Pausing to be thankful
In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. Of course, this wasn’t the first such proclamation to be issued – that was done by the Continental Congress in 1777.
The first Thanksgiving Day celebrated under the new Constitution took place November 26, 1789, in the first year of George Washington’s presidency. He called for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. After that, Presidents John Adams and James Madison issued similar proclamations, adding a plea for fasting. But the policy fell into disuse until Lincoln, and it is his proclamation I like best of all, perhaps because it came during a time of civil disunity and yet it recognized there was still much for which to be grateful. Whatever the case, I reprint it here:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
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