Back to Blog

Thanksgiving: A Proclamation

How many of us know the origin of Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving celebrations began as early as 1541 along the eastern seaboard of North America. Most of us relate to the celebration at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621.
The Pilgrims, having survived their first winter (during which about half of them died), invited their local Indian friends to join with them in several days of religious activities, feasting, and athletic competition.
Thanksgiving remained a New England  celebration and did not spread to the rest of the colonies until the American Revolution, except when the Continental Congress called for official days of thanksgiving and prayer in 1776, 1777, 1779, and 1782.
The first federal Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued by President George Washington in 1789. This pronouncement was followed by President Lincolns’s National Proclamation in 1863.  It wasn’t until 1941 that Congress finally passed a law establishing Thanksgiving as an official national holiday to be celebrated every year on the Fourth Thursday in November.
Below is Washington’s proclamation in 1789:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

 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 and 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 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 has 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 to us), and to bless them with good governments, 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 one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
G. Washington.

Share this post

Comment (1)

  • Teri

    Thank you so much for sharing this inspired proclamation! It takes my breath away.

    November 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Comments are closed.

Back to Blog