One of the first settlements in what would become the United States was by the Puritans in New England. “Independently, many Puritans took up and applied the older idea that England enjoyed a covenant with God—a ‘covenant of grace,’ they called it—even if they hesitated at first about whether the Promised Land was to be found in the new England or the old” (Todd Gitlin and Leil Leibovitz, The Chosen People, 2010, p. 65).
Puritan minister John Cotton “preached the ‘land of promise’ to … Puritan voyagers aboard the Arbella as they were about to set sail from Southampton in 1630, drawing his text from II Samuel 7:10: ‘Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more’ ” (pp. 65-66).
As time went on, some of the Founding Fathers of America used biblical metaphors and word pictures to describe the new land. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress instructed Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to design a seal for the United States. What did they propose?
“A few weeks later, Franklin proposed this image (in his own words): ‘Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharaoh who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his Hand. Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by Command of the Deity. Motto, Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.’
“Jefferson … [suggested] ‘a representation of the children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night’ ” (pp. 67-68).