James Madison introduced the First Amendment in the first session of Congress. He has been referred to as the “Chief Architect of the Constitution,” for his role in the Constitutional Convention, and he wrote many of the Federalist Papers which helped convince the states to ratify it.
James Madison, who was born March 16, 1751, wrote to a college friend William Bradford, Nov. 9, 1772: “A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven.”
James Madison made a journal entry, June 12, 1788: “There is not a shadow of right in the General Government to inter-meddle with religion. … The subject is, for the honor of America, perfectly free and unshackled. The government has no jurisdiction over it.”
Madison stated in his first inaugural address, March 4, 1809: “My confidence will under every difficulty be best placed … in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.”
During the War of 1812 with Great Britain, Madison encouraged the nation in his second inaugural address, March 4, 1813: “The war with a powerful nation, which forms so prominent a feature in our situation, is stamped with that justice which invites the smiles of Heaven on the means of conducting it to a successful termination.”
Madison wrote to Frederick Beasley, Nov. 20, 1825: “The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities to be impressed with it.”
Madison helped George Mason write Article 16 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776 (Papers of Madison, I, 171-75), which stated: “That Religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience, and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards each other.”
Madison wrote in “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” June 20, 1785: “The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. …”
He continued: “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe.”
At the onset of the War of 1812, President James Madison proclaimed a Day of Prayer, July 9, 1812, stating: “I do therefore recommend … 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; … that in the present season of calamity and war He would take the American people under His peculiar care; … 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.”
The next year, on July 23, 1813, Madison issued another Day of Prayer: “If the public homage of a people can ever be worthy of the favorable regard of the Holy and Omniscient Being to whom it is addressed, it must be … guided only by their free choice, by the impulse of their hearts and the dictates of their consciences … proving that religion, that gift of Heaven for the good of man, is freed from all coercive edicts.”
Napoleon rose to military prominence after the French Revolution began in 1789. He eventually controlled most of Europe.
In 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt and defeated its Muslim mamluk slave army in just a few weeks. He attempted to introduce the concepts of equality, freedom and democracy, but found there were no words in the Arabic language to convey such concepts. Returning to Paris in 1799, Napoleon was crowned emperor in 1804.
In 1805, Napoleon combined the French and Spanish navies with the intention of invading England. His forces were defeated at the Battle of Trafalgar, leaving Britain with the most powerful navy in the world.
In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with nearly 500,000 men. Six months later, he retreated from Russia with less than 50,000 troops. Napoleon abdicated the throne on April 6, 1814, and was exiled to the Island of Elba.
Napoleon’s military losses freed up British forces, which soon were sent across the ocean to control Lake Eire, and invade New York, New Orleans and Washington D.C. On Aug. 24, 1814, a force of 4,500 British soldiers marched toward Washington, D.C. In a panic, citizens hastily evacuated. Dolly Madison is credited with saving the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington by having it cut out of its frame. Her carriage was riding out of the city as British Admiral George Cockburn was riding in.
Admiral Cockburn entered the White House, ate dinner, then set it on fire. He had British soldiers enter the Capitol Building and sit in the Congressmen’s chairs to hold a mock Congress.
When he asked who was in favor of burning the U.S. Capitol, they yelled, “Aye,” and proceeded to torch the Capitol, the Treasury, and the Library of Congress. They attacked the Navy Yard. The Patent Office was the only government office not burned by the British.
Suddenly, dark clouds rolled in, wind and thunder grew into a “frightening roar,” and lightning began striking.
A tornado touched down, sending debris flying, blowing off roofs, knocking down chimneys and walls on British troops. Two cannons were lifted off the ground and dropped yards away. Violent winds slammed both horse and rider to the ground.
The book “Washington Weather” recorded British Admiral George Cockburn exclaiming to a lady: “Great God, Madam! Is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?”
To which the lady replied: “No, Sir, this is a special interposition of Providence to drive our enemies from our city.”
A British historian wrote: “More British soldiers were killed by this stroke of nature than from all the firearms the American troops had mustered in the feeble defense of their city.”
As British forces fled, torrential rains fell for two hours, extinguishing the fires. They marched back to their ships with difficulty on roads covered with downed trees only to find two ships blown ashore and others had damaged riggings.
On Sept. 1, 1814, Madison wrote: “The enemy by a sudden incursion has succeeded in invading the capitol of the nation. … During their possession … though for a single day only, they wantonly destroyed the public edifices. … An occasion which appeals so forcibly to the … patriotic devotion of the American people, none will forget. … Independence … is now to be maintained … with the strength and resources which … Heaven has blessed.”
Less than three months later, Madison proclaimed a National Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting & Prayer to Almighty God on Nov. 16, 1814, stating: “The two Houses of the National Legislature having by a joint resolution expressed their desire that in the present time of public calamity and war, a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of public humiliation and fasting and of prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace … of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance … that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offenses … I have deemed it proper … to recommend … a day of … humble adoration to the Great Sovereign of the Universe.”
Two weeks after the War ended, Madison proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving & Devout Acknowledgment to Almighty God, March 4, 1815: “No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. … To the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land. … I now recommend … a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.”
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