The History of the United States, According to "Coach" Dave Daubenmire
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 09:41:35 PM EST
Today, April 19, the Minutemen United are gathering in Lexington, Massachusetts, the site of "the shot heard 'round the world," for their three day "Someone Has Stolen My Country And I want Her Back!" Convention. Chip Berlet already provided much information about the Minutemen and this event in his piece, Christian Nationalist "Minutemen" Convening in Lexington, MA?, so, with the exception of adding a link to the most recent schedule of events and speakers, I'm going to get right into the revised version of American history promoted by "Coach" Dave Daubenmire, founder of the Minutemen United and Pass The Salt Ministries.

When I wrote my Blog Against Theocracy post, Those Who Control the Past Control the Future, I had just received a copy of "Coach" Dave Daubenmire's CD, "Endowed by our Creator, Exposing the Lie of Separation of Church and State." In that post, my example of Daubenmire's revision of history came from the printed material that accompanies the CD, specifically William Federer's deceptive list of acknowledgements of God in the preambles of the state constitutions. Federer, by the way, is scheduled to appear at the Minutemen Lexington event.

Since then, I've had a chance to listen to the entire CD and transcribe some parts of it. The lies and inaccuracies in the coach's "lecture" are too many to cover in one post, so, for now, I'm going to start at the beginning of Daubenmire's little history of America and go as far as his version of one of the most popular Christian nationalist history lies -- that the Northwest Ordinance required that religion be taught in public schools. I never thought I'd see a version of this lie as bad as those in David Barton's The Myth of Separation and Original Intent, but Daubenmire has outdone even Barton, adding, among other things, that the states acknowledged God in the preambles of their constitutions because the "Northwest Ordinance said they had to."

As you read Daubenmire's words, try to imagine them not in the tone of voice of an historian giving a lecture, but that of a football coach yelling at a team that is down at half time but still has a chance to win the game.

OK, now. When did Columbus sail to America? Well, we learned that in school, didn't we? Most of us. 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. So, we got that. But most of us don't understand that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but it was 1620 before the Pilgrims came. It's a long time before they came. But when they came, when they got off there, William Bradford, who was the leader of this group of Puritans, who fled to this new world, they drew up the first contract of government ever in the new world, the Mayflower Compact. And what did it say?

"An agreement between the settlers at New Plymouth, 1620. In the name of God, Amen."
"We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord King James...blah, blah, blah..., having undertaken for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith..."

The first legal document ever signed by people in the new world. We don't teach that much anymore, see. They might mention the Mayflower Compact, but we don't teach what it really said.

I have to interrupt the coach here to point out the irony of what he just did. One of the most common accusations from the authors of revisionist history books is that secularists have scrubbed the references to God in historical documents from history textbooks, usually using the Mayflower Compact as an example. Yet, it's apparently acceptable to quote only the religious references from the same document and replace its other content, as Daubenmire does, with "blah, blah, blah."

The coach continues:

The Puritans, the pilgrims, came here why? Religious freedom for the advancement of the Christian faith. So in 1620 -- they got here in 1620 -- they formed 13 different colonies, right? We all learned that in school too. But from 1620 to 1774 there was no federal government. It was states' government. In fact, every colony at that point was set up according to its religious beliefs. The Quakers were in Pennsylvania. The Baptists were in Rhode Island. Every state had its own religion. That's the way they set it up, but they realized they were having problems with trade, and defending themselves, and all kinds of stuff, so it took them what? -- from 1620 to 1774 -- 150 years of America to form a real government. When it came together they did the Articles of the Confederation, October 1774 -- didn't really do much -- they couldn't get along. So they had the Second Continental Congress from 1775, the next year. And look at that. Out of that Second Continental Congress they signed the Declaration of Independence -- on July 4, 1776. And it was agreed to by Congress in 1777, ratified in 1781. Are you follow... -- Do you understand? There was history before the Declaration.

Then the Third Continental Congress got under way in 1776 and they're the ones that -- took over -- prosecuted the war. The Articles of Confederation was the first attempt at establishing a national government in the new world and it wasn't entirely successful but it was the first start, and in fact, we lived under the Articles of Confederation from 1776 until the U.S. Constitution was ratified in -- well that -- can't get too far yet -- because we had the Northwest Ordinance came in next. Because between 1775 and 1787, while they were working on the Constitution, they were living under a thing called the Northwest Ordinance. It was a way that other states could enter into these -- this set of colonies.

They were working on the Constitution and living under the Northwest Ordinance from 1775 to 1787? You just can't make this stuff up -- unless, of course, you're a Christian history revisionist speaking to an audience who'd believe it. But, as hard as it is for me to do, I'm going to skip over all the inaccuracies in Daubenmire's timeline, and get to the lie that I want to focus on -- the one about the Northwest Ordinance requiring religion in public education.

The coach continues:

And here's what the Northwest Ordinance did. After first providing for the surveying of the land...yada, yada, yada,...the ordinance provided the means by which new states would be created out of the western lands. They got the 13 colonies -- people want to go -- we've had the Declaration of Independence -- I'm gonna get to that -- already -- in a second -- the Declaration of Independence has already been fought -- uh -- been declared. The Constitution is not in place. Government is still in place -- and so some of these other guys want to go west, and in order for them to go west, they had to go under the articles of the Northwest Ordinance, and look what the third article of the Northwest Ordinance was.

"Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

The founders said, "Listen. If you're come into the United States, we got the 13 original colonies, but if you want to expand west and you want to start Ohio, and you want to start Illinois -- huh -- you got to come under this. And not only do you have to come under this -- acknowledge God as sovereign -- you got to teach it in your schools to your kids." Hmm -- boy oh boy.

I briefly mentioned this Northwest Ordinance lie in one of my posts on the Bible curriculum, but, rather than explain it at that time, I referred people to the sample chapter of my book, which happens to be the chapter in which this particular lie is debunked. The entire series of lies and misquotes used by David Barton to lead his audience to the erroneous conclusion, echoed by Daubenmire -- that the founders of our country not only intended, but required, that religion be included in public education -- can only be summarized here. The sample chapter contains, among other things, the details about every state used by Barton to set up his lie, as well as the sections from the early constitutions of these states showing that not only did they not require religion in public schools, but that most explicitly prohibited the use of state funds for religious education, one even prohibiting privately funded religious education in public schools.

In a nutshell, how Barton "proves" that Congress required religion in schools is by taking four early state constitutions that contain wording similar to that of the third article of the Northwest Ordinance, then working the names of eight additional states into his comments introducing the excerpts from these four constitutions (two of which he misquotes, and one from a constitution that was never adopted), convincing his readers that this "evidence" supports his claim that the language of the Northwest Ordinance article, and thus the inclusion of religion in public education, was a requirement of statehood. In other words, Barton mentions a total of twelve states, only one of which used the Northwest Ordinance's Article III in its constitution without changing its meaning, two of which modified it so significantly that Barton had to misquote their versions, and nine of which omitted it entirely. Nevertheless, Congress approved the constitutions of each and every one. Obviously, Barton's claim that the Northwest Ordinance proves that Congress "required that religion be included in the schools" is not true. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

What few people realize is that Article III of the Northwest Ordinance was never used. It was replaced in the enabling act for the state of Ohio, the very first state to be admitted under the ordinance. But, before getting to that, a little bit about the history of the education provision in that ordinance, as well as that in the prior land ordinance of 1785, is necessary.

Article III of the Northwest Ordinance was the work of a Massachusetts man named Manasseh Cutler. Dr. Cutler, a minister and former army chaplain, was also one of the directors of the Ohio Company of Associates, a land speculating company comprised of former army officers. In the summer of 1787, the Ohio Company was negotiating with the Continental Congress to buy a large amount of land in the Northwest Territory. Because the sale of public lands was the only way Congress had to pay off the large public debt from the Revolutionary War, the Ohio Company knew they had the upper hand in the negotiations, and would not make a move towards purchasing the land until Congress adopted a new ordinance that better suited their plans. The result was the Northwest Ordinance.

There is no question that the ordinance's provisions regarding religion, education, and slavery were written and insisted on by Cutler. A number of nineteenth century articles about the history of the ordinance refer to a note written in the margin of the Ohio Company's copy crediting Cutler with these provisions. But, the original wording of Cutler's education provision clearly gave the government of the Northwest Territory the authority to promote religion. As much as Congress had to go along with the demands of the Ohio Company, this apparently went too far. The following was the original wording.

Institutions for the promotion of religion and morality, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.(1)

This, of course, is what appeared in the ordinance.

Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Congress kept enough of the original wording to appease Cutler, but stripped the provision of any actual authority to promote religion or religious institutions. The final language that ended up in Article III only gave the government authority to promote education. The first part of the sentence was turned into nothing more than an ineffectual opinion of what was necessary to good government. When the Congress of 1789 reenacted the ordinance, they knew Article III didn't give the government any power to promote religion. There was no conflict with the First Amendment.

Other parts of the Northwest Ordinance, however, did raise constitutional questions for the early Congresses, leading to an opinion in 1802, and reaffirmed in 1816, 1818, and 1835, that the ordinance was nothing more than an act of Congress, with no more force or inviolability than any other act of Congress. In fact, they didn't even use it for Wisconsin, the last of the Northwest Territory states, but instead wrote a new act for the temporary government of the Wisconsin Territory. What does this have to do with the religious right lie? Well, the U.S. Code Annotated lists the Northwest Ordinance as one of four "Organic Laws of the United States." The other three are the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation. Authors like Barton use the ordinance's inclusion in this list to support the notion that its Article III was as inviolable as an article of the Constitution. But, it wasn't. As already mentioned, the very first time that Congress used the ordinance to admit a state, they substituted a different education provision for the one in Article III.

The substituted education provision in the 1802 enabling act for Ohio was similar to that in the 1785 Ordinance for ascertaining the mode of disposing of lands in the Western Territory, the ordinance that was replaced in 1787 by the Northwest Ordinance. The 1785 ordinance, as originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1784, contained nothing regarding either religion or education. In 1785, however, the committee appointed to prepare this ordinance proposed that the following be added.

There shall be reserved the central Section of every Township, for the maintenance of public Schools; and the Section immediately adjoining the same to the northward, for the support of religion. The profits arising therefrom in both instances, to be applied for ever according to the will of the majority of male residents of full age within the same.(2)

A debate on this proposal quickly removed most of it. First, a motion was made to replace the words "for the support of religion" with "for religious and charitable uses," then another to delete from that "religious and," so that it would simply read "for charitable uses." When the ordinance was read again three days later, the land grant for religion had been removed entirely. The following is all that was left of the proposed article.

There shall be reserved the central section of every township, for the maintenance of public schools within the said township.(3)

Even though the religious land grants were quickly removed from this provision, James Madison couldn't believe that the original proposal had even been considered by the committee, writing the following to James Monroe:

It gives me much pleasure to observe by 2 printed reports sent me by Col. Grayson that, in the latter Congress had expunged a clause contained in the first for setting apart a district of land in each Township for supporting the Religion of the majority of inhabitants. How a regulation so unjust in itself, foreign to the Authority of Congress, so hurtful to the sale of the public land, and smelling so strongly of an antiquated Bigotry, could have received the countenance of a Committee is truly matter of astonishment.(4)

Now, getting back to Ohio in 1802, one of Congress's goals when admitting this first part of the Northwest Territory as a state was to get the new state to agree to giving up the right to tax any land sold by the United States until ten years after it was purchased. This, of course, would make it easier for Congress to sell the land. The deal offered to Ohio in exchange for this included land grants for schools, as in the ordinance of 1785, in lieu of the vague statement about encouraging schools in Article III of the Northwest Ordinance. Since no legislation had been passed that conflicted with the 1785 provision for school land grants, the committee simply drew from that ordinance, drafting a new education provision for Ohio's enabling act.

The committee observe, in the ordinance for ascertaining the mode of disposing of lands in the Western Territory of the 20th of May, 1785, the following section, which, so far as respects the subject of schools, remains unaltered:

"There shall be reserved for the United States out of every township, the four lots, being numbered, 8, 11, 26, 29, and out of every fractional part of a township, so many lots of the same numbers as shall be found thereon. There shall be reserved the lot No. 16 of every township, for the maintenance of public schools within the said township. Also one third part of all gold, silver, lead and copper mines, to be sold, or otherwise disposed of, as Congress shall hereafter direct."

The committee also observe, in the third and fourth articles of the ordinance of the 13th of July, 1787, the following stipulations, to wit:

"Art. 3rd. Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged," &c.

"Art. 4th. The legislatures of those districts or new States, shall never interfere with the primary disposal of the soil by the United States in Congress assembled, nor with any regulations Congress may find necessary for securing the title in such soil to the bona fide purchasers. No tax shall be imposed on lands the property of the United States; and, in no case, shall nonresident proprietors be taxed higher than residents."

The committee, taking into consideration these stipulations, viewing the lands of the United States within the said Territory as an important source of revenue; deeming it also of the highest importance to the stability and permanence of the union of the eastern and western parts of the United States, that the intercourse should, as far as possible, be facilitated; and their interests be liberally and mutually consulted and promoted; are of the opinion that the provisions of the aforesaid articles may be varied for the reciprocal advantage of the United States, and the State of &emdash;&emdash;&emdash; when formed, and the people thereof; they have, therefore, deemed it proper, in lieu of the said provisions, to offer the following to the Convention for the Eastern State of the said Territory, when formed, for their free acceptance or rejection, without any condition or restraint whatever; which, if accepted by the Convention, shall be obligatory upon the United States:

1st. That the section No. 16, in every township sold, or directed to be sold by the United States, shall be granted to the inhabitants of such townships, for the use of schools.(5)

When the House of Representatives debated the committee's recommendations, the education provision substituted for the Northwest Ordinance's Article III wasn't even mentioned. The House debated several resolutions at the beginning of the report regarding things such as the state's boundaries and method of holding a constitutional convention, then skipped right to the other provisions being offered, salt springs and ten percent of the proceeds from federal land sales for road construction. Apparently, nobody cared that the new education provision didn't mention religion. The school land grant provision written for Ohio set the precedent for education provisions for the subsequent states. So, not only didn't Article III require religious education to begin with, its education provision was never even used.

I'm going to end for now with Coach Daubenmire's other claim about the Northwest Ordinance, a claim that combines Barton's lie about the ordinance requiring religion in public schools with William Federer's lies about the acknowledgement of God in state constitutions.

The preamble to the United -- preamble of the states -- just so you don't think I'm nuts -- every state -- every one of the 50 states -- to this day have in their preamble the acknowledgement of God. Why? The Northwest Ordinance said they had to. You can not be -- you could not be a state in the United States if you did not acknowledge God and if you didn't declare that you would teach it to your children. Isn't that pretty amazing?

Amazing isn't the word for it.

1. Roscoe R. Hill, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, vol. 32, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1936), 318.
2. John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, vol. 28, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1933), 293.
3. ibid., 301.
4. James Madison to James Monroe, May 29, 1785, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, vol. 1, (New York: R. Worthington, 1884), 154.
5. The Debates and Proceedings of the Congress of the United States of America, vol. 11, 7th Cong., 1st Sess., (Washington D.C.: Gales & Seaton, 1851), 1099-1100.


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