Efforts to erase God from America’s collective memory will have to include a number of official documents signed by some of our founding fathers, including John Hancock and James Madison. On March 16, 1776, “by order of Congress” a “day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” was called whereby people of the nation were to “acknowledge the over ruling providence of God” and bewail their “manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness.”
Congress set aside December 18, 1777 as a day of thanksgiving so the American people “may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor” and on which they might “join the penitent confession of their manifold sins . . . that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance.” Congress also recommended that Americans petition God “to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consists in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Keep in mind that these two proclamations precede (1774) and follow (1777) the drafting the Declaration of Independence which includes references to God as “Creator” and “Judge.”
The following proclamation was signed by James Madison and “proposes a day of thanks to be used by all denominations for prayer and religious reflection. The President specifically asks all to pray for the restoration of peace to the country.” The Proclamation was drafted and published about a month after the commencement of what has become known as “The War of 1812” fought between the United States and the British Empire from 1812 to 1815. The Proclamation was originally published in the Independent Chronicle on July 20, 1812.
A Proclamation of Humiliation and Prayer (1812) Transcript
Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the two Houses, have signified a request that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of public humiliation and prayer; and Whereas such a recommendation will enable the several religious denominations and societies so disposed to offer at one and the same time their common vows and adorations to Almighty God on the solemn occasion produced by the war in which He has been pleased to permit the injustice of a foreign power to involve these United States:
I do therefore recommend the third Thursday in August next as a convenient day to be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of Mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking His merciful forgiveness and His assistance in the great duties of repentance and amendment, and especially of offering fervent supplications that in the present season of calamity and war He would take the American people under Hi peculiar care and protection; that He would guide their public councils, animate their patriotism, and bestow His blessing on their arms; that He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion to do to others as they would require that others should do to them; and, finally, that, turning the hearts of our enemies from the violence and injustice which sway their councils against us, He would hasten a restoration of the blessings of peace.
Given at Washington, the 9th day of July, A. D. 1812.