Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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August 16th
“To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance”
On this day in 1790, President George Washington was beginning a goodwill tour of New England. His first stop would be Newport, Rhode Island, where citizens met him with booming cannons and a public dinner where dignitaries gave “thirteen toasts abounding with patriotic sentiment.” Moses Seixas, warden of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, penned a letter welcoming the president to the city. Washington’s response, written the next day, has become a famous pronouncement on religious freedom:

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 was by 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.
As Claremont professor Harry Jaffa has pointed out, this was the first time in history that any ruler addressed the Jews as equals. President Washington closed his letter with these gentle words, taken from Scripture: “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 in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

American History Parade
1777
A Patriot force routs British troops near Bennington, Vermont.

1780
British troops inflict heavy losses on a Patriot army at Camden, South Carolina.

1790
George Washington sails to New England on a goodwill tour.

1812
An American force surrenders Fort Detroit to a British and Indian force during the War of 1812.

1898
Edwin Prescott patents a roller coaster with a loop-the-loop, which he installs in 1900 at Coney Island, New York.

1977
Elvis Presley, age forty-two, dies at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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