Our National Day of Thanksgiving is upon us again and we’ve been reflecting on how to celebrate it this year.
It is an old question.
We went back to the archives to read Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation designating the fourth Thursday of the month as a national day of Thanksgiving. At the time, in 1863, the country was divided and at war.
We ventured further back to George Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789. War had just ended. A new government had been formed. But many representatives in that government rejected the idea that the federal government could “impose” a national holiday on the states.
Twenty years later, in 1808, Thomas Jefferson rejected a Thanksgiving Day proclamation as a violation of church and state separation. He wrote:
“I consider the government of the US. as interdicted by the constitution from intermedling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises…”
Now historians are asking us to let go of the quaint notions we’ve held of the Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving with the Wampanoag at the Plymouth Colony in 1621. It was not quite the bucolic event we depicted in our Thanksgiving pageants as children, at least for the Wampanoag.
How to celebrate Thanksgiving? It is an old question.
Yet obviously Thanksgiving finds its way through the incessant hub bub, through the clamor. Thanksgiving happens. Thankfully.
We are thankful for all our guests (you), for our neighbors, for our families and friends. For this place, The Hancock Inn, which has seen Thanksgiving holidays going back to the time around President Washington’s, in 1789, whose proclamation we reprint here (below) as a public service.
This season be safe to each other and have a very, very HAPPY THANKSGIVING.
From our kitchen to yours,
Marcia and Jarvis.
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 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 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.
Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks. In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans prior to the Revolution, assistance to them in achieving independence, and help in establishing the constitutional government.