Featured New Book: In God We Trust

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by kaparthy, Mar 20, 2020.

  1. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    In God We Trust: The American Civil War, Money, Banking and Religion by William Bierly, Whitman Publishing, 2019, 336 pages, $29.95.

    This book delivers original research from primary sources ranging from local newspapers to the archives of the U. S. Mint. It also draws on many standards works, including the books of George and Melvin Fuld, Kevin Flynn, Q. David Bowers, and Don Taxay. It corrects some often repeated errors found in the numismatic literature.
    Bierly IGWT cover.jpeg
    The central theme is story of how In God We Trust came to be on our coins and eventually was declared by law (July 23, 1956) to be our national motto. Most collectors of U.S. federal coinage know that the 2-cent piece of 1864 was the first to carry the motto. The Civil War was the cause. That story is the centerpiece here.

    The Red Book credits Salmon P. Chase with placing IGWT on the 2-cent coin. Chase was the financial wizard who designed the banking system that saved the Union. But he had little to do with the motto. His real accomplishments are chronicled here.

    Bierly teases out the threads of competing histories attributing the placement of the motto to Mint Directory James Pollack, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, and President Abraham Lincoln on the suggestion of Baptist minister Mark R. Watkinson, as well as being inspired by the battle cry of the 125th Pennsylvania Infantry. Ultimately, it may have been a reaction to the fact that the constitution of the Confederacy opened with a reference to the Almighty. The early victories of the South seemed to some to chastise the North for its godless Constitution.

    “We, the deputies of the sovereign and independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, invoking the favor of Almighty God, do hereby, in behalf of these States, ordain and establish this Constitution …”

    Like all true histories, this one is complicated and nuanced; and Bierly’s record reveals people we might not otherwise know. Katherine “Kate” Chase was the daughter of Salmon P. Chase. She was destroyed by her marriage to Rhode Island governor William Sprague, though for her part, she was often in the company of a young friend from Ohio, James Garfield, who was also married. Their story however tangential is relevant because of the suggestion by Walter Breen that IGWT was inspired by the mottoes of Brown University and the State of Rhode Island. Even if true, the appearance of two similar (but different) appeals to the Almighty would have remained a happenstance were Kate Chase not the belle of Washington, eclipsing Mary Todd Lincoln as the hostess of the capital.

    And there’s more.

    Numismatists know many patterns from 1863, 1864, and 1865 with different placements of IGWT as well as patterns of 1866 lacking the motto. Some were genuine. Others were the work of enterprising Mint employees selling new-made rarities.

    Another fact known to most collectors of U.S. coins is that President Theodore Roosevelt was opposed to placing IGWT on coins and was proud of the first new $20 gold coins created according to the patterns of Augustus Saint Gaudens. The President relented. It was a lesson learned by his cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who spoke in Biblical allusions from his own bully pulpit to excoriate the business community. However, the business leaders of America soon joined the crusade against Godless communism. Among them was Matthew Rothert who is credited with the impetus to put the motto on our paper money. But his was one voice among many as “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

    The story of IGWT would not be complete without a chapter on Madelyn Murray O’Hair, the atheist activist who unsuccessfully sued the government to have it removed after successfully suing to bring an end to prayers in public schools.
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  3. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Evil person........
  4. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    And lovely, again, to see you Mike.........:)
  5. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    I don't think so. She was right, mandatory prayer in public schools was wrong. And the ruling to end mandatory prayer did NOT prohibit students from engaging in private, personal prayer in the schools. Too many people are under the false impression that it outlawed ALL prayer which it did not. Later when she sued to have televised and radio sunday morning religious broadcasts banned she was wrong. She claimed it was a misuse of the public airwaves for religious purposes, but the thing is it wasn't on ALL wavelengths, and the public did not have to listen or participate. They had the option of the OFF switch. So the courts rightly found against her there. Personally I think she was right about the motto being on the coins and currency and the courts were wrong. In God We Trust is not secular.
    ewomack and DonnaML like this.
  6. Long Beard

    Long Beard Active Member

    Just finished it a few weeks back. A highly recommended read.
    kaparthy likes this.
  7. Bambam8778

    Bambam8778 Well-Known Member

    Why is she an evil person?
    DonnaML likes this.
  8. Maxfli

    Maxfli Well-Known Member

    In before the lock.
  9. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    To respond on the matter of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, as much as I agree that prayer in tax-funded public schools is contrary to our traditions separating church and state, I have to say that from what I have read, she was, indeed, a damaged person. The best that could be said is that she was complicated, as many brilliant people are.

    William Bierly give a fair appraisal. For one thing, when America entered World War II, she volunteered for the WACs, attended OCS, and worked in cryptography. There seems to be no doubt about her intelligence, though some doubt about her actual military service. She did serve in Italy in cryptography. However, she told her family that she was on Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's staff and that has not been corrobated. (Bierly is not alone in saying that she "attended" OCS without saying what rank she held in the Army. The Penn State U. site below credits her with the rank of lieutenant.)

    See Pennsylvania Center for the Book here:

    But also this Texas Monthly article from January 1989.

    For all of that, though, from what I have read, she was mean. She was not a nice person. You would not want her for a neighbor or an in-law. I would not call her "evil" though.
  10. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    Obviously, I agree. Bierly really digs into the details, among so many, just the motto itself. We accept "In God We Trust" because it is the phrase we see on our coins and banknotes. However, the patterns of 1862 carried the motto "God Our Trust". The phrase is "In God Is Our Trust" on the demand notes of 1864, which is the actual phrase from The Star Spangled Banner.

    Similarly, long after the event, several people remembered inspiring the motto. Some of those claims were repeated in numismatic publications.
  11. Cachecoins

    Cachecoins Active Member

    I think it's obvious our founders were partial to E Pluribus Unum as it is on all the seals of the major branches of government. I also research this for a history class. I don't care if both are on the coins but I do believe E Pluribus Unum is a more unifying message as everyone doesn't believe in God. Just a humble opinion, I wouldn't argue it. I just like one more as a motto more than the other.

    I guess it begs the question ...is our motto what we are or what we aspire to. The later I think.We dont all believe in God but we have never really been unified either....but we aspire to be I think.

    Bambam8778, DonnaML and kaparthy like this.
  12. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Give people like her an inch, and they try to take a mile.......
  13. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    Perhaps I was a bit harsh with that statement.
  14. JCro57

    JCro57 Making Errors Great Again

    She was an evil person, but not because of her court case.
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