Blogger Ben Railton says that Gov. Charles Pinkney (1757–1824) wrote the line in the US Constitution “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.” And that Pinkney was later asked
whether it would mean that “a Muslim could run for office in these United States?” Pinckney’s answer? “Yes, it does, and I hope to live to see it happen.”
I love it. But when asked for the cite, Railton could only reply
Thanks for the comment and good question. I found this exchange a good while back while working with Elliott’s Debates, the multi-volume account of the ratification debates, in the Library of Congress. As I noted and recorded it then, Pinckney was responding to a question from Patrick Calhoun, father of John C.; Calhoun’s question did use the word Mahometan, which I decided here to modernize.
The exchange stood out to me sufficiently when I noted it then that I believe that I read, recorded, and remember it accurately, although unfortunately while writing this piece I wasn’t able to find it documented in the available online transcripts of portions of the ratification debates. That’s a tricky question when it comes to online op eds like this, I guess–if I were including it in a book or even journal article I would probably have to make a trip to DC to confirm from prior notes before including it, but I felt it okay to rely on my notes and memory for this piece.
Hope that helps, and sorry I don’t have an online source for it. Thanks,
I couldn’t have gotten away with that kind of lame citation in college. Apparently Railton’s school was more forgiving.
PS: If you’d care to search for yourself, the Constitution Society has Elliot’s Debates on line.
PPS: Thanks to MrMild for this:
Thanks for your response to the piece. I wanted to mention that I have added an update to the piece, to make sure to highlight these sourcing questions/uncertainties, to apologize for them, and to note what remains true and important about these histories no matter what (as a fellow scholar’s follow up post, that I cite in my update and that engaged with my responses as well, nicely noted):
I should also mention that, besides my three books and other peer-reviewed articles, I have written more than 1350 posts on my own daily blog, as well as a few dozen pieces to date on TPM, We’re History, and other sites, and I would argue that the vast vast majority have been as clearly and carefully sourced as my books. So while I appreciate the critiques of this key spot in this one post, it’s important to make clear that this is far from an m.o. of mine or the like.
See also: http://pinckneyrailton.blogspot.com/