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Inspired by History

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INV-24159 [MOSES SEIXAS] Pamphlet. The American Museum, or Universal Magazine, for June 1791. Philadelphia, PA: Matthew Carey. Final issue of vol 9. Disbound. Including Moses Seixas’ letter to President Washington on behalf of the Newport congregation (based in Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue still standing in America). The Seixas letter appears on p. 40 of Appendix II. 192? pp. 8¼ x 5 in. 1791-06-01

In 1789, President George Washington toured New England but did not visit Rhode Island because it had not yet ratified the Constitution. Rhode Island was the last of the original thirteen states to ratify the Constitution, on May 29, 1790. Fewer than three months later, Washington visited Rhode Island with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and others. On August 18, 1790, Washington stopped at the Touro Synagogue, and Warden Moses Seixas read this letter from the congregation to Washington.

Washington’s reply to the Touro letter (which unfortunately is not printed here) is his most famous letter, and one of the greatest statements on religious freedom. Washington’s declaration that the U.S. government gives “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” is actually drawn from Seixas’ letter to him. Washington made loyalty to the nation, rather than a particular creed, the prerequisite for religious freedom and equality.

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