The Black Robe Regiment: How a Group of Patriots Founded America

The Black Robe Regiment in the Revolutionary War

They were called the “Black Robe Regiment.”

A group of patriots who served in Congress, presided over influential American schools, led troops in the Revolutionary War, signed the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and other important founding documents.

Their names?

  • JOHN WITHERSPOON (President of Princeton)
  • JOHN P. MUHLENBERG (Revolutionary War General)
  • FREDERICK A. MUHLENBERG (1st Speaker of the House)
  • ABIEL FOSTER (New Hampshire and U.S. Congressman)
  • BENJAMIN CONTEE (Revolutionary War Officer, Congressman)
  • ABRAHAM BALDWIN (Senator, President of Univ. of Georgia)
  • PAINE WINGATE (Senator and Congressman)
  • JOSEPH MONTGOMERY (Judge, Congressman)
  • JAMES MANNING (President of Brown University)
  • JOHN J. ZUBLY (Continental Congressman)

What did the “black robe regiment” have in common?

They were all “robed” as clergymen.

It’s true. They were local church pastors and preachers, highly educated and extremely influential.

Witherspoon, Zubly, and Montgomery were Presbyterians. The Muhlenbergs were Lutherans. Contee was an Episcopalian. Manning was a Baptist. Foster was a Puritan. Baldwin and Wingate were Congregationalists.

During the Revolutionary War these clergymen united around two causes: evangelism (enlarging God’s Kingdom) and freedom (liberation from England’s heavy rule).

They were some of the smartest men in the land, bred in the best American Universities, including Yale, Harvard, and Brown.

The open and vital influence of the “black robed regiment” proves how much contemporary America has misunderstood the “separation of church and state.” Our Founding Fathers built America upon a Christian foundation that permitted all citizens the right to religious freedom, speech, press, assembly, petition, trial by jury, among others. Any “separation” was to prohibit government interference into the church, not to keep the church out of the government.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated: “The church must be reminded that it is…the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state…If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

America was first colonized by religious “pilgrims” and their leaders seeking a place to worship freely. It’s what liberated America originally, what made America powerful historically, and will restore America’s greatness again.

America is only as great as it is good.

We cannot have civility nor liberty without virtuous people and it’s impossible to have virtuous people without religion.  Listen to the words of these Founding Fathers:

“It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue. (John Adams)

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” (Samuel Adams)

Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers.” (Fisher Ames)

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” (Benjamin Franklin)

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.” (Jedediah Morse)

No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.” (The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824)

“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.” (Benjamin Rush)

The most perfect maxims and examples for regulating your social conduct and domestic economy, as well as the best rules of morality and religion, are to be found in the Bible. . . . The moral principles and precepts found in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation. . . . All the evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. . . . For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts. (Noah Webster)

Essentially, our Founders believed it was impossible to have a civilized republic without virtue…and impossible to have virtue without religion…and no religion exceeded Christianity, in the history of the world, in creating a better people.





1.  John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 401, to Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776.

2. William V. Wells, The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1865), Vol. I, p. 22, quoting from a political essay by Samuel Adams published in The Public Advertiser, 1749.

3. Fisher Ames, An Oration on the Sublime Virtues of General George Washington (Boston: Young & Minns, 1800), p. 23.).

4. Benjamin Franklin, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Jared Sparks, editor (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore and Mason, 1840), Vol. X, p. 297, April 17, 1787.

5. Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1799), p. 9.

6. Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824. Updegraph v. Commonwealth; 11 Serg. & R. 393, 406 (Sup.Ct. Penn. 1824).

7. Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), p. 8.

8. Noah Webster, History of the United States, “Advice to the Young” (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), pp. 338-340, par. 51, 53, 56.

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