The Collector is a website with "Daily Articles on Ancient History, Philosophy, Art & Artists by Leading Authors
Trusted by Scholars, Classrooms & Enthusiasts." A recent article summarizes the history of the motto
In God We Trust on coinage.
Here's an excerpt - see the complete article online.
Inscriptions referencing the American belief in God began to appear on US coinage as early as colonial times. The foundation of the nation was ultimately built on the belief in God, as most of the first English to permanently settle in North America were Puritans, Anglicans, and Quakers, among other Christian denominations. When President Theodore Roosevelt was elected into office in 1904, he decided to remove the inscription
In God We Trust from American coinage. He thought that putting this motto on the coins was atrocious. Roosevelt received a great deal of backlash for his rejection of the nation's motto on coinage, which led to new legislation requiring the motto to be inscribed on certain coins.
Since Christianity was the dominant religion in colonial America, colonial coins bore inscriptions that recognized the Christian faith. For example, the Carolina cent produced in 1694 included the inscription
God preserve Carolina and the Lords proprietors on the reverse side. The 1767 Louisiana cent bore the Latin inscription Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum, which translates to
Blessed be the name of the Lord. The Christian faith was also incorporated in important documents, such as the First Charter of Virginia of 1606, the Mayflower Compact of 1620, and the Declaration of Independence.
The idea of placing a religious sentiment on official US coinage came during the early years of the American Civil War. One of the first official requests to recognize the Christian faith or God on coinage came from Reverend M.R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania. Reverend Watkinson wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase on November 13, 1861 and requested the
Almighty God in some form be recognized on US coinage. At Reverend Watkinson's request, Chase contacted the Director of the Mint, James Pollock, on November 20 to prepare a motto to be used on the coins. However, an Act of Congress passed in January 1837 defined what mottos and devices should be placed on American coinage. Before a new motto could be introduced, the current legislation had to be amended.
In April 1864, Congress passed legislation that would allow adjustments to be made to the one-cent piece and authorized the creation of a two-cent bronze coin. The Director of the Mint was allowed to determine different mottos, devices, and shapes of the coinage, so long as the Secretary of the Treasury approved it. The 1864 bronze two-cent piece was the first coin to bore the inscription
In God We Trust. In March 1865, Congress authorized the Director of the Mint, with the Secretary of the Treasury's approval, to place
In God We Trust on gold and silver coins. As a result, the motto appeared on the eagle, double eagle, half eagle, dollar, half dollar, and quarter dollar coins. Later legislation would involve more specifics as to what devices should be on different coins and additional inscriptions and features were added.
Teddy Roosevelt was first sworn into presidency following the assassination of President William McKinley in September 1901. Roosevelt ran for president in the 1904 election and won. Teddy Roosevelt decided to focus some of his attention on changing the designs on US coinage. On December 27, 1907, Roosevelt wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury, Leslie Mortier Shaw, describing the current US coinage as
artistically of atrocious hideousness. Teddy Roosevelt commissioned American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design his inaugural medal. Roosevelt was very pleased with the design Saint-Gaudens had created for his inaugural coin.
During a dinner at the White House in 1905, Roosevelt asked Saint-Gaudens if he'd be interested in creating new US coinage designs like the intricate Greek coins. Saint-Gaudens agreed that he could create new designs for the one-cent, eagle, and double eagle coins. The process of introducing new designs to American coinage was done somewhat secretively. In the letter to Secretary Shaw, Roosevelt had inquired if he would be able to create new designs and produce new coinage without the permission of Congress. After getting approval from Secretary Shaw, Roosevelt began coordinating with Saint-Gaudens on creating the designs. The initial plan was to quickly get the designs completed and approved by the US Mint before Congress reconvened. This would allow at least some of the coins to enter circulation before Congress could potentially shut it down if they didn't approve of the new coins.
President Teddy Roosevelt didn't purposely remove
In God We Trust on money. However, he did approve the idea, which was originally suggested by Saint-Gaudens. Including the inscription
In God We Trust, as Saint-Gaudens suggested, would detract from the artistry on the coins. Roosevelt sought legal advice on the matter to ensure that the motto wasn't mandatory. No law existed at the time that prohibited the removal of
In God We Trust, so Roosevelt agreed with Saint-Gaudens that it should be removed.
Some saw the removal of
In God We Trust on money as an attack on the Christian religion, which the foundation of America had been built on. Others claimed that Roosevelt showed complete disregard for the religious sentiments that many Americans valued. The release of the coins and the public backlash also came at an unfortunate time for Roosevelt, as the Panic of 1907 put the country in a financial crisis. Roosevelt's critics tried to place the blame of the crisis on him for being so harsh on big business practices that gave him his
trust buster nickname. A number of religious organizations, such as the Presbyterian Brotherhood of America and the Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, protested and sent Congress and the Secretary of the Treasury signed petitions to have
In God We Trust on money restored.
Numismatic details may be suspect. A caption misspells "obverse."
I think "Louisiana Cent" is referring to the French Colonies Sou.
To read the complete article, see:
Why Did Teddy Roosevelt Remove
In God We Trust from US Currency?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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