After reading John Lofton's Aug. 8 letter regarding God and the American Revolution, I referred to my copy of the Declaration of Independence. Despite Mr. Lofton's claim that our nation's Founders rejected King George III on the grounds that he did not obey God, I found no direct mention of this in their Declaration of Independence: None of the specific charges against King George makes any reference to his having violated divine law or disobeyed God in any of his dealings with his American subjects. His divine right to rule is never mentioned.
The introductory paragraph of the Declaration contains two general gestures toward a generic almighty. Mention is made of "the Laws of nature and Nature's God" and "that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Finally, the document ends "with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
The Declaration of Independence does not specifically mention Jesus, Mary, Jehovah, any of the disciples or specific individuals in either of the testaments of the Bible. I would not confirm or deny the Christian faith of any of our nation's Founders. I do believe that the Declaration and the U.S. Constitution owe a great deal to the philosophies of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Our Founders were wise enough to realize that religious influence in government matters should be kept to a minimum. This should help to minimize government influence in religious affairs. The 17th century abounded with examples of what happens when this wise policy is circumvented or ignored.
The letters by J. S. White [July 25] and John Lofton [Aug. 8] were based on the erroneous premise that the divine right of kings was a factor in the political struggle that led to the American Revolution.
Divine right rose and fell with the House of Stuart. This doctrine, which held that the king was accountable only to God and superior to the other institutions of government, including Parliament and the common law courts, was the defining conflict of 17th-century England. When James I fled to France, the House of Commons, controlled by the Whigs, adopted a resolution that James had broken the contract between king and people and that the throne was vacant.
The Tories, who controlled the House of Lords, asserted that James had not abdicated the throne and that his daughter Mary was entitled to it under the hereditary right of succession. When Mary's husband, William, would not accept the role of regent or consort, Parliament tendered the crown to them as king and queen.
This fundamental change in the constitutional structure of the British government constituted the bloodless revolution of 1688 and the adoption of the English Bill of Rights in which the superiority of Parliament was established. A parliament that gave the king his crown could take it away. There would be further conflicts with the crown as Parliament assumed the dominant role, but the concept that all powers flowed from a king ordained by God, while alive in various states across Europe, notably France, was forever dead in England.
R. E. DIXON