In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. Of course, this wasn’t the first such proclamation to be issued – that was done by the Continental Congress in 1777. The first Thanksgiving Day celebrated under the new Constitution took place November 26, 1789, in the first year of George Washington’s presidency. He called for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. After that, Presidents John Adams and James Madison issued similar proclamations, adding a plea for fasting. But the policy fell into disuse until Lincoln, and it is his proclamation I like best of all, perhaps because it came during a time of civil disunity and yet it recognized there was still much for which to be grateful. Whatever the case, I reprint it here:

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