To the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, May 1789—George Washington


On May 26, 1789, the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in the United States meeting in Philadelphia, PA sent an address to the newly inaugurated first President of the United States, George Washington. The President’s response was full of his typical humility, gratitude, and sincere faith in God coupled with a call to his fellow man to so live as they profess. He writes:


I receive with great sensibility the testimonial given by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, of the lively and unfeigned pleasure experienced by them on my appointment to the first office in the nation.

Although it will be my endeavor to avoid being elated by the too favorable opinion, which your kindness for me may have induced you to express of my former conduct and the effect of my future services, yet, conscious of the disinterestedness of my motives, it is not necessary for me to conceal the satisfaction I have felt upon finding, that my compliance with the call of my country, and my dependence on the assistance of Heaven to support me in my arduous undertakings, have, so far as I can learn, met the mutual approbation of my countrymen.

While I reiterate the professions of my dependence upon Heaven as the source of all public and private blessings; I will observe that the general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and economy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs, particularly necessary for advancing and conforming the happiness of our country. While all men within our territories are protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences; it is rationally to be expected from them in return, that they will all be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man, who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his own religious society.

I desire you to accept my acknowledgments for your laudable endeavors to render men sober, honest, and good Citizens, and the obedient subjects of a lawful government, as well as for your prayers to Almighty God for his blessing on our common country, and the humble instrument, which he has pleased to make use of in the administration of its government.

George Washington

Source: The Writings of George Washington; Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and Other Papers, Official and Private, Selected and Published from the Original Manuscripts with A Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, By Jared Sparks, In Twelve Volumes. Boston: – American Stationers Company. London: J.M. Campbell, 156, Regent Street, 1838; Volume XII, p. 152-153 (Sparks dates the President’s response simply as May 1789).

They Were Believers is researched, compiled, edited and formatted for the Internet (with occasional commentary and explanatory notes) by Steve Farrell, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Self-Educated American.

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