Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The First USA Thanksgiving Proclamation

The day is October 3, 1789. The Constitution of the United States of America has been ratified. The excitement and jubilation of this event moved the members of both houses of Congress to take action. By the power of Congress, in accord with the intentions of the newly ratified Constitution, they established “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer” on Thursday, the 26th of November, and requested it to be proclaimed by President George Washington.

Among the many places on the internet that his proclamation is available, two such sites are: Encyclopedia Smithsonian: Thanksgiving in North America: From Local Harvests to National Holiday and Rediscovering George Washington . Multimedia: First National Day of Thanksgiving. It is also quoted at Lutheran Carnival LXIII – Thanksgiving Edition.

It certainly seems appropriate to provide it also here as we prepare yet again for a National Day of Thanksgiving this year.

Transcription of George Washington's Proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America--

A Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their Joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be--That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us--and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

These events give cause for wondering whether the houses of Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, and the people of the nation realized that they were in violation of the Constitution that they wrote, ratified, and celebrated. How amazing it is that some 170+ years later the Supreme Court would rule that such prayers and calls for prayer are unconstitutional.

Perhaps a closer review of President Washington’s proclamation will explain the difference in understanding and interpretation of the intent of the Constitution.

Then, of course, those who know the true meaning of Thanksgiving don’t need a decree from Congress or a Presidential proclamation anyway. Moreover, no decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of America will overturn what lives in their hearts nor will it keep them from fulfilling it in their lives.

Nevertheless, it is a wondrous thing to have this example laid before us by the first members of Congress and the first President to govern by the Constitution that has been handed down to us from that time. That in itself is a cause for marvel and to give thanks.

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