Browse our archive of original historical documents on the themes of this book:

- Founding Principles

- Slavery

- Property Rights

- Women and the Right to Vote

- Women and the Family

- Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting

- Poverty and Welfare

- Immigration and the Moral Conditions of Citizenship

- Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding

.......................................

Home > Document Library > Immigration and the Moral Conditions of Citizenship > To the Annual Meeting of Quakers


To the Annual Meeting of Quakers

George Washington
September 1789


[Religious liberty does not exempt one from the duties of citizenship. — TGW]

 

[Politely but firmly, Washington indicates in this letter some of the moral conditions of citizenship.]

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 these states of worshipping 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. [Washington is alluding to the Quaker refusal to serve in the armed forces.]

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.

[From George Washington, A Collection, ed. W.B. Allen (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1989), 533-4. Remarks in brackets are from the editor - TGW]





USING THIS SITE:

Home | Preface | Document Library | Book Reviews | Purchase | Meet the Author










This site is a project of the
Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University
and
The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy

Send comments to:
info@VindicatingTheFounders.com