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 tranquility, union, and plenty which
we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we
have been enable 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 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 show 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.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October,
(signed) G. Washington
While there were many observances regarding Thanksgiving, the first
historic proclamation was issued by President George Washington on 3rd
October 1789, during his tenure. According to it, November 26 was
declared as 'A day of public thanksgiving and prayer'. The day was to be
observed by people by thanking God and being grateful for his favours.
Seventeenth century witnessed a common practice for individual colonies
to observe days of thanksgiving throughout each year. It was a day set
aside for prayer and fasting, not a day marked by plentiful food and
drink as is today's custom. Later in the 18th century each of the states
periodically would designate a day of thanksgiving in honor of a
military victory, an adoption of a state constitution or an
exceptionally bountiful crop.
Such a Thanksgiving Day celebration was held in December of 1777 by the
colonies nationwide, commemorating the surrender of British General
Burgoyne at Saratoga.
On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a fresh
proclamation calling for the observance of the fourth Tuesday of
November as a national holiday. Later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November (to extend the
Christmas shopping season and boost the economy)in the year 1939. After
a storm of protest, Roosevelt changed the holiday again in 1941 to the
fourth Thursday in November, where it stands today.