Many of you know me as a sportswriter, but I also have a great passion for history and the study of political and economic science, the former of which I studied extensively as a student at The Ohio State University.
So, on this Thanksgiving Day, when we thank our Creator for his many blessings, let’s take a timeout from sports and look back on the first Thanksgiving proclamation issued by an American president, our modern Cincinnatus, George Washington.
After having waged war against Washington for eight long years, King George III tabbed the former Continental Army Commander-In-Chief as “the greatest man of the age” when he learned that Washington had resigned his commission on December 23, 1783, and returned to Mount Vernon for a planned retirement.
The world had not seen such exploits of a man declining power, a number of his fellow citizens were calling on Washington to become king, since Cincinnatus during the Roman Republic.
Washington, of course, would later be called back into service by his countrymen and women and serve two terms as the first President of the United States of America.
Washington first presided over the Constitutional Convention when our system of checks and balances were developed by the Founding Fathers in an effort to defuse power between branches of government and also between the states and the newly formed federal government in recognition of mankind’s repeated folly throughout history of succumbing to the temptation of absolute power.
In his first year as president, Washington issued a proclamation to create a day of Thanksgiving to give thanks to the Almighty for seeing the newly formed nation through the Revolution and the many other blessings he has bestowed upon us. That proclamation follows below in its entirety.
Editor and Co-Founder, Sporting Pumpkin
By the President of the United States of America—
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 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, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, 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 hath 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 transgressions—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 unto us) and to bless them with good government, 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.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.