By Dick Milanese
Most of us understood that the Thanksgiving Holiday was established to commemorate the relationship between the Pilgrims and the local Indians at Plymouth. It was thus a surprise when I learned that George Washington issued a Presidential Proclamation establishing the first Thanksgiving to recognize God’s impact on the establishment of our country.
He issued the Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1789 after he received a resolution from Congress suggesting that he proclaim a day of public thanksgiving and prayer dedicated to God’s help in establishing our country. The proclamation, which is part of this article, designated Thursday, November 26 as a national holiday to be devoted by the people to the service of the Great and Glorious Being, acknowledging with grateful hearts the many bestowed graces of Almighty God, especially affording them the opportunity to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Later presidents John Adams, James Madison and Abraham Lincoln took similar action. Lincoln established that the last Thursday of November be set aside as a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to “our Beneficial Father Who dweleth in Heaven”. All of these express a purpose of thanking God for enabling us to form these United States. These clearly were designed to recognize that there is a Divine Being responsible for our ability to form this nation.
Copies of these proclamations were printed as board sides to the population and sent to all the State Governors, and are currently at the Harvard and Yale historical libraries and the Pierpoint Morgan Library. For more information on the establishment of Thanksgiving Day, look up Washington and Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamations on the Internet.
At this time of political turmoil, it is refreshing to see how our founding fathers recognized the presence of God and encouraged our people to be thankful for the civil and religious liberties which we possess.