During the Civil War there was an increased religious feeling in the country. The Reverend M R Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, wrote a letter November 13th 1861 to US Treasury Secretary Salmon P Chase asking that a proclamation be placed on our money recognizing “Almighty God”. Chase wrote soon after to the Director of the Philadelphia Mint, that no “nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins"Chase wouldn’t formally submit the motto to the treasury until December 9th 1863. The act ratified that the motto be placed on the one cent and a newly designed two cent piece on April 22nd 1864.
The wording of the original letter from Reverend Watkinson is:
"Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.
One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.
You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.
This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.
To you first I address a subject that must be agitated."