Thursday, November 22, 2012


Today is Thanksgiving 2012.  Here's George Washington's proclamation designating Thursday, November 26, as "a day of public thanksgiving" as requested by the House and Senate, 223 years ago.

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on 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 favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, 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 trangressions; 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 1789.
Go. Washington
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There had been previous occasions of thanksgiving, dating from the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement in 1607 and of course the better-known feast held by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts, after surviving that first winter of 1620-21.  Subsequent observations were held from the 1630s through the Revolutionary War.
In recent years Rush Limbaugh has read The Real Story of Thanksgiving on his radio program, stressing the Pilgrim traits of individual initiative and self reliance.  It's available here:
In response, two years ago the New York Times published a combination rebuttal and elaboration.  It's available here:
My families were relative latecomers to the New World, arriving 15 and 18 years after the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth.  (A naval aviator relative--a 10th cousin twice removed--notes that we share an indirect ancestor aboard the Mayflower, "on the cruise without Skyhawks.")  But whether the future will offer greater or lesser reasons for thanksgiving than this year remains in the hands of We The People.