The American's Creed
On a spring day in 1917, as the United States was headed inevitably toward war with Germany, William Tyler Page, then the clerk of the House of Representatives, sat down and penned the only formal prose he is known to have written:
Page's patriotic prose was composed as an entry in a national writing contest, held to establish a creed for all Americans. The national creed was to be a brief summary of the American political faith founded upon things fundamental in American history and tradition. Page was not alone in his expression of patriotism; news of the contest generated more than three thousand entries from across the country. Contest judges selected Page's entry as "the best summary of the political faith of America."
James H. Preston, the mayor of Baltimore, presented an award to Page in the House of Representatives Office Building on April 3, 1918. Ten days later, Congress officially adopted Page's writing as "The American's Creed".
In just one hundred words, Page summarized both the American political tradition and the responsibilities of every citizen to his or her government. The American's Creed used passages and phrases from the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and Daniel Webster's reply to Robert Y. Hayne in the Senate in 1830.
William Tyler Page was a descendant of John Page, who had come to America in 1650 and had settled in Williamsburg, Virginia. Another ancestor, Carter Braxton, had signed the Declaration of Independence. Another well-known ancestor was John Tyler, the tenth president of the United States. William Tyler Page had come to Washington at the age of thirteen to serve as a Capitol Page. Later he became an employee of the Capitol building and served as Clerk of the House of Representatives until 1931. A new post, Emeritus Minority Clerk, was then created for him which he occupied until his death on October 20, 1942.
Page said of the Creed: "It is the summary of the fundamental principles of the American political faith as set forth in its greatest documents, its worthiest traditions, and its greatest leaders."
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