[guest post by JVW]
Since my earlier post today was such a downer, I thought it advisable to transition into the holiday with a more upbeat message. In honor of the centenary of Calvin Coolidge becoming President, here is the Thanksgiving proclamation from his second Thanksgiving in office, some ninety-nine years ago:
We approach that season of the year when it has been the custom for the American people to give thanks for the good fortune which the bounty of Providence, through the generosity of nature, has visited upon them. It is altogether a good custom. It has the sanction of antiquity and the approbation of our religious convictions. In acknowledging the receipt of Divine favor, in contemplating the blessings which have been bestowed upon us, we shall reveal the spiritual strength of the nation.
The year has been marked by a continuation of peace whereby our country has entered into a relationship of better understanding with all the other nations of the earth. Ways have been revealed to us by which we could perform very great service through the giving of friendly counsel, through the extension of financial assistance, and through the exercise of a spirit of neighborly kindliness to less favored peoples. We should give thanks for the power which has been given into our keeping, with which we have been able to render these services to the rest of mankind.
At home we have continually had an improving state of the public health. The production of our industries has been large and our harvests have been bountiful. We have been remarkably free from disorder and remarkably successful in all those pursuits which flourish during a state of domestic peace. An abundant prosperity has overspread the land. We shall do well to accept all these favors and bounties with a becoming humility, and dedicate them to the service of the righteous cause of the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. As the nation has prospered let all the people show that they are worthy to prosper by rededicating America to the service of God and man.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States of America, hereby proclaim and fix Thursday, the twenty-seventh day of November, as a day for National Thanksgiving. I recommend that the people gather in their places of worship, and at the family altars, and offer up their thanks for the goodness which has been shown to them in such a multitude of ways. Especially I urge them to supplicate the Throne of Grace that they may gather strength from their tribulations, that they may gain humility from their victories, that they may bear without complaining the burdens that shall be placed upon them, and that they may be increasingly worthy in all ways of the blessings that shall come to them.
By the fall of 1924, the First World War was more than half a decade in the past. The Great Influenza pandemic, which worldwide had killed at least 20 million and as many perhaps as 100 million, had also been dormant for close to five years. Despite a mild recession, the U.S. economy was in the midst of the massive expansion as it climbed out of the post-War era and into the Roaring Twenties. President Coolidge’s proclamation had been issued on November 5, one day after he and Vice-President Charles Dawes had been reelected in a thirty-five state landslide over Democrat John Davis and Progressive Robert M. La Follette, and had received 54% of the popular vote. In the same election, the GOP picked up twenty-two House seats and two Senate seats, so President Coolidge likely felt that the public by and large approved of his performance.
Clearly those times were far more tranquil than our own, but I hope all Americans can put aside our differences for at least a day and take stock of how lucky we are to live in this big, bountiful, generous, but imperfect nation. Here’s wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving, and a joyful start to the holiday season.