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 and 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 in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, 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 has 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 trangressions; 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 shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase 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. George Washington
The man rightly designated the father of our country issued these words in October of 1789 in his proclamation for a day of National Thanksgiving. God and his role in the philosophical foundation of the United States Government was taken as a given. The unalienable rights specified by the Declaration of Independence provide the legitimacy for our form of government. It was a shared belief in an Absolute that enabled our founding and remains essential to our survival. Being thankful for something carries with it an implicit acknowledgment of debt, of owing something, hence the term “debt of gratitude”. It also implies humility.
Today, long inured to the privileges and blessings America has enjoyed for so long, the significance of the day has been lost, these fundamental assumptions all but forgotten, and humility jettisoned.
We are the fortunate heirs of a Constitution rooted in Unalienable rights. It is the basis of American government and of our liberties. But there are strident naysayers among us, amplified by the media, who now believe that basis to be inconsequential. They tell us to turn away from those old, out dated beliefs and replace them with faith in government. Unalienable rights must be replaced by rights conferred by government on the deserving.
To believe that government can make all men happy, or equal, or satisfied is a dangerous illusion for it requires government to become ever more intrusive in the attempt.
This Thanksgiving, somewhere between the benediction and the pumpkin pie, we need to reaffirm our allegiance to the source of our blessings, and renew our determination to defend our inheritance.