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Founding SinsHow a Group of Antislavery Radicals Fought to Put Christ into the Constitution$
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Joseph S. Moore

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190269241

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190269241.001.0001

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Rejecting a Christian Nation

Rejecting a Christian Nation

(p.119) 5 Rejecting a Christian Nation
Founding Sins

Joseph S. Moore

Oxford University Press

The Covenanters nearly put Jesus into the Constitution. In the process, they helped a new American liberalism find its voice and set the bounds for acceptable religious reform in American politics. During and after the Civil War, members of Covenanter denominations mounted a high-profile campaign to amend the Constitution’s preamble to establish an explicitly Christian government. Finally, if briefly, the nation was listening. By the time their campaign was over, the Covenanters had presented their case in the presence of, and in some cases convinced, leaders such as President Abraham Lincoln, Senator Charles Sumner, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Strong, and prominent evangelist Charles Grandison Finney. In their vehement and successful counterattack, America’s secular Left coined the term liberal for themselves. Through political rallies, reform organizations, petition drives, press offensives, a Pulitzer Prize, and strategic partnerships with other evangelical reformers, Covenanters gained new currency for their ideas in postbellum America.

Keywords:   amendment, Abraham Lincoln, Christian government, liberalism, race, reconstruction

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