Who started Thanksgiving?
It may surprise you that it was Abraham Lincoln in 1863 who proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be a national day of Thanksgiving. In the middle of the Civil War in the First Thanksgiving Proclamation, President Lincoln asked the citizens to pray, specifically, for God “to subdue the anger, which has produced, and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the counsels of Government with wisdom adequate to so great a national emergency, and to visit with tender care and consolation, throughout the length and breadth of our land all those who, through the vicissitudes of marches, voyages, battles, and sieges, have been brought to suffer in mind body or estate, and finally to lead the whole nation, through the paths of repentance and submission to the Divine Will, back to the perfect enjoyment of Union and fraternal peace”.
According to distinguished scholar Elton Trueblood, in Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish from which I quote, “the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation shows Lincoln’s theme of sternness of the moral law and of God’s mercy. Our eyes are directed to ‘the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.’ What is expressed is an almost perfect balance between gratitude, penitence, and compassion. The people are called, says the Proclamation, not only to give thanks for ‘singular deliverances and blessings, ‘ but also to ‘humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.’ The people finally are asked to ‘commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union’”.
We wish you all the blessings of a Happy National Thanksgiving Day. Peace to all.
-Fred Poisson, Jr.