Engaging Culture

The Thanksgiving Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln

Have you ever read the actual Thanksgiving Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln? This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America’s national day of Thanksgiving. In a country that’s moving further and further away from the values and beliefs of it’s great historic leaders, it might be good to take a minute and read it over. It’s a good reminder of where great men and women of our past put their trust:

By the President of the United States of America
Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day, 1863

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.


By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

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  1. It never ceases to amaze me how Lincoln kept his focus during his rough presidency; with war raging all around and the country in disarray due to slavery and states rights. He stated with eloquence the countries circumstances, all while reminding us our our need to show and speak our thanks to God above for all the blessings we have been honored with by a benevolent father. Now if we shift back to the present, look at our wars overseas, our tweeting president, civil rights and now sexual abuses by government officials, entertainment stars, sports figures and the clergy. What will the future look back and think about our generation? They will probably redefine the Dark Ages to encompass our time on earth. As an often quoted curse reads “May you live in interesting times”. Well I guess we are living in interesting times, lets make the most of it and seek to emulate old Abe. – Now I have a rail to go split.

    1. Very well said Don. Thanks for the comment! One of the things that interested me most about Lincoln was his brevity. Some of his most powerful speeches were remarkably short.

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