The proclamation written by George Washington, the first President of the United States, was displayed at Christie’s Galleries prior to being auctioned, on October 3, 2013 in New York City. According to Christie’s, this was the first proclamation made by a United States President, declaring the first Thanksgiving holiday. Signed by George Washington on November 3rd, 1789, the paper was expected to fetch between $8 million to $12 million. It was being sold by a private American collector.
Washington marked the day by attending services at St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving Day a permanent national holiday to be celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November.
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it to the third Thursday in November. Two years later, Congress passed a resolution establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
In elementary school, we all learned that the American holiday known as “Thanksgiving” has its roots in the Pilgrims’ survival of their first winter in the New World and successful harvest in 1621. They celebrated with a community meal, joined by local Native Americans. Names like Miles Standish, Squanto, Massasoit and Plymouth Rock are familiar parts of the story. Although there is no historical evidence the Pilgrims actually “gave thanks” in prayer for the meal, the entire event, framed in our history by the nature of the Pilgrims’ search for religious freedom, has become an enduring symbol for generations of thankful Americans.
Read it for yourselves:
[New York, 3 October, 1789]
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
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 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.
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 shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, 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 third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789,
Let us share this Proclamation with our children and family. May we never forget our true roots in history and be heartened by it!
“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” ~ H.U. Westermayer
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.