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Religious Affiliation of the
Founding Fathers
of the United States of America


Related Pages:
- Religious Affiliation of First U.S. Congress
- Religious Affiliation of the Modern U.S. Congress
- Religious Affiliation of U.S. Presidents
- Religious Affiliation of the U.S. Supreme Court
On this Page:
-
signers of the Declaration of Independence
-
signers of the Articles of Confederation
-
Constitutional Convention delegates including signers of the U.S. Constitution

Ennumerating the Founding Fathers
The three major foundational documents of the United States of America are the Declaration of Independence (July 1776), the Articles of Confederation (drafted 1777, ratified 1781) and the Constitution of the United States of America (1789). There are a total of 143 signatures on these documents, representing 118 different signers. (Some individuals signed more than one document.)

There were 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. There were 48 signers of the Articles of Confederation. All 55 delegates who participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 are regarded as Founding Fathers, in fact, they are often regarded as the Founding Fathers because it is this group that actually debated, drafted and signed the U.S. Constitution, which is the basis for the country's political and legal system. Only 39 delegates actually signed the document, however, meaning there were 16 non-signing delegates - individuals who were Constitutional Convention delegates but were not signers of the Constitution.

There were 95 Senators and Representatives in the First Federal Congress. If one combines the total number of signatures on the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution with the non-signing Constitutional Convention delegates, and then adds to that sum the number of congressmen in the First Federal Congress, one obtains a total of 238 "slots" or "positions" in these groups which one can classify as "Founding Fathers" of the United States. Because 40 individuals had multiple roles (they signed multiple documents and/or also served in the First Federal Congress), there are 204 unique individuals in this group of "Founding Fathers." These are the people who did one or more of the following:

- signed the Declaration of Independence
- signed the Articles of Confederation
- attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787
- signed the Constitution of the United States of America
- served as Senators in the First Federal Congress (1789-1791)
- served as U.S. Representatives in the First Federal Congress

The religious affiliations of these individuals are summarized below. Obviously this is a very restrictive set of names, and does not include everyone who could be considered an "American Founding Father." But most of the major figures that people generally think of in this context are included using these criteria, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and more.

Religious Affiliation
of U.S. Founding Fathers
# of
Founding
Fathers
% of
Founding
Fathers
Episcopalian/Anglican 88 54.7%
Presbyterian 30 18.6%
Congregationalist 27 16.8%
Quaker 7 4.3%
Dutch Reformed/German Reformed 6 3.7%
Lutheran 5 3.1%
Catholic 3 1.9%
Huguenot 3 1.9%
Unitarian 3 1.9%
Methodist 2 1.2%
Calvinist 1 0.6%
TOTAL 204  

NOTES: The table above counts people and not "roles," meaning that individuals have not been counted multiple times if they appear on more than one of the lists above. Roger Sherman, for example, signed all three foundational documents and he was a Representative in the First Federal Congress, but he has been counted only once.

In the table above, some people have been counted more than once because they changed religious affiliation from one denomination to another. Thus, the individual amounts added together total more than 100%. This method is used because it results in accurate numbers for each individual religious affiliation. For example, a total of 7 Quakers are shown in the table above. There were indeed 7 Quakers who were in this group. (However, not all of these were life-long Quakers.) For the most part, very few Founding Fathers switched denomination during their lifetime (less than 8%), so double-counting has occurred only rarely in this table. Quakers, in fact, are more likely to have switched denominations than members of any other religious denomination. Along with taking up arms and supporting military action against the British, a large proportion of Quaker Founding Father officially renounced or were expelled from the ardently pacifistic denomination they had been raised in and joined another denomination (usually Episcopalianism).

Also, note that the proportions shown (percentage of each religious affiliation out of the total group of Founding Fathers) is the proportion out of Founders whose religious affiliation is known. The religious affiliation of a significant number of signers of the Articles of Confederation is not known, but if that information was available, it is expected that such information would not change the overall proportions signifcantly.


Religious Affiliation of the Signers of the
Declaration of Independence

Religious Affiliation # of
signers
% of
signers
Episcopalian/Anglican 32 57.1%
Congregationalist 13 23.2%
Presbyterian 12 21.4%
Quaker 2 3.6%
Unitarian or Universalist 2 3.6%
Catholic 1 1.8%
TOTAL 56 100%

Name of Signer
State Religious Affiliation
Charles Carroll Maryland Catholic
Samuel Huntington Connecticut Congregationalist
Roger Sherman Connecticut Congregationalist
William Williams Connecticut Congregationalist
Oliver Wolcott Connecticut Congregationalist
Lyman Hall Georgia Congregationalist
Samuel Adams Massachusetts Congregationalist
John Hancock Massachusetts Congregationalist
Josiah Bartlett New Hampshire Congregationalist
William Whipple New Hampshire Congregationalist
William Ellery Rhode Island Congregationalist
John Adams Massachusetts Congregationalist; Unitarian
Robert Treat Paine Massachusetts Congregationalist; Unitarian
George Walton Georgia Episcopalian
John Penn North Carolina Episcopalian
George Ross Pennsylvania Episcopalian
Thomas Heyward Jr. South Carolina Episcopalian
Thomas Lynch Jr. South Carolina Episcopalian
Arthur Middleton South Carolina Episcopalian
Edward Rutledge South Carolina Episcopalian
Francis Lightfoot Lee Virginia Episcopalian
Richard Henry Lee Virginia Episcopalian
George Read Delaware Episcopalian
Caesar Rodney Delaware Episcopalian
Samuel Chase Maryland Episcopalian
William Paca Maryland Episcopalian
Thomas Stone Maryland Episcopalian
Elbridge Gerry Massachusetts Episcopalian
Francis Hopkinson New Jersey Episcopalian
Francis Lewis New York Episcopalian
Lewis Morris New York Episcopalian
William Hooper North Carolina Episcopalian
Robert Morris Pennsylvania Episcopalian
John Morton Pennsylvania Episcopalian
Stephen Hopkins Rhode Island Episcopalian
Carter Braxton Virginia Episcopalian
Benjamin Harrison Virginia Episcopalian
Thomas Nelson Jr. Virginia Episcopalian
George Wythe Virginia Episcopalian
Thomas Jefferson Virginia Episcopalian (Deist)
Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania Episcopalian (Deist)
Button Gwinnett Georgia Episcopalian; Congregationalist
James Wilson Pennsylvania Episcopalian; Presbyterian
Joseph Hewes North Carolina Quaker, Episcopalian
George Clymer Pennsylvania Quaker, Episcopalian
Thomas McKean Delaware Presbyterian
Matthew Thornton New Hampshire Presbyterian
Abraham Clark New Jersey Presbyterian
John Hart New Jersey Presbyterian
Richard Stockton New Jersey Presbyterian
John Witherspoon New Jersey Presbyterian
William Floyd New York Presbyterian
Philip Livingston New York Presbyterian
James Smith Pennsylvania Presbyterian
George Taylor Pennsylvania Presbyterian
Benjamin Rush Pennsylvania Presbyterian

The signers of the Declaration of Independence were a profoundly intelligent, religious and ethically-minded group. Four of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were current or former full-time preachers, and many more were the sons of clergymen. Other professions held by signers include lawyers, merchants, doctors and educators. These individuals, too, were for the most part active churchgoers and many contributed significantly to their churches both with contributions as well as their service as lay leaders. The signers were members of religious denominations at a rate that was significantly higher than average for the American Colonies during the late 1700s.

These signers have long inspired deep admiration among both secularists (who appreciate the non-denominational nature of the Declaration) and by traditional religionists (who appreciate the Declaration's recognition of God as the source of the rights enumerated by the document). Lossing's seminal 1848 collection of biographies of the signers of the Declaration of Independence echoed widely held sentiments held then and now that there was divine intent or inspiration behind the Declaration of Independence. Lossing matter-of-factly identified the signers as "instruments of Providence" who have "gone to receive their reward in the Spirit Land."

From: B. J. Lossing, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, George F. Cooledge & Brother: New York (1848) [reprinted in Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, WallBuilder Press: Aledo, Texas (1995)], pages 7-12:

From no point of view can the Declaration of American Independence, the causes which led to its adoption, and the events which marked its maintenance, be observed without exciting sentiments of profound veneration for the men who were the prominent actors in that remarkable scene in the drama of the world's history...

The signing of that instrument was a solemn act, and required great firmness and patriotism in those who committed it... neither firmness nor patriotism was wanting in that august body...

Such were the men unto whose keeping, as instruments of Providence, the destinies of America were for the time intrusted; and it has been well remarked, that men, other than such as these,--an ignorant, untaught mass, like those who have formed the physical elements of other revolutionary movements, without sufficient intellect to guide and control them--could not have conceived, planned, and carried into execution, such a mighty movement, one so fraught with tangible marks of political wisdom, as the American Revolution...

Their bodies now have all returned to their kindred dust in the grave, and their souls have gone to receive their reward in the Spirit Land.

From: Robert G. Ferris (editor), Signers of the Declaration: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service: Washington, D.C. (revised edition 1975), pages 27-28:
Liberally endowed as a whole with courage and sense of purpose, the signers [of the Declaration of Independence] consisted of a distinguished group of individuals. Although heterogeneous in background, education, experience, and accommplishments, at the time of the signing they were practically all men of means and represented an elite cross section of 18th-century American leadership. Everyone one of them of them had achieved prominence in his colony, but only a few enjoyed a national reputation.

The signers were those individuals who happened to be Delegates to Congress at the time... The signers possessed many basic similarities. Most were American-born and of Anglo-Saxon origin. The eight foreign-born... were all natives of the British Isles. Except for Charles Carroll, a Roman Catholic, and a few Deists, every one subscribed to Protestantism. For the most part basically political nonextremists, many at first had hesitated at separation let alone rebellion.


Religious Affiliation of the Signers of the
Articles of Confederation

Religious Affiliation # of
signers
% of
signers
Episcopalian/Anglican 14 29%
Congregationalist 9 19%
Presbyterian 4 8%
Catholic 1 2%
Quaker 1 2%
Huguenot 1 2%
Lutheran 1 2%
Protestant, denomination unknown 18 38%
TOTAL 48 100%

Name of Signer
State Religious Affiliation
Daniel Carroll Maryland Catholic
Andrew Adams Connecticut Congregationalist
Richard Hutson South Carolina Congregationalist
Samuel Adams Massachusetts Congregationalist
Josiah Bartlett New Hampshire Congregationalist
William Ellery Rhode Island Congregationalist
John Hancock Massachusetts Congregationalist
Samuel Huntington Connecticut Congregationalist
Roger Sherman Connecticut Congregationalist
Oliver Wolcott Connecticut Congregationalist
Thomas Heyward Jr. South Carolina Episcopalian
John Penn North Carolina Episcopalian
Francis Lightfoot Lee Virginia Episcopalian
Richard Henry Lee Virginia Episcopalian
Francis Lewis New York Episcopalian
Elbridge Gerry Massachusetts Episcopalian
John Banister Virginia Episcopalian
James Duane New York Episcopalian
Edward Langworthy Georgia Episcopalian
Gouverneur Morris New York Episcopalian
Nicholas Van Dyke Delaware Episcopalian
Robert Morris Pennsylvania Episcopalian
Cornelius Harnett North Carolina Episcopalian (Deist)
John Dickinson Delaware Quaker; Episcopalian
Henry Laurens South Carolina Huguenot
John Hanson Maryland Lutheran
Thomas McKean Delaware Presbyterian
John Witherspoon New Jersey Presbyterian
John Walton Georgia Presbyterian
Nathaniel Scudder New Jersey Presbyterian
William Clingan Pennsylvania Protestant, denomination unknown
Joseph Reed Pennsylvania Protestant, denomination unknown
Daniel Roberdeau Pennsylvania Protestant, denomination unknown
Jonathan Bayard Smith Pennsylvania Protestant, denomination unknown
Francis Dana Massachusetts Protestant, denomination unknown
Samuel Holten Massachusetts Protestant, denomination unknown
James Lovell Massachusetts Protestant, denomination unknown
Henry Marchant Rhode Island Protestant, denomination unknown
John Collins Rhode Island Protestant, denomination unknown
Thomas Adams Virginia Protestant, denomination unknown
John Harvie Virginia Protestant, denomination unknown
John Mathews South Carolina Protestant, denomination unknown
William Henry Drayton South Carolina Protestant, denomination unknown
William Duer New York Protestant, denomination unknown
Titus Hosmer Connecticut Protestant, denomination unknown
Edward Telfair Georgia Protestant, denomination unknown
John Wentworth Jr. New Hampshire Protestant, denomination unknown
John Williams North Carolina Protestant, denomination unknown

Religious Affiliation of the Delegates to the
Constitutional Convention of 1787, including the
Signers of the Constitution of the United States of America

There were 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 at which the U.S. Constitution was drafted and signed. All participated in the proceedings which resulted in the Constitution, but only 39 of these delegates were actually signers of the document.

From: Robert G. Ferris (editor), Signers of the Constitution: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Constitution, published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service: Washington, D.C. (revised edition 1976), page 138:

Most of the [signers of the Constitution] married and fathered children. Sherman sired the largest family, numbering 15 by two wives... Three (Baldwin, Gilman, and Jenifer) were lifetime bachelors. In terms of religious affiliation, the men mirrored the overwhelmingly Protestant character of American religious life at the time and were members of various denominations. Only two, Carroll and Fitzsimons, were Roman Catholics.
Religious Affiliation # of
delegates
% of
delegates
Episcopalian/Anglican 31 56.4%
Presbyterian 16 29.1%
Congregationalist 8 14.5%
Quaker 3 5.5%
Catholic 2 3.6%
Methodist 2 3.6%
Lutheran 2 3.6%
Dutch Reformed 2 3.6%
TOTAL 55 100%

Name of Signer
State Religious Affiliation
Daniel Carroll Maryland Catholic
Thomas Fitzsimons Pennsylvania Catholic
Roger Sherman Connecticut Congregationalist
Nathaniel Gorham Massachusetts Congregationalist
John Langdon New Hampshire Congregationalist
Nicholas Gilman New Hampshire Congregationalist
Abraham Baldwin Georgia Congregationalist; Episcopalian
William Samuel Johnson Connecticut Episcopalian; Presbyterian
James Madison Jr. Virginia Episcopalian
George Read Delaware Episcopalian
Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Maryland Episcopalian
David Brearly New Jersey Episcopalian
Richard Dobbs Spaight, Sr. North Carolina Episcopalian
Robert Morris Pennsylvania Episcopalian
Gouverneur Morris Pennsylvania Episcopalian
John Rutledge South Carolina Episcopalian
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney South Carolina Episcopalian
Charles Pinckney South Carolina Episcopalian
Pierce Butler South Carolina Episcopalian
George Washington Virginia Episcopalian
Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania Episcopalian (Deist)
William Blount North Carolina Episcopalian; Presbyterian
James Wilson Pennsylvania Episcopalian; Presbyteran
Rufus King Massachusetts Episcopalian; Congregationalist
Jacob Broom Delaware Lutheran
William Few Georgia Methodist
Richard Bassett Delaware Methodist
Gunning Bedford Jr. Delaware Presbyterian
James McHenry Maryland Presbyterian
William Livingston New Jersey Presbyterian
William Paterson New Jersey Presbyterian
Hugh Williamson North Carolina Presbyterian
Jared Ingersoll Pennsylvania Presbyterian
Alexander Hamilton New York Huguenot; Presbyterian; Episcopalian
Jonathan Dayton New Jersey Presbyterian; Episcopalian
John Blair Virginia Presbyterian; Episcopalian
John Dickinson Delaware Quaker; Episcopalian
George Clymer Pennsylvania Quaker; Episcopalian
Thomas Mifflin Pennsylvania Quaker; Lutheran


Name of Non-Signing Delegate
State Religious Affiliation
Oliver Ellsworth Connecticut Congregationalist
Caleb Strong Massachusetts Congregationalist
John Lansing, Jr. New York Dutch Reformed
Robert Yates New York Dutch Reformed
William Houstoun Georgia Episcopalian
William Leigh Pierce Georgia Episcopalian
Luther Martin Maryland Episcopalian
John F. Mercer Maryland Episcopalian
Elbridge Gerry Massachusetts Episcopalian
George Mason Virginia Episcopalian
Edmund J. Randolph Virginia Episcopalian
George Wythe Virginia Episcopalian
James McClurg Virginia Presbyterian
William C. Houston New Jersey Presbyterian
William R. Davie North Carolina Presbyterian
Alexander Martin North Carolina Presbyterian

Multiple Roles
Of course, virtually all of the "Founding Fathers" had multiple roles in the formation of the country, in the broad sense that takes into account military leadership, financial sponsorship, various miscellaneous state and federal positions, etc. But there were many individuals who had multiple roles among categorie of Founding Fathers ennumerated on this page. That is, they signed more than one of the foundational documents (the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution) or they signed one (or more) of these documents and also served in the First Federal Congress. These individuals with "multiple roles" were: Abraham Baldwin; Benjamin Franklin; Charles Carroll; Daniel Carroll; Elbridge Gerry; Francis Lewis; Francis Lightfoot Lee; George Clymer; George Read; Gouverneur Morris; Hugh Williamson; James Wilson; John Dickinson; John Hancock; John Penn; John Witherspoon; Josiah Bartlett; Nicholas Gilman; Oliver Wolcott; Pierce Butler; Richard Bassett; Richard Henry Lee; Robert Morris; Roger Sherman; Rufus King; Samuel Adams; Samuel Huntington; Thomas Fitzsimons; Thomas Heyward Jr.; Thomas McKean; William Ellery; William Few; William Floyd; William Paterson; William Samuel Johnson; James Madison Jr.; John Langdon; Caleb Strong; Oliver Ellsworth; George Wythe.

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Religion of Founding Fathers / religious affiliation of American Founding Fathers webpage created 4 November 2005. Last modified 7 December 2005.