Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
Happy Thanksgiving, Cannonball readers!
With the recent publicity about the possibility that President Abraham Lincoln appears in an old photograph of the crowds gathering for the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in November 1863, I thought it would be appropriate to reprint the proclamation that Lincoln penned on October 3, 1863, declaring the last Thursday of November as a formal “day of thanksgiving” for America. He traveled to Gettysburg on November 18 for the ceremony at the cemetery and his “few remarks,” and then returned to Washington via Hanover Junction. A few days later, he joined his fellow countrymen in prayer and thanksgiving for what blessings could be celebrated in the midst of the worst year of strife to that point in American history.
Take time this Thanksgiving to carefully read Lincoln’s words – very carefully and thoughtfully. While we are not fighting a civil war, we still have conflicts and personal pains, and can reflect on Lincoln’s words of encouragement. There is a lot to be thankful for, despite all that may be going on around us.
Here are the timeless words of the 16th President of the United States, penned seven score and four years ago this month) …
The year that is drawing toward 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 can not 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 unequaled 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 theater of military conflict, while that theater 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 defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our 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 battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
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. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are 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 imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, 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 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
By the President:
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State.