The question in the title is, for the most part , only pondered by secularists, although, it means little to the people of today, to our Founding Fathers, it meant everything; it asks, "What law is our nation founded on? and "Where did the Founding Fathers understand where this written law came from?" To find out what the framers believed superior would be to examine their writings, and what they were taught in school, preferably college, or seminary. The answer becomes obvious, as well as showing how the doctrine of limiting the beliefs to a few infidel framers is not only disingenuous, but displays the only basis for the contrary viewpoint. Let it be clear, the morality of the Founding Fathers includes the sphere of politics; morality and politics cannot be separated. Justice was employed, not from something called the enlightenment, but, given by the law of nature as shown from the bible. The Justice of God, we sinners deserve, but mercy is the pinnacle of enlightenment; punishment fitting the crime, is derived from the bible, as earlier posts have showed. Loving your neighbor as yourself, science, freedom of conscience, and morality, come from the bible. Religion and morality are always superior to reason:
"By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. . . . All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it [the Bible] must perish, and how consoling the thought, it will not only survive the wreck of these systems but the world itself. "The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." [Matthew 1:18]
(Source: Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), p. 936, to John Adams, January 23, 1807.)
Founding Father John Witherspoon believed in no distinction between spiritual and civil liberty, promoted by Christians, lead by presbyterians in the revolution. John Locke and the English Whigs may be responsible for writing on the moral sense, but reason encompasses the entire bible, of which Thomas Aquinas showed four hundred years earlier, citing an incorrect source:
"That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion...God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both."
The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men, 17 May 1776
It is also important to note Witherspoon was not a pure calvinist as some make him out to be. By his writings, it is safe to say he believed in free will over irresistable grace, that calvinism holds to, as well as denying some other aspects of the flawed doctrine.
"The doctrines I mean are, the lost slate of man by nature ; salvation by the free grace of God"
Works of Witherspoon, Vol. II.
Salvation is not free to Calvinism, but a product of unconditional election.
"Yet I think, admitting all...consider how far any thing is consonant to reason, or may be proven by reason; though perhaps reason, if left to itself, would never have discovered it."
John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, foremost of the Founding Fathers.
Lectures on Moral Philosophy.
Reason cannot discover the answer, therefore, he believed, as the other framers, only religion, inspired writings could have ultimate truth. Man's reason is only true insofar as it coincides with scripture.
"I may make one particular remark, that though many things are copied from the law of Moses into the laws of the modern nations, yet, so far as I know, none of them have introduced the lex talionis in the case of injuries, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, and yet perhaps there are many instances in which it would be very proper."
An eye for an eye is enlightenment rationalism?
"If we take tradition or Revelation for our guide, the matter is plain, that God made man lord of the works of his hands, and put under him all the other creatures."
And again, is this enlightenment?
"If any should ask, how I prove that that course of action to which human nature is inclined is evil, without the acceptance of Scripture? I answer, from reason; and that many ways—from its pernicious effects on societies, and private persons; from the testimony of the world in general, when others than themselves are concerned, and from the testimony of every man's conscience in his own case."
Without Scripture as a guide, corrupted reason is just that; corrupt.
"From all this then, I would conclude, that reason accords with scripture, in saying, that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God: that man in a natural state, is wretched and miserable, and poor, and and naked."
Not scripture accords with reason, but reason according to the scripture. As far as salvation, that is Jesus Christ, which is the ultimate truth, scripture must be greater than reason, because only God's word can reveal faith.
"We must conclude therefore, that however stable a foundation there is for the other attributes of God in nature and reason, the way in which, and the terms on which, he will shew mercy, can be learned from Revelation only."
Here is another instance of reason not providing ultimate truth in a matter.
"It is true, that infidels do commonly proceed upon pretended principles of reason."
As did Infidels David Hume and Thomas Jefferson.
Witherspoon was President of Princeton College, his students included, in addition to a president and vice-president of the United States, nine cabinet members, twenty-one senators, thirty-nine congressmen, three justices of the Supreme Court, and twelve state governors. Five of the nine Princeton graduates among the fifty-five members of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were students of Witherspoon.
Witherspoon also claims the judging of good and evil by man's reason is not sufficiently precise and explicit, the Divine conduct being the standard of wisdom.
Let it forever by destroyed, the use of generic terms a departure of orthodoxy as Witherspoon shows in his Lectures:
"In the law of Moses, where rules are laid down for their treatment" p. 92, "many things are copied from the law of Moses into the laws of the modern nations" p. 145, "and that both in the Scripture revelation..." p. 56, "The first two of these founded on the New Testament, and the last on reason."
"The particulars which reason and nature point out, relating to the marriage contract, are as follow: 1. That it be between one man and one woman. Polygamy is condemned by nature...
The Law of Moses and the New Testament is secular? Condemnation, which would be the just punishment of homosexuality, is enlightenment rationalism?
George Washington says religion and morality, not reason, are indispensable to government:
'Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."
George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge), pp. 22-23. In his Farewell Address to the United States in 1796.)
"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, Patriot and Father of American Geography
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.)
"[P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience."
James McHenry, Signer of the Constitution
The scriptures alone, not reason, give man total truth.
Separation of religion and government? Not to the Founding Fathers:
"[T]he primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of society. . . . To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support: and among these . . . religious institutions are eminently useful and important. . . . [T]he legislature, charged with the great interests of the community, may, and ought to countenance, aid and protect religious institutions."
Oliver Ellsworth, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Connecticut Courant, June 7, 1802, p. 3, Oliver Ellsworth, to the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut)
"Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, [and] which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, and [which] insured to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
Bernard C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers, 1907), p. 475. In a letter from Charles Carroll to James McHenry of November 4, 1800.)
Again, the Founding Fathers are clear; the bible is superior to man's reason for government.
"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, Framed the final wording for the First Amendment
An Oration on the Sublime Virtues of General George Washington (Boston: Young & Minns, 1800), p. 23.)
"The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes . . . of universal application-laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation which ever professed any code of laws."
John Quincy Adams, Sixth President of the United States
Letters of John Quincy Adams, to His Son, on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn: James M. Alden, 1850), p. 61.)
It is clear, the Founding Fathers believed religion far superior to man's right or wrong reason.