Sunday, November 23, 2008

The History of Thanksgiving in America

The earliest attested Thanksgiving Day on American soil actually took place at what is now St. Augustine, Florida, on September 8, 1565. Most Americans, however, consider our first Thanksgiving to be the three-day celebration at Plymouth Plantation after the colonists’ first harvest in the fall of 1621, in which native peoples from the area joined. The first Thanksgiving observance recorded in this country took place on June 29, 1671, at Charlestown, Massachusetts, by proclamation of the town’s governing council.

During the 1700s, it was common practice for individual colonies to observe days of Thanksgiving at different times during the year. Two hundred years ago a day for thanksgiving would be set aside as a time for prayer and fasting, not for indulging in an abundance of food and drink, as is our custom today. Each of the states periodically designated a Thanksgiving Day in honor of the adoption of a state constitution, an exceptionally bountiful harvest, or a military victory—such as that celebrated on December 18, 1777, in gratitude for the surrender of British General Burgoyne to American forces at Saratoga, when, according to the Continental Congress:

“. . . at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express their grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole.” (Quoted in World magazine [November 15-22, 2008, p. 9])

On October 3, 1789, George Washington designated the first official national Thanksgiving Day during his first year as President. The decree set aside Thursday, November 26, as “a Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer.” The text of the decree appears below.

In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states followed suit by celebrating a Thanksgiving Day. Finally, on October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the observance of the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving. The text appears below. Since then every president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, usually designating the fourth Thursday of each November as the holiday.

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November in order to boost the economy by extending the Christmas shopping season. After a storm of protest, he changed the holiday again in 1941 to the fourth Thursday in November, where it remains today.

First National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

General Thanksgiving
By the PRESIDENT of the United States of America

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 favour; 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 PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH 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 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 enable 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 favours which He has 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 publick 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 governments, 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, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington

Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789

Proclamation by 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 defence, 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.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and 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, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Source: Thanksgiving (United States), Wikipedia

(Cross posted on Lamp of History)

Friday, November 14, 2008

One Slight Change

Ooops. Here’s the final final version of both the front and the full cover. LOL!

In conferring with Marisa, who is designing the interior for Wind of the Spirit, I was persuaded that the treatment on the title wasn’t going to print well. She felt the fine details would likely bleed together with the background. And I’d also been thinking that it wasn’t going to show up well at a distance, like on a book table or bookshelf.

We decided to go with a simpler title treatment to head off issues, and this is what Dineen ended up with. It does retain some subtleties, which I like. And the sun symbol in the “of” is repeated in the interior on the chapter opening pages and in the running heads of the chapters set among the Shawnee, which is totally cool. So I’m pretty happy with the new version.

Now … no more changes, I swear!!