Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Creation of Modern Thanksgiving

The precedent for celebrating a national day of thanksgiving was clearly established by President George Washington in the above cited proclamation. But, it was Abraham Lincoln (my favorite President) who established the modern thanksgiving day as the last Thursday of November.

The following proclamation was written in the fall of 1863. This is at the height of the Civil War -- just months after the Confederate invasion of the North at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. As you read, please note President Lincoln's recognition of the Lord's providence in allowing the Civil War as a punishment for our national sin of slavery. And furhter note that President Lincoln is able to see the blessings that the Lord bestowed on our nation even in the midst of this punishment.

President Lincoln wrote:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

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. In the midst of a
civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to
foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been
preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been
respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre
of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the
advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of
strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not
arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders
of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious
metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has
steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp,
the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness
of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years
with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any
mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the
Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath
nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they
should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and
one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens
in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who
are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of
November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who
dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the
ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they
do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience,
commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners
or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged,
and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds
of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine
purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United
States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence
of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln