Letter from George Washington to an annual meeting of Quakers

Does Washington, in this letter, sound like he is talking about Christianity alone?

George Washington

September 1789

Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the persons and consciences of men from oppression, it certainly is the duty of rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but, according to their stations, to prevent it in others.

The liberty enjoyed by the people of theses states of worshiping Almighty God agreeably to their consciences, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights. While men perform their social duties faithfully, they do all that society or the state can with propriety demand or expect; and remain responsible only to their Maker for their religion, or modes of faith, which they may prefer or profess.

Your principles and conduct are well known to me; and it is doing the people called Quakers no more than justice to say, that (except their declining to share with others the burden of the common defense) there is no denomination among us, who are more exemplary and useful citizens.

I assure you very explicitly, that in my opinion the conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire, that the laws may always be as extensively accommodated to them, as a due regard to the protection and essential interests of the nation may justify and permit.

Related:

Did the First Amendment Make America a Christian Nation?

David Barton: Pluralism not the goal of the First Amendment

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  • ken

    But Warren, he said “Almight God” and since is his christian obviously he only means the christian god. and also since he is christian, when says “all men” he only means christian men.

  • Scott

    These Barton posts all have a fish-in-a-barrel quality to them.

  • Jayhuck

    Oft,

    David L. Holmes of William and Mary, among others, writes “few founders who were Deists would have participated in either rite” [communion]

    He goes on to explain Deists rejected all sacraments of any church.

    I do not think you understood my post. I suggest you read it again.

  • Tim Schultheis

    Ken,

    Washington’s use of the term “Almighty God” doesn’t only mean the Christian god – “Almighty God” (the God of Abraham) is also worshiped by Jews & Muslims (who share large parts of the same “holy” book – including Genesis).

    If Washington was speaking to a non-Christian group, I have no doubt he would have been more careful – and left out the “Almighty God” phrase altogether.

    To understand the founding fathers’ views on religion, please go to Wikipedia and check out “deism” and “age of enlightenment”, and especially “Thomas Paine”. Understand that we were inventing England / Europe version 2, version 1 being severely troubled by centuries of wars – internal and inter-European, caused by “official” and dictated-by-law religious doctrine forced on the population (go to Wikipedia, look up “War of the Roses” and “Hundred Year War”, and even “Henry the 8th”.)

    I hope the “Christian Nation” movement doesn’t do to our land what it did to Europe – which has “official state religion” in many of their laws, but very few humans in their churches. State influence on official religions is as bad for those religions as religious doctrine in law is bad for the State … from either side it makes sense to keep ‘em separated (proven by history in Europe).


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