The Thanksgiving of 1863

medium_5212982646There was a wonderful Opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday entitled “Lincoln and a Wartime Thanksgiving.” I wanted to take this occasion to highlight a few of Stephen M. McLean’s thoughts.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a federal holiday since 1863 when Abraham Lincoln declared it so, during the middle of one of our nation’s most troubling times. Lincoln gave two proclamations that year that led up to the creation of the Thanksgiving holiday. The first was issued on March 30th and was a call to “Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.”

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity, we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.But we have forgotten God.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

A second proclamation was made in October of that same year, after there had been a successful turn in the Civil War. Lincoln felt a deep burden to express thanks as a nation for what God had done to to this point–and to call people to pray for those who had borne the worst of the conflict.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday in 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 deliverance 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. 

In light of the many challenges we face within our borders and without, let us truly be a people of prayer and thanksgiving this day that we might be found in dependence upon the only One who is sovereign and able to bring change.

(photo credit)

3 replies
  1. Ryan
    Ryan says:


    Thank you very much for enriching us with this Thanksgving post.We read through it as a family this morning over breakfast are processing today with a renewed focus of thanksgiving and humility. Thank you!


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