Today’s post comes from Bailey Martin of the National Archives History Office.
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 favor, 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 public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
So begins the first time the President of the United States issued a proclamation for Thanksgiving Day.
The statement, by President George Washington on October 3, 1789, officially gave the holiday his blessing. Though Thanksgiving was certainly not a new holiday requiring great fanfare, this particular year was special because it was the first celebrated under the new Constitution.
Though Presidential proclamations are not a Thanksgiving requirement, they serve as an enduring tradition while offering a unique look into the various struggles that were affecting Americans around this time of year. It is customary for each President to release a statement every year—in addition to the now-familiar rituals of turkey pardonings and quiet Presidential retreats to Camp David—to officially acknowledge the nationwide celebration of the holiday. Continue reading