George Washington, the first U.S. president and one of America’s founding fathers, had a very different point of view than President Donald Trump when it came to the issue of religious tolerance.
While Trump has made his political career all about demonizing and setting his followers against Muslims, Washington was of the mindset that America should honor religious diversity and freedom. In a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, written in 1790, Washington expressed sentiments that would appall modern day Republicans. In his message he spoke of America giving “bigotry no sanction” and “persecution no assistance,” but rather protecting citizens who wish to exercise their religious freedoms.
Here’s the letter in full.
“While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.
If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were 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 fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.
There’s one particular line in Washington’s letter that’s guaranteed to drive Trump supporters insane:
“The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation.”
Can you hear their screams of outrage and teeth gnashing?
Most neocons will try to rationalize this letter by saying that Washington was talking about the Jewish faith and not Islam. Trump supporters will just dismiss the message as more “fake news.” But despite whatever form of denial they choose to blanket themselves, the fact remains that Washington would not have approved of Trump’s treatment of a religious minority.
On January 27, shortly after taking office, Trump signed an executive order which banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The ban also invalidated all pre-approved visas and green cards leaving thousands of people stranded and in limbo. Thankfully, the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court rejected this unconstitutional order, and now the Trump administration is forced to go back to the drawing board.
And while Trump continues to demonize Muslim and Hispanic immigrants, citing instances of crimes involving people from those minority groups, the courts continue to side with the constitution and reject his attempts to destroy the Constitution. George Washington would be very proud of our courts, but beyond appalled by the fact that a man like Trump is his latest successor.