President George Washington started the modern Thanksgiving tradition with a proclamation that included thanks to God for, among other things, government.
Washington expressed sincere thanks "...for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have 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 the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us."
Notice that a man so instrumental in winning the Revolutionary War and establishing the new government took no personal credit for those things, nor did he ascribe any to the other men who helped craft those things. All these years later we remain a nation governed by the Constitution and its principles. Even those who believe those principles have been distorted must acknowledge the basic framework that continues to guide all political subdivisions and that protects basic freedoms and rights. Americans rightly honor the soldiers and veterans who have sacrificed so much to preserve the nation, but it is God who deserves the credit.
That has been the essence of this holiday from the beginning. Thanksgiving is an annual reminder that all human beings walk the same road, and that they need to rely on each other and God. It is a reminder that the nation's heritage draws its strength from gratitude and humility, not selfishness or greed.
As has become tradition, we once again present Washington's proclamation in its entirety and encourage all Deseret News readers to study and ponder it on this day of thanks.
The followingThanksgiving proclamation was made by President George Washington on Oct. 3, 1789:
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 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 the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
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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 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 3d day of October, AD 1789, —George Washington