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U.S. Motto: "In God We Trust" - a Little History

Aimee Herd : Nov 17, 2005  US Treasury

Editor's Note: As Americans see their national motto's inclusion on its money challenged of late, it may be of some benefit to look at the history and the sentiment behind the printing of this statement of commitment. Indeed some of the reasons for including it on the money then, still hold true today. -- Aimee Herd, BCN.

U.S. Coin "The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins." - U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, 1861.

According to a fact sheet from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the statement; "In God we trust" was born from "increased religious sentiment" being felt throughout the country in the early 1860's, and voiced by some in letters to the Secretary of the Treasury.

The Secretary at the time, Salmon P. Chase, reportedly received many appeals from U.S. citizens urging him that the country should "recognize the Deity on United States coins." One of those letters came from Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, it was dated November 13th, 1861.

Watkinson wrote [in part]: "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.

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."

Shortly after receiving this letter, Secretary Chase then wrote the following, giving instruction to James Pollack, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia . . .

"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."

However, the Mint could make no changes without the legislation of Congress. Meanwhile, Pollack was working on several designs for the inclusion of the motto on 1, 2 and 3 cent coins. After submitting them back to Chase for approval, the motto decided on was "In God We Trust."

In 1864, Congress passed legislation, and the words "In God We Trust" were first included on the 2 cent coin, in that year. As time went on, the motto was printed on other coinage and eventually included on all currency as well.

Food for thought: Some may argue that these are just words that carry little meaning anymore, and still others declare that this statement violates the separation of "church and state." But if a person would sincerely delve into the remarkable history that went into the birth of the United States of America, undoubtedly they would discover that underlying thread of faith. Whether clearly stated in the name of; "God" or more indefinably as "Providence," a combination of miracles and belief in the Creator certainly did go into the formation of this nation.

It would do America good to recall the words of Secretary Chase, "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." And I would add, more than on our coins . . . it should be declared in our hearts.

To view the full history of the U.S. Motto, follow the link below.







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