In our last post, we looked at the meaning of “E Pluribus Unum,” what it signifies and why it’s still on our currency today. Now we’re taking a look at the phrase “In God We Trust” and how it came to be on our currency in this next installment of our U.S. currency mini-series.
The phrase “In God We Trust” first came into play during the Civil War, when religious awareness and sentiment began to increase and Americans wanted to know what our country stood for. Then-Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received numerous letters from American citizens requesting to have this phrase added to American coins, and he proposed the idea to Congress as he agreed with the requests. Congress passed the proposal, and in 1864, the first coin, a two-cent piece, was minted, proudly declaring, “In God We Trust.”
A lesser-known fact is that originally these four words were derived from the last verse of Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner”:
“….And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
By 1909, the phrase was included on almost all other coins in U.S. circulation.
For over a century, however, having “In God We Trust” on our currency has been a hot-button issue, starting with President Teddy Roosevelt’s order to remove the phrase from newly-designed gold coins in 1907. After a significant public outcry and rebuttal to his decision, Congress was forced to backtrack and the phrase was added back onto American coins. The pendulum swung in the opposite direction at the highest point of tension during the Cold War, when President Eisenhower and Congress directed the addition of “In God We Trust” to all paper currency. Not only that, Eisenhower signed a law on July 31, 1956 to make the phrase our nation’s official motto, and starting in 1957 and up until today, all paper and coin currency are printed with “In God We Trust” somewhere on the front or back.
It’s no secret that our nation was founded on Christian principles, so it’s not much of a stretch to figure out why this phrase holds such significance and why it’s caused so much controversy with those who don’t believe in God. For those who do, though, it’s a wonderful and ever-so-subtle reminder of the beliefs that inspired our nation.
(Information Sources: http://time.com/4179685/in-god-we-trust-currency-history/, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-eisenhower-signs-in-god-we-trust-into-law, http://www.allabouthistory.org/in-god-we-trust.htm)