Washington Letter to Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1789

Letter from George Washington to the Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America of 1789.

In 1789, Bishop Asbury and several other Methodist leaders conveyed a message of congratulation and of assurance of their support to President Washington. The letter that follows contains his response. This letter is significant because it very clearly demonstrates two of George Washington’s characteristics — his deep interest in religion and his broad and tolerant attitude of all religions. Finally, this letter conveys Washington’s impartial attitude towards “genuine, vital religion.”

Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Religious Institutions Group

Gentlemen: I return to you individually, and through you to your Society collectively in the United States, my thanks for the demonstration of affection, and the expressions of joy offered, in their behalf, on my late appointment. It shall be my endeavor to manifest the purity of my inclinations for promoting the happiness of mankind, as well as the sincerity of my desires to contribute whatever may be in my power toward the civil and religious liberties of the American people. In pursuing this line of conduct, I hope, by the assistance of divine Providence, not altogether to disappoint the confidence which you have been pleased to repose in me.

It always affords me satisfaction when I find a concurrence of sentiment and practice between all conscientious men, in acknowledgements of homage to the great Governor of the universe, and in professions of support to a just civil government. After mentioning that I trust the people of every denomination who demean themselves as good citizens will have occasion to be convinced that I shall always strive to prove a faithful and impartial patron of genuine, vital religion, I must assure you in particular that I take in the kindest part the promise you make of presenting your prayers at the throne of grace for me, and that I likewise implore the divine benediction on yourselves and your religious community.

Letter from George Washington to the Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1789), inHistory of Methodists in the United States, at 266-67 (J.M. Buckley).