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Behold here the motives of that mysterious likeness which give merit to a comparison with Jesus in the work the Supreme Author confided to [Hidalgo]: to save the American people, the continent of Anáhuac!
So spoke Padre Antonio Jose Martinez in 1832 in praise of Miguel Hidalgo on the tenth anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Mexico. That same year, Francis Gray extolled George Washington, the hero of another independence movement. Washington was the “Special instrument of divine providence for working out our political salvation, the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night which led us out of bondage.” Two new North American nations attempted to create a national identity and a useable mythology, side by side, if independent of each other. In this essay, I present a North American view of what could loosely be called civil religion.