Friday, August 6, 2010

Brody's Scribbles... A Letter To The President About Inequality; The President Answers

By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) AUG 6 | A deeply troubled citizen, writing on behalf of his fellow like-minded citizens in his community, bound together by common beliefs, ways, and nature pleads for the President for intervention to ease the burdens of inequality and bigotry that were enshrined in the laws of his state. Sound familiar? Interestingly enough, the writer is the Warden of an 18th century Hebrew Congregation, and the President, is the first President of The United States, George Washington.

August 17th, 1790


Permit the children of the stock of Abraham to approach you with the most cordial affection and esteem for your person and merits -- and to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming you to Newport.

With pleasure we reflect on those days -- those days of difficulty, and danger, when the God of Israel, who delivered David from the peril of the sword -- shielded Your head in the day of battle: and we rejoice to think, that the same Spirit, who rested in the Bosom of the greatly beloved Daniel enabling him to preside over the Provinces of the Babylonish Empire, rests and ever will rest, upon you, enabling you to discharge the arduous duties of Chief Magistrate in these States.

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People -- a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance -- but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine:

This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.

For all these Blessings of civil and religious liberty which we enjoy under an equal benign administration, we desire to send up our thanks to the Ancient of Days, the great preserver of Men beseeching him, that the Angel who conducted our forefathers through the wilderness into the promised Land, may graciously conduct you through all the difficulties and dangers of this mortal life: And, when, like Joshua full of days and full of honour, you are gathered to your Fathers, may you be admitted into the Heavenly Paradise to partake of the water of life, and the tree of immortality.

Done and Signed by order of the Hebrew Congregation in NewPort, Rhode Island August 17th 1790.

Moses Seixas, Warden

President Washington responds:

August 21st, 1790

To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode Island.


While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in 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 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.

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 figtree, 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.

G. Washington

During that time period of American History and during the early years of the Republic, there was a tremendous amount of religious bias, outright bigotry, and hatred directed at the Jewish American communities. The President, not unlike his contemporaries among the founders of the United States, given circumstances as they were, did not abide this form of injustice nor were they tolerant of it.

I often hear the Christiban activists on the far-right espouse the viewpoints that the founding fathers meant for America to be a solely "Christian" nation which quite obviously this exchange disproves along with which a substantial bulk of the Washington Administration's papers also bears witness to.  They use the argument that the founders would have been intolerant of LGBT equality rights based on that "Christian" nation argument. The truth is much more telling, especially since for the most part Washington & his founding father peers were deistists and many were also Masons as well. 

As the argument rages over the decision by Judge Vaughn Walker in the Gay Marriage/Prop 8 case, I find it extremely interesting that with the above letter, one could disabuse themselves of the notion that American was a "Christianity-based" cultural and society envisioned by Washington & his founding father peers. Judging from this letter exchange, that simply is not the case.


Tim Trent said...

Strange, is it not that very recently blacks could not marry whites. And that was not unconstitutional, was it? or was it?

US citizens with Japanese ancestry were interned in WWII.

McCarthy and his communist with hunts are interesting, too.

It's hard to see the USA as a paragon of virtue that adheres to its constitution. It's similar to other nations, of course it is, but why does it write down stuff that it then ignores? And why is similarity an excuse? Bad is bad.

But I suspect it's fine to ignore a written constitution as long as the minority has no power.

I find I support more and more the Black Power salute on the Olympic podium. What a shame gay athletes find it so hard to come out. A Gay Power salute would be interesting in 2012.

Trab said...

The trouble is with the written word. It makes all subjects effectively unchangeable, except by ignoring the words. Yes, the constitution is being ignored, by popular 'demand', just as the Bible is often ignored, by popular 'demand'. If the majority find it inconvenient, it will be ignored. The same thing happens with labour contracts (union have to fight for their written rights almost hourly), warrantees (lawsuits for faulty products), and even insurance (blatant disregard for the written requirements by the insurers). It goes on and on.
The only thing that works in the long run is having the majority on your side and fortunately GLBT people are gaining some ground there. As soon as the religious start bleating about needing to listen to the printed word of God, you know they are becoming less secure in their position.