George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in North America, 19 November 1789

To the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in North America

[19 November 1789]


I receive with a grateful heart your pious and affectionate address,1 and with truth declare to you that no circumstance of my life has affected me more sensibly or produced more pleasing emotions than the friendly congratulations, and strong assurances of support which I have received from my fellow-citizens of all descriptions upon my election to the Presidency of these United States.

I fear, Gentlemen, your goodness has led you to form too exalted an opinion of my virtues and merits—If such talents as I possess have been called into action by great events, and those events have terminated happily for our country, the glory should be ascribed to the manifest interposition of an over-ruling Providence. My military services have been abundantly recompensed by the flattering approbation of a grateful people; and, if a faithful discharge of my civil duties can ensure a like reward, I shall feel myself richly compensated for any personal sacrifice I may have made by engaging again in public life.

The Citizens of the United States of America have given as signal a proof of their wisdom and virtue in framing and adopting a constitution of government, without bloodshed or the intervention of force, as they, upon a former occasion, exhibited to the world of their valor, fortitude, and perseverance; and it must be a pleasing circumstance to every friend of good order and social happiness to find that our new government is gaining strength and respectability among the citizens of this country in proportion as it’s operations are known, and its effects felt.

You, Gentlemen, act the part of pious Christians and good citizens by your prayers and exertions to preserve that harmony and good will towards men which must be the basis of every political establishment; and I readily join with you that “while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.”

I am deeply impressed with your good wishes for my present and future happiness—and I beseech the Almighty to take you and yours under his special care.

G. Washington.

LB, DLC:GW. GW left New York on his tour of New England before the address was delivered, and the presentation, with GW’s reply, took place on 19 Nov., after his return (Daily Advertiser [New York], 21 Nov.).

1The address, dated 9 Oct. and signed by eight members of the synod, reads: “The Synod of the reformed Dutch Church in North America embrace the occasion of their annual session, being the first since your appointment to present you their sincere congratulations, and to join in that great and general joy testified by all descriptions of Citizens on your acceptance of the highest office in the Nation.

“We cannot forbear expressing our gratitude to God for preserving your valuable life amidst so many dangers till this time; for inspiring you with a large portion of the martial spirit, and forming you also for the milder and more agreeable arts of government and peace; for endowing you with great virtues and calling them into exercise by great events; for distinguishing you with honors and giving remarkable prudence and moderation—And for making your extraordinary talents the more conspicuous, useful, and durable, by superinducing the noble ornament of humility. Your Country has with one voice attested your excellence by inviting you again to public life, and you have confirmed it’s judgement by returning to fresh scenes and toils after you had retired to the shade from the burden and heat of a long day.

“Among the many signal interpositions of divine providence we remark the late important change in the general government—a change neither effected by accident, nor imposed by force, but adopted in the bosom of peace after a free and mature deliberation; and in which a people widely extended and various in their habits are united beyond the most raised expectation. In these respects the United States of America stand single among all the nations of the earth. Other revolutions may have been more dignified and splendid, but none more honorable to human nature, and none so likely to produce such happy effects. This Government being now completely organised, and all its departments filled, we trust that God will give wisdom to its councils, and justice to its administration, and that we shall at length realise those blessings, which animated our hopes through a difficult and ruinous war.

“To our constant prayers for the welfare of our country, and of the whole human race, we shall esteem it our duty and happiness to unite our most earnest endeavors to promote the pure and undented religion of Christ; for as this secures eternal felicity to men in a future State, so we are persuaded that good Christians will always be good citizens, and that where righteousness prevails among individuals the Nation will be great and happy. Thus while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.

“We implore the Lord God to be your Sun and Shield. May your administration be prosperous. May the blessings of millions come upon you, and your name be grateful to all Posterity. Above all, may you finish your course with joy, be numbered among the Redeemed of the Lord, and enter into everlasting rest” (DLC:GW).

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