|Teach Our History|
The First Congress and the First Bible
In 1777, about a year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the American colonies were suffering under the embargoes imposed by the British. Among the important commodities that were in short supply were Bibles. This shortage of Bibles at such a critical time prompted a request to be placed before Congress to print or import more. A committee was appointed to study the situation, and then reported to Congress that:
Congress agreed with the committee's recommendation and ordered the Bibles to be imported.
As the Revolution continued, the shortage of Bibles remained a problem. In an effort to resolve the problem, in 1781, Robert Aitken, the publisher of The Pennsylvania Magazine, petitioned Congress for permission to print the Bibles on his presses here in America rather than import them. His request stated that his Bibles would be an "edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools." Congress approved his request, and appointed a committee to oversee the project.
As work to begin printing Bible neared completion, the chairman of the Congressional committee reported to Congress:
In 1782, the full Congress approved the Bible, and printing began. This Bible became the first English Bible ever printed in America, and in the front of that Bible was the Congressional endorsement:
Later, this act of Congress prompted an American historian write: