By Bill Federer, staff writer
The Son of one of the Boston Tea Party “Indians,” he graduated from Harvard and eventually became Massachusetts Speaker of the House.
At age 32, he was appointed as the youngest Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served 34 years and helped establish the illegality of the slave trade in the Amistad case.
His name was Joseph Story, and he died SEPTEMBER 10, 1845.
A founder of Harvard Law School, Justice Joseph Story stated in a speech at Harvard, 1829:
“There never has been a period of history, in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundation.”
In 1832, Joseph Story responded to a pamphlet titled The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States, written by Rev. Jasper Adams, President of the College of Charleston, South Carolina:
“Government can not long exist without an alliance with religion; and that Christianity is indispensable to the true interests and sold foundations of free government.”
In Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, 1844, Justice Joseph Story wrote:
“Christianity…is not to be maliciously and openly reviled and blasphemed against, to the annoyance of believers or the injury of the public….
It is unnecessary for us, however, to consider the establishment of a school or college, for the propagation of…Deism, or any other form of infidelity. Such a case is not to be presumed to exist in a Christian country…
Why may not laymen instruct in the general principles of Christianity as well as ecclesiastics…And we cannot overlook the blessings, which such laymen by their conduct, as well as their instructions, may, nay must, impart to their youthful pupils.
Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a Divine Revelation…its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained and its glorious principles of morality inculcated?
What is there to prevent a work, not sectarian, upon the general evidences of Christianity, from being read and taught in the college by lay teachers? It may well be asked, what is there in all this, which is positively enjoined, inconsistent with the spirit or truths of the religion of Christ? Are not these truths all taught by Christianity, although it teaches much more?
Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?”
Appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison, the person who introduced the First Amendment, Justice Joseph Story commented on it in his Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, 1840:
“At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the Amendment to it now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship.
An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.
But the duty of supporting religion, and especially the Christian religion, is very different from the right to force the consciences of other men or to punish them for worshipping God in the manner which they believe their accountability to Him requires…
The rights of conscience are, indeed, beyond the just reach of any human power. They are given by God, and cannot be encroached upon by human authority without a criminal disobedience of the precepts of natural as well as of revealed religion.”
Justice Story continued:
“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”
In his Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833, Justice Joseph Story explained that the Federal Government had no jurisdiction over religion, as religion was under each individual State’s jurisdiction:
“In some of the States, Episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in other, Presbyterians; in others, Congregationalists; in others, Quakers; and in others again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects.
It was impossible that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment.
The only security was in the abolishing the power.
But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it had not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion…
Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the State governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice and the State constitutions.”
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