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In God We Trust
November 13, 1861 Rev. M. R. Watkinson from Ridleyville writes Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase asking the motto "God, Liberty, Law" be added to all currency to " us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed" Pennsylvania
November 20, 1861 Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase instructs James Pollock of U. S. Mint in Philadelphia that "the trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins."
December 9, 1863 Unhappy with proposals from the mint director, Salmon Chase recommends the words "In God We Trust" be added to the design of the new one, two and three-penny coins.
April 22, 1864 The motto "In God We Trust" approved for US coinage (Coinage Act of 1864)
  Civil War Firsts

"In God We Trust"

Although Faith in God and Faith in the Union had been popular concepts throughout American history, they enjoyed a renewal of sorts during The Civil War. A Pennsylvania minister came up with the idea of adding a motto to coins minted by the United States and expressed his feelings in a letter to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase on November 13, 1861, recommending the words "God, Liberty, Law" be added to all coins minted by the United States.

Chase liked the idea so much that within a week he told the director of the Philadelphia mint, "The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition." Mint director James Pollock decides to add the motto to the new one, two and three-penny designs then being worked on for future production. He proposed "Our God, Our Trust" and "God, Our Trust" to Chase. Unhappy with either recommendation, Chase personally came up with "In God We Trust."

First coin stamped with the motto
1864 Two penny coin
Since both coins and mottos must be approved by Congress, the Coinage Act of 1864 was written approving the new motto and the new coins. The first coin actually minted to have the "In God We Trust" motto was the 1864 two-penny piece.

After the war the use of the phrase on public currency curtailed, but in the early 1900's it was prescribe by law that it must appear on all coins minted by the U. S. Government on which the motto had appeared. In 1955 Florida Congressman Charles Bennett proposed a bill requiring the motto appear on all paper currency as well, saying "At the base of our freedom is our faith in God and the desire of Americans to live by his will and his guidance. As long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail."

The bill was passed by both the House and the Senate unanimously and was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 30, 1956.

U. S. Treasury
Congressional Record

Notes: The words "And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust'" appear in the fourth stanza of the Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. There is no evidence that Chase knew of these words when he came up with the phrase.

The term "In God We Trust" on U. S. coinage does not violate the First Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment contains the "Establishment Clause," which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Simple trust in God does not advocate any specific religion.

Links appearing on this page:

Salmon P. Chase
The Civil War

In God We Trust was last changed on - November 22, 2007
In God We Trust was added on - November 21, 2007

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