Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The First Thanksgiving

Contrary to popular belief, the first official Thanksgiving Day was celebrated on Thursday, November 26, 1863, after a proclamation by then-President Abraham Lincoln. While the country was torn apart by the Civil War, he agreed with Thanksgiving Day proponent Sarah Hale (probably most famous as the author of "Mary had a Little Lamb") that the establishment of a day to recognize our blessings and express our gratitude to the "Giver of all Good Gifts" would bring unity to the war-torn United States. Below is a section of his proclamation, and may it be our hope that during days of division or suffering or economic troubles, we can echo Lincoln's prayer for the "Almighty hand to heal the wounds" of our nation.

"...the country, rejoicing in the consciousness 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.
In 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 United States the eighty-eighth.
By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State

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