Thursday, November 26, 2009

We Give Thanks


During a time, when America was in turmoil, when citizens doubted the abilities of their President, and when hope for a brighter future was fading...our President, Abraham Lincoln...issued a proclamation and began the American tradition of the official holiday known as 'Thanksgiving.'

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

"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 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 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 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 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."

(proclaimed, decreed and signed by ABRAHAM LINCOLN)


Lincoln's original 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation came - spiritually speaking - at a pivotal point in his life. During the first week of July of that year, the Battle of Gettysburg occurred, resulting in the loss of some 60,000 American lives. Four months later in November, Lincoln delivered his famous "Gettsysburg Address." It was while Lincoln was walking among the thousands of graves there at Gettysburg that he committed to life as a man of faith. As he explained to a friend:

"When I left Springfield [to assume the Presidency] I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ."

As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving each year,we hope they will retain the original gratefulness to God displayed by the Pilgrims and many other founding fathers , and remember that it is to those early and courageous Pilgrims that they owe not only the traditional Thanksgiving holiday but also the concepts of self-government, the "hard-work" ethic, self-reliant communities, and devout religious faith.

And that instead of complaining, and seeking to destroy and to bring down, that instead, we work together to raise up, bring in the light of unity and understanding, and work together for the common good.

3 comments:

  1. This proclamation is long, but after reading it, I learned so much I never knew! I didn't realize the whole Abe Lincoln Christianity transformation or think about how stressful his life must have been during these harsh times. You're right....there are an amazing number of parallels to the U.S. today and all of the stressors we face. I am and will continue to be grateful for what I have and bless you for reminding me of one more thing I take for granted...our own "United" States truly needs to respect and honor and work on that instead of all of the ugliness I am reading on the blogs, now!

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  2. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and amen to both your own comments and to what Cathy has written.

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  3. Anonymous2:39 AM

    I didn't even realize Abe Lincoln had anything at all to do with Thanksgiving! This was amazing to me. You always teach through your blog in ways we don't always appreciate. Thank you for that.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.