Let us give thanks
George Washington’s proclamation still rings true in 2023
Sometimes in America, it seems as if we actually enjoy advertising our trials and difficulties. And, yes, we have had plenty of them this year.
There were really trying times in the early days of our nation also. That is why America’s first formal Thanksgiving observance had far more significance to our people than today’s often perfunctory observance.
With all our troubles, we Americans are among the very few people in the world who feel it necessary to officially observe a day of thanksgiving.
The words of George Washington, our first president, recognized that need. His Oct. 3, 1789, proclamation established a day of public prayer and thanksgiving.
That historic document recognized that despite our young country’s everyday trials and tribulations, the nation had received many blessings. The most important of these was the opportunity afforded the far-seeing people of Washington’s day to establish this country as a self-governing republic in which every citizen is guaranteed the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
It was thankfulness for that freedom that prompted these words of Washington in 1789, words that retain great meaning for us in 2023:
“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 to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness;
“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th 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 favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and confusion 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.
“And also that we may then be united in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, 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, to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us) and to bless them with good government, peace and concord.
“To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us, and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as life alone knows to be best.
“Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the Year of Our Lord 1789.
It could have been written for this year. Thanks expressed for our “tranquility, union and plenty,” for “the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed” and for all the “great and various” favors that have been afforded us is as appropriate today as then.
And so, let us give thanks.