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Editorial: Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation relevant for today’s divided America

President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in October 1789. (Source: Library of Congress)

President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in October 1789. (Source: Library of Congress)

Stating to others what one is thankful for on Thanksgiving Day is a rite among many Americans that should be commended.

Here’s some of what was on the mind of President George Washington, as expressed in his Thanksgiving proclamation of Oct. 3, 1789.

His thoughts reflect a much more openly religious era in U.S. history, as his thanks are devoted to the “great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” But they also are filled with ideals that are not bound by time or by any religion.

After calling on all citizens to unite in thanking God for his care shown before the nation was formed and his mercies during the Revolutionary War, which had ended successfully just six years earlier, Washington continues by offering thanks, as follows:

” – 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.”

Unity, peace, plenty, safety, happiness, knowledge and liberty. An impressive list of blessings to be thankful for. But Washington goes further and includes some supplications:

“… 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 shewn 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 encrease 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.”

Also a great list of requests: for pardon, for steadfastness, for wise and virtuous leadership.

The syntax and some spellings may be archaic, but on Nov. 28, 2019, in a divided America, our first president’s thoughts and prayers are well worth contemplating.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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