Early on, slavery found a foothold in the southern American colonies, but by 1776 an anti-slavery movment had arisen and America was at the forefront of the fight to end slavery.

Slavery, being a product of the the Fall and sin, had been practiced by various peoples and civilizations for all of recorded history. The brilliant black scholar, Dr. Thomas Sowell, says,
People of every race and color were enslaved – and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the Ottoman Empire, decades after American blacks were freed.
Although practiced for thousands of years by many peoples and civilizations, slavery suddenly became anathema in eighteenth century America. The late historians Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese observed, “Perception of slavery as morally unacceptable — as sinful — did not become widespread until the second half of the eighteenth century.”
Among those who turned against slavery in the eighteenth century were America’s founders. Dr. Sowell says,
Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the eighteenth century–and then it was an issue only in Western civilization. Among those who turned against slavery in the eighteenth century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and other American leaders. You could research all of eighteenth century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 90).
Dr. Walter Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, has said that the unique characteristic of slavery in America was not only the brevity of its existence, but also the “moral outrage” against it. This “moral outrage” had far-reaching effects and impacted America’s Founding Fathers. But what was the source of this sudden moral outrage against slavery?
The Source of the Moral Outrage Against Slavery
The source of this sudden moral outrage against slavery is to be found in what became known as the Great Awakening. In this Christian revival that ebbed and flowed from 1726 to 1770, it seemed that entire towns repented and turned to God. In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin described the amazing transformation of his hometown of Philadelphia in 1739. He wrote,
It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 79).
Out of this revival there emerged a deep concern for the those who did not know Christ. As a result, many evangelists began taking the message of salvation to the marginalized of society, including blacks, both slave and free. Their ministries breached racial and cultural barriers and they saw many come to Christ. Black preachers and churches emerged out of this Awakening, as well as the moral outrage against slavery, which the historians above have noted.
From Evangelism to Social Transformation
At the beginning of the Great Awakening in 1726, outreach to the black populace was evangelistic in nature and not characterized by opposition to slavery. Those early preachers, such as George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennant, and Jonathan Edwards, saw their primary purpose to be in getting people ready for the next world, not necessarily improving their lot in this one. In their thinking, a slave on his way to heaven was far better off than a king on his way to hell.
Nonetheless, their insistence on sharing the Gospel with all people and their willingness to share Christian fellowship with blacks, both slave and free, breached racial and cultural barriers in Colonial America. For example, Samuel Davies (1723-1761) gave special attention to blacks, both slave and free, during his time of ministry in Virginia and found them especially responsive to the Gospel message. In 1757, he wrote,
What little success I have lately had, has been chiefly among the extremes of Gentlemen and Negroes. Indeed, God has been remarkably working among the latter. I have baptized 150 adults; and at the last sacramental solemnity, I had the pleasure of seeing the table graced with 60 black faces (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 70).
The inclusive Gospel message they preached, and their compassionate treatment of blacks, created a climate conducive to the anti-slavery sentiments that would burst forth through those who would come after them.
Second Generation Awakening Preachers Attack Slavery
Indeed, the revivalists who came after Edwards and Whitefield carried the message of their predecessors to its logical conclusion. If we are all creatures of the same Creator and if Christ died that all might be saved, then how can slavery ever be justified?
They, therefore, began a vicious attack on the institution of slavery. This is what historian, Benjamin Hart, was referring to when he wrote, “Among the most ardent opponents of slavery were ministers, particularly the Puritan and revivalist preachers (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 92).
These "ardent opponents of slavery" included the followers of Jonathan Edwards who expanded on his idea of the essential dignity of all created beings and applied it to the blacks of Colonial America. They included Levi Hart in Connecticut, Edwards’ son, Jonathan Jr., also in Connecticut, Jacob Green in New Jersey, and Samuel Hopkins in Rhode Island.
The Hypocrisy of Demanding Liberty and Tolerating Slavery
Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803), who had been personally tutored by Edwards, pastored for a time in Newport, Rhode Island, an important hub in the transatlantic slave trade. Like Paul, whose spirit was “provoked” observing the idols in Athens, Hopkins was outraged by what he observed in Newport. He, therefore, began to passionately speak out against this "violation of God’s will” and declared, “This whole country have their hands full of blood this day" (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 92).
After the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in 1774, Hopkins sent a pamphlet to every member of the Congress, asking how they could complain about “enslavement” to Great Britain and overlook the “enslavement” of so many blacks in the colonies.
Indeed, as “liberty” became a watchword throughout the colonies, these second-generation Awakening preachers began applying it to the enslaved blacks in America. Like Hopkins, they pointed out the hypocrisy of demanding freedom from Great Britain while enslaving black Africans. One of the most vocal was the Baptist preacher, John Allen, who thundered,
Blush ye pretended votaries of freedom! ye trifling Patriots! who are making a vain parade of being advocates for the liberties of mankind, who are thus making a mockery of your profession by trampling on the sacred natural rights and privileges of Africans (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 156).
The opposition to slavery thus mounted as other ministers of the Awakening began to speak out. For example, in a sermon preached and published in 1770, Samuel Cooke declared that by tolerating the evil of slavery, “We, the patrons of liberty, have dishonored the Christian name, and degraded human nature nearly to a level with the beasts that perish” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 93).
God Speaks to Freeborn Garrettson
Freeborn Garrettson (1752-1827), a revivalist from Maryland, freed his slaves after hearing God speak to him supernaturally. According to Garrettson, he heard the Lord say, “It is not right for you to keep your fellow creatures in bondage; you must let the oppressed go free.” Garrettson immediately informed his slaves that they did not belong to him and that he did not desire their services without giving them proper compensation.
Garrettson began preaching against slavery and advocating for freedom, which provoked intense opposition, especially in the South. One enraged slave-owner came to the house where Garrettson was lodging and swore at him, threatened him, and punched him in the face. Garrettson did not retaliate but sought to reason with the man who finally gave up and left.
Garrettson took his message to North Carolina where he preached to black audiences and sought to “inculcate the doctrine of freedom in them.” His opposition to slavery was firmly rooted in the Gospel and he described a typical meeting with slaves in which,
Many of their sable faces were bedewed with tears, their withered hands of faith were stretched out, and their precious souls made white in the blood of the Lamb (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 95).
Garrettson also preached to southern white audiences and sought to convince them of the evils of slavery and that God’s will was liberty for all His creatures. In Delaware, Garrettson visited the Stokeley Sturgis Plantation and preached to both the slaves and the Sturgis family. He was able to convince Sturgis that slavery is a sin and Sturgis began making arrangements for his slaves to obtain freedom.
Bible-Based Moral Arguments
From Georgia to Maine the Awakening transformed individuals and entire communities. The Bible-based arguments against slavery that emerged from the Awakening were both obvious and compelling.
These arguments were rooted in the Biblical accounts of Creation and Redemption. Creation tells us that all people are equal since all people trace their genealogy to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. All have sinned and are in need of a Savior, which is why Christ died for all and His salvation made equally available to all who will believe. There is, therefore, equality in Redemption. Seeing the world through the Creation-Redemption paradigm, allowed no place for slavery or inequality based on race.
The Golden Rule was also used as an argument against slavery. David Barrow (1753–1819), a Baptist preacher from Virginia who became an abolitionist and freed his slaves, referred to “having a single eye to the Golden Rule” as the basis for emancipation. He insisted that if everyone practiced “Do to all men as you would they should do to you,” it would soon put an end to slavery.
America’s Founders Are Impacted
As a result of the Great Awakening, founders such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and others from the North became passionate abolitionists. In fact, opposition to slavery was so strong in the North that, when the separation from England came in 1776, several states, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont,  New Hampshire, and New York immediately took steps to abolish slavery—something  they could not do under George III.
Benjamin Rush, the Philadelphia physician who signed the Declaration of Independence, was a passionate abolitionist and helped found in Philadelphia the first Abolition Society in America. In his advocacy for Abolition, he challenged the ministers of America to take a strong stand against slavery, saying,
But chiefly—ye ministers of the gospel, whose dominion over the principles and actions of men is so universally acknowledged and felt, - Ye who estimate the worth of your fellow creatures by their immortality, and therefore must look upon all mankind as equal; - let your zeal keep pace with your opportunities to put a stop to slavery. While you enforce the duties of “tithe and cumin,” neglect not the weightier laws of justice and humanity. Slavery is a Hydra sin and includes in it every violation of the precepts of the Laws and the Gospels (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 101).
Benjamin Franklin was obviously impacted by the Great Awakening and his friendship with George Whitefield, the most famous preacher of the Great Awakening. Influenced also, no doubt, by his fellow Philadelphian, Benjamin Rush, Franklin released his two slaves in 1785 and began to advocate for Abolition. He joined the Abolition Society in Philadelphia and later served as its president.
George Washington was born in the South and inherited a large plantation with numerous slaves. The first evidence of the power of the Awakening on his thinking was during the War for Independence. Serving as commander-in-chief, Washington welcomed free blacks into the ranks, which resulted in one out of every six soldiers being of African descent. Blacks and whites fought together for freedom from Great Britain.
Confronted with the inconsistency of a Christian testimony with owning slaves, Washington, set up a compassionate program to completely disentangle Mt. Vernon from the institution of slavery. Those slaves who wanted to leave were free to do so. Those who chose to remain were paid wages, and he began a program to educate and prepare the children of slaves for freedom. He declared,
I clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union by consolidating it in a common bond of principle (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 103).
So pervasive was the influence of the Awakening that even those founders in the South who were slave-owners came to admit that it was wrong and sinful. Patrick Henry (1736-1799), for example, spoke out passionately against slavery in a letter to the Virginia Quaker, Robert Pleasants, who had sent him an anti-slavery tract. In his response, Henry agreed with Pleasants and said that slavery is “as repugnant to humanity, as it is inconsistent with the Bible and destructive of liberty.”
He then, however, admitted his own sin, saying, “Would anyone believe I am the master of slaves of my own purchase! I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living here without them” ((Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 101-02).
That founders from the South wrestled with the slavery issue is obvious in the statement of Thomas Jefferson made in the context of slavery being allowed to continue in the South. He wrote,
God who gave us life, gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 125).
Because of the power of the Awakening, and the “moral outrage” it produced against slavery, virtually every founder, even if he did not live up to it, would have agreed with John Adams who wrote,
Every measure of prudence . . . ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States. I have throughout my whole life held the practice of slavery in abhorrence (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 101).
There is no question that it was the influence of the Great Awakening that turned America’s Founding Fathers against slavery at a time it was accepted and practiced in most of the world. It was the power of this Christian Awakening that propelled America to the forefront of the fight against slavery.
We Must Have Another Great Awakening
America is in desperate need of another Great Awakening. The tragic killing of Floyd George opened old wounds that were only “slightly healed.” The nation is reeling, and no political party can save us. The Democrats cannot save us. The Republicans cannot save us. Neither Trump nor Biden can save us. Only Jesus can save us.
Although America’s founding was not perfect, there are vital lessons we can learn from that generation. For example, in times of crises, the founding generation turned to prayer. That is why, during the Revolutionary War, at least 15 separate calls for days of prayer and repentance were issued by the Continental Congress calling upon Americans to pray.
Samuel Adams (1722–1803), known as The Father of the American Revolution, issued such a call for prayer and fasting while serving as governor of Massachusetts. Adams, who was a passionate abolitionist, proclaimed April 2, 1795 to be a Day of Fasting and Prayer for both Massachusetts and America. The words of that Proclamation reveal the profound depth of faith in America’s founding generation and shows how they saw their civil liberty tied to their faith in God. It reads in part:
Calling upon the Ministers of the Gospel, of every Denomination, with their respective Congregations, to assemble on that Day, and devoutly implore the Divine forgiveness of our Sins, To pray that the Light of the Gospel, and the rights of Conscience, may be continued to the people of United America; and that his Holy Word may be improved by them, so that the name of God may be exalted, and their own Liberty and Happiness secured (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 104).

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, 1726, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com. He is also the founder of the "1726 Project" whose goal is to spread the message of America's unique birth out of the First Great Awakening and call on believers everywhere to pray for another Great Awakening across the land.



The earliest immigrants to this land believed that they, as a people, had entered into a sacred covenant with God. This was clearly expressed by John Winthrop who, in 1630, led a flotilla of eleven ships with 700 passengers to New England and founded the city of Boston and the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
During their journey across the Atlantic, Winthrop formulated a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity.” In it he exhorted his fellow pilgrims that “the eyes of the world are upon us” and that God would have them, in their new home, to be that “city on a hill” of which Jesus spoke, a shining light exhibiting a model of Christian living for the rest of mankind to see.
He also spoke of the seriousness of the covenant with God into which they had entered. He exhorted,
We have entered into an explicit Covenant with God. We have drawn up indentures with the Almighty, wherefore if we succeed and do not let ourselves be diverted into making money, He will reward us. Whereas if we fail, if we fall to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnal intentions, the Lord will surely break out in wrath and make us know the price of the breach of such a Covenant (Hyatt, 1726: TheYear that Defined America, 28-29).
The late Harvard professor, Perry Miller, considered this to be, in a sense, America’s true founding. He saw Winthrop’s clearly articulated vision of being that "city on a hill"--a light for other nations--as that which came to define the nation. He went on to say,
A society that is both clear and articulate about its intentions is something of a rarity in modern history. Most of the nations of Europe and Asia grew up by chance and by accident either of geography or politics.
This was not the case with America. Those first immigrants to America came with a clearly articulated vision, which they recorded in written documents—documents which they considered to be covenants with God.
The Mayflower Compact Was a Covenant
Ten years before Winthrop and his company arrived, the Pilgrims had landed at Cape Cod. Before disembarking, they drew up a written document patterned after the church covenants that were common among Separatist churches in England. Being part of a Separatist congregation, they were very aware of such documents, which knit the signees together in a solemn, contractual agreement with God and one another.
In the Mayflower Compact, each signee promised “solemnly and mutually in the presence of God” to “covenant together” for the better ordering and preservation of their community. This covenant also stated that their purpose in coming to the New World was to glorify God and advance the Christian faith.
Perry Miller, said, “The Separatists aboard the Mayflower found a covenant the obvious answer to the first problem of political organization” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year thatDefined America, 21).
Some have called the Mayflower Compact America’s founding document. That is going too far, but there is no question that it set the stage for succeeding communities and colonies that would base their existence on written documents—covenants--that gave recognition to God and prioritized the Gospel of Jesus Christ as their reason for being.
New England Covenants with God
This idea of a social compact (covenant) with God was expressed, not only in the founding of Plymouth, Boston, and Massachusetts, but also in the 1639 founding document of Connecticut entitled “The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut.” This document states,
We, the inhabitants and residents of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield, knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there ought to be an orderly and decent government established according to God . . . we do for ourselves and our successors enter into combination and confederation together, to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we now profess (Hyatt, 1726: TheYear that Defined America, 30-31).
With thousands of new immigrants arriving in New England and new towns springing up, there arose a felt need for some sort of centralized government to facilitate mutual defense and to arbitrate land disputes. To meet this need, the United Colonies of New England was formed, and a constitution was formulated, patterned on the idea of covenant. Dated May 19, 1643, the opening statement of the constitution expressly states why they had all come to the New World. It reads,
Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the Liberties of the Gospel in purity and peace (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 31).
The constitution provided that each colony would choose two representatives who would form a council of eight. This council of eight was invested with power to arbitrate boundary disputes, coordinate mutual defense, and facilitate mutual advice and support. It was clearly stated that this council was brought into existence for “preserving and propagating the truth and liberties of the Gospel” (Hyatt, 1726: TheYear that Defined America, 31).
There is no question that this constitutional system wherein each individual colony retained its autonomy, and the powers of government were limited by the constitution, was a forerunner of the federalist system that would be created at Philadelphia in 1776 and 1787. The United Colonies of New England clearly foreshadowed the United States of America in both its form of government and in its Christian character.
The Puritans clearly saw these written statements as covenants, not only between themselves, but also between their society and God. They believed that God dealt, not only with individuals, but also with social units, including families, churches, and nations. According to Perry Miller, “The central conception in their thought is the elaborated doctrine of covenant.”
The Blessing & Responsibility of Covenant
These early immigrants saw Israel in the OT as a pattern for their social covenant with God. Like Israel, they believed that if they, as a people, kept their part of the covenant, which was to walk uprightly and make His name known, they would be blessed. If, on the other hand, they lost their sense of purpose and began to live selfish and sinful lives, they would suffer God’s wrath because of their rejection of the covenant. During the voyage to New England, Winthrop warned,
Now if the Lord shall please to bear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He verified this Covenant and sealed our commission . . . but if we fail to perform the terms of the Covenant, we shall perish out the land we are crossing the sea to possess (Hyatt, 1726: The Year thatDefined America, 32).
This social sense of responsibility to God is the reason the Puritans tended to hold one another accountable. They believed that since communities and nations cannot be rewarded in the next world, they must necessarily be rewarded in this one, according to their deeds. The sin of one or a few could, therefore, bring down God’s judgment on the entire community. This is also the reason that laws were passed outlawing adultery, fornication, profanity, drunkenness, and Sabbath breaking.
Virginia Too
Although New England was where the writing of constitutions was profoundly developed, all the colonies were founded on similar social compacts with God. When the Jamestown settlers disembarked at Cape Henry, VA, their first act was to erect a seven-foot cross they had brought from England. They then gathered around the cross for a prayer service in which they dedicated the land of their new home to God. In his dedicatory prayer, their chaplain, Rev. Robert Hunt, declared, “From these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World but to the entire world.”
This act was in line with the official Virginia Charter, which recognized “the Providence of Almighty God” and expressed the desire that the establishment of the colony would “tend to the glory of His Divine Majesty.” This document also expressly stated that the purpose of the colony was to propagate the “Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God.”
There are amazing similarities between the Virginia Charter, the Mayflower Compact, and other founding documents of New England. This led Perry Miller to suggest that Virginia and New England were not that different. He pointed out that both communities were children of the Reformation, “and what we consider distinctively Puritan was really the spirit of the times.”
There is thus no question that these early social compacts, or covenants, were precursors to the founding documents of the United States of America. Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner are correct to say, “The early New England constitutions were covenants. These covenants clearly foreshadowed the United States Constitution” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 33).
God and America’s Founding Documents
The Declaration of Independence begins with an acknowledgement that human rights come from God. It ends with the signees expressing a reliance on Divine Providence, a common expression of that era for the God of the Bible. It was commonly used by revivalist ministers, such as George Whitefield, in their sermons and writings.
It is obvious that the Founders saw the U.S. Constitution as a sacred document, and they treated it as a covenant. That is why George Washington took the oath of office with his hand on a Bible and solemnly swore to uphold and defend the Constitution, “so help me God.”
This sacred view of the Constitution was obviously inherited from those earliest immigrants who considered their covenants to be sacred oaths between their communities and God. This covenantal attitude became a part of the psyche of colonial America and was clearly present in the attitude of the Founders toward America’s founding documents. Historian, Benjamin Hart, says,
The U.S. Constitution has worked because there has been a sacred aura surrounding the document; it has been something more than a legal contract; it was a covenant, an oath before God, very much related to the covenant the Pilgrims signed. Indeed, when the President takes his oath of office, he places his hand on a Bible and swears before Almighty God to uphold the Constitution of the United States. He makes a sacred promise; and the same holds true for Supreme Court justices who take an oath to follow the letter of the written Constitution. The moment America’s leaders begin treating the Constitution as though it were a mere sheet of paper is the moment the American Republic—or American Covenant—ends (Hyatt, 1726: TheYear that Defined America, 133).
Abraham Lincoln Understood America’s Covenant with God
Abraham Lincoln understood that America had a covenant with God. That is why, in the midst of the desolation of the Civil War, he proclaimed a national, day of prayer and repentance for April 30, 1863. In this proclamation, he acknowledged God’s hand on the nation and, in so many words, explained the present calamity to be the result of national sin, i.e., the breaking of the covenant. He said,
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us (Hyatt, The Great Prayer Awakening of 1857-58, 37).
The populace, especially in the North, responded en masse to Lincoln’s call to prayer. On the appointed day, businesses and schools closed and people gathered in churches and homes throughout the land to pray and repent for personal and national sins, including the sin of slavery.
And whereas the South had been winning battle after battle and it looked as though the American union could well be dissolved, there was an almost immediate turn of the war in favor of the North after this day of prayer. God intervened and America was sustained after she renewed her covenant with God.
Where Are We Today?
America is at another critical juncture in her history. Powerful forces reject the notion of God having any role in the nation’s founding and they consider the Constitution to be a useless, outdated document—a mere sheet of paper--as Hart warned.
Taking the oath of office is now seen as a meaningless formality that may be carried out with the Koran, as well as the Bible, or with any religious book. America’s future has not been this uncertain since the Civil War.
The next presidential election holds great and grave consequences for America’s future. That being said, America’s ultimate future will not be determined at the White House, but at God’s House. Lincoln’s Prayer Proclamation was strategic but came after a Great Prayer Awakening that began in 1857 that was characterized by passionate prayer, day and night, in churches, halls, homes, and public auditoriums throughout the nation.
Yes, the decision is ours. What will we do? Will we renew the American covenant? It begins with God’s people taking seriously their role in the health of a nation as expressed in II Chronicles 7:14.
If My people who are called by My Name
Will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face,
And turn from their wicked ways,
Then I will hear from heaven,
And will forgive their sin and heal their land.

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, 1726: The Year that Defined America, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com. He is also the founder of the "1726 Project" whose purpose is to educate concerning the nation's birth out of a great, spiritual awakening and to call American Christians to pray for another such Awakening.



Prayer is as American as baseball and apple pie.
The Continental Congress, out of which came our Declaration of Independence, began each day with prayer, led by their chaplain, Rev Jacob Duche. The completion and publication of the Declaration was crowned with an impassioned prayer by Rev. Duche that was recorded in the official proceedings of the Congress. Rev. Duche ended his prayer, “in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ Thy Son and our Savior.”
This is not surprising for belief in the power of prayer was already an American tradition going back to the very first immigrants to this land. The Pilgrims and their descendants in New England were people of prayer and had a habit of setting aside special days for prayer and thanksgiving to God. The Quakers, who founded Philadelphia, where the Congress assembled, were also people who believed in the power of prayer.
The Declaration Birthed in Prayer
It is, therefore, no great surprise that when the First Continental Congress convened on September 5, 1774, it opened with Bible reading and prayer. With British troops occupying Boston and having closed the Boston port, this was no formal prayer ritual, but a sincere lifting of their hearts to God, asking for His assistance and intervention in their fight for liberty. It was at this time that Duche was first invited to lead them in prayer.
John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, of the impact of the Bible reading and prayer on the delegates. He wrote,
Who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to heaven for divine interposition and aid. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seems as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read that day. I saw tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave pacific Quakers of Philadelphia. I must beg you to read that Psalm (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 108).
Prayer continued to be a daily part of the proceedings of the Continental Congresses. When, years later, Benjamin Franklin called the delegates of the Constitutional Convention to prayer, he reminded them, “In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible to danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection” (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 141).
It was in this atmosphere of prayer that Thomas Jefferson was chosen to draft a document declaring the independence of the 13 American colonies. A select committee of five, including Benjamin Franklin, was chosen to assist him in its creation. The completed document was read publicly for the first time on July 4, 1776.
The Declaration of Independence anchors individual rights, not in any human institution or government, but in God.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men [people] are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Jefferson, Franklin, and the other Founders understood human rights to have a transcendent source, that being, God Himself. They and their forebears knew what it was like to have their rights given and taken at the whim of a monarch, pope, or bishop. In this new nation, therefore, they were determined to put the rights of the individual in a place legally beyond human reach. Government, they insisted, did not exist to give or take rights, but instead, to protect those rights already given by God.
References to God in the Declaration
Three names for God drawn directly from the Judeo-Christian tradition were used in the Declaration. They are “Creator,” “Supreme Judge,” and “Divine Providence.” They did not use Christian, redemptive words in the document, such as “Savior” or “Redeemer,” for they were aware that they were formulating, not a statement of faith for a church, but the founding document for a nation.
The appeal to “the laws of nature and Nature’s God” has been commonly considered an ambiguous reference to deity rooted in the Enlightenment (1715–1789). That is not necessarily so. The “laws of nature” referred to those rational, self-evident truths that can be ascertained by observing God’s creation, including human nature. “Nature’s God” is the Creator of all nature and natural laws.
Even a fiery, evangelical revivalist like Whitefield was known to use the term, “Nature’s God.” He did so, for example, in a sermon describing the earthquake and the darkening of the sun at the time of Christ’s death, declaring, “See how all nature is in agony . . . as it were to see the God of nature suffer” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 110).
The use of the word “Providence” is especially interesting, for it was commonly used as a synonym for the God of the Bible in the 18th Century, even by ministers. It was not, as some have suggested, a generic, impersonal reference to deity. Even a fiery revivalist such as Whitefield often used it in referring to God.
“Providence” is a word that expresses faith in God as the One who is superintending the course of history and who is overruling, even the actions of evil men, in order to bring about His plan and purpose. John Witherspoon (1723–1794), a member of the Continental Congress, preached a sermon entitled The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men, less than two months before signing the Declaration.
Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister was President of the College of New Jersey, which is now Princeton University. In this 1776 sermon on Providence, he emphasized the necessity of believing that God would bring good out of the evil situation of the day; that is, that the ambition of mistaken princes and the cruelty of oppressive rulers would finally promote the glory of God. This is Providence.
The final paragraph of the Declaration shows that this was the faith of the Founders, for in it, they express their trust in God for His providential protection and support in their momentous act. It reads,
And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
The Basis for These Particular Names
The use of these names for God confirms what is expressed in so many ways by the Founders; that is, they considered belief in God as Creator and Judge to be essential for good citizenship. Unless the citizens were to have a moral sense of obligation to their Creator, they would tend to live self-centered lives that would be harmful to society at large. This is why James Madison (1751–1836) wrote,
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 impressed with it.
The use of these particular names for God also reflect the distinct and specific roles the Protestant Reformers had assigned to the church and to civil government. This had become known at the “Creator-Redeemer Distinction.”
In response to the church and state being merged by Constantine, and the ensuing corruption of the church, the Reformers emphasized that God rules over two separate realms, those being the natural and the spiritual. All citizens, whether Christian or non-Christian, have a responsibility to relate to God as Creator in the natural or civil realm.
Christians, however, relate to God, not only as Creator, but also as Redeemer. And this is where the Reformers drew the line. They said that the civil government should have no role in the church or in the life of the individual Christian. How a person related to God as Redeemer, they stated, was outside the jurisdiction of the civil government. This was the “Creator-Redeemer Distinction.”
This is why Jefferson and the others chose Biblical names that related to God as Creator, Judge, and the Providential Lord of nature and history. They were creating a civil government, not a church, but even non-Christian citizens of a civil society should honor God as Creator and Judge.
America’s Founding Prayer
After the Declaration of Independence was published, Rev. Duche, who had become the chaplain for the Congress, prayed the following prayer, which he offered “in the name of Jesus Christ Thy Son and our Savior.” This prayer was then recorded in the official proceedings of the Congress.
O Lord, our high and mighty Father, heavenly king of kings, and Lord of Lords, who dost from Thy throne behold all the dwellers of the earth, and reignest with power supreme over all kingdoms, empires, and governments. Look down in mercy we beseech thee on these our American states who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee they have appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support which Thou alone can give . . . Shower down upon them and the millions they represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting joy in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ Thy Son and our Savior. Amen (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 113).
As can be clearly seen, modern attempts to remove God and prayer from public and civic venues would be totally foreign to America’s founding generation. 
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, 1726: The Year that Defined America, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com. He is also the founder of the "1726 Project" that is dedicated to informing America of her roots in the Great Awakening and to call America to pray for another Great Awakening throughout the land.



The anarchists in Portland, Oregon, who pulled down the statue of George Washington and burned an American flag, also spray painted “1619” on the fallen statue. “1619” is the new historical lens through which those on the Left want us to see America. Viewed through the 1619 lens, America is a racist, evil nation in need of a complete socialist makeover.
This historical perspective was launched by the New York Times in their “1619 Project.” The stated goal of this project is to “reframe” American history by insisting that 1619, when the first African slaves were brought to this land, marks America’s true founding, not 1776.
Those who see America through the lens of 1619, see a nation that is evil and racist at its very core, and in need of radical transformation.
The “1726 Project”
During the summer of 2019, before I heard of the “1619 Project,” I experienced a deep stirring in my spirit to write the book 1726 with the subtitle, The Year that Defined America.
1726 was the year that a Great Awakening began that spiritually and morally transformed Colonial America. This Awakening also unleashed a powerful anti-slavery movement that turned America's founders against slavery. It was truly  a defining year for America.

Benjamin Franklin told how the Awakening transformed his hometown of Philadelphia in 1739. He wrote,
From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.
That blacks and whites worshipped together in this Awakening is made clear by George Whitefield’s account of the same revival. After preaching his farewell sermon to a massive crowd gathered in front of the Philadelphia courthouse, Whitefield noted in his Journal, “Near 50 Negroes came to give me thanks for what God had done for their souls.” Whitefield considered this an answer to prayer, saying, “I have been much drawn in prayer for them, and have seen them wrought upon by the word preached” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 70).
Revival and Abolition
Out of this Awakening, racial and cultural barriers were breached. Because of this Awakening, anti-slavery sentiments blossomed, and an abolition movement burst forth with Awakening preachers proclaiming slavery to be morally wrong and sinful.
To cite just one example; Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803), who had been personally tutored by Jonathan Edwards, pastored for a time in Newport, Rhode Island, an important hub in the transatlantic slave trade. Like Paul, whose spirit was “provoked” by the idols he saw in Athens, Hopkins was grieved and incensed by the "violation of God’s will” he saw in Newport. He declared, “This whole country have their hands full of blood this day” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that DefinedAmerica, 92).
He began to passionately preach against slavery and in 1774, after the First Continental Congress had convened in Philadelphia, Hopkins sent a pamphlet to every member of the Congress, asking how they could complain about “enslavement” to England and overlook the “enslavement” of so many blacks in the Colonies.
At a time when slavery was accepted and practiced in most of the world, there was a powerful movement in America against it. The brilliant black scholar, Dr. Thomas Sowell, has noted this, saying,
Slavery was just not an issue, not even among intellectuals, much less among political leaders, until the eighteenth century – and then it was an issue only in Western civilization. Among those who turned against slavery in the eighteenth century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other American leaders. You could research all of eighteenth century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that DefinedAmerica, 90).
Yes, slavery was practiced for thousands of years in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and other parts of the world before it was brought to this continent. When compared with world history, the unique characteristics of slavery in America were the brevity of its existence and the moral outrage against it. This can only be explained by 1726 and the Great Awakening that began that year. Indeed, 1726 defined and redefined America.
1726 Impacts America’s Founders
The spiritual power of the Awakening and the moral arguments it produced against slavery were overwhelming. In fact, by the time of the writing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787, virtually every Founder had taken a public stand against slavery. Virtually all agreed with John Adams, who stated the following:
Every measure of prudence ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States. I have throughout my whole life held the practice of slavery in abhorrence (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 101).
Two years before the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin freed his two slaves and began to advocate for abolition. He joined the Abolition of Society of Philadelphia and later served as its president.
Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia Physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, helped found the first Abolition Society in America in his hometown of Philadelphia. He called on the ministers of America to take a public stand against slavery, saying, “Slavery is a Hydra sin and includes in it every violation of the precepts of the Laws and the Gospels” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 100-01)).
Confronted with the inconsistency of a Christian testimony and owning slaves, George Washington set in motion a compassionate program to completely rid Mt. Vernon of slavery. Those slaves who wanted to leave were free to do so and those who chose to stay were paid wages. He also set in motion an educational program to prepare the children of slaves for freedom. Concerning the abolition of slavery, Washington wrote,
Not only do I pray for it, on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union by consolidating it in a common bond of principle (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 103).
In the words of Dr. Sowell, “You could research all of 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there.” This moral rejection of slavery was the fruit of 1726.
Deciding that slavery was wrong, however, was easier than deciding what to do with two million people from another continent and culture who were unprepared for freedom. Dr. Sowell has said,
It is clear from the private correspondence of Washington, Jefferson, and many others that their moral rejection of slavery was unambiguous, but the practical question of what to do now had them baffled. That would remain so for more than half a century
1726 Was America’s Key for Ending Slavery
The cancerous tentacles of slavery had become so entangled with southern economics and culture, it was obvious that it would take drastic and painful measures to excise it from the nation. America would require a rare moral resolve to endure the painful surgery that would be required.
America found that moral resolve in the spiritual awakenings that had come to define her, beginning in 1726. As a result of 1726, spiritual awakening seemed to be imprinted in her national DNA and succeeding generations turned to God in times of distress.
As a result, a Second Great Awakening (1800-30) erupted and out of it a new movement of abolition. Then, the Great Prayer Awakening (1857-58) gripped the nation and provided the final spiritual and moral resolve necessary to carry the nation through a bloody Civil War and the final abolition of slavery.
Yes, it took great moral resolve to sacrifice one million of her citizens to end slavery. This number includes 700,000 soldiers who died plus civilian casualties and the thousands who were maimed and injured. America’s population at the time was only 31 million.
If the numbers are adjusted to correspond with today’s population it would be like sacrificing 10 million citizens for a contemporary moral cause. We see the magnitude of the sacrifice when we remember that less than 3,000 Americans died at 9/11.
A nation that would make such a sacrifice to end slavery, cannot be racist. Yes, there are racists in America, but the nation has proven itself to be anti-racist. For this we can thank God and 1726.
Will We Choose 1619 of 1726?
Those who see America through the lens of 1619, deny the providential hand of God in America’s birth and history. They dismiss 1726 as a mere human outburst of religious fervor and fanaticism. They see only human shortcoming and sin in America’s history, which they now purport to correct.
In contrast, those who see America through the lens of 1726 see the providential hand of God in her origins, as did her founders. They acknowledge her sins and failures but also acknowledge her noble triumphs and achievements.
Those who see America through the lens of 1726 believe that God has a divine purpose for this land, that is yet to be completed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed this in his 1968 “I Have a Dream” speech when he declared, “I have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
President Ronald Reagan expressed this in his 1982 Thanksgiving Proclamation. He said,
I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the earth who had a special love of faith and freedom.
Recovering this 1726 paradigm of America’s history is critical, for as George Orwell said in his classic book, 1984, “Whoever controls the past, controls the future.” And commenting on the demise of nations in world history, Carl Sandburg, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, said,
When a nation goes down, or a society perishes, one condition may always be found; they forgot where they came from. They lost sight of what had brought them along.
Recovering the knowledge of 1726 is paramount in getting it right about our nation. Only another 1726 will save America, heal her wounds, and preserve her liberty for the next generation.
Let us, therefore, remember 1726 and pray, “Lord, do it again!”
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, 1726: The Year that Defined America, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com. He is also the founder of the “1726 Project” that is dedicated to educating America about her roots in spiritual awakening and calling American Christians to pray for another national, spiritual awakening.