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George Washington’s Thanksgiving Message: What A Different Era

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Message: What A Different Era

Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday. It is a holiday that in many ways requires some sense of the supernatural – whether we care to acknowledge it or not. Below you will find our first President’s proclamation of Thanksgiving in which his sense of the hand of Providence upon the American Republic is quite clear. Indeed, his mixing of church and state, of belief and practice is undeniable.

When you read it, consider the tone, humility, and outlook of President George Washington and ask yourself if any of our current leaders match him. It is, for me, a breath of fresh air, a reminder that while our Founders had many sins, they were at the same time driven to seek the good, the true, and the beautiful. They were deeply rooted in Western Civilization and understood the symbiosis between belief and practice.

For those who would argue that the Founders believed in a firm separation between church and state, a division of belief and practice, this document is a challenge. Here we have the first president, a man who served his country in humility, helped steer her course, and intimately understood the type of government they were creating, assigning a day through government proclamation to be one “devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficient Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…” President Washington even gives thanks to the Almighty for the Constitution!

Taking our cue from our first President, on this Thanksgiving we should give thanks and, furthermore, take the time to refresh both our spirits and minds. Godspeed!


Thanksgiving Proclamation
New York, 3 October 1789

By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

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.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th 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 which we experienced 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 enabled 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 favors which he hath 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 public 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 government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease 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 1789.


Source: “Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789.” National Archives.

This story was originally published on November 22, 2017.

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  • Avatar
    Prof. Jeff
    November 22, 2023, 4:29 pm

    This is a wonderful historical comment!! Ministries such as D. James Kennedy Ministries have been advancing documents like this for years to reveal to the American public that the founders of our country never intended that Almighty God as understood by Christian religion was to be excluded for the public governance and education of our republic.

    "Separation" as in "separation of church and state" merely means that no specific Christian religion will be established and deemed as official, and thus will not be supported by taxation. In this sense, individual conscience was to be recognized. One's belonging to this or that Christian denomination was and is a matter of personal choice based on one's conscience. It was never the belief of the founders that individual "conscience" could or would try to legitimate atheism or Buddhism or Islam as being just as valid for the USA as Christianity simply because we believed in "freedom of religion." This liberty of conscience would not lead to a partisan nation despising other belief systems, but would also not deny the upholding of Christian theology as the best. Is India hateful because it is predominantly Hindu, and understands itself that way? Are Buddhists automatically bigots because they live in countries that are predominantly Buddhists. The idea of Washington and others of the founding era is that we are to be a Christian nation, and that notion in no way implied then, nor implies now, contempt for other countries that do not so identify. Christianity as understood was tolerant of non-Christian views, but non-Christian views could not be the basis for our laws — because natural law was the basis of morality and the laws of nature and man were established by Almighty God. This was part of Blackstone's foundational theory in establishing modern English law, and it carried over through enlightenment theories of knowledge advanced by John Locke, and, it might surprise some readers, even by Thomas Hobbes.

    Please throw out the non-think of Hegelian and/or Marxist dialectic where the views of the founders of our country had their day, but by dialectical processes, the monarchical systems of Christianity which were overthrown by the bourgeois Christianity of the founders are now being overturned by the Rousseauian General Will with all of its cultural Marxist tweaks.

    There is no such thing as dialectical materialism governing the evolution of countries! God's providence is in control of the so-called progress of history as we move prophetically towards judgment and the rule of Christ for those who have not been sent for eternity to another place. May all readers take this statement by Washington to heart this Thanksgiving. May we give thanks that a man of this calibre and righteousness was our first President who led us against overwhelming odds to grasp the originating intentions of our "great experiment." May we bow down in thanksgiving to a holy God who calls us to exquisite and profitable worship of His Holy Name. And may each one of us increasingly realize how much we have to be thankful for. Blessings to you, Prof. Jeff

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  • Avatar
    Jack C.
    November 23, 2023, 2:09 am

    Keep in mind that Washington wrote that in a time when science was far less sophisticated, and it was also before 1791's First Amendment, separating Church and State.

    People were granted religious freedom, just not the ability to force it onto public policy, but we still see abuse of that with religiously-motivated global warming denial, etc.

    REPLY
    • Avatar
      Tom@Jack C.
      November 23, 2023, 10:59 am

      Jack,

      I would like to recommend that you visit Wallbuiders.com to get a history lesson of this country based upon thousands of actual documents in the possession of Wallbuilders from leaders in our country. You mention global warming denial etc then I will mention the denial of when life begins in the womb and the total disregard for the sanctity of life. By the way, may God bless you.

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  • Avatar
    Bubba
    November 23, 2023, 5:12 pm

    I disagree with this author. Just because it is old and said by GW doesn’t make it correct. This address is a slap in the face of true liberty. I don’t want to be governed by a religious government. Heck government is a religion all its own.

    REPLY
    • Avatar
      B Brooks@Bubba
      November 25, 2023, 12:26 pm

      On the contrary, I am inspired by GW's writing. What a profound and yet practical person he was! As fitting as it is for each of us to acknowledge and thank our Creator, no one is forced to do so. I personally find expressions of faith to be most welcome, especially from those involved with government. If sincere, that provides some confidence that they are motivated by a higher cause than crude self-interest. People can listen to that message or not, as they wish. That is the beauty of these United States!

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    • Avatar
      RepentRI@Bubba
      November 27, 2023, 5:46 pm

      I would like government to be informed and accountable to something higher and better than itself ( namely Christ and His kingdom). I think old George was on the right track. Government today is a God to many. All the more reason to govern under God- not above Him or equal to Him.

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  • Avatar
    J. Huggins
    November 25, 2023, 9:36 pm

    May God continue to Bless you for your essay on George Washington's Thanksgiving Message.

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    ron robertson
    November 26, 2023, 2:55 pm

    The Message still stands for all Americans , TODAY

    REPLY

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