Times change, sentiment remains Tradition: From the Pilgrims to the present, Americans have always found reasons to be grateful -- even in our most troubling times.

Sun Journal

November 26, 1998

In good years and bad, Americans have been observing public days of thanksgiving since 1621, the year after the Pilgrims' arrival in the New World. Here are abridged texts of some Thanksgiving proclamations past and present.

In 1675, a coalition of Indian tribes attacked colonists in central Massachusetts and laid waste to several settlements. They were led by Metacomet, a Wampanoag chieftain called by the colonists King Philip. Ironically, he was a son of Massasoit, who had befriended the Plymouth colonists half a century earlier and saved them from starvation. Victory for the colonists, and the death of King Philip, was still two months away when a day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed by Edward Rawson, town clerk of Charlestown, Mass., June 20, 1676:

The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present Warr with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgements he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, if it be the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed;

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching

In 1782, alliance with France suddenly turned the course of war for American independence. With French ships and soldiers and money, victory was achieved a few months after this proclamation by a newly hopeful Continental Congress:

It being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf:

Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States:

Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of Thursday the twenty-eight day of November next, as a day of solemn Thanksgiving to God for all his mercies:

In the midst of the Civil War of 1861-1865, President Abraham Lincoln found occasion to give thanks:

The year that is drawing towards 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.

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