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St. Paul's Staff Blog

A Day of Thanksgiving


Each Thanksgiving, my family and I have a tradition of reading aloud the Presidential proclamation for the first annual Day of Thanksgiving. I recommend and I encourage you to read the brief statement this year - even as I list a number of cautions. (Kind of crazy, huh? Here I am saying, “You gotta do this!” at the same time I’m saying “Here’s all the warning labels.”)

First caution: This is hard to read and understand. See, this document was written in a time when people could hold more than one thought in their brain for longer than three seconds. The sentences are complex, rich, and profound. With our FB and tweet and txting lifestyles, lots of people will struggle as early as the second sentence. This is sad. However, it is also an opportunity to expand the abilities of the mind which God has given as well as to realize that we may not be smarter today than we were 156 years ago. 

Second caution: This is hard to read and understand. See, this document describes a time in American history when the President and the people knew that the “Most High God” was angry over sin yet abundant in mercy. It describes a time when citizens were engaged in perverseness and disobedience, when senseless murders were occurring daily. It acknowledges that contrition and repentance were the correct posture to have before the Divine “Father who dwells in the heavens”. 

So, if you’re up to a challenge of incisive and deep reading, if you’re up to returning for a moment to a time when “church and state” weren’t so far apart, if you’re up to appreciating in a new way the American “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, then set down your fork, pause on the gravy ladle, and be blessed.

Washington, D.C.

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

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 has 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. 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 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, 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 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.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln


William H. Seward,

Secretary of State


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