who have not the Bible. But this I do know: that the existing government of this country never could have had existence but for the Bible. And, further, I do in my conscience believe that if at every decade of years a copy of the Bible could be found in every family in the land, its Republican institutions should be perpetuated.
1862, Andrew Johnson, he was Vice President, and he said:
Let us look forward to the time when we can take the Flag of our country and nail it below the cross, and there let it wave as it waved in the olden times, and let us gather around it and inscribe for our motto, Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever, and exclaim: Christ first, our country next.
Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President, 1876, said this:
Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization and to this we must look as our guide in the future.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in reading these quotes, I think it is important for people to
know I'm not trying to push my religion on anyone else. But I think it is
imperative that we at least know where the Founders were, where the heart was of
those who provided for this incredible government, the incredible Nation we have
that I believe is the greatest in the history of mankind.
This was in the case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. the United States, in the opinion, February 29, 1892. The Supreme Court said:
Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise and in this sense and to this extent, our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian. This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation. We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth. These and many other matters which might be noticed at a volume of unofficial declarations to the massive organic utterances that this is a Christian Nation.
That was the Supreme Court in their opinion
Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 1892.
Theodore Roosevelt, 1917, our 26th President, said: "In this actual world, a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at, or ignored their Christian duties, is a community on the rapid downgrade."
Warren G. Harding, our 29th President, 1920 said: "It is my conviction that the fundamental trouble with the people of the United States is that they have gotten too far away from the Almighty God."
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President, 1923, said: "The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country."
We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a Nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity.
Again, Franklin Roosevelt, 1935.
1943, President Hoover, in a joint statement with former First Ladies Mrs. Coolidge, Mrs. Roosevelt, Mrs. Taft, Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Cleveland, gave this statement: "The whole inspiration for our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life."
Harry Truman, our 33rd President, in 1952 said this:
The basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don't think we emphasize that enough these days. If we don't have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a government which does not believe in rights for anyone but the State.
Profound. That was Harry Truman, 1952.
Charles Malik, our ambassador to the United Nations from Lebanon and the president of the U.N. General Assembly in 1958, made this statement in 1958:
Whoever tries to conceive the American word without taking full account of the suffering and love and salvation of Christ is only dreaming. I know how embarrassing this matter is to politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and cynics; but whatever these honored men think, the irrefutable truth is that the soul of America is at its best and highest, Christian.
That was the U.N. ambassador and president of the U.N. General Assembly in 1958.
Now, Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, 1984, said: "The frustrating thing is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance, freedom, and open-mindedness. Question: Isn't the real truth that they are intolerant of religion? They refuse to tolerate its importance in our lives." Ronald Reagan, 1984.
Now, I point out these quotes from our history. I could read volumes and volumes of quotes basically along the same lines, not trying to push Christian religion on anyone, but just so that people understand where we came from. It's incredible the amount of ignorance on the basis of this Nation, the foundation of this Nation.
Let me go to some of our Founders directly.
Sam Adams. He was called, back at
that time by those who knew and knew well, the "Father of the American
Revolution." Samuel Adams was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In
the will of Samuel Adams he says this: "I... recommend my soul to that
Almighty Being who gave it, and my body I commit to the dust, relying upon the
merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins." That was the Father of the
American Revolution, Samuel Adams.
In a letter written by Charles Carroll to Charles Wharton, Charles Carroll was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, one of the 56. He said: "On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits; not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts."
William Cushing was the first Associate Justice appointed by George Washington to the Supreme Court. William Cushing in his will said: Sensible of my mortality, but being of sound mind, after recommending my soul to Almighty God through the merits of my Redeemer and my body to the Earth.
John Dickinson was also a signer of the Constitution. In his will he said:
Rendering thanks to my Creator for my existence and station among His works, for my birth in a country enlightened by the Gospel and enjoying freedom, and for all His other kindnesses, to Him I resign myself, humbly confiding in His goodness and in His mercy through Jesus Christ for the events of eternity.
Again, John Dickinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence.
John Hancock we know signed the Declaration larger than anyone else, President of the Continental Congress in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed and made public. In his will he said:
I, John Hancock ..... being advanced in years and being of perfect mind and memory--thanks be given to God -- therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die (Hebrews 9:27), do make and ordain this my last will and testament.... Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it, and my body I recommend to the Earth, nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God.
Again, that was John Hancock.
Patrick Henry, the Governor of Virginia, a patriot, made that stirring speech that I gave on the radio in fifth grade, made this statement: This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family -- this was in his will -- the religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.
John Jay played such an important role in this Nation's founding and negotiations of treaties. I believe he helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783, and so many others, but he was also the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In his will, Chief Justice John Jay said:
Unto Him who is the author and giver of all good, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved son. He has been pleased to bless me with excellent parents, with a virtuous wife, and with worthy children. His protection has accompanied me through many eventful years, faithfully employed in the service of my country; His providence has not only conducted me to this tranquil situation, but also given me abundant reason to be contented and thankful. Blessed be His holy name.
Daniel [of] St. Thomas Jenifer was a signer of the Constitution. In his will he said: "In the name of God, Amen. I, Daniel St. Thomas Jenifer...of disposing mind and memory, commend my soul to my blessed Redeemer."
Henry Knox, Revolutionary War general, extremely important to the success of the American Revolution, said in his will:
First, I think it proper to express my unshaken opinion of the immortality of my soul or mind, and to dedicate and devote the same to the supreme head of the universe -- to that great and tremendous Jehovah -- who created the universal frame of nature, worlds, and systems in number infinite. To this awfully sublime Being do I resign my spirit with unlimited confidence of His mercy and protection.
John Langdon was a signer of the Constitution back in 1787. He also said: "In the name of God, Amen. I, John Langdon, considering the uncertainty of life and that it is appointed unto all men once to die -- again, Hebrews 9:27 -- do make and ordain and publish this my last will and testament."
John Morton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, said in his will:
With an awful reverence to the great Almighty God, Creator of all mankind, I, John Morton, being sick and weak in body but sound of mind and memory, thanks be given to Almighty God for the same, for all His mercies and favors, and considering the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the times thereof, do, for the settling of such temporal estate as it hath pleased God to bless me with in this life.
There are so many others, just one after another, vesting these same type
things, signers of the Declaration of Independence, signers of the Constitution.
Jonathan Trumbull said this in his will:
Principally and first of all, I bequeath my soul to God, the Creator and Giver thereof, and body to the Earth, nothing doubting but that I shall receive the same again at the General Resurrection through the power of Almighty God, believing and hoping for eternal life through the merits of my dear exalted Jesus Christ.
That was Jonathan Trumble, who painted four of the paintings that are out here in our Rotunda.
One of the things that has run throughout this Nation, you go back to the Constitution, these were the Founders I've been quoting, those who were able to come together and have a Declaration of Independence, who sought, as Benjamin Franklin said, God's help in the revolution, and who sought him in the difficult, trying times after the Articles of Confederation were passed. And who they sought, as Benjamin Franklin pointed out in those great words I read, 1787, when afterwards they were finally
able to come together with a constitution.
But as we know from our history, the Constitution was not afforded to all people as it should have been. They said, as these Founders I've read, that they were Christians, and yet as Christians they should have recognized that we could not expect God to bless America while we were treating our brothers and sisters by putting them in chains and bondage.
Martin Luther King came along after the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, as I've read, made clear his beliefs in the Almighty and His grace and mercy and justice, and that's why he pushed for an end of slavery. But even still, it took Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who worked with him to bring about civil rights and an abdication of the supreme Constitution that we hold so dear to all people. It doesn't require that everyone receive equal things; it requires equal opportunity.
I would remind my friends that Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordained Christian minister. He said in his letter from Birmingham jail: But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the 8th century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the four corners of the Greco-Roman world, so I am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. That was in 1963. Profound words, Martin Luther King.
One of his quotes in 1963 from Birmingham jail:
Whenever the early Christians entered the town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being disturbers of the peace and outside agitators. But the Christians pressed on, and in the conviction that they were a colony of heaven called to obey God rather than man, small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be astronomically intimidated.
Powerful, powerful words, Martin Luther King.
Well, I think it's worth noting also, we have an original copy of the Treaty of Paris, 1783, located in the Department of State in a glass case. I didn't realize how that started until I saw that copy there, but it made sense once I saw it. In big bold letters at the top of the Treaty of Paris--this is the one that was negotiated in Paris in 1783 after surrendering at Yorktown to get England to sign onto a treaty indicating they would observe the United States' right to exist as an independent Nation.
It starts out in big block bold letters, "In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity." When I first saw that I thought, I wonder why they would start like that. And then you realize, you're asking the nation of England to sign a treaty and pledging not to ever attack or fail to recognize its right to exist independently of England. What do you get them to swear under that is so important and so manifest that they would not dare go back on their word? Well, they decided at that time it was to start with the words, In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.
Those who are familiar with the War of 1812, 1814, we're up here on Jenkins Hill, where the Capitol was built, and the British proceeded across burning every public building, proceeded to the Capitol, set fire down the hall in Statuary Hall, what was then the House of Representatives, went down and set fire to the Senate Inn, and went to the White House, set fire there. The White House was terribly damaged inside.
The Capitol, by all rights, with the intensity of the fire and with the munitions that were spread to make the fire get more hot, should have collapsed and fallen in on itself, but it didn't because a rain came and put out the fire.
By the way, the next day, there was such a huge, straight-line wind. Some thought it was tornadic, but most believed it was a straight-line wind. It was so intense that it blew their canons off their mounts. Some credit the wind with killing soldiers. As the British troops were preparing to leave, a conversation was noted between the British admiral and a Washington lady regarding the storm. The admiral exclaimed, "Great God, Madam! Is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?" The lady answered, "No, sir. This is a special interposition of Providence to drive our enemies from our city." The weather drove them out. The American soldiers were not able to.
A little history about the White House nativity scene: It's Italian -- made in Naples around the time of the United States War for Independence, the late 1700s. It has been on exhibit in the East Room of the White House during the holiday season since 1967. In 1999, a new tableau was made for the nativity scene. The design of the new display was inspired by historical Neapolitan presepios, which is the Italian term for "Christ," from the Baroque period, which incorporated architectural elements found in the 1700s. That is a little bit about the nativity scene. There has been a lot said about that recently.
As far as the history of the White House Christmas tree, in 1889, the tradition
of placing an indoor decorated tree in the White House began on Christmas
morning during the Presidency of Benjamin Harrison. It was in 1895 that First
Lady Frances Cleveland created a technology savvy tree when she hung electric
lights on the White House tree, which was introduced into the White House in
There is just so much history with our Founding Fathers. Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 24 -- obviously Christmas Eve -- 1934, said, "This is the second year that I have joined with you on this happy occasion. Then, as now, with millions of others, we celebrate the happy observance of Christmas." "The year toward which we looked then with anticipation and hope has passed," Roosevelt goes on. "We have seen fulfilled many things that a year ago were only hopes. Our human life thus goes on from anticipation and hope to fulfillment. This year again, we are entitled to new hopes and new anticipations."
He goes on and he says, "Just across the street is the house he occupied 100 years ago, the house the people of the country have built for their Presidents. From its windows, I see this monument to this man of courage." He is talking about Washington. "It is an inspiration to me as it should be to all Americans." "And so let us make the spirit of Christmas of 1934 that of courage and unity. It is the way to greater happiness and well-being. That is, I believe, an important part of what the Maker of Christmas would have it mean." "In this sense," Roosevelt says, "the scriptures admonish us to be strong and of good courage, to fear not, to dwell together in unity." He said, "I wish you one and all, here and everywhere, a very, very Merry Christmas." Franklin Roosevelt.
I have a number of other speeches that he gave on Christmas. Time will not allow me to read all of those. I will go to 1962, John F. Kennedy, when he said:
Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary Udall, members of the clergy: With the lighting of this tree, which is an old ceremony in Washington and one which has been among the most important responsibilities of a good many Presidents of the United States, we initiate, in a formal way, the Christmas season. We mark the festival of Christmas, which is the most sacred and hopeful day in our civilization. For nearly 2,000 years, the message of Christmas, the message of peace and goodwill towards all men, has been the guiding star of our endeavors.
This morning, I had a meeting at the White House, which included some of our representatives from far countries in Africa and Asia. They were returning to their posts for the Christmas holidays. Talking with them afterwards, I was struck by the fact that, in the far-off continents, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, as well as Christians, pause from their labors on the 25th day of December to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace.
There could be no more striking proof that Christmas is truly the universal holiday of all men. It is the day when all of us dedicate our thoughts to others, when all are reminded that mercy and compassion are the enduring virtues, when all show by small deeds and large and by acts that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
He goes on to talk about the Christmas spirit.
As my time grows short here, I want to finish with a speech Ronald Reagan gave, his Christmas message in 1988. He said:
The themes of Christmas and of coming home for the holidays have long been intertwined in song and story. There is a profound irony and lesson in this because Christmas celebrates the coming of a Savior who was born without a home. There was no room at the inn for the Holy Family. Weary of travel, a young Mary, close to childbirth, and her carpenter husband, Joseph, found but the rude shelter of a stable. There was born the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace -- an event on which all history would turn. Jesus would again be without a home, and more than once -- on the flight to Egypt and during His public ministry when He said, 'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath nowhere to lay his head.'
Ronald Reagan goes on.
From His very infancy on, our Redeemer was reminding us that, from then on, we would never lack a home in Him. Like the shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared on the first Christmas Day, we could always say, `Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.'
As we come home with gladness to family and friends this Christmas, let us also remember our neighbors who cannot go home themselves. Our compassion and concern this Christmas and all year long will mean much to the hospitalized, the homeless, the convalescent, the orphaned -- and will surely lead us on our way to the joy and peace of Bethlehem and the Christ Child who bids us come. For it is only in finding and living the eternal meaning of the Nativity that we can be truly happy, truly at peace, truly home.
Merry Christmas, [and] God bless you.
Mr. Speaker, with that wish from Reagan, I do now hereby move that we adjourn.
Original Text Source: Gohmert.House.gov
Original Audio Source: C-SPAN.org
Page Updated: 10/2/17
Page Updated: 10/2/17
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