Jewish Daily Forward: Liberate the Letter, Pt 2

Roundup: Talking About History

On October 26, 1960, just days before Election Day, the two candidates for president issued statements commemorating the 170th anniversary of George Washington’s letter on religious pluralism to the Jews of Newport, R.I. The Republican, Vice President Richard Nixon, delivered his remarks in person, quoting from the letter’s definition of “toleration” and noting with pride that “after 170 years this letter still inspires us.” The Democrat, John F. Kennedy, could not attend and sent Eleanor Roosevelt to represent him. She referenced a different excerpt of the letter, its most famous, extolling the fact that America “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

The 221st anniversary will be celebrated this August in Newport with a public reading of the letter; the governor of Rhode Island is scheduled to attend. But the honored guests won’t read from the original letter, because no one can read from the original letter. As the Forward has reported, it is locked up in an arts storage facility in suburban Maryland, and the private foundation that owns the iconic document has refused to allow it to be publicly shown and refused to say why.

Perhaps the Morris Morgenstern Foundation might change its mind if it realizes how many public officials, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, alive and no longer with us, have been inspired by the powerful expression of religious liberty contained in the brief missive penned as our nation was in its infancy....

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