According to the U.S. Treasury Fact Sheet on Coins and Currency the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on U.S. coins because of increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout people, throughout our country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity of God on it’s coins. The first letter dated November 13, 1861 was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, a minister from Rileyville, PA. It read:
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 all seeing 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.