Thanksgiving is traditionally a time where the people of the United States turn their eyes toward heaven and give thanks for the many blessings which have been bestowed on us by Almighty God. Although we tend to associate the modern holiday with the proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, the first presidential proclamation declaring a day of Thanksgiving actually dates back to 1789 and was promulgated by our first president, George Washington. Since that time our presidents have traditionally, but not always, issued a proclamation urging American citizens to give thanks to God for the blessings that have been bestowed on us and our nation.
It is interesting and illuminating to see how various presidents have framed their thoughts about this special occasion. You can review all of the presidential proclamations here. In my view however, no presidential proclamation has matched that issued by George Washington on October 13, 1789. We would do well to reflect on the sentiments expressed by our first President about the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and to implore him for his protection and favor, beseeching him to pardon us of our transgressions. Mr. Washington's proclamation is set forth in its entirety below.
THANKSGIVING DAY 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 signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
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