Saturday, August 18, 2007

August 17, 1790:

George Washington, Son of the Enlightenment

On August 17, 1790, President Washington visited Newport, Rhode Island, and the Hebrew Congregation of Newport presented a congratulatory address to the president on the occasion. Washington responded with a letter dated the same day:

"...All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship[.] 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.

"It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. 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 figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy."

The entire text is here, with notes.

August 17 is also the day that Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. was born -- in 1914, while his father was assistant secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration -- and the day he died, in 1988. Among other things, he graduated from Harvard, went to law school, served in the Navy during World War II, and was a member of Congress during the early 1950s. He was unable to follow his father's footsteps as governor of New York, however, losing in the Democratic primary in 1954. He lost the in the general election that same year for New York attorney general to Jacob Javits. He was an undersecretary of commerce during the Kennedy administration.

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