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The National Thanksgiving Day


November and December 1863

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, November 25, 1863.


A Proclamation by the President of the United States.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to invite and to provoke the aggressions of foreign States, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

The needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plow, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with 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.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the Unites States the eighty-eighth.


By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State



Governor Gamble has addressed the following letter to a gentleman in this city.

JEFFERSON CITY, MO., Nov. 23, 1863.

MY DEAR SIR:  I am asked why I do not issue a proclamation setting apart, as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, the day which has been designated by the President of the United States.  I answer that God deals with nations as nations; and it is eminently proper the National Executive should recognize God by calling upon the people of the nation to observe days appointed by him for thanksgiving, and when occasion requires, for humiliation.  Upon such occasions the idea of unity in the exercises is best preserved by making the proclamation of the President the authority for the observance.  If the ministers throughout the land, in the opening of the exercises of such day, shall read the President’s proclamation as the call for thanksgiving or humiliation, the idea will be present in the minds of their people that the exercise is the same throughout the nation; and this idea is only disturbed by the introducing a State proclamation to the same effect.

I trust that hereafter all observances of the kind will be made upon the call of the National Executive.  If there should be anything in the circumstances of the State, either in blessings or afflictions, peculiar to it, a State observance might be demanded in addition to any observance ordered by the National Executive.

From these considerations I have thought it best to allow the approaching day of thanksgiving to be observed upon the call of the President of the United States, without the interposition of State authority.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,