Tuesday, November 22, 2005

'Tis the season to be thankful

As we approach our nation's annual day of thanksgiving, I want to share the things for which I am thankful.

First, though, a short rant.

How do those who suggest that our nation was founded upon secular humanist ideals deal with this legacy of our Founding Fathers known as Thanksgiving Day?

As you may or may not know, Thanksgiving is a United States holiday, and while it is based upon the traditions of the Pilgrims giving thanks for their surviving the first year in the New World in Massachusetts, it's history inextricably tied to the history of our nation.

During the American Revolutionary War the Continental Congress appointed one or more thanksgiving days each year, except in 1777, each time recommending to the executives of the various states the observance of these days in their states.

George Washington, leader of the revolutionary forces in the American Revolutionary War, proclaimed a Thanksgiving in December 1777 as a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga, seen by most historians as the turning point of the Revolution.

The Continental Congress again proclaimed annual December Thanksgivings from 1777 to 1783, except in 1782.

George Washington again proclaimed Thanksgivings, now as President, in 1789 and 1795. President John Adams declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799.

President Madison, in response to resolutions of Congress, set apart a day for thanksgiving at the close of the War of 1812. Madison declared the holiday twice in 1815; however, none of these was celebrated in autumn.

By 1858 proclamations appointing a day of thanksgiving were issued by the governors of 25 states and two Territories.

In the middle of the Civil War, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, the last of which appeared in the September 1863 issue of Godey's Lady's Book, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

"In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

"Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

"Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that His mercy should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

"And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, 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, tranquillity and Union.

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

"Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

"Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863.
"

Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States.

Editor's Note: The history of Thanksgiving comes from Wikipedia.com.

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