By Maj. Gen. Jerry R. Curry, US Army, Ret.
Having undertaken for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith … no people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States.
The United States of America is an exceptional nation. From its birth and founding until today it has been a beacon of liberty, freedom and hope, shining from high on a hill for all the world to see. It is an overshadowing example for all democracies to emulate and to which all free men and free nations can repair.
The Pilgrims, who were among the first settlers to plant their feet upon the soil of the North American continent, drafted and signed aboard a ship named the Mayflower, a self-governing legal document which explained why they and their families had decided to leave the Netherlands and to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to America, to the new world.
They arrived in November of 1620, and there was already a winter sting in the air, but it was not cold enough to offset the warmth and happiness in the hearts of the forty-one men who signed this historic document which they called, “The Mayflower Compact.” It was to become a new experiment in living that would forever alter the world and all who live on it.
“We whose names are underwritten,” it began, “by the grace of God … having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith … do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.” That is how America’s first instrument of civil government came to be written.
But why was it written, why was the United States of America founded? Fortunately the motives of those who founded our great nation were meticulously recorded for our history and our posterity. America was founded, declared the Pilgrims, “For the glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian faith.” That is why the Mayflower Compact was drafted and adopted. Its stated founding purpose was an effort to, “Combine ourselves together into a civil body politick … by virtue hereof to enacte, consolidate, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices.”
On what guidance then did the Founders rely in establishing a government for the new nation? General George Washington, the nation’s first president, answered that question for the historical record in his first inaugural address given to the government of the new nation on April 30, 1789, in which he says, “It would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplication to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the council of nations … No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States.”
President Washington believed that God had set down divine rules for governing nations and that so long as a nation followed God’s rules, it would prosper. Washington put it this way, “We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”
Most, if not all of the Founders, believed that God had a special dream for America. Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson, who became the nation’s third president, described it this way, “The God, who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.” Jefferson believed that in America not just man’s body should be free, but also his spirit. That is why he proclaimed, “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
About two hundred and fifty years after the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact, President Abraham Lincoln said on March 4, 1865 in his second inaugural address, which he gave toward the end of the Civil War, “The Almighty has his own purposes … with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”
As we do, let us not forget that our Founders declared that this nation was established for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith. “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States.”
And so it still remains today. No matter how difficult things are, nor how hopeless the future may seem nor how risibly pathetic our national leadership may be, the “Almighty has his own purposes.” President Abraham Lincoln encouraged the nation’s warring citizens to have, “… firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”
Today that is still the leaders’ of our nation’s task, to bind up the nation’s wounds and to ensure that this nation of the people, by the people, and for the people does not perish from the earth.
Jerry Curry is a retired Army Major General, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Carter administration; Acting Press Secretary to the Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration; and Administrator of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration in the Bush Sr. administration.