History lesson: Thank Washington for Thanksgiving

To the editor:

Re: “Thank you Lincoln for Thanksgiving,” Viewpoint, Nov. 21. The reporter, according to the Washington Post, is attending Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. He ought to spend more time studying U.S. history. While I have nothing against Lincoln — indeed the “great emancipator” — this reporter gave Lincoln way too much credit —inappropriate if not incorrect credit — for our day of Thanksgiving.

There is a tendency of late to elevate Lincoln to certain heights beyond which he should be credited, in part because of the black/slave issues, while “forgetting” or overlooking other/previous president’s achievements because of the political correctness of the day and for owning slaves in a different time/place/mindset of history. This reporter’s story completely overlooks or ignores — no mention of whatsoever  —anything of George Washington’s Thanksgiving implementation and proclamation, and seems to prefer readers to assume it was all from Lincoln. Quite the contrary.

President Washington noted that “both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested [of Washington] ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer.’” It was George Washington who we owe the “Thank you for Thanksgiving” for establishing a day of thanksgiving, not Lincoln. Lincoln only rekindled it on the last Thursday in November, certainly a time of strife and need during the Civil War and ratified later in 1939 to be a National Holiday on the original fourth Thursday. But Washington was the one who first called for it by Congressional action, indeed established by Washington on the fourth Thursday of Nov. 26, 1789, and again in 1795, after it had been passed by a joint congressional committee and formally declared in Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation 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.” President George Washington made this proclamation on Oct. 3, 1789, in New York City.

On that first proclaimed day of thanksgiving in 1789, Washington attended services at St Paul’s Chapel in New York City and donated beer and food to imprisoned debtors in the city.

—Mac McDonald
Huntingburg

 

Editor’s note: The following is Washington’s Thanksgiving 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 shown 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 encrease 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.”




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