If you are looking to read one of the old American Thanksgiving Day proclamations around your table this year, here is the 1781 proclamation by Thomas McKean, President of the Congress of the United States.
Remember that this proclamation was issued a week after Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown. Notice the detailed list of specific reasons for thanks to God – if you had to make a similar list for our nation this year, what would you include?
President Obama usually issues his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation on Thursday; you will find it at www.whitehouse.gov.
By the United States, in Congress
Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of Mercies, remarkably to assist and support the United States of America in their important struggle for liberty against the long-continued efforts of a powerful nation, it is the duty of all ranks to observe and thankfully acknowledge the interpositions of his Providence in their behalf; – Through the whole of the contest from its first rise to this time the influence of Divine Providence may be clearly perceived in many signal instances, of which we mention but a few: –
In revealing the counsels of our enemies, when the discoveries were seasonable and important, and the means seemingly inadequate or fortuitous;
In preserving and even improving the union of the several states on the breach of which our enemies placed their greatest dependence;
In increasing the number and adding to the zeal and attachment of friends of liberty;
In granting remarkable deliverances and blessings with the most signal success, when affairs seemed to have the most discouraging appearance;
In raising up for us a most powerful and generous ally in one of the first of European Powers;
In confounding the counsels of our enemies and suffering them to pursue such measures as have most directly contributed to frustrate their own desires and expectations, above all,
In making their extreme cruelty to the inhabitants of those states when in their power and their savage devastation of property the very means of cementing our Union and adding vigor to every effort in opposition to them,
And as we cannot help leading the good people of these states to a retrospect on the events which have taken place since the beginning of the war so we may recommend in a particular manner to their observation the goodness of God in the year now drawing to a conclusion in which the Confederation of the United States has been completed,
In which there have been so many instances of prowess and success in our armies, particularly in the southern states, where, notwithstanding the difficulties with which they had to struggle, they have recovered the whole country which the enemy had overrun, leaving them only a post or two on or near the sea,
In which we have been so powerfully and effectually assisted by our allies, while in all the unjust operations, the most perfect harmony has subsisted in the allied army: In which there has been so plentiful a harvest, and so great abundance of the fruits of the earth of every kind, as not only enable us easily to supply the wants of our army, but gives comfort and happiness to the whole people,
And in which, after the success of our allies by sea, a general of the first rank with his whole army has been captured by the allied forces under the direction of our commander-in-chief.
It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the THIRTEENTH day of DECEMBER next, to be religiously observed as a day of THANKSGIVING and PRAYER; that all the people may assemble on that day with grateful hearts to celebrate the praises of our glorious Benefactor, to confess our manifold sins, to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace that it may please Him to pardon our offense, and incline our hearts for the future, to keep all His laws, to comfort and relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity, to prosper our husbandmen, and give strength to all engaged in lawful commerce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counselors, judgment and fortitude to our officers and soldiers; to protect and prosper our illustrious ally and favor our united exertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honorable, and lasting peace, to bless our seminaries of learning, and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth as the waters cover the seas.
Done in Congress the 26th day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-one, and in the sixth year of the Independence of America.
Thomas McKean, President.
Attest, Charles Thomson, Secretary.