As our nation’s Founders designed their plan for a more perfect union, they understood that the success of a modern republic would require more than a political document like the Constitution. From their study of history, the Founders had learned of the pitfalls of republics before this one. They concluded that even the Constitution alone could not curb individual selfishness. They believed that virtues were necessary for sustaining the American experiment. Their fervent prayers were an integral part of the birth of our nation.
Our Nation’s Godly Heritage
Mississippi – the 20th State, Admitted to the Union December 10, 1817
The Constitution of the State of Mississippi in 1817 stated:
No person who denies the being of God or a future state of rewards and punishments shall hold any office in the civil department of the State.
Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government, the preservation of liberty and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged in this State.
Presidential Quote of the Week
James A. Garfield (1831-1881), 20th President of the United States
We cannot overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government. When they found, after a short trial, that the confederacy of States, was too weak to meet the necessities of a vigorous and expanding republic, they boldly set it aside, and in its stead established a National Union, founded directly upon the will of the people, endowed with full power of self-preservation and ample authority for the accomplishment of its great object. Under this Constitution the boundaries of freedom have been enlarged, the foundations of order and peace have been strengthened, and the growth of our people in all the better elements of national life has indicated the wisdom of the founders and given new hope to their descendants.
- Inaugural Address, March 4, 1881
James Abram Garfield, known as the last of the “log cabin presidents,” was born in Orange Township, Ohio, in November, 1831. His father died when James was 17 months old, and he was brought up and cared for by his mother and his uncle. He attended local grammar schools, the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in Hiram, Ohio, and then Williams College in Massachusetts. He ultimately decided the academic life was not for him and studied law privately. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1860.
Even before his admittance to the bar, he had entered politics, serving as an Ohio state senator. At the start of the Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Army, and was part of the 42nd Ohio Volunteers. He saw action in at least four major battles. While yet serving on the battlefield, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Ohio. After serving in Congress for 18 years, he was elected United States Senator.
At his party’s political convention of 1880, he gave such a rousing nomination speech for one of the candidates that the delegates decided to nominate him instead, and he was elected President that year. President Garfield had only four months to establish his presidency before being shot by a deranged political office seeker. He lingered after his intense wounds and died from complications, including a massive heart attack and bronchial pneumonia a few months later. He is buried in a mausoleum in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.
Garfield was married to Lucretia Rudolph. They had seven children. He was a minister and an elder for the Disciples of Christ, making him the first and only member of the clergy to serve as President. He was also the first left-handed President.