May 31, 1787 In Constitutional Convention – Were the Founders Influenced by the Hebrew Republic?

Journal Federal Cons LogoMay 31, 1787
On this day in Convention, the delegates voted to make the legislature bicameral. Although there was some disagreement, they also agreed that one body should consist of representatives elected by the people. As to the Senate, the delegates could not decide how to comprise that branch. Madison recorded that “a chasm [was] left in this part of the plan.” They also agreed that either house could introduce legislation.
I find the delegate’s discussion relevant to a claim made often by David Barton and more recently by American University historian Daniel Dreisbach. Speaking recently on Barton’s Wallbuilders Live program, Dreisbach claimed that the founders were influenced by the “Hebrew Republic” of Moses. Rick Green is the host to which Dreisbach responded:

The Origins Of Our Republic
And you mentioned that earlier even the idea of a republic or a representative government, where did they draw from in the Bible on those types of things?
Well, this is interesting. So one thing we can say about the Founding generation is that they were all Republicans. They wanted to create a political system that was Republican in nature.
Now, Republicanism always meant two things to the Founders. It meant government by consent of the governed and it meant representative government. They drew on diverse traditions including the ancients, the Romans for example.
The one example that I think they come back to time and time again is the example of the Hebrew Republic. What they read about in the Books of Moses. You remember the children of Israel crossed over the Red Sea and all the responsibilities of government fall on the shoulders of Moses. And his father in law Jethro comes to him and says, “Moses you’re going to need some help in governing this tribe, these children of Israel.” And so Moses with divine providence begins to flesh out a form of government.
Now, Americans in the 18th Century read about this government in the books of Moses and in the books of Judges and Joshua and they see in that a model of Republican government. And they want to emulate that in their own system.

In Search of Biblical Principles

In addition to a search for David Barton’s biblical principles in “every clause” of the Constitution, another reason I am reading the entire Convention debate this summer is to look for evidence that the framers “came back to” the example of Moses “time and time again.”
In the discussion and debate of May 31, Moses wasn’t mentioned. The British government was invoked as a negative example (“The maxims taken from the British constitution were often fallacious when applied to our situation, which was extremely different.” Elbridge Gerry).
I was interested to learn that one of the most orthodox Christian of the founders – Roger Sherman of CT – didn’t want the people to vote for their representatives. Sherman said:

Mr. SHERMAN  opposed the election by the people, insisting that it ought to be by the State Legislatures. The people, he said, immediately, should have as little to do as may be about the government. They want information, and are constantly liable to be misled.

In any case, this debate surrounding the legislature and republican government didn’t invoke the Bible one time.
Read all of the posts in this Constitutional Convention series here.