National Thanksgiving Under Washington’s Administration

A resolution was adopted in the House of Representatives, September 25, 1789, in the following words-

On motion-
Resolved, ‘That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of thanksgiving, and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with gratefud hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a constitution of government for their safety and happiness.

Ordered, That Mr. Boudinot, Mr. Sherman, and Mr. Silvester be of the said committee on the part of this House.

Concurred in by the Senate the same day.

Washington, as President of the United States, on the 3d day of October, 1789, issued a proclamation, in pursuance of the above proceedings of Congress, which my be found on page 275 of this volume.

The following proclamation, by Washington, was made, without special authority from Congress, in view of the suppression of the rebellion in Western Pennsylvania in 1795, which for a time threatened the safety of the Union. It is invested with new and profound interest in view of the great Southern rebellion of 1863, and is a striking evidence o f the prophetic vision of Washington, foreboding good or ill to the nation according to its adherence to, or departure
from, the principles of order, morality, and piety.

When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war, an increasing prospect of the continuance of that exemption, the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed, the recent confirmation of that tranquillity by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it, the happy course of our public affairs in general, the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens, are circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine beneficence towards us. In such a state, it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout
reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever within the United States, to set apart and observe Thursday, the 19th day of February next, as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, and on that day to meet together and render their sincere thanks to the Great Ruler of nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation, particularly for the possession of constitutions of government which unite, and by their union establish, liberty with order; for the presenation of our peace, foreign and domestic; for the seasonable control which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection; and, generally, for the prosperous course of our affairs, public and private, and at the same time humbly and fervently to beseech the kind Author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us; to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to him for them; to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value; to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity, and from hazarding the advantage we enjoy by delusive pursuits; to dispose us to inherit the continuance of his favors by not abusing them, by our gratitude for them, and by a corresponding conduct as citizens and as men, to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries, to extend among us true and useful knowledge; to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality, and piety; and, finally, to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.

In testimony whereof, I have caused tl-te seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia, the first day of January, one thousand seven hundred and ninetyfive, and of the independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.

G. Washington
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