God has not always been found on US currency or the Pledge of Allegiance


Salmon P. Chase ca. 1860

On This Date in History: When the Civil War first broke out in April 1861, most Americans, particularly those from the North, assumed the conflict would end quickly. Toward the end of that year, it became all too apparent that it could be a very long and bloody affair. Perhaps it is that realization that caused citizens in the Union to urge Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to add some recognition to the Deity on US money. While I understand the sentiment, I do not understand the relevance of placing such a recognition on coinage. Nevertheless, on November 20, 1861 Chase called on Philadelphia Mint Director James Pollock to come up with a motto that would be included on all future coinage. Chase wrote in part: “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.” While he did not specify what to put on the coins, he did tell Pollock to use the “fewest and tersest” words possible and to do so without delay.

US 1864 Two Cent Coin

But, it was not possible for anyone to just add mottos to US coins willy-nilly. Legislation passed in 1837 required that the mint get congressional approval before any verbiage was added to any coin. So, once Pollock came up with a phrase to put on the coins, he had to get the go-ahead from Congress before he could begin stamping it on the coins. Now, Chase had told Pollock to act “without unneccesary delay.” I suppose Pollock found necessary delays because he did not get around to submitting the potential verbiage until December 1863. It took him two years to come up with 3 choices: Our Country, Our God and God, Our Trust. Chase responded on December 9, 1863 of his approval with some modifications. He said that on the Washington obverse, the phrase should read, “Our God and Our Country” and on the shield it should read “In God We Trust.” Congress passed legislation in April 1864 that approved the two additions. The two-cent coin minted in 1864 was the first coin to bear the words, “In God We Trust.”

US two cent coin 1867

From that point forth, most coins received the new verbiage but, for some reason, it disappeared from the nickel in 1883 and did not return to the 5 cent coin until production of the Jefferson nickel in 1938. Shortly after the double eagle gold coin and eagle gold coin was put into circulation in 1907, new coins appeared without the phrase. Pressure almost immediately was brought down on the mint and in 1908, Congress passed a law that stated that all coins which had previously had the phrase must continue to include “In God We Trust” on all future mintings of those coins. Curiously, the phrase was not mandatory on the penny or the nickel but could be put on those coins at the mint director’s discretion pending approval from the treasury secretary. However, “In God We Trust” was not the official US Motto. It was not until the 1950’s that “In God We Trust” gained such a distinction.

Dr. George Docherty gave a sermon at the York Ave Presbyterian Church on Feb 7 1954 that is said to have persuaded Ike to support adding "Under God" to the Pledge

President Eisenhower on this date in 1956 signed into law a bill requiring “In God We Trust” to be put on all currency and be considered the official US Motto. It also stipulated that along with “In God We Trust,” “E-Pluribus Unum” and “United States of America” would also be included on all US coins. Since the Civil War the motto had been put on all coins but not paper currency. The “In God We Trust” bill came just two years after Eisenhower signed a bill that added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Most historians conclude the action of Congress and the President was part of a reaction to the “Red Scare” of the 1950′s. Eisenhower himself has been said to have been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, while more modern accounts suggest he was raised as a Mennonite. Sources say that Ike abandoned his family religion but that religion was still important to him. In 1953, he was baptised as a Presbyterian, less than a year into his first term as President. So, it was just 1 year after Ike made his personal conversion that he came to support the mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and 3 years prior to his acceptance of God in an official US motto.

Argument over Church/State Separation Has Gone on For a Long Time

Today some people claim that the insertion of God into state mottos and the pledge is a violation of the separation of church and state. Many defenders of the verbiage mistakenly think that the inclusion of God was mandated by our founders when in fact, “under God” and “In God We Trust” did not come along until well after the founders were dead and gone. Would the founding fathers have approved of such a motto? Just because they did not endorse a motto does not necessarily mean that they would be against it. Maybe they had better things to do. Then again, they never even approved a pledge of allegiance either. It is difficult to get into the heads of figures from the past and we are left to try to discern their intent from the writings that they left behind. Silence can be a tacit acknowledgement of the founder’s stance. The question remains as to which side of the argument the tacitness would fall. Then again, perhaps the silence was merely the result of their not having ever thought of mottos or pledges of allegiance or anything else. They were, after all, pretty busy considering a number of pressing issues.

Weather Bottom Line: As I mentioned the last couple of days, Friday will have a much more comfortable start than we’ve seen the last couple of weeks and the afternoon will only see highs in the 80’s with reasonable comfortable humidity. Don’t get used to it. While Saturday morning will start off very pleasant, the cold front that came through and brougth the relief will come back as a warm front. I”ve seen some forecasts with a rather pedestrian rain chance on Saturday. From where I sit, while its not a guarantee that you will get rain or t’storms on Saturday, I think that it’s a better than fair prospect. Just from the standpoint that the warm front is coming back during the heat of the day is enough. While I do not see any shortwaves riding down the frontal boundary from the northwest, it does not mean that one that is not showing up on the models will not do so. A shortwave coming down from Iowa on Friday doesn’t really show up too much so, that’s possible. They are sometimes tough for the computers to find. Even so, the models tend to show some rain over our area. I am not going to water my sunflowers on Friday as I think I’ll get some rain on Saturday. If not ,well it will be hot and humid again on Sunday with the potential for scattered showers and t’storms Sunday and Monday…warranting pedestrian rain chances. After that, I think we will see a big fat ridge assert itself from the Southwest that will limit the rain chances for midweek and serve to take temperatures to the mid and upper 90’s at some point and the humidity will be tough. So, enjoy your Friday while you can.

One Response

  1. You without doubt have a style all your own when it comes to creating these nice blog posts.

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