Early settlers to America developed colonial charters that were evangelical in their purpose as they often expressed a goal for their colony to advance the Christian religion. As the country progressed up to the revolutionary war period, state constitutions evolved from those charters and served to maintain the order already established by the original charters, the charters based on Christianity.
After we became a nation, new state and federal laws were written; but they were not begun from scratch. Much of the common law already in the colonies was built upon, not discarded.
America from her beginning has shown tribute to God. See slide show of preambles (bill of rights for Virginia and Part I. Art. I. Sec. V. for New Hampshire ) to first 13 state charters. Space allotted would not permit full preamble for all states. For longer preambles, see full wording below.
Feature Photo shows Official Instructions on Religion from Library of Congress: "This manuscript is an eighteenth-century copy of the original Virginia Company records, owned by Thomas Jefferson and sold to the Library of Congress as part of Jefferson's library in 1815. The document illustrates the Virginia Company's concern for the health of the church. It orders the settlers to offer generous financial assistance
'to the intent that godly learned & painful Ministers may be placed there for the service of Almighty God & for the spiritual benefit and comfort of the people.'"
Virginia Church Laws, 1618
Manuscript volume, Eighteenth-century copy
Virginia Miscellaneous Records,
1606-1692 (the Bland Manuscript),
Rare Book and Special Collections,
Library of Congress (43)
Longer state preambles:
Massachusetts, 1780, Preamble
We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence, or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other, and of forming a new constitution of civil government for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain, and establish the following declaration of rights and frame of government as the constitution of the commonwealth of Massachusetts.
We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution of government.
The People of Connecticut acknowledging with gratitude, the good providence of God, in having permitted them to enjoy a free government; do, in order more effectually to define, secure, and perpetuate the liberties, rights and privileges which they have derived from their ancestors; hereby, after a careful consideration and revision, ordain and establish the following constitution and form of civil government.
We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Al-
mighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath
so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a
blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the
same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and
establish this Constitution.
We, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
Virginia, 1776, Bill of Rights, XVI
That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed 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.
We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution.