[guest post by JVW]
I trust that everyone had a peaceful and relaxing Thanksgiving Weekend, even if you chose to partake in crazy Black Friday sales or even if your football team let you down yet again. Because this is the Lord’s Day, the final Sunday in ordinary time (in the Roman rite) before we move into Advent, and because today marks the 234th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving declared for the new United States of America by President George Washington, I thought it would be fitting to recognize his Thanksgiving Proclamation for November 26, 1789.
As we’ve discussed before, our first President was a man of faith, but at the same time he was not particularly demonstrative in his piety. Yet throughout the Revolutionary War, General Washington and the Continental Congress understood the propriety — nay, necessity — of extending prayers of gratitude while continuing to ask the Almighty for the continued good fortune of the Glorious Cause. As such, several days of thanksgiving were declared during the war years, most notably the very first one in the new nation which was declared in the aftermath of the surprising Continental victory at the Battle(s) of Saratoga and then celebrated on December 18, 1777. Once the war was won and the new nation sought to form a more perfect Union, promote domestic Tranquility, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, our first President continued to popularize the idea of offering a day of thanks and supplication. And so, on the third day of October, barely five months into the first year of his Presidency, George Washington issued this 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 shewn 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 encrease 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.
Here’s wishing everyone a blessed and peaceful conclusion to a difficult year, and good tidings for 2024.