"We are all familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday as a time for family, feasting, and football. All of these are great American institutions, but we forget too easily the meaning of this national holiday as it was first established by George Washington on October 3, 1789 and reaffirmed as we know it today by Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, exactly 74 years later. A mere glance at their Thanksgiving proclamations reminds us of the noblest purposes of government, including its greatest ends—fighting war and educating its citizens—which fulfill all the objects of peace.
Moreover, the simplest meaning of Thanksgiving reminds us—contrary to secularist courts and professors—that these presidents were proclaiming a holy day, a day for prayer and recognition of Almighty God's authority over man. We are most human when we honor our duties, to our country and to our Creator, and the wisdom that unifies these duties. No understanding of the First Amendment, however crabbed, can possibly gainsay this official government acknowledgement of the power of the sacred in our lives.
A close reading of these two messages reveals a careful and subtle teaching about the higher purposes of government and of human life. Washington urged prayer "to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed...." Prayer should also lead this nation of "civil and religious liberty" to "promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among [other nations] and us...." God and the human mind are in alliance.
Even in the midst of "the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged," Lincoln first paints a picture of a prosperous, free, and indeed flourishing land. These 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 they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People." At the end of the proclamation, Lincoln asks for prayers not only of thanks but also "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience."
from: The Claremont Institute
"Throughout early American history, when they suffered from drought, famine or war, Americans paused, not to seek vengeance or to question their faith, but to give thanks to God for the blessings they still had.
Not only have many Americans forgotten or never learned the historic origins of our Thanksgiving -- to pause and give thanks to God for our abundance -- but radical secularists are intent on removing God and faith from our national life altogether.
Many of the entertainment and political elite seem to be threatened by religious faith." - Newt Gingrich
Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson, in 1779: "[I] appoint … a day of public Thanksgiving to Almighty God … to [ask] Him that He would … pour out His Holy Spirit on all ministers of the Gospel; that He would … spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth … and that He would establish these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue."
President George Washington’s first federal Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789: "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.… Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 … that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection."
President Abraham Lincoln, making Thanksgiving an annual national holiday in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War: "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 they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people."
It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.", A Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785: "
(excerpts above taken from What Every Child Should Know About Thanksgiving - Newt Gingrich)
Thanksgiving(Poem written by Lizelia Augusta Jenkins Moorer, an African-American poet writing at the turn of the 20th century).
Let us give thanks to God above,
Thanks for expressions of His love,
Seen in the book of nature, grand
Taught by His love on every hand.
Let us be thankful in our hearts,
Thankful for all the truth imparts,
For the religion of our Lord,
All that is taught us in His word.
Let us be thankful for a land,
That will for such religion stand;
One that protects it by the law,
One that before it stands in awe.
Thankful for all things let us be,
Though there be woes and misery;
Lessons they bring us for our good-
Later 'twill all be understood.
Thankful for peace o'er land and sea,
Thankful for signs of liberty,
Thankful for homes, for life and health,
Pleasure and plenty, fame and wealth.
Thankful for friends and loved ones, too,
Thankful for all things, good and true,
Thankful for harvest in the fall,
Thankful to Him who gave it all.
"President Ronald Reagan often cited the Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving as our forebears who charted the path of American freedom. He made frequent reference to John Winthrop's "shining city upon a hill."
As Reagan explained, "The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free."
Who were these "freedom men," and how did they eventually blaze the path of true liberty? They were Calvinist Protestants who rejected the institutional Church of England, believing that worshipping God must originate freely in the individual soul, without coercion. Suffering persecution and imprisonment in England for their beliefs, a group of these separatists fled to Holland in 1608. There, they found spiritual liberty in the midst of a disjointed economy that failed to provide adequate compensation for their labors, and a dissolute, degraded, corrupt culture that tempted their children to stray from faith.
Determined to protect their families from such spiritual and cultural dangers, the Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1620, sailing for a new world that offered the promise of both civil and religious liberty. After an arduous journey, they dropped anchor off the coast of what is now Massachusetts.
On 11 December 1620, prior to disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they signed the Mayflower Compact, America's original document of civil government. It was the first to introduce self-government, and the foundation on which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were built. Governor William Bradford described the Compact as "a combination ... that when they came a shore they would use their owne libertie; for none had power to command them."
Upon landing, the Pilgrims conducted a prayer service and quickly turned to building shelters. Under harrowing conditions, the colonists persisted through prayer and hard work, reaping a bountiful summer harvest. But their material prosperity soon evaporated, for the Pilgrims had erred in acquiescing to their European investors' demands for a financial arrangement holding all crops and property in common, in order to return an agreed-to half to their overseas backers.
By 1623, however, Plymouth Colony was near failure as a result of famine, blight and drought, as well as excessive taxation and what amounted to forced collectivization.
In desperation, the Pilgrims set a day for prayers of repentance; God answered, delivering a gentle rainfall by evening. Bradford's diary recounts how the colonists repented in action: "At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number."
Property ownership and families freely laboring on their own behalf replaced the "common store," but only after their ill-advised experiment with communism nearly wiped out the entire settlement.
In their simple representative government, born out of dedication to religious freedom, the Pilgrims replaced the rule of men -- with its arbitrary justice administered capriciously at the whim of rulers who favor some at the expense of others -- with the rule of law, treating individuals equally. Yet even these "freedom men" strayed under straits. So could we, if we revert to materialistic government reliance instead of grateful obedience to God. Sadly, we're a long way down that path already.
Closing his farewell address in 1989, Ronald Reagan asked, "And how stands the city on this winter night?" Contemplating our blessings of liberty this Thanksgiving, nearly 20 years after President Reagan left office and 20 generations past the Pilgrims' experience, how stands the city on our watch?" -excerpts from: Mark Alexander Patriot Post -Thanksgiving Special Edition