“In God We Trust”: The Emblematic Phrase’s Debut on American Currency in 1864

In the annals of American history, the phrase “In God We Trust” has long been a symbol of the nation’s spiritual foundation. It’s a statement that resonates deeply with many, representing a connection between the divine and the governance of the country. But how did this phrase find its way onto American currency? The story unfolds in the tumultuous year of 1864.

“In God We Trust”: The Emblematic Phrase’s Debut on American Currency in 1864

The Civil War and a Nation in Turmoil

The 1860s were marked by the profound discord of the American Civil War. As the North and South clashed over the future of the nation, it was a period of deep introspection, with citizens and leaders alike searching for meaning amidst the chaos. It was during these trying times that the idea of inscribing a divine statement on the nation’s currency took root.

The Reverend’s Proposal

The genesis of the idea can be traced back to a letter written by Reverend M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, to then-Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase in 1861. Watkinson’s letter highlighted the absence of any acknowledgment of the Almighty on the country’s coinage. He proposed that a statement recognizing God’s sovereignty be included, thereby offering a testament of national trust in divine providence.

Moved by Watkinson’s plea, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, the Director of the Mint in Philadelphia, to prepare suitable designs that incorporated a reference to God.

The Birth of a National Motto

Various mottos were proposed, including “God Our Trust” and “God and Our Country.” However, it was “In God We Trust” that ultimately captured the essence of the sentiment and was chosen for its concise clarity and profound meaning.

In 1864, the phrase made its inaugural appearance on the two-cent coin. With its introduction, the motto quickly garnered support from the public, reflecting both the nation’s reliance on divine guidance during the Civil War and the broader spiritual sentiments of the American populace.

From Coinage to Currency

The success of the two-cent coin and the resonance of the motto led to its gradual adoption on other coins. In 1956, amid the Cold War and as a counter to atheistic communism, Congress passed a resolution making “In God We Trust” the national motto. Shortly after, in 1957, it started appearing on paper currency.

The story of “In God We Trust” is not just about a phrase on money; it’s a narrative of a nation grappling with its identity during one of its darkest hours. The inclusion of the motto in 1864 was a powerful reminder to a divided nation of its foundational values and an enduring belief in a higher power guiding its destiny. Today, as the words continue to grace American currency, they stand as a testament to the nation’s enduring spirit and faith.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases through some links in our articles.