Lincoln’s Thanksgiving

Lincoln’s famous Thanksgiving Proclamation of October 3, 1863, was drafted by William Seward and signed by Lincoln. The Union’s victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg lay in the background; the Gettysburg Address was to come the following month.

The proclamation pronounced the last Thursday of November “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” In it Seward seems to have reached to capture Lincoln’s thought; the proclamation strikes several Lincolnian themes. A copy of the proclamation signed by Lincoln is accessible online here; Andrew Malcolm sets the proclamation in context here.

Lincoln proclaims: “It has seemed to me fit and proper that [the gracious gifts of the most high God] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.” Yet the proclamation closes with a move beyond gratitude toward repentance and charity: “And I recommend to [all Americans] that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, 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 the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

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