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Giving Thanks in the Midst of Turmoil: Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
If you read social media, watch your favorite cable news broadcast or listen to talk radio, you’re likely to hear a lot of heated debate and opinions about What’s Wrong with America: Anger, division, politics, Red vs. Blue states, January 6th, crooked politicians, police, protesters, criminals, loss of civility, racial injustice, gun control vs. open carry, crime, unfair taxes, drugs, gangs, privilege, poverty, ignorance, unemployment, climate change, pollution, undocumented immigrants, religion, no religion, sexual harassment, jury verdicts, vaccine and mask mandates and more.
One could easily fall into depression and despair, thinking about personal hardships, the world economy and bitter divisions in our country. But think about the state of our country in October, 1863 – in the middle of the Civil War. In the midst of a bloody conflict that would leave 600,000 Americans dead, more than all other American wars combined, Abraham Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Thanksgiving.
Even as war raged around him, President Lincoln observed that the past year “has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies . . . under the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.” The fields have been plowed, means of transportation improved, our borders expanded, iron and coal mined, our population has grown and freedom increased. “These are gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Lincoln then invited all American citizens “to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Lincoln further recommended that we “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, tranquility and Union.”
Surely, if we look around us, there is still much to be thankful for, Some have been blessed with faith, love, friends, family, health, food, clothing, shelter, employment, talents and material comforts. Some have been blessed with physical , financial and emotional support from people who care. Others, even though they have nothing, have been sustained through the safety net of government programs, churches, charities and volunteers.
Our country is still a Superpower with vast resources and influence around the world. Our citizens have abundant rights and privileges guaranteed by the United States Constitution; and a million lawyers who have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution. May God continue to bless America.