- 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
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.
of U.S. Founding Fathers
|Dutch Reformed/German Reformed||6||3.7%|
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.
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...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:
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.
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.
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.