The phrase “In God We Trust” appears to have originated in “The Star-Spangled Banner”, written during the War of 1812.
The fourth stanza includes the phrase, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.'”
Aspirations for the motto arose surrounding the turmoil and heightened religious sentiment that existed during the Civil War.
The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, as part of a campaign initiated by eleven northern Protestant Christian denominations in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing “Almighty God in some form in our coins.”
Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase acted on this proposal and directed the then-Philadelphia Director of the Mint, James Pollock, to begin drawing up possible designs that would include the phrase.
Chase chose his favorite designs and presented a proposal to Congress for the new designs in late 1863.
As Chase was preparing his recommendation to Congress, it was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States.
This meant that the mint could make no changes without the enactment of additional legislation by the Congress.
Such legislation was introduced and passed on April 22, 1864, allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to authorize the inclusion of the phrase on one-cent and two-cent coins.
Another Act of Congress passed on March 3, 1865.
This allowed the Mint Director, with the Secretary’s approval, to place the motto on all gold and silver coins that “shall admit the inscription thereon.”
Then in 1873, Congress granted that the Secretary of the Treasury “may cause the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to be inscribed on such coins as shall admit of such motto.”
The motto disappeared from the five-cent coin in 1883, and did not reappear until production of the Jefferson nickel began in 1938.
In 1908, Congress made it mandatory that the phrase be printed on all coins upon which it had previously appeared.
The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916.
It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck since July 1, 1908.
Since 1938, all US coins have borne the motto.
In 1956, the nation was at a particularly tense time in the Cold War.
As a result, the 84th Congress passed a joint resolution to replace the existing unofficial motto of E pluribus unum with “In God we trust”.
The change was partly motivated by a desire to differentiate between communism, which promotes atheism, and Western capitalistic democracies, which were at least nominally Christian.
The law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, and the motto was progressively added to paper money over a period from 1957 to 1966.
(Public Law 84-851) The United States Code at 36 U.S.C. § 302, now states: “In God we trust is the national motto.”
It is also the motto of the U.S. state of Florida.
Now We know em