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In God We Trust Adopted as National Motto

Yesterday we had a post which noted the appearance of In God We Trust on US coinage after the passage of the Coinage Act of 1864.  The phrase became the national motto in 1956 pursuant to a Joint Resolution of Congress which should be celebrated for its brevity as well as for its substance:

 

 

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That the national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be “In God we trust.´´

Approved July 30, 1956.

 

President Eisenhower summed up the sentiments that led to the adoption of “In God we trust” as the national motto in remarks he made on October 24, 1954 in observance of the 75th anniversary of the light bulb:

FAITH, faith and the American individual. Yes, it is on these two pillars that our future rests.

It was Thomas Edison who said: “Be courageous; be as brave as your fathers before you. Have faith. Go forward .”

Seventy-five years ago this very week, Tom Edison–a humble, typical sort of American–put this credo into action and gave a new light to the world.

It is faith that has made our Nation–has made it, and kept it free. Atheism substitutes men for the supreme creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship. But we believe–and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government. Our Government is servant, not master, our chosen representatives are our equals, not our czars or commissars.

We must jealously guard our foundation in faith. For on it rests the ability of the American individual to live and thrive in this blessed land-and to be able to help other less fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual opportunity. These we take for granted, but to others they are often only a wistful dream.

“In God we trust.” Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us.

We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred trust for all mankind. We do not believe that God intended the light that He created to be put out by men.

Soon we will be celebrating one of our holidays, one that typifies for me much of what we mean by the American freedom. That will be Halloween. On that evening I would particularly like to be, of course, with my grandchildren, for Halloween is one of those times when we Americans actually encourage the little individuals to be free to do things rather as they please. I hope you and your children have a gay evening and let’s all give a little prayer that their childish pranks will be the only kind of mischief with which we Americans must cope. But it can be a confident kind of a prayer too, for God has made us strong and faith has made and kept us free.

Good night. Continue Reading

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April 22, 1864: Coinage Act of 1864 and In God We Trust

In God We Trust

 

The Coinage Act of 1864 was passed one hundred and fifty years ago today.  Among other provisions it granted to the Secretary of the Treasury a two cent coin.  On this coin first appeared the motto In God We Trust.  Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury had been looking for an opportunity to place such a motto on coins since he received the following letter dated November 13, 1861 from the  Rev. M. R. Watkinson:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.

Chase wrote on November 20, 1861 to the Director of the Mint:

Dear Sir: 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.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition. Continue Reading