“I recommend to [the American people]…that they do…fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it…”
— By Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America
Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day, 1863
October 3, 1863
By Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States
The year that is drawing toward 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 has 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 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.
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.
Signed: Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America
———- October 3, 1863
William H. Seward, Secretary of State
This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America’s national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.
Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” She explained, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”
For more on this, visit The Authority on Abraham Lincoln… our friends at: Abraham Lincoln Online
— By J. E. Rankin
We come, O Lord, these Autumn days,
With hymns of gratitude and praise.
Harvest of gold the plains adorn,
Rich fruits roll forth from Plenty’s horn;
Thou givest treasures from the rocks;
The little hills are clothed with flocks;
The seas are with their burden white,
And new Thy mercies day and night.
For changing seasons as they go,
For Autumn leaf, for Winter’s snow,
For the green verdure of the Spring,
For life in plant and life on wing,
For Summer with its ripening heat,
For hopes the rounded years complete,
For morn and noon, for night and day,
For light that marks our heavenward way;
For all the blessings of Thy hand,
For freedom in fair freedom’s land,
Pursuits of thrift that bring us wealth,
For schools and churches, peace and health,
For commerce, yielding up her stores,
Brought for man’s use from distant shores;
For countless gifts, O Lord, we raise
Our hymns of gratitude and praise.
Thou settest man in families,
And all his wants the earth supplies;
Of children, be they far or near,
Of children’s children gathered here,
We thank Thee for Thy gracious care,
And lift for them the secret prayer,
As clustered round each social board
We eat and drink, and praise the Lord.