Richmond Times-Dispatch

Thanksgivi­ng

- — George Washington , 1789 [excerpted]

The year that is drawing toward 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 even soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchf­ul providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggression­s, 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 theater of military conflict; while that theater 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 defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has 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 battlefiel­d, 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 tomefit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledg­ed as with one heart and one 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, tranquilit­y, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set myhand and caused the seal of the United Stated 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.

— Abraham Lincoln, 1863

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 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 hath been pleased to confer upon us ...

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