|sir—||Philadelphia March 3d 1797.|
On a day which becomes important in the annals of America as marking the close of a splendid public life, devoted for near half a century to the service of your country; We the undersigned clergy of different denominations in and near the city of Philadelphia, beg leave to join the voice of our fellow citizens, in expressing our deep sense of your public services in every department of trust & authority committed to you. But in our special character as ministers of the gospel of Christ, we are more immediately bound to acknowledge the countenance which you have uniformly given to his holy religion.
In your public character we have beheld the edifying example of a civil ruler always acknowledging the superintendence of divine providence in the affairs of men, & confirming that example by the powerful recommendation of religion & morality as the firmest basis of social happiness; more particularly in the following language of your affectionate parting address to your fellow citizens.
"Of all the dispositions &c. habits which lead to political prosperity, religion & morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labour to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, the firmest props of the duties of men & citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect & cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private &c. public felicity—Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion—Reason & experience forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles."
Should the importance of these just &c. pious sentiments be duly appreciated & regarded, we confidently trust that the prayers you have offered for the prosperity of our common country will be answered. In these prayers we most fervently unite: And with equal fervour we join in those which the numerous public bodies that represent the citizens of these states are offering for their beloved chief. We most devoutly implore the divine blessing to attend you in your retirement, to render it in all respects comfortable to you, to satisfy you with length of days, & finally to receive you into happiness & glory infinitely greater than this world can bestow.
18 more signatures not transcribed
DLC: Papers of George Washington.