A celebration of gratitude in the midst of strife.
President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving an official holiday in October 1863, a few months after the Union victory at Gettysburg that came at such a dreadful cost. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be president during a terrible civil war. Photos of Lincoln just before and at the end of his term suggest it was pretty rough.
Apparently at the urging of Sarah Josepha Hale in Boston—editor Godey's Lady's Book, and author of Mary Had a Little Lamb—Lincoln concluded that in spite of the terrible civil war, the citizens of our country still had much to be grateful for. I think it’s fascinating that he conceived the holiday as a day not only one of gratitude (in the long tradition of Thankfulness Harvest Festivals going back to Europe). He also thought of it as a day of PENANCE for allowing our violent passions to divide us. As he put it:
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving... And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …, 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 Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
Dr. McCullough and I wish our Substack readers a Happy Thanksgiving. We are extremely grateful that you have honored us with your readership and support. Though ever-fleeting time doesn’t allow us to respond to your comments, we carefully read them and are very grateful for your feedback, even when it is highly critical.