The First Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln
"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom... read full proclamation
Editor's note: Many Americans are familiar with the mythic origins of Thanksgiving as a harvest celebration the Pilgrims shared with their new Native American neighbors. However, fewer people know that Thanksgiving has been formally celebrated only since 1863, when it was created by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, America was in the midst of an unprecedented and uncertain struggle for its very existence. Yet Lincoln believed that Americans still had much to be thankful for, and foresaw a period of renewed peace and prosperity. Our nation faces new challenges today, but we face them with an unshakable courage inherited from our forefathers. The proclamation is explicitly religious--yet it still speaks to those of all religions, or no religion. It speaks to all who have something to be thankful for. It speaks to all of us. Happy Thanksgiving.