George Washington and his Thanksgiving appeal
SAN JOSE, November 23, 2016 — On Thanksgiving Day, most American citizens partake in some sort of a meal, or even a feast to commemorate the holiday. Most likely, many will express personal gratitude for perceived blessings from throughout the year. Yet, the original significance of this harvest festival or celebration of life can easily be lost amidst the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
Unfortunately, the history behind the holiday has been romanticized and viewed in almost mythical proportions since the original event. Often, as historical events fade into the shadows of the past, the actual people involved, or original events that occurred, take on mythic proportions. The “First Thanksgiving” event is one such event, yet if people were able to see the event more for what is was than for what it was not, it would provide greater understanding.
Even though it is historically viewed in the United States as the “First Thanksgiving,” in the New World, it actually was neither. Prior “thanksgivings” had been celebrated between European and Indian in the Caribbean, or Tejas, or Virginia. Also, the event could not serve as a traditional Protestant ceremony of Thanksgiving. It was more of a harvest festival that provided common ground for two culturally diverse peoples to celebrate the value of life itself.
Separatists (the true designation of the Pilgrims), would not have considered it a true “thanksgiving.” Such holy days would have been observed more strictly through much more structured or traditional church services. The rigid Pilgrim beliefs viewed a day of thanksgiving to be dedicated to gratitude to God for some incredibly significant event like surviving a plague, or the end of a drought, or a war. The Puritans, who were equally as rigid in their beliefs (or more so) as the Separatists, also held the belief that “thanksgiving” days were serious occasions fulfilled through offering of solemn prayers, pious humiliation, and praise of God’s efforts in their lives.
In light of this, it is perhaps fitting that this particular Thanksgiving become more significant in light of the 2016 election cycle. So many religious people and those of faith felt called to prayer, asking for God’s intercession in this turning point in the history of the United States. Americans who appreciate the values of the Founding Fathers and the principles they set forth in the founding documents could view this election in the way that Ronald Reagan predicted:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
The people who love America, and who love freedom, expressed their rights as U. S. citizens on Election Day. Many Christians believe that the people received a reprieve from Heaven because of the incredible stakes involved during this election. Thus, it is perhaps fitting that during this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations,, Americans could hearken back to the original purpose of a thanksgiving. Certainly, the proclamation of George Washington on October 3, 1789, can assist citizens to grasp how important it is to invite God to the Thanksgiving celebrations this year.
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.
Certainly, the 2016 presidential election has opened a serious divide within the nation, much of this divisiveness needs to end, but it may not simply end due to the extremely polarized nature of the election campaign. At no other time since the prelude to the Civil War has Americans been so bitterly divided, as the election, not only for President of the United States, but for the respective positions and platforms of each of the major political parties. Hopefully, God will hear from Heaven the prayers of repentance and gratitude from His people in this dark time.
May God continue to bless America, and may the government of the people, by the people, and for the people prevail on into the 21st century and beyond!