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Inauguration of President Washington: A Religious Address & Covenant Nation?

David Barton of Wallbuilders gives some details of the inauguration of the first President of the U.S.:

Constitutional experts abounded in 1789 at America’s first presidential inauguration. Not only was the inauguree a signer of the Constitution but one fourth of the members of the Congress that organized and directed his inauguration had been delegates with him to the Constitutional Convention that produced the Constitution. Furthermore, this very same Congress also penned the First Amendment and its religious clauses. Because Congress, perhaps more than any other, certainly knew what was constitutional, the religious activities that were part of the first inauguration may well be said to have had the approval and imprimatur of the greatest congressional collection of constitutional experts America has ever known.

That inauguration occurred in New York City, which served as the nation’s capital during the first year of the new federal government. The preparations had been extensive; everything had been well planned.

The papers reported on the first inaugural activity:

[O]n the morning of the day on which our illustrious President will be invested with his office, the bells will ring at nine o’clock, when the people may go up to the house of God and in a solemn manner commit the new government, with its important train of consequences, to the holy protection and blessing of the Most High. An early hour is prudently fixed for this peculiar act of devotion and . . . is designed wholly for prayer.

As subsequent activities progressed, things seemed to be proceeding smoothly, but as the parade carrying Washington by horse-drawn carriage to the swearing-in was nearing Federal Hall, it was realized that no Bible had been obtained for administering the oath, and the law required that a Bible be part of the ceremony. Parade Marshal Jacob Morton therefore hurried off and soon returned with a large 1767 King James Bible.

The ceremony was conducted on the balcony at Federal Hall; and with a huge crowd gathered below watching the proceedings, the Bible was laid upon a crimson velvet cushion held by Samuel Otis, Secretary of the Senate. New York Chancellor Robert Livingston then administered the oath of office. (He was one of the five Founders who drafted the Declaration of Independence, but had been called back to New York to help guide his state through the Revolution before he could affix his signature to the document he had helped write. Because Livingston was the highest ranking judicial official in New York, he was chosen to administer the oath of office to President Washington.)

Standing beside Livingston and Washington were many distinguished officials, including Vice President John Adams, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, Generals Henry Knox and Philip Schuyler, and several others. The Bible was opened (at random) to Genesis 49  (see below); Washington placed his left hand upon the open Bible, raised his right, took the oath of office, then bent over and reverently kissed the Bible. Chancellor Livingston proclaimed, “It is done!” Turning to the crowd assembled below, he shouted, “Long live George Washington – the first President of the United States!” That shout was echoed and re-echoed by the crowd. Washington and the other officials then departed the balcony and went inside Federal Hall to the Senate Chamber where Washington delivered his Inaugural Address.

In that first-ever presidential address, Washington opened with a heartfelt prayer, explaining that . . .

it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect – that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.

Washington’s inaugural address was strongly religious, and he called his listeners to remember and acknowledge God:

In tendering this homage [act of worship] to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of Providential Agency. . . . [and] we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious [favorable] smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.

Having finished his address, Washington offered its closing prayer:

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave – but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication [prayer] that . . . His Divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this government must depend.

The next inaugural activities then began – activities arranged by Congress itself when the Senate directed:

That after the oath shall have been administered to the President, he – attended by the Vice-President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives – proceed to St. Paul’s Chapel to hear Divine service.

The House had approved the same resolution, so the president and Congress thus went en masse to church as an official body. As affirmed by congressional records:

The President, the Vice-President, the Senate, and House of Representatives, &c., then proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel, where Divine Service was performed by the chaplain of Congress.

The service at St. Paul’s was conducted by The Right Reverend Samuel Provoost – the Episcopal Bishop of New York, who had been chosen chaplain of the Senate the week preceding the inauguration. He performed the service according to The Book of Common Prayer, including prayers taken from Psalms 144-150 and Scripture readings and Bible lessons from the book of Acts, I Kings, and the Third Epistle of John.

(Significantly, in his lawsuit Newdow claimed not only that “So help me God” was of recent derivation but also that the “practice of including clergy to pray at presidential inaugurations began in 1937.” That claim, like so many of his others, is obviously wrong: the Rev. Provoost had offered clergy-led prayers during Washington’s inaugural activities a century-and-a-half before Newdow claimed they began.)

Significantly, seven distinctly religious activities were included in this first presidential inauguration that have been repeated in whole or part in every subsequent inauguration: (1) the use of the Bible to administer the oath; (2) solemnifying the oath with multiple religious expressions (placing a hand on the Bible, saying “So help me God,” and then kissing the Bible); (3) prayers offered by the president himself; (4) religious content in the inaugural address; (5) the president calling on the people to pray or acknowledge God; (6) church inaugural worship services; and (7) clergy-led prayers.

Washington Places Hand on Bible (Genesis 49) Which Prophesies America as a Covenant Land?

David Barton also endorsed Timothy Ballard’s book, The Covenant: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel, in a manner which indicates that he agrees with the central concept of America having a covenant with God. Ballard explains the American Covenant found in Genesis 49:22 with Rev. Tom Perry below:

About the book, Barton wrote:

The concept of what a covenant truly is and means is unfamiliar to most today, for it far surpasses any legal understandings or obligations with which our current culture is acquainted. God established a covenant with Abraham and his posterity, the Bible recounts not only the duties but also the remarkable benefits produced by that mutual accord. Tim Ballard documents the “extension” of that covenant re-invoked during the establishment of this nation… a covenant made between God and America’s early colonists and Founders. The Covenant not only shows the unprecedented blessings America has received as a result of obedience to God but also what every citizen today can do to honor our national covenant with God and thus ensure His continued blessings.

This quote leaves little doubt that Barton believes America is a covenant nation. However, there is much more to this book than a claim that the English settlers made a pact with God. Ballard asserts that the arrival of the Europeans in the New World was prophesied in Genesis, and furthermore that the British are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. This belief, sometimes called British Israelism, is commonly held by Mormons and adherents of Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. For Ballard (who is Mormon), this belief has political consequences. He believes the country that is now America was destined to be settled by the descendants of Joseph and Ephraim due to promises made in Genesis 49. I am going to examine the basis of this claim later in this post, but first I want to provide some quotes from Ballard’s book which illustrate his positions.

At locations 1164-1167 of the Kindle edition of the book, Ballard writes:

…this study of ancient scripture and modern history will lead us to the powerful conclusion that modern-day citizens of the United States have fulfilled ancient prophecies—they have become the American Covenant-makers. Consequently, the story of the American Covenant—including the promised blessings and obligations given through Abraham to Ephraim and on to George Washington and others—becomes our story.

Speaking of the lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Ballard writes:

Indeed, Joseph/Ephraim was led out to become a multitude of people. They were led to the north country, to the coastline, to the isles of the sea. They were carried over the wall of water to another land. That land is America. (Kindle Locations 1028-1030)

Ballard quotes Herbert Armstrong as an expert on the subject of the lost tribes, saying

The renowned Christian pastor/author, and founder of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert Armstrong, has perhaps studied this issue as much as any other Christian writer. (Kindle Locations 617-618)…

Indeed, as Pastor Armstrong noted, Joseph/Ephraim “never returned to Jerusalem from Assyria, where they were driven with the ten tribes after 721 B.C., and were never again mixed with the Jews from that time!” Instead, they would become completely independent and inherit a new promised land. They would inherit America. (Kindle Locations 631-634).

It is jarring to read Armstrong referred to as a Christian, given that his heterodox views and his frequent criticisms of orthodoxy have been rejected by the church he founded. The full story of the journey of the World Wide Church of God becoming the evangelical Grace Communion International can be read on the church’s website.

Ballard cites Armstrong to help him summarize his contention that the British are related to the lost tribes.

In the final analysis of these Old Testament promises, and with the advantage of historical hindsight, it is difficult to argue with Pastor Armstrong: “God did cause the birthright nations—and them only—to become suddenly the recipients of such national wealth, greatness and power as no nation or empire ever before had acquired! Together they—the British and Americans, descendants of only one tribe, Joseph—came into possession of more than two-thirds—almost three-fourths—of all the cultivated resources and wealth of the whole world. It sounds incredible!… The most amazing fact of all history is this sudden skyrocketing from virtual obscurity of two nations to the most fabulous wealth and economic power ever possessed by any people. Britain became Great Britain—a gigantic, stupendously wealthy commonwealth of nations—the United States, the greatest nation of history.” (Kindle Locations 1057-1065)

Eventually, Ballard addresses how Americans can keep the covenant by recognizing their place in Israel’s history.

Indeed, what is American history if not Old Testament history? American history, after all, is the story of a chosen people, with ties to the blood and promises of Israel, who were given a promised land by covenant. It is a story of this people’s struggle to live righteously as a nation so as to be blessed with the covenant blessings (liberty, protection and prosperity) required to realize God’s work and glory. It is a story of war against evil and oppression. It is also a story of miracles and conversions. It is a story of prophecy and fulfillment, a story of God’s efforts to save His people. And at the core of this story is the one thing that ties all elements together, the one thing that, if adhered to, will allow the blessings of liberty, protection and prosperity to thrive, thus securing the opportunity for salvation for this and future generations. At the core of this story is God’s holy covenant, the American Covenant. (Kindle Locations 6116-6123).

Ballard believes the covenant allows freedom of religious conscience but requires believers to keep the Old Testament commandments. There is much, much more that I could write about but I want to use the rest of this post debunking the key Scriptural claim Ballard makes. He claims that the prophecy of America as a covenant land is found in Jacob’s words to his sons in Genesis 49. Specifically, Ballard claims that Jacob’s address to Joseph contains the key predictions. Ballard says

Before Jacob-Israel died, he gathered his twelve sons—twelve carriers of the covenant—around him. There, he gave answers to these questions. To Judah, he promised that the Messiah would come through his tribe—a prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament. And to Joseph he promised a land where the covenant would be restored. He promised a nation that God would raise up for His purposes in the last days. He promised America. (Kindle Locations 665-668).

According to Ballard, the key passage in Genesis 49 predicting America to be the promised land is Jacob’s words to Joseph. According to Genesis 49:22-26, Jacob said:

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob…[T]he Almighty…shall bless thee with blessings from heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the head of him who was separate from his brethren. (Kindle Locations 669-674)

Ballard then explains why this passage, especially the references to branches running “over the wall” and “everlasting hills” mean Jacob was speaking of America.

Jacob’s blessing also indicates that Joseph’s “branches” (posterity) would “run over the wall.” Exodus 14:22 uses the word “wall” to mean great waters. As such, it can be inferred that the above-referenced promises to Joseph’s posterity were connected to a land across the seas from the Old World. Jacob’s concluding words to his son substantiate this by indicating that Joseph’s people would be “separate from [their] brethren.” We are also told that this land would extend to “the utmost bound” (to a distant place?). In addition to being located far away, and across the sea, the blessing suggests that the land would also contain “everlasting hills.” The longest mountain range in the world—the Andes—stretches 4,300 miles and resides in the Americas. The second longest mountain range in the world—the Rockies—stretches more than 3,000 miles through North America, boasting widths of up to 300 miles and ages of up to 3.3 billion years. (Kindle Locations 690-697)

Incredibly, Ballard offers a spurious inference from Genesis 49:22 to make his case that Joseph’s descendants would eventually cross the Atlantic Ocean and found America. He also offers some verses from Jeremiah which I will take up in a future post. However, the inference about the Joseph’s land being “over the wall” is used at least 12 times to drive home his contention that the tribe of Joseph’s son Ephraim migrated to the British Isles and then to the New World.

What is Ballard’s basis for assuming the image of branches running “over the wall” refers to the Atlantic Ocean? In the citation above, Ballard says that “Exodus 14:22 uses the word “wall” to mean great waters.” Thus, he interprets the Genesis passage as predicting that the descendants of Joseph would go beyond a great body of water. However, this is wrong on at least two counts.

First, note the use of the word wall in Exodus (adding verse 21 for context):

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall (chomah) of water on their right and on their left.

The word wall here is used to describe the appearance and function of the water. It looked like a wall and functioned as a wall. The meaning of the word wall is not changed based on the substance used to create it. For instance, Jeremiah 15:20 uses the same word (chomah) in reference to a “wall of bronze.” By Ballard’s logic, wall would then sometimes mean bronze, and Joseph’s descendants would have to go beyond bronze somehow.

Second, and more important in the analysis of the text, the Hebrew word for wall used in Exodus 14:22 is not the same word as is used in Genesis 49:22. The word for wall (shur) in the Genesis passage is used only three other times in the Old Testament, each time to mean “a wall” or “walls,” never water. The word can also refer to Shur, a region of Palestine bordering Egypt (that makes sense for Joseph as a description of his influence outside of Palestine), and the root of the word is “shor” — an ox or a herd of oxen. There is nothing about water or bodies of water in any usage.

There is another problem with this passage as a proof text for seeing America in Jacob’s poem. There are three different wordings of the verse in three different Hebrew texts – the Septuagint, the Masoretic and the Samarian Pentateuch. While I don’t want to take time to go into the differences and what they might mean, it is worth noting that precision is not possible with this verse. See this article for more on the different texts.

Ballard’s inference from Genesis 49:22 is crucial to his case. As noted, he refers to it 12 times in the book as the key prediction of America as covenant land given to Joseph and Ephraim. Since this inference is faulty, his entire argument is reduced to asserting that America must be a covenant land because the nation has been blessed.

It is distressing that both Glenn Beck and David Barton would throw their weight behind a book which rests on so many faulty assumptions and questionable authorities (e.g., Herbert Armstrong).

Resources: Wallbuilders; patheos

Recommended Books:

the-covenant

This book spent time at #3 on Amazon overall and was ranked #1 in 5 categories including #1 in History titles, #1 in US History, #1 in Books on Israel and History. 10’s of thousands of copies were sold during that period. Find out why the book continues to re-set the foundation of American History studies.

Find out why Glenn Beck said: “I have been trying to articulate this message for years, Tim Ballard finally did it! This book is the key to restoring America.”

Find out what is behind this endorsement by David Barton: “The concept of what a covenant truly is and means is unfamiliar to most today, for it far surpasses any legal understandings or obligations with which our current culture is acquainted. God established a covenant with Abraham and his posterity, and the Bible recounts not only the duties but also the remarkable benefits produced by that mutual accord. Tim Ballard documents the “extension” of that covenant re-invoked during the establishment of this nation… a covenant made between God and America’s early colonists and Founders. “The Covenant” not only shows the unprecedented blessings America has received as a result of obedience to God but also what every citizen today can do to honor our national covenant with God and thus ensure His continued blessings.” David Barton, Historian and bestselling author.

Why did Christopher Columbus insist that an “angel” guided him at the moments of greatest distress? What prompted the original colonists to embrace the idea that the land of America was “New Israel” to them? What power urged Washington and his rag-tag army to successfully conquer the greatest military power on earth? What brought about the terrible national crisis that left our nation grieving, humbled and repentant after the desolation of Civil War?

What is the secret behind this nation’s unsurpassed record of prosperity, protection and liberty? And what are the responsibilities and consequences incumbent upon a people so blessed?

The answers to these, and many other questions relating to America’s real national treasure are found in the pages of THE COVENANT.

In his new book, author Timothy Ballard answers both HOW and WHY the America’s very existence stands in fulfillment of ancient biblical prophecy.

Ballard’s research takes his reader on a journey through American history that has rarely, if ever, been traveled before.

THE COVENANT: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel sheds new light on the bloodline-inheritance the founders carried to America.

To be certain, this book is not about America’s ties to the Jewish State called “Israel” which was formed by U.N. edict in 1948 but rather, the text hearkens back to a period around 720 B.C. when the Northern Kingdom of ancient Israel (the Ten Tribes) was destroyed and carried away by the Assyrians to the “North” where they became lost as to their own identity scattered among the lands and peoples of Western Europe, Great Britain and Scandinavia. These people inherit through birth and bloodline, the right to invoke “the Promises made to the Fathers.”

the-spiritual-journey-of-george-washington

The Spiritual Journey of George Washington by bestselling author Janice T. Connell illumines the rare but supremely brilliant leadership of the first and only unanimously elected President of the United States. George Washington, modest yet elegant, handsome, always projecting strength, graciousness and power, was universally considered the most humble man who ever lived. Born into modest circumstances, he wholeheartedly responded to whatever opportunities life offered him. Self-taught Washington was no stranger to sorrow, cold, hunger, persecution, violence, or terrorism, yet he was at home not only in the wilds of the frontier, but equally so in the finest salons of the times. His singular accomplishment was to face misfortune and conquer it. This greatest of all American heroes achieved startling victory by discipline, commitment, prayer, and the graced ability to bend his will under the yoke of what he called “Kind Providence”. With precision and detail in a rare look at his extraordinary leadership through the prism of George Washington’s interior depths, the author briefly examines: – his boyhood scarred by the early death of his father, – -his life as a young surveyor on the dangerous frontier, – his heroics as a militia leader in the French and Indian War, – his place at the Continental Congress, – his unwanted assignment as Commander-in Chief during the Revolutionary War, – his desolation at Valley Forge, – his silent triumph at the Constitutional Convention, – his simplicity during the heights of his presidency, – his mystical premonitions during his retirement at Mount Vernon – his spiritual and religious circumstances surrounding his sudden death in the darkness of mid-December, 1799. Held in the highest regard by his fellow citizens, history has canonized George Washington as the most esteemed of the Founding Fathers. At the root of that esteem was his deeply private spirituality. The Spiritual Journey of George Washington includes the full text of Washington’s personal prayers (some possibly composed by Washington himself) and Jesuit inspired Rules of Civility by which George Washington conducted himself personally. It also includes the Declaration of Independence by which George Washington became the military leader responsible for carving out a new nation.The book reveals insights concerning military, political and social victories Washington achieved through sincere, humble leadership he perfected using his Bible as a guideline for just behavior in peace and war. Washington went about feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing and sheltering the needy, visiting the imprisoned, caring for the sick and burying the dead. As General George Washington counseled, instructed, admonished, fought, forgave and prayed for others, he forged a path of national opportunity for American citizens to acquire undreamed of prosperity and abundance. In contemporary times wracked by wars, terrorism, disease, starvation, confusion andtyranny, The Spiritual Journey of George Washington has wisdom for everyone of good will. Washington’s accomplishments and writings disclose that “Kind Providence” truly was in him, around him, and always with him. The book contains excerpts of Washington’s Farewell Address that continues to guide Americans more than two hundred years later. The nurturing light of George Washington’s spirituality is his finest bequest to all people who seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

george-washington-the-extraordinary-life

George Washington’s titles included Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and first President of the United States. He was not only a member of the Founding Fathers, he was their leader. Over the years, an aura of the mythic came to surround his life and his deeds. To many Americans, there is no greater hero than George Washington.

The real story of this iconic leader contains more complexity than most legends ever do. Yes, he was a hero in battle, but he was not always successful. He rallied the troops to keep going at Valley Forge despite the harsh conditions they endured. Yet, some of his own men plotted mutiny against him. As a Commander, he called on both bravery and strategy to win the Revolutionary War. And, when the war was done, he chose to resign his commission rather than become the first King of the United States.

Washington grew up in the most privileged class and inherited slaves when he was just 11 years old. Yet, he developed a closeness and compassion for his slaves. The older he got, the more he opposed the country’s system of slavery until he finally freed all his slaves in his will. It may seem facile to free all his slaves after they could no longer do him any good, but he was the only Founding Father to do even that.

Stories of Washington’s life touch on everything from his public deeds to his personal dealings to his most private moments. One well-known story describes how a 6-year-old George Washington displayed honesty, admitting that he chopped down a cherry tree. Another familiar story describes how George threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River. Yet another describes George as a man who wore wooden teeth. These stories are a part of the American culture, but how much truth is in them?

This brief biography is intended to introduce you to some of the most important and intriguing facts about George Washington’s life. When you finish, we encourage you to learn more about this great man and how he changed the world forever. Finally, we hope the example of this great leader inspires you to bravely face your own Valley Forge, intelligently shape your own personal Constitution, and live powerfully to create the world you envision, just as George Washington did throughout his life. Who was this extraordinary figure? Read on, dear reader.

his-excellency-george-washington

To this landmark biography of our first president, Joseph J. Ellis brings the exacting scholarship, shrewd analysis, and lyric prose that have made him one of the premier historians of the Revolutionary era. Training his lens on a figure who sometimes seems as remote as his effigy on Mount Rushmore, Ellis assesses George Washington as a military and political leader and a man whose “statue-like solidity” concealed volcanic energies and emotions.

Here is the impetuous young officer whose miraculous survival in combat half-convinced him that he could not be killed. Here is the free-spending landowner whose debts to English merchants instilled him with a prickly resentment of imperial power. We see the general who lost more battles than he won and the reluctant president who tried to float above the partisan feuding of his cabinet. His Excellency is a magnificent work, indispensable to an understanding not only of its subject but also of the nation he brought into being.

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