Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Surrounding Thanksgiving, there always seems to be a big discussion about what the “first Thanksgiving” actually looked like. While I find all of those stories and research interesting – and worthy of discussion – I also think it’s worthwhile for us to look back at the words penned by our Nation’s leaders over the years on prior to and after Thanksgiving became an “official holiday”.

Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington.jpgA few months after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the first Congress was seated, and George Washington was inaugurated as the 1st President of the United States, Washington issued a proclamation declaring November 26, 1789 to be a day of thanksgiving and prayer. I highly recommend reading the entirety of this proclamation (it’s brief), available from the Heritage Foundation’s First Principles Series.

The third and final section is poignant. Note the elements of praise, gratitude, contrition, and supplication (emphasis mine).  I am continually amazed at the character and the humility of our First President – he was most certainly a man “for such a time as this.  As we approach Thanksgiving, let’s remember to be thankful for the blessing of our country, to pray for our leaders and future leaders, and to pray that we get back to these “first principles.” 

“…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 1789.

Go. Washington”

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