From the earliest days of America’s history, our forebears offered frequent and fervent prayers of thanksgiving to God. In our giant compilation of America’s great historical documents, called THE FREEDOM DOCUMENTS, we include the very first Thanksgiving Proclamation rendered in this new land. The date was June 20, 1676.
On this day, the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the blessings of Divine Providence that had seen their community securely established. By unanimous vote they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving, America’s first. America’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation says in part (spelling in the original):
The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God’s Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being perswaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.
I don’t think it was coincidental or circumstantial that one hundred years from this day (almost to the day) the Second Continental Congress received Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. (We have Mr. Lee’s resolution for independence in THE FREEDOM DOCUMENTS as well).
All toll, we have 212 full-size (8½ x 11) pages containing 57 of the greatest documents of American history compiled under ONE title. There isn’t another book like it in existence. This book is absolutely essential to the knowledge of American history.
THE FREEDOM DOCUMENTS are being printed and distributed NOW. Here is my column introducing THE FREEDOM DOCUMENTS.
The first Thanksgiving Proclamation issued by the revolutionary Continental Congress was on November 1, 1777, and authored by Samuel Adams. It reads in part:
It is therefore recommended . . . to set apart THURSDAY the eighteenth day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise: That at one time and with one voice, the good people may express the grateful feeling of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor: and that, together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor; and their humble and earnest supplications that it may please God through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance. . . . That it may please him . . . to prosper the means of religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth “IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, PEACE AND JOY IN THE Holy Ghost.” [Quoting Romans 14:17]
Remember, Sam Adams penned this Thanksgiving Proclamation in the midst of the Revolutionary War, when the sufferings from war were at their worst—and when the outcome of the war was very much in doubt.
After our War for Independence had been successfully concluded and our Constitution and Bill of Rights had been adopted, a motion was made in Congress to initiate the proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving.
Mr. Elias Boudinot (who was the President of Congress during the American Revolution) said he could not think of letting the congressional session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining with one voice in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings He had poured down upon them. Mr. Roger Sherman (a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution) justified the practice of thanksgiving on any signal event not only as a laudable one in itself but as warranted by a number of precedents in Holy Writ. This example he thought worthy of a Christian imitation on the present occasion, and he would agree with the gentleman who moved the resolution.
The following is taken from the Congressional Record (U.S. Senate), September 26, 1789 (the House version passed on September 25):
Resolved, That a joint committee of both Houses be appointed to wait on the President of the United States, to request that he would 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 and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a constitution of government for their safety and happiness.
Ordered, That Messrs. Boudinot, Sherman, and Sylvester be appointed of the said committee on the part of this House.
Resolved, That the Senate do concur in the above recited resolution, and that Messrs. Johnson and Izard be the committee on the part of the Senate.
This resolution was delivered to President George Washington, who readily agreed with its suggestion and put forth the following proclamation by his signature:
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 thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many 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 26th. 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 of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence, which we experienced 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 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.
Given under my hand at the city of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. George Washington
America’s Pilgrim and Patriot forebears led our country in offering continual prayers of thanksgiving to God. They genuinely believed that America’s independence, peace and prosperity were due to a divine work of Providence from the hand of a merciful, benevolent Creator and Redeemer.
Tragically, the spirit of humility and thanksgiving that birthed this great country has all but vanished. When expressions of thanksgiving are extended, they are not rendered to a gracious Providence but to self-promoting politicians. And for the most part, politicians are not humble servants of the people but conceited, conniving charlatans. They respect neither the Natural Laws of God nor the constitutions of the people who elected them. Even worse is the fact that many (if not most) professing Christians seem to prefer their politicians that way.
But only people who are filled with the spirit of humility and gratitude can expect the favor and blessing of Heaven. As one reads America’s history, he or she must be impressed with the thankful spirit that commonly resided within the hearts of the great men and women who birthed and built this once-free nation.
Read the great documents contained in THE FREEDOM DOCUMENTS, and one will easily see the spirit of thanksgiving resident in the hearts of America’s patriots past and present: from George Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796 to Ron Paul’s Farewell Address to Congress in 2012.
In the spirit of the great men and women of America’s history: HAPPY THANKSGIVING.