Our nation is wrapping up another Thanksgiving holiday as millions of people travel back to their homes tonight. Most of us look forward to the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving and the four day weekend that surrounds it. But, it was’t always this way.
Actually, the first Thanksgiving celebration of our new nation–the United States of America–occurred on December 18, 1777, by proclamation of the Continental Congress.
On November 1, 1777, the Continental Congress proclaimed that on December 18, 1777, the new nation would stop and give thanks to God for blessing the nation and the troops in their quest for independence and peace in the Revolutionary War. The Thanksgiving proclamation is eloquent, and the full text follows. I write about how General Washington and the Continental Army celebrated that first Thanksgiving in my non-fiction book, Six Days in December: General George Washington’s and the Continental Army’s Encampment on Rebel Hill, December 13 – 19, 1777, an ebook on Amazon ($2.99; soon available in print from The Elevator Group), and in my novel, Becoming Valley Forge. Check them out, but in the meantime, here’s the text of the Continental Congress’ Proclamation.
THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS’ FIRST THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION
November 1, 1777
FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of; And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence, but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defence and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a Measure to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops and to crown our Arms with most signal success:
It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise; That with one Heart and one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings 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 manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favour, and their humble and earnest Supplication 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 graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole; to inspire our Commanders both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE; That it may please him to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People and the Labour of the Husbandman, that our Land may yet yield its Increase; To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand, and 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.”
And it is further recommended, that servile Labour, and such Recreation as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.
Extract from the Minutes,
Charles Thomson, Secr.
So there you have it. A little bit of #revolutionarywarreallness.