Faith for the Journey of Life

My Thoughts on Faith, Life, and 2,000+ Years of Catholicism / Christianity

22 November 2006

Abraham Lincoln and Thanksgiving

In honor of tomorrow's Thanksgiving holiday, I offer an excerpt from President Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation from October 1863. The full proclamation may be found at

Before perusing this, I wish to offer some historical context to this Proclamation. In October 1863, the United States was in the grips of a disastrous Civil War. At various times during the preceding years of war, President Lincoln had publicly beseeched God and offered National Fasting Daysfor an end to the war. The first couple years had not gone well for the Union as they suffered a series of military defeats in the Eastern Theater. In 1863, fortunes seemed to be improving for the North. At the beginning of the year, Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming freedom to the slaves being held in the Confederate States. A Confederate invasion had been decisively thwarted by Major General Meade at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Another Union Army under Major General U.S. Grant had captured Vicksburg, Mississippi, thus cutting the Confederacy in half along the Mississippi River. Finally after over two years of unrelenting strife, Lincoln and the Northern States had something to be thankful for.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. 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, tranquillity, and union." -- President Abraham Lincoln


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