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President Washington Addresses Congress and Other Groups on Issues Ranging from Freedom of Religion to Democratic Governance
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This remarkable collection of speeches and letters by President George Washington is notable for including all of his annual messages to Congress (the forerunner of modern state-of-the-union addresses), including his first inaugural, and the response of Congress to each. It also includes letters from religious groups, state legislatures, municipal organizations, and a variety of other societies to the President and his response. Finally, it includes Washington’s letter of resignation as commander in chief of the armies of the United States and his farewell orders to the armies, both from late 1783.

Because it includes addresses from the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, and from the Hebrew Congregations of Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, and Richmond, along with Washington’s responses, and was “published according to Act of Congress,” it is the first official publication of the United States government relating to American Jews.

Historic subscriber list at front, with Revolutionary War names of note, including Samuel Adams, General Henry Knox, and a large group of Harvard University tutors and students.

AMERICAN JUDAICA. GEORGE WASHINGTON. Book. A Collection of the Speeches of the President of the United States to Both Houses of Congress, At the Opening of Every Session, with Their Answers. Also, the Addresses to the President, with His Answers, From the Time of His Election: With An Appendix, Containing the Circular Letter of General Washington to the Governors of the Several States, and His Farewell Orders, to the Armies of America, and the Answer, FIRST EDITION. Boston: Manning and Loring, 1796. 8vo., 4¼ x 7 in. 282 pp. Foxed. Contemporary blind-tooled calf, scuffed, rebacked.

Inventory #24711       Price: $12,000

Excerpt: (From famous letter to Touro Synagogue)

“happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

Historical Background

The Jewish congregation in Newport sent an address to the President on August 17, 1790, welcoming him to Newport, and Washington responded with his views of religious liberty in the new nation: “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.... May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

The collection also includes another address by Moses Seixas, the warden of the Jewish congregation in Newport, in his other role as Master of the King David’s Lodge of the Masons in Newport. This address welcomed Washington to Rhode Island “as a Brother” and expressed their “fervent supplications, that the Sovereign Architect of the Universe may always encompass you with his holy protection.” Washington responded, “Being persuaded that a just application of the principles on which the Masonic Fraternity is founded, must be promotive of private virtue and public prosperity, I shall always be happy to advance the interest of the Society, and to be considered by them as a deserving Brother.”

The Jewish congregations of Philadelphia, New York, Charleston and Richmond sent a joint congratulatory letter to Washington in December 1790: “The wonders which the Lord of Hosts hath worked in the days of our forefathers, have taught us to observe the greatness of his wisdom and his might, throughout the events of the late glorious revolution; and while we humble ourselves at his footstool in thanksgiving and praise for the blessing of his deliverance, we acknowledge you the Leader of the American Armies, as his chosen and beloved servant. But not to your sword alone is our present happiness to be ascribed: that, indeed, opened the way to the reign of freedom; but never was it perfectly secure, till your hand gave birth to the Federal Constitution; and you renounced the joys of retirement, to seal by your administration in peace what you had achieved in war.” In response to the good wishes expressed in this address, Washington reciprocated: “The liberality of sentiment towards each other which marks every political and religious denomination of men in this country, stands unparalleled in the history of nations.... May the same temporal and eternal blessings which you implore for me, rest upon your Congregations.

During the struggle for the passage of the Maryland Jew Bill (to eliminate Jewish disabilities in the state) at the beginning of the nineteenth century, one supporter, Col. William G. D. Worthington, delivered an address before the State Legislature and read the entire correspondence between the Jews of Newport and Washington. The letters continued to be cited by Jews and their advocates throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to demonstrate that the founding father had fully sanctioned their inclusion into the American nation.

This volume also includes eleven other addresses from religious denominations, ranging from Catholics and Lutherans to Methodists and Quakers, to George Washington expressing their congratulations to and appreciation of him, together with his responses to them.  In addition, addressed from more than fifty other groups of citizens and Washington’s response to them appear in the volume. Groups range from state governors and legislators to mayors and town councils, from college faculties to the inhabitants of individual towns, from groups of Masons to groups of tradesmen. Together, these addresses provide a remarkable view of the relationship of many groups of Americans to their first president.

Additional Excerpts:

George Washington, First State of the Union Address, January 8, 1790:

I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself, of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North-Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received) the rising credit and respectability of our country, the general and increasing good-will towards the government of the union, and the concord, peace and plenty, with which we are blessed, are circumstances auspicious, in an eminent degree to our national prosperity…Among the many interesting objects, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies....”

George Washington, Fifth State of the Union Address, December 3, 1793:

If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war....”

George Washington, Sixth State of the Union Address, November 19, 1794:

with the deepest regret do I announce to you that during your recess some of the citizens of the United States have been found capable of insurrection.... to yield to the treasonable fury of so small a portion of the United States would be to violate the fundamental principle of our Constitution, which enjoins that the will of the majority shall prevail.

George Washington to the Religious Society of Quakers, 1789:

 “We have reason to rejoice in the prospect that the national government which by the favour of divine Providence was formed by the common councils, and peaceably established with the common consent of the people, will prove a blessing to every denomination of them; to render it such my best endeavors shall not be wanting. 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.”

George Washington to the Bishops, Clergy, and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church, August 19, 1789:

“It affords edifying prospects indeed, to see Christians of different denominations dwell together in more charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other with a more Christian-like spirit than ever they have done in any former age, or in any other nation. I receive with the greater satisfaction your congratulations on the establishment of the new constitution of government, because I believe its mild, yet efficient, operations will tend to remove every remaining apprehension of those with whose opinions it may not entirely coincide.…” 

George Washington to the Synod of the Reformed Dutch Church in North America, October 1789:

You, Gentlemen, act the part of pious Christians and good citizens, by your prayers and exertions to preserve that harmony and good will among men, which must be the basis of every political establishment; and I readily join with you, that ‘while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.’

George Washington to the First Presbytery of the Eastward, October 1789:

The tribute of thanksgiving, which you offer to the gracious Father of Lights, for his inspiration of our public councils with wisdom and firmness to complete the national Constitution, is worthy of men, who, devoted to the pious purposes of religion, desire their accomplishment by such means as advance the temporal happiness of their fellow men. And here, I am persuaded, you will permit me to observe, that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction. To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation respecting religion from the Magna Charta of our country.

George Washington to the Convention of the Universal Church, August 1790:

It gives me the most sensible pleasure to find, that, in our nation, however different are the sentiments of the citizens on religious doctrines, they generally concur in one thing: for their political professions and practices are almost universally friendly to the order and happiness of our civil institutions.”

Note:

This collection includes thirteen of Washington’s important letters to religious congregations. The Washington letters to religious congregations not included areto: the United Baptist Churches in Virginia (August 8, 1789); Moravian Society for Propagating the Gospel (c. August 15, 1789); the Society of the Free Quakers (March 1790); the Hebrew Congregation of Savannah, Georgia (May 1790); the Clergy of Newport, Rhode Island (August 18, 1790); the Congregational Church of Midway, Georgia (May 13, 1791).


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