“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of 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 deliverances 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, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
A THANKSGIVING MESSAGE
America was conceived in liberty. Remember that.
Remember it because we hear the opposite these days — from our institutions, from our elites, from those entrusted with the stewardship of the nation. They say America was conceived in something else: in iniquity, in trespass, in a civic version of original sin. The invocation of the last is deliberate. After all, original sin corrupted Creation, and therefore American original sin corrupted our republic.
It is not so.
We are a republic born in liberty, peopled at the first by men and women who brought with them across the seas the most fundamental and virtuous aspirations of mankind: to live rightly, to worship rightly, and if God granted it to them, to prosper. The Thanksgiving we celebrate today commemorates one group of them — a foundational group — in the Englishmen who landed at Plymouth, survived a killing winter, and laid a cornerstone of our republic on a cold and distant shore. They were not the only pioneers to forge a nation in the wilderness on American shores, nor even the first. But they were, in their martyrdom and redemption in turn, perhaps the most instructive. They earned their memory.
We remember them for two reasons. One reason is historical. America is blessed with many folkways and many peoples, but there is something singular about New England, the foundry of our republican ideals and the birthplace of our revolution. The countrymen who founded New England, the forefathers of the forefathers, deserve our remembrance.
The other reason is their example, which we follow today. When Englishman and Wampanoag celebrated in brotherhood after the scouring passage of the first winter ashore, they gave thanks to the Author of their arrival and survival: not themselves, nor even one another, but to God. Every American Thanksgiving since, from that proclaimed by George Washington to that invoked by Abraham Lincoln to that of the present holiday, turns toward that same source of goodness and mercy. We are a blessed nation, and we always have been, in every time and season — whether we celebrate in a lonely settlement in a New World in 1621, or in our warm homes in 2023.
We stay blessed so long as we remember, worship, and thank the Giver of the blessing.
America was conceived in liberty. It was so conceived because — as the first Americans understood very well — it was ordained of Providence. God creates no thing that is not good: and no rhetoric of original sin or iniquity can change or obscure that enduring truth. This Thanksgiving, we remember in gratitude— and we give thanks.
It is proper. And it is American.