I join you, fellow-citizens, in rendering the tribute of thankfulness to the Almighty ruler, who … hath willed that the human mind shall be free in this portion of the globe: that society shall here know that the limit of it’s rightful power is the enforcement of social conduct; while the right to question the religious principles producing that conduct is beyond their cognisance [and for] the establishment here of liberty, equality of social rights, exclusion of unequal privileges civil & religious, & of the usurping domination of one sect over another …
To the Delaware Baptist Association, July 2. 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders appreciate the role of Providence.
214 years ago, approaching his first Independence Day as President, Jefferson penned these acknowledgements to the Delaware Baptists. Not to be confused with the Baptists of Danbury, CT, whose later letter prompted Jefferson’s famous wall-of-separation response, this congregation simply sent their congratulations to the new President, along with thanks to God for putting him in office.
Jefferson returned his thanks to them and to “the Almighty ruler,” who had established, not him, but rather one place on the globe where:
1. Men’s minds could be free;
2. Society limited government’s control to conduct, not thoughts;
3. Government could not question religious principles which produced that conduct; and
4. “Unequal privileges civil & religious” were excluded.