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shim Brief Biography
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George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was a central and critical figure in the founding of the United States, and is commonly referred to as father of the nation. He led America's Continental Army to victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and in 1789 was elected the first President of the United States of America.  He served two four-year terms from 1789 to 1797, winning reelection in 1792. His devotion to republicanism and civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians.

Religious Convictions

Washington was baptized as an infant into the Church of England.  Throughout his life, he spoke of the value of righteousness, and of seeking and offering thanks for the "blessings of Heaven."

Washington endorsed religion rhetorically and in his 1796 Farewell Address remarked on its importance in building moral character in American citizenry, believing morality undergirded all public order and successful popular government.  After the American Revolution, Washington frequently accompanied his wife to Christian church services. 

He was an early supporter of religious toleration and freedom of religion.

 

 

 

 


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   President George Washington & the New Church in Baltimore
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This exchange of letters between the New Church in Baltimore and the first President of the United States became a historically significant statement about George Washington's strong position on religious tolerance.

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A Letter from the 'New Church' in Baltimore to George Washington

January 22, 1793

Sir,

While the Nations of the Earth, and the people of United America especially, have in their various denominations paid their tribute to the respectful deference to the illustrious President thereof, permit, for a Society however small in number, yet sincere they trust, in their attachment to offer up in the dawn of their institution, that mark of dutiful esteem which will become the new associations, to the Chief Magistrate of America.

We presume not, Sir, to enter into a reiterated panegyric of matchless virtues or exalted character, but assuming causes with effects, we are led to believe that you were a chosen vessel for great Salutary purposes, and that both in your actions and in your conduct, you justly stand one of the first disinterested and exemplary men upon earth. Neither in this address can we, was it expected, enter into a detail of the profession of our faith; but we are free to declare that we feel ourselves among the number of those who have occasion to rejoice that the word literally is spiritually fulfilling; that a new and glorious dispensation or fresh manifestation of Divine Love hath commenced in our Land; when as there is but one Lord, so is his name becoming one throughout the earth; & that the power of Light or truth and righteousness is in an eminent Degree, universally prevailing, and even triumphing over the powers of Darkness; when Priestcraft & Kingcraft, those banes of human felicity, are hiding their diminished heads, and equality in State, as well as in Church, proportionally to mind, are considered the true criterion of the majesty of the people. -- Oh! Sir, could we, without being charged with adulation, pour out the fullness of our souls to the enlightened conduct of him who stands chief among the foremost of men, what a volume of truth might we deservedly offer to the name of Washington, on the altar of Liberty uncircumscribed! Allow us, by the first opportunity, to present to your Excellency, among other Tracts, the Compendium of the New Church, signified by the New Jerusalem, as the readiest mean to furnish you with a just idea of the Heavenly Doctrines.

That the Lord Jesus, whom alone we acknowledge as "the true God & eternal Life," will preserve you long to reign in the hearts of the people, and lastly to shine as a gem of the brightest lustre, a Star of the first magnitude of the unfading mansions above, is the fervent aspiration of your faithful citizens and affectionate Brethren. Done in behalf of the members of the Lord's New Church at Baltimore, this 22d Day of January 1793.

W.J. Didier

Secy. Protem

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To the members of the 'New Church' in Baltimore - from George Washington

January 27, 1793

Gentlemen,

It has ever been my pride to mind the approbation of my fellow citizens by a faithful and honest discharge of the duties annexed to those Stations to which they have pledged to place me; and the dearest rewards of my Services have been those testimonies of esteem and confidence with which they have honored me. But to the manifest interpretation of an over-ruling Providence, and to the patriotic exertions of United America, are to be ascribed those events which have given us a respectable rank among the nations of the earth. --

We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened Age & in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets, will not forfeit his protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.

Your Prayers for my present and future felicity were received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities, taste those blessings which a gracious God bestows upon the Righteous.

G. Washington

 

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Another painting by Gilbert Stuart in 1795.

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