Giving Thanks every November, since 1863
Shortly after the turn of the current Century, we observed Thanksgiving in THE BEE, by reprinting the proclamation that established it as an annual event on the fourth Thursday in November. That proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln, and was issued in an attempt to bring people together, before the end of the Civil War.
Many argue that we lately have been living in a time of great INcivility – particularly in government. Although we have not found any great difference in the friendliness and compassion of the residents of Inner Southeast Portland today compared with times previous – we have always observed in our business career, it's the leadership of the company that affects the attitude and morale of everyone in it. And the same is surely true in government. As Harry Truman observed, the buck stops at the top.
So, it struck us, perhaps it is timely to review, this November, the words of the Great Emancipator at another time of national turmoil.
Although – we must acknowledge – it was a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale urging such a proclamation that were a prime instigator of it; and, although President Lincoln wrote most of his own presidential statements, this one was evidently put on paper for his signature by Secretary of State William H. Seward.
Nonetheless, Lincoln signed and issued it; and, since many have never read it, here it is for you to spend a few moments of reflection on, in advance of Thanksgiving, 2019:
"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. "In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. "Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.There have been many proclamations of "a day of Thanksgiving" in the United States – some even before this land became the United States – and several Presidents, starting with our first, George Washington, have made them. But each was for a one-time observance. Since 1863 and Lincoln's proclamation, Thanksgiving has been observed every November in the United States.
"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 voice by the whole American people. "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. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
"Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."
And, with our own and President Lincoln's best wishes, may you have a Happy Thanksgiving this year.
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