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"In God We Trust"

One of President Theodore Roosevelt’s losing arguments was based on the phrase “In God We Trust” on America’s coinage. First adopted for coinage in 1865 and years later named the U.S. motto, President Roosevelt was opposed to the slogan when it was re-considered for new coinage during his administration.

In November, 1907, TR expressed his stance in a letter.

“Of course, the matter of the law is absolutely in the hands of Congress, and any direction of Congress will be immediately obeyed. My own feeling in the matter is due to my firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, not only does no good, but positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege. A beautiful and solemn sentence such as the one in question should be treated and uttered only with that fine reverence, which implies a certain exaltation of spirit. Any use which tends to cheapen it, and above all any use which tends to secure its being treated in a spirit of levity, is from every standpoint profoundly to be regretted. In all my life I have never heard any human being speak reverently of this motto on the coins or show any sign of its having appealed to any high emotion in him. But I have literally hundreds of times heard it used as an occasion of sneering ridicule which is above all things undesirable that so beautiful and exalted a phrase should excite. For example, the existence of this motto on the coins was a constant source of jest and ridicule, and this was unavoidable. Everyone must remember the innumerable cartoons and articles based on phrases like “In God We Trust for the other eight cents; In God We Trust for the 37 cents we do not pay,” and so forth and so forth.”

Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and recorded by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

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