Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Mother of Thanksgiving and a model of Perseverance

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, tranquility and Union.
- Signed by President Abraham Lincoln, on October 3, 1863

This is the last section of a proclamation written by William Seward, then Secretary of State, and signed by President Lincoln. With the nation embroiled in a bloody Civil War, they set aside the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanks. But, much of the credit for the proclamation should probably go to a woman named Sarah Hale. She had grown up celebrating Thanksgiving in her home state of New Hampshire, but back then not every state marked the day and those that did were not unified as to the date.
   Hale was not the first to organize a unified day of gratitude, though. Following the American Revolution, a newly inaugurated George Washington called for a national day of thanks to celebrate both the end of the war and the recent ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Other Presidents followed suit, but that stopped with Thomas Jefferson, who sought what he called a "wall of separation between Church and State." Decades later, Sarah Hale came along and made this one of her life goals. She apparently wrote to every President before Lincoln for fifteen years before he took office. But, this time it worked. Within a week of receiving her request, Seward had drafted Lincoln’s official proclamation fixing the national observation of Thanksgiving on the final Thursday in November, a move the two men hoped would help “heal the wounds of the nation.”
   It is a lesson in perseverance. Gratitude is worth spreading, and repeating, and sharing with others. Grace and peace, Scott

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