We can thank none other than Abraham Lincoln for the great turkey-eating, pie-gulping, football-watching holiday of Thanksgiving. Yes, Abraham Lincoln.
Sure, the pilgrims started the first Thanksgiving repasts in early 17th century Plymouth, Massachusetts. Or maybe they didn’t. In any case, while days of thanksgiving were usually held in the fall to offer thanks for the bounty of the harvest, the holiday was held only sporadically and on different dates in different states during our early history as a country. All that was changed by our 16th president in 1863, who in the midst of the Civil War issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving. 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 hand-written by Secretary of State William Seward and then signed by Abraham Lincoln, established the precedent for the annual day of thanksgiving on the federal level. Lincoln’s Proclamation sought to bring together all Americans – in the north and the south and the east and the west. Whether it had any significant effect in that regard is debatable, as the holiday wasn’t actually celebrated nationally until the late 1870s after reconstruction has more or less reunified the country. Still, he had the right idea.
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!
David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and an ebook Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time