George Washington's Letters to Churches


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Washington's Addresses to the Churches. - Washington's addresses to the American churches, in reply to their congratulations upon his election to the Presidency, constitute one of the most interesting divisions of his writings, and illustrate one of the noblest and most salutary features of his life and influence. The governors and legislatures of many of the States, the mayors and aldermen of leading cities, the presidents and trustees of colleges, and the representatives of organizations of various character sent formal addresses to him, expressing their satisfaction in his inauguration, and his replies to all were full of dignity and wisdom; but his replies to the churches, which, as they met in general convention or otherwise during the months succeeding his election, successively addressed him, are especially memorable for their revelations of his broad spirit of toleration and sympathy and their inculcation of the duty of fraternity and mutual respect which should always govern the various religious bodies living together in the free republic.

It has been well said that all lines of our national policy seem to lead back to George Washington as all roads lead to Rome. If party spirit becomes extravagant and dangerous, we turn to him for the best words with which to rebuke it. If reckless politicians would postpone the public peace and embroil the nation for their own selfish purposes, his word and great example are their shame and the people's refuge; and, whenever bigotry and intolerance raise their heads, and men would stir up the animosity of one part of the people against another in the name of religion, Washington's addresses to the churches will still be appealed to by good citizens. Such will remember how he wrote to the Lutheran, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Episcopalian, the Quaker, the Universalist, the Swedenborgian, the Roman Catholic, and the Jew, reminding all of their common duties as citizens, and assuring all of the common protection of the national government, which knows no differences of creeds, but holds all creeds alike before the law.

The student is referred to the valuable essay on Washington's Religious Opinions, in Sparks's edition of Washington's Writings, vol. xii., appendix, p. 399. Two expressions of Washington, quoted in this essay, should be given here as well supplementing the addresses printed in the leaflet. To Lafayette Washington wrote, Aug. 15, 1787, alluding to the proceedings of the Assembly of Notables: "I am not less ardent in my wish that you may succeed in your plan of toleration in religious matters. Being no bigot myself, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church with that road to heaven which to them shall seem the most direct, plainest, easiest, and least liable to exception." Again, in a letter to Sir Edward Newenham, Oct. 20, 1792: "Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy which has marked the present age would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see their religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society."

The George Washington Letters to Churches

George Washington's Letter to the German Lutheran Church

George Washington's Letter to the Presbyterian Church

George Washington's Letter to the Methodist Church

George Washington's Letter to the Baptist Church

George Washington's Letter to the German Reformed Church

George Washington's Letter to the United Brethren

George Washington's Letter to the Episcopal Church

George Washington's Letter to the Reformed Dutch Church

George Washington's Letter to the Quakers

George Washington's Letter to the Catholic Church

George Washington's Letter to the Jews

George Washington's Letter to the Universal Church

George Washington's Letter to the Congregational Church




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