Will my opposition to national religious observances upset our allies?

patrick lee thomas jeffersonThomas Jefferson Leadership

…the [Danbury]Baptist address now inclosed … furnishes an occasion too, which I have long wished to find, of saying why I do not proclaim fastings & thanksgivings, as my predecessors did. the address to be sure does not point at this, and it’s introduction is awkward, but I foresee no opportunity of doing it more pertinently. I know it will give great offence to the New England clergy. but the advocate for religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them…
To Levi Lincoln, January 1, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders are careful not to offend the sensibilities of loyal supporters.
The President sent a draft of his reply to the Danbury Baptists to his Massachusetts-born Attorney General. In particular, he wanted to know how Republican New Englanders would react.

In the last post, also taken from this letter, Jefferson said he used his responses to citizen addresses to teach the people “useful truths & principles.” In this excerpt, he found an opportunity he had long sought, to explain why he did not declare national days of religious expression as Washington and Adams had done.

Curiously, Jefferson noted that the Danbury Baptists had not raised that issue, but he would use their address about religious rights to discuss it. This might be the best shot he would get.

He knew this would displease “the New England clergy,” whose traditions he opposed. Still, he was intent on equal religious freedom for all, knowing his opponents would neither accept nor forgive what he had done.

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Originally posted at http://ThomasJeffersonLeadership.com