As Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln plays in the theaters and families gather to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, perhaps not everyone is aware that this day results from a Proclamation signed into law by our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.
Issued in 1863 – in the midst of the civil war that was ravaging the nation – the Proclamation of Thanksgiving reminded us that we should be thankful for all we have, as life continued in this country even as so many were dying on the battlefields in a war that threatened to tear the country apart. Lincoln states:
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.
The proclamation, which was actually written by Secretary of State William Seward before being signed by Abraham Lincoln, established the precedent for the annual day of thanksgiving on the federal level. Days of thanksgiving up to then were sporadic and set by the individual states, usually in the fall to offer thanks for the bounty of the harvest. Lincoln’s Proclamation sought to bring together all Americans – in the north and the south and the east and the west.
Today the fourth Thursday each November is set aside for all of us to give thanks for all with which we have been blessed. Abraham Lincoln remembered this during a time of great strife so it should be easy for us to remember all that we have gained since that era. With that spirit in mind I give thanks for all the wonderful people I have, and have had, in my life. Thank you all, and be well always.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
More on Abraham Lincoln.