(November 16, 1753–May 3, 1816), was a physician, soldier and politician. He was one of the signers of the Constitution of the United States, a member of the Continental Congress, a state legislator, and the U.S. Secretary of War, who supervised the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
He studied medicine under the renowned Dr. Benjamin Rush, himself a signer of the Declaration of Independence. James McHenry served with distinction under General Washington on the medical staff during the Revolutionary War. Fort McHenry, where, in 1812, the battle with Britain occasioned the writing of our national anthem, was named after him.
In 1813, he became the president of the first Bible society in Baltimore, Maryland. He conveys the urgency of distributing Bibles to the public in an article to solicit funds for the society:
Neither, in considering this subject, let it be overlooked, that public 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 intrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong intrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.
Consider also, the rich do not possess aught more precious than their Bible, and that the poor cannot be presented by the rich with anything of greater value. Withhold it not from the poor. It is a book of councils and directions, fitted to every situation in which man can be placed. It is an oracle which reveals to mortals the secrets of heavens and the hidden will of the Almighty. …
It is an estate, whose title is guaranteed by Christ, whose delicious fruits ripen every season, survive the worm, and keep through eternity. It is for the purpose of distributing this divine book more effectually and extensively among the multitudes, whose circumstances render such a donation necessary, that your cooperation is most earnestly requested.1443