Sunday, January 31, 2010

George Washington's Enlightenment Rationalism:

George Washington's letter To REVEREND JOHN LATHROP, June 22, 1788, illustrates his self proclaimed Enlightenment rationalism. Rev. Lathrop, a purported unitarian, gave a discourse to the Humane Society of Massachusetts. Washington thanked Lathrop for sending him some kind of publication that related thereto. In what follows, I emphasized terms relevant to the thesis of this post:

Reverend and respected Sir: Your very acceptable favour of the 16th. of May, covering a recent publication of the proceedings of the Humane Society, 6 have, within a few days past, been put into my hands. I observe, with singular satisfaction, the cases in which your benevolent Institution has been instrumental in recalling some of our Fellow creatures (as it were) from beyond the gates of Eternity, and has given occasion for the hearts of parents and friends to leap for joy. The provision made for the preservation of ship-wrecked Mariners is also highly estimable in the view of every philanthropic mind and greatly consolatory to that suffering part of the Community. These things will draw upon you the blessings of those, who were nigh to perish. These works of charity and good-will towards men reflect, in my estimation, great lustre upon the authors and presage an �ra of still father improvements. How pitiful, in the eye of reason and religion, is that false ambition which desolates the world with fire and sword for the purposes of conquest and fame; when compared to the milder virtues of making our neighbours and our fellow men as happy as their frail conditions and perishable natures will permit them to be !

I am happy to find that the proposed general government meets with your approbation as indeed it does with that of the most disinterested and discerning men. The Convention of this State is now in session, and I cannot but hope from all the accounts I receive that the Constitution will be adopted by it; though not without considerable opposition. I trust, however, that the commendable example exhibited by the minority in your State will not be without its salutary influence in this. In truth it appears to me that (should the proposed government be generally and harmoniously adopted) it will be a new phenomenon in the political and moral world; and an astonishing victory gained by enlightened reason over brutal force. I have the honor &c. 7

The enlightened rationalistic creed of George Washington was theistic-Providential; it could present itself as "Christianity" or merely "religion"; but it was seemingly more "man centered" or humanistic than orthodox Christianity, especially Calvinism.