While I typically devote my weekly column to the work of state government and the efforts of the New York State Senate to propose, craft and pass laws that would improve our lives, this week I wanted to take a momentary departure to observe one of the governmental roots of Thanksgiving.
The following proclamation was issued by President George Washington in 1789, and is considered the first governmental observance of what we know today as Thanksgiving. President Lincoln followed with his own declaration, but it wasn't until the 1940s that the fourth Thursday of November was enshrined as our official yearly observance of this most special of national observances. This proclamation was published in the Massachusetts Centinel.
A Proclamation of General Thanksgiving
By the President of the United States of America
Wednesday, October 14, 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 favour; 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 Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and 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 twenty-sixth 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 previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence 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 enable 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 favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite 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 publick 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 shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, 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 he alone knows best."
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Senator Seward’s office web site is www.senatorjimseward.com.