WASHINGTON DC – April 22, 2019 marks the 155th anniversary of the Act of Congress that established the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ to be minted on the coinage of the United States of America.
Many devout Christians petitioned the federal government during the American Civil War asking that Congress create a slogan that emphasized our country’s founding upon biblical principles and recognized that our freedom is a gift from God.
Rev. M.R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, initiated the campaign with a letter to Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury. The letter read, in part,
“You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances. One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.
You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? . . . From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.”
Secretary Chase agreed, saying in a letter to the Director of the Philadelphia mint later that year,
“No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.”
Unfortunately, it was not within the Secretary’s purview to order changes to coinage. That right belonged to the United States Congress.
So it was that two-and-one-half years later, Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864, that the matter was resolved with the establishment of the phrase, ‘In God We Trust’ and the authorization for the addition of it to both the one and two-cent coins. The two-cent coin was the first to be minted with the motto.
Less than a year later, on March 2, 1865, Congress mandated that ‘In God We Trust’ be placed on all U.S. gold and silver coins.
It was not until 1956 that ‘In God We Trust’ began to appear on U.S. currency following President Eisenhower’s approval of a Joint Resolution by the 84th Congress (Public Law 84-140) that declared ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States. The new, official motto first appeared on one-dollar silver certificates that were entered into circulation on October 1, 1957.
The hope of continued freedom in the United States is not in military might or economic power, but by being ‘one nation under God,’ the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the world.
In God We Trust!
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- U.S. Department of the Treasury, History of ‘In God We Trust’
- All About History, In God We Trust
- History House, The Legislation Placing “In God We Trust” on National Currency