On Oct 3, 1789, during his first term of office as our first president, George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. Among all the founding fathers, who pledged “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” as they signed the Declaration of Independence, I believe Washington, who had already assumed command of the Continental Army, had the greatest opportunity to see the providential hand of God in the formation of this country.
He saw it not only in the documents and in the events leading to independence, but he saw it most clearly on the battlefields where improbable victories occurred time and time again. And he acknowledged God and gave thanks.
On this Thanksgiving Day, let us do the same and begin a new tradition at the family dinner table in these United States. Let us take turns reading this proclamation while gathered around the dinner table. Each one can read a small portion, ponder these words, and end with our prayer of thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksgiving to all and may God bless America! The proclamation follows.
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
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