George Washington’s First Thanksgiving Proclamation as President
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On September 28, 1789, just before the closing of the First Federal Congress, the Senate added its assent to a House resolution requesting that George Washington be asked to call for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. Later that day, Congress ratified the Bill of Rights to be sent to the states for their ratification, and on the next day the first session of the first Federal Congress was adjourned. On October 3, George Washington issued America’s first presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation and the Centinal reported the news 11 days later, only four days after the New York newspaper Gazette of the United States, essentially an arm of Washington’s Federalist Party, printed the proclamation. [GEORGE WASHINGTON].
Newspaper. Massachusetts Centinel
. Boston, Mass. Benjamin Russell, October 14, 1789. 4 pp. (33-36), 9½ x 14¾ in. Disbound, trimmed a little close at top.
By the President of the United States of America
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 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 which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--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.
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 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.” (p. 34, col. 3).
With front page reporting of the process of creating a Constitution for the new French Republic, including an abstract of the first principles that preceded the Constitution, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (p. 33, col. 1-p. 34, col. 2) and the text of An Act to provide for the safe-keeping of the Acts, Records, and Seal of the United States, and for other purposes signed in type by Washington. This act accomplished, among other things, charging the Department of Foreign Affair (State Department) with holding the original signed and engrossed Declaration of Independence, where Secretary of State John Quincy Adams would commission a facsimile in 1820.