George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
statement by the father
of our country reminds
us of the true meaning
of this national holiday
Do you know the history of the first national day of Thanksgiving ever proclaimed in America?
The first session of congress under the newly-ratified constitution of the United States of America opened on 4 March 1789. On September 25 of that year—which was the very same day congress approved the first amendment, as well as the other amendments included in the Bill of Rights—the House passed the following resolution, asking the president to declare a a national day of Thanksgiving to “Almighty God”:
That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would 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 Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.
The Senate approved this same resolution the following day, and it was forwarded to President George Washington. He responded by issuing his Thanksgiving Proclamation, which was made on October 3, “in the year of our Lord” 1789, from New York City, which at that time was the nation’s capital; it is presented below in its entirety. (We also discussed this in the second segment of our most recent podcast.)
Part of the Thanksgiving tradition in my family, before we pray and sit down to eat, is to read together some portions that remind us of the real meaning of this national day for giving thanks to God. How good it would be if, around so many Thanksgiving tables this year, families read together what our first President, who was also the father of our country, said about the need to give thanks as a nation to God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us!
Thanksgiving Proclamation of
President George Washington,
3 October 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.”
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 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 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 shewn 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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— 21 November 2022 —