Faith History

Thanksgiving is Uniquely American

At Thanksgiving is not only a wonderful time to reflect on the things in our lives that we are thankful for and to look to the future with hope and optimism but it is also a time of remembrance of who we were and the greatness of our forefathers and our Founding fathers.

Gratitude and acknowledging thanks to the Creator of the universe leads to human happiness.  Reliance upon this most powerful friend leads to comfort and joy.  Selfishness and self reliance, absent a faith in God, leads to insecurity and ultimately despair.

Our Founders were deeply religious and pious men, whose wives may have been more so than they.  This is a wonderful time to reflect on just what they thought and believed by examining their own proclamations to the nation regarding Thanksgiving.

Below are two of President George Washington’s Proclamations to our young nation.  In them you will find more references to biblical virtue and reliance upon God than in many sermons preached on Sunday morning in Christian churches around the country.  Could there be a link to the decline and decay of our America when it appears we have ventured so far off the path they had firmly set before us to follow?

Below is the text of President George Washington’s October 3, 1789 national Thanksgiving Proclamation; as printed in The Providence Gazette and Country Journal, on October 17, 1789.

President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation – October 3, 1789

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 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

President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation – January 1, 1795

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction.

Our exemption hitherto from foreign war, an increasing prospect of the continuance of that exception, the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed, the recent confirmation of that tranquillity by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it, the happy course of our public affairs in general, the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens, are circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine beneficence toward us.

In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observeThursday, the 19th day of February next as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation, particularly for the possession of constitutions of government which united and by their union establish liberty with order; for the preservation of our peace, foreign and domestic; for the seasonable control which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection, and generally for the prosperous course of our affairs, public and private; and at the same time humbly and fervently to beseech the kind Author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us; to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to Him for them; to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value; to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity, and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits; to dispose us to merit the continuance of His favors by not abusing them; by our gratitude for them, and by a correspondent conduct as citizens and men; to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries; to extend among us true and useful knowledge; to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality, and piety, and finally, to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.
In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.

Done at the city of Philadelphia, the 1st day of January, 1795, and of the Independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.

—   G. Washington

May your Thanksgiving be a blessed, meaningful and a memorable time with family and loved ones.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

David Whitley

David is a deacon at his local church and a perpetual student of religion, politics and American history. Author, speaker, blogger, David lives in Southern California with his wife and their three children. You can follow him on Twitter @cogitarus or online at cogitarus.wordpress.com. He's available for speaking engagements upon request.

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