Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation 1861

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Thanksgiving is my favorite national holiday, perhaps because I lull myself to sleep nightly with a gratitude list. The Civil War was taking a toll when Abraham Lincoln in 1861 decreed that the entire nation should “count its blessings” on the last Thursday of November. Here is an excerpt of Lincoln’s gratitude list as enumerated by his proclamation:

“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, . . . order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict. . . . 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.”

In issuing the proclamation that the day of giving thanks should be celebrated throughout the country on a fixed day, President Lincoln was heeding a suggestion by Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Ladies Book.

Prefiguring Susan B. Anthony in 1846, Hale wrote, “The time of action is now. We have to sow the fields—the harvest is sure. The greatest triumph of this progression is redeeming woman from her inferior position and placing her side by side with man, a help-mate for him in all his pursuits.”

Wishing you the blessing of a grateful heart.

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