Skip to comments.George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Posted on 11/22/2012 8:57:43 AM PST by Retain Mike
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 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 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 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 enable 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 has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.
Thanks be to God.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
President Washington and all of the other Founders did everything they could to secure the blessings of God for our country.
This one day should be remembered forever.
One hundred years after America's Declaration of Independence, which outliend the principles essential to liberty, a Centennial Thanksgiving celebration of the anniversary of independence was held in Urbana, Ohio. A Black Minister, the Rev. Benjamin W. Arnett was invited to deliver the Thanksgiving Sermon, and what a Sermon it was!
The celebration was held at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Urbana, and the Minister, who also was an Ohio State Legislator, traced the history of nations and chose for his theme, "Righteousness Exalteth a Nation, but Sin is a Reproach to Any People."
He cited the documents, speeches, and writings of the Founders, as well as those of Supreme Court Justices to document the Christian foundations of American government. Following his lengthy and detailed accounting of historical facts, he had a section called, "The Danger to our Country." We might consult that listing and consider that the dangers he outlines as being the agenda of self-described "liberals" of 1876 now can be seen in the policies of so-called "progressives" of today.
From the "Library of Congress - Historical Collections" -
"African-American Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection," 1820-1920; American Memory, Library of Congress
CENTENNIAL Thanksgiving Sermon, DELIVERED BY REV. B. W. ARNETT, B. D., AT ST. PAUL A. M. E. CHURCH, URBANA, OHIO 1876
(Excerpted final portion of Arnett's Sermon>:
"The Danger to our Country.
"Now that our national glory and grandeur is principally derived from the position the fathers took on the great questions of right and wrong, and the career of this nation has been unparalleled in the history of the past, now there are those who are demanding the tearing down the strength of our national fabric. They may not intend to tear it down, but just as sure as they have their way, just that sure will they undermine our superstructure and cause the greatest calamity of the age. What are the demands of this party of men? Just look at it and examine it for yourselves, and see if you are willing that they shall have their way; or will you still assist in keeping the ship of state in the hands of the same crew and run her by the old gospel chart! But ye men who think there is no danger listen to the demands of the Liberals as they choose to call themselves:
"'Organize! Liberals of America! The hour for action has arrived. The cause of freedom calls upon us to combine our strength, our zeal, our efforts. These are The Demands of Liberalism:
"'1. We demand that churches and other ecclesiastical property shall no longer be exempt from just taxation.
"'2. We demand that the employment of chaplains in Congress, in State Legislatures, in the navy and militia, and in prisons, asylums, and all other institutions supported by public money, shall be discontinued.
"'3. We demand that all public appropriations for sectarian educational and charitable institutions shall cease.
"'4. We demand that all religious services now sustained by the government shall be abolished; and especially that the use of the Bible in the public schools, whether ostensibly as a text-book or avowedly as a book of religious worship, shall be prohibited.
"'5. We demand that the appointment, by the President of the United States or by the Governors of the various States, of all religious festivals and fasts shall wholly cease.
"'6. We demand that the judicial oath in the courts and in all other departments of the government shall be abolished, and that simple affirmation under the pains and penalties of perjury shall be established in its stead.
"'7. We demand that all laws directly or indirectly enforcing the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath shall be repealed.
"'8. We demand that all laws looking to the enforcement of “Christian” morality shall be abrogated, and that all laws shall be conformed to the requirements of natural morality, equal rights, and impartial liberty.
"'9. We demand that not only in the Constitution of the United States and of the several States, but also in the practical administration of the same, no privilege or advantage shall be conceded to Christianity or any other special religion; that our entire political system shall be founded and administered on a purely secular basis; and that whatever changes shall prove necessary to this end shall be consistently, unflinchingly, and promptly made.'
"'Let us boldly and with high purpose meet the duty of the hour.'
"Now we must not think that we have nothing to do in this great work, for the men who are at the head of this movement are men of culture and intelligence, and many of them are men of influence. They are led by that thinker and scholar, F. E. Abbott, than whom I know but few men who has a smoother pen, or who is his equal on the battle-field of thought. He says in an address on the duty of his leagues:
"'My answer may be a negative one to all who see nothing positive in the idea of liberty. The conviction I refer to is this: that, regarded as a theological system, Christianity is Superstition, and, regarded as an organized institution, Christianity is Slavery. The purpose I refer to is this: that, whether regarded as theological system, Christianity shall wholly cease to exercise influence in political matters. Although the national Constitution is strictly secular and non-Christian, there are many things in the practical administration of the government which violate its spirit, and constitute a virtual recognition of Christianity as the national religion. These violations are very dangerous; they are on the increase; they more and more give Christianity a practical hold upon the government; they directly tend to strengthen the influence of Christianity over the people, and to fortify it both as a theology and a church; and they are therefore justly viewed with growing indignation by liberals. Not unreasonably are they looked upon as paving the way to a formidable effort to carry the Christian Amendment to the Constitution; and the liberals are beginning to see that they must extinguish the conflagration in its commencement. I believe all this myself, with more intense conviction every day; and therefore I appeal frankly to the people to begin now to lay the foundations of a great National Party of Freedom. It is not a moment too soon. If the liberals are wise, they will see the facts as they are, and act accordingly. Not with hostility, bitterness, defiance, or anger but rather with love to all men and high faith in the beneficence of consistently republican institutions, do I urge them most earnestly to begin the work at once.'
"He acknowledges that this is a religious nation and wants all men to assist him in eliminating the grand old granite principles from the framework of our national union. Will you do it freeman; will we sell the temple reared at the cost of so much precious blood and treasure? These men would have us turn back the hands on the clock of our national progress, and stay the shadow on the dial plate of our christian civilization; they would have us call a retreat to the soldiers in the army of Christ; the banner of the cross they would have us haul down, and reverse the engines of war against sin and crime; the songs of Zion they would turn into discord, and for the harmony and the melody of the sons of God, they would give us general confusion; they would have us chain the forces of virtue and unloose the elements of vice; they would have the nation loose its moorings from the Lord of truth and experience and commit interest, morally, socially; religiously and politically to the unsafe and unreliable human reason; they would discharge God and his crew and run the ship of State by the light of reason, which has always been but a dim taper in the world, and all the foot-prints it has left are marked with the blood of men, women and children. No nation is safe when left alone with reason.
"But we have no notion of giving up the contest without a struggle or a battle. We are aware that there is a great commotion in the world of thought. Religion and science are at arms length contending with all their forces for the mastery. Faith and unbelief are fighting their old battles over again, everything that can be shaken is shaking. The foundations of belief are assaulted by the army of science and men are changing their opinions. New and starting theories are promulgated to the world; old truths are putting on new garbs. Error is dressing in the latest style, wrong is secured by the unholy alliances, changes in men and things, revolution in church and state, Empires are crumbling, Kingdoms tottering; everywhere the change is seen. In the social circle, in the school house, in the pulpit and in the pews. But amid all the changes are revolutions their are some things that are unchangeable, unmovable and enduring. The forces that underline the vital power of Christianity are the same yesterday, to-day, to-morrow and forever more. They are like their God, who is omnipotent, immovable and eternal, and everywhere truth has marched it has left its moccasin tracks.
"The Conclusion of the Whole Matter.We have patiently tried to examine the record of the nations of antiquity and learn the cause of their decay and decline, their fall, why their early death; and why so many implements of destruction around and about their tombs, and everywhere, in the silent streets, mouldering ruins, tottering columns, mouldy and moist rooms, and the united voice from the sepulcher of the dead past is, "sin is a reproach to any people." We see it written on the tombs of the Kings, and engraven on the pages of time, "sin is a reproach to any people." These are the principles of governments, Right and wrong; and the people who are the advocates of Right have bound themselves together and by their united effort they have brought light out of darkness and forced strength out of weakness.
"We as a nation have a grand and glorious future before us. The sun of our nation is just arising above the horizon and is now sending his golden rays of peace from one end of the land to the other. The utmost extremities of the members of the body politic are warm and in motion by the commercial and financial activities of the land. Her face is destined to blush with beauty when peace and justice shall be enthroned. The grand march of progress shall mark her in her onward advancement in moral strength, intellectual brilliancy, and political power. Then we can say that we give to every man, woman and child the benefit of our free institutions, giving all the benefits of our common school and the freedom to worship God under their own vine and fig tree. Then will we see written, on the banner of our free, redeemed and disenthralled country, the sublime words written, not in the blood of men, but in the sun-light of truth, that "Righteousness exalteth a nation." It will fall like the morning dew on the lowly; it will descend like the showers of May on the poor; and like the sun it will shine on the good and bad, dispensing from the hand of plenty the blessings of a government founded on the principle of justice and equality.
"Standing on the threshold of the second century of the nation's life, with the experience of the past lying at our feet, we are saluted by the shout of triumph from the millions who left their homes and business and attended the Great Exposition of the skill and genius of the world, collected at Philadelphia. We were permitted to receive the greetings from the oldest to the youngest nation of the earth. Egypt and the United States clasped hands over the waste of 5,000 years, and lay their treasures at the feet of our civilization. The material, intellectual and mechanical deterioration of the one, and the unprecedented progress of the other, stand in great contrast; in all that makes the nation great,—morally, religiously and socially, the young nation is ahead.
"Following the tracks of righteousness throughout the centuries and along the way of nations, we are prepared to recommend it to all and assert without a shadow of doubt, that "Righteousness exalted a nation"; but on the other hand following the foot-prints of sin amid the ruins of Empires and remains of cities, we will say that "sin is a reproach to any people." But we call on all American citizens to love their country, and look not on the sins of the past, but arming ourselves for the conflict of the future, girding ourselves in the habiliments of Righteousness, march forth with the courage of a Numidian lion and with the confidence of a Roman Gladiator, and meet the demands of the age, and satisfy the duties of the hour. Let us be encouraged in our work, for we have found the moccasin track of Righteousness all along the shore of the stream of life, constantly advancing, holding humanity with a firm hand. We have seen it “through” all the confusion of rising and falling States, of battle, siege and slaughter, of victory and defeat; through the varying fortunes and ultimate extinctions of Monarchies, Republics and Empires; through barbaric irruption and desolation, feudal isolation, spiritual supremacy, the heroic rush and conflict of the Cross and Crescent; amid the busy hum of industry, through the marts of trade and behind the gliding keels of commerce.”
"And in America, the battle-field of modern thought, we can trace the foot-prints of the one and the tracks of the other. So let us use all of our available forces, and especially our young men, and throw them into the conflict of the Right against the Wrong.
"Then let the grand Centennial Thanksgiving song be heard and sung in every house of God; and in every home may thanksgiving sounds be heard, for our race has been emancipated, enfranchised and are now educating, and have the gospel preached to them!
"Sons of freedom, sing the glad hymns of praise on the Western plains! Daughters of sorrow shout the joyful tidings amid the savannahs of the South-land! Proclaim it on the Atlantic's western stand and declare it on the slopes of the Pacific! Humble followers of the Son of Mary, chant the eternal truth in the temple of the Most High, that “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
"We invite every nation, kindred, tongue and people, to come to our land. Come from the bogs of Ireland; come from the dykes of Holland; come from the mountains of Switzerland; and from the sunny plains of Italy; and enjoy a government made for man! Come from the jungles of Africa or Egypt, the university of the infant world; come from Asia the cradle of humanity; come and bring your gifts from the Islands of the South Sea and spice land! Come ye men of every clime and race and see a nation founded in Righteousness, guarded by Justice, and supported by truth and equity, and defended by God!
"When thus united in one grand commonwealth of nationalities the universal prayer will be:
"Show us our Aaron, with his rod of flower!
Our Miriam, with her timbrel soul in tune!
And call some Joshua, in spirits power,
To praise our sun of strength at point of noon.
God of our fathers! over sand and sea,
Still keep our struggling footsteps close to thee."
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