On this day 152 years ago, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1864. This was when Congress decided it was really, really important to print “In God We Trust” on our money. And why was it so important? Well, for three-quarters of a century, the Christian fanatics had been complaining about God not being mentioned in the Constitution. And so every time something bad happened, they started screaming about how the United States had offended God. It was just like today only not nearly as bad.
In 1864, the Civil War was going on. And that had nothing to do with slavery and economics and all that. No, it was just that God was unhappy. So to pacify the crybabies, Congress passed the law and put “God” on our coins. Because, you know, there is nothing that says “Jesus!” like money.
Then, in the midst of the Cold War, in 1956, “In God We Trust” replaced E pluribus unum as our national motto. Today, of course, conservatives would be outraged that America was pandering to people in Latin America and Spain. But then it was all about the Soviet Union being filled with Godless communists where as we were a “nation of believers.” So we got rid of the truly profound notion of “Out of many, one.” And we replaced it with, “Hope for the best!”
So we mark the anniversary of one of Congress’ more minor betrayals of the founding principles of this country.