Thursday, November 24, 2005
No new Op Eds today as we take the holiday off.
But, here is a little essay on the day we celebrate...
Though the "First Thanksgiving" by name was in the Virginia Colony in 1607, our Thanksgiving heritage has its roots with the Pilgrims' three-day feast in early November of 1621.
After years of their colony failing and families suffering in want, the colonists made a radical change in their philosophy. Instead of the communal arrangement they originally thought would work, an arrangement where everyone contributed their work and crops to the the colony as a whole, they parceled out the land to each family allowing them to keep their own crops and, thereby, work for their own betterment and support.
The Plymouth Colony's first Thanksgiving to God was celebrated during the summer of 1623, when the colonists declared a Thanksgiving holiday after their crops were saved by much-needed rainfall. The reorganization of their labors toward ownership and property rights set them on the proper path to reaping continual rewards. Families working together primarily for their own betterment were freer---and were better able to pay off the investors.
By the mid-17th Century, the custom of autumnal Thanksgivings was
established throughout New England. Observance of Thanksgiving Festivals spread to other colonies during the American Revolution, and the Continental Congresses, cognizant of the need for a warring country's continuing grateful entreaties to God, proclaimed yearly Thanksgiving days during the Revolutionary War, from 1777 to 1783.
Our new nation's first official Thanksgiving Proclamation, issued by the revolutionary Continental Congress on 1 November 1777, expressed gratitude for the colonials' October victory over British General Burgoyne at Saratoga. Authored by Samuel Adams, the man the other Founders turned to for reasoned statements of liberties as God's blessings, it read in part: "Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received...together with penitent confession of their sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor;
and their humble and earnest supplications that it may please God through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance...it is therefore recommended...to set apart Thursday the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feeling of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor...acknowledging with gratitude their obligations to Him for benefits received... To prosper the means of religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth 'in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost'."
Washington set his signature to the first day of thanks for the liberties enshrined in our new Constitution, by writing as follows:
"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...
"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 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 has been pleased to confer upon us.
"And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplication 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 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 3d day of October, AD 1789."
After 1815, there were no further annual Thanksgiving proclamations until our country was imperiled from the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln declared 26 November 1863 a Day of Thanksgiving, calling for prayer and thanksgiving for the nation, and saying in part, "[It is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord... It has seemed to me fit and proper that...[God's blessings] should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people."
For the following 75 years, every subsequent president repeated that proclamation, until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day to a week earlier than had been tradition, to lengthen the growing pre-Christmas consumer frenzy. Two years later, Congress returned the celebration to its traditional date and permanently set the fourth Thursday of each November as our official national Thanksgiving. Alas, we've come to commemorate the holiday with a near-perfunctory acknowledgment.
As this season comes upon us, we have one more thing to be thankful for; that our men and women in the armed forces are once again there to protect our freedoms and assist the downtrodden of the world.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
(edited from the Federalist Patriot email message)