Thanksgiving Day Commentary

Recently, while fueling my vehicle at a local establishment the young woman at the counter asked how religious beliefs could be intertwined with political activity given the doctrine of separation of church from state “that was in the Constitution.”  I told her that there was no separation of religion from state anywhere in the Constitution nor in the personal beliefs of the Founders, even Thomas Jefferson.

The United States Constitution only prohibits the creation of a state established religion.  The Old World nations and South America all had a state sponsored/supported religion of one type or another.  There is no state “established” religion here!  We are each allowed to worship in our own style, or in no manner whatsoever.  We are, however, called to practice what the New Hampshire Constitution from 1784 until today calls “Morality and Piety.”  Those “High Principles” are the grounding that secures good government.

In honoring those High Principles the Father of our Nation, George Washington declared the second national holiday of the new Republic, Thanksgiving Day.  States had individually celebrated various thanksgiving days and fast days before.  Washington called upon the men and women of this new, free, land to kneel before the “Almighty God” and give thanks for the life, liberty and ability to live free granted to this nation. 

That same young lady then told me: “of course, you can not separate faith from politics and government.  The people who lead or represent are products of their own faith, their own beliefs and bring that element with them to the political debate.”  George Washington surely did exactly that when he made his First Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789:

General Thanksgiving

By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America

A PROCLAMATION

 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 THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and 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 TWENTY-SIXTH 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 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 enable 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 has 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 wife, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase 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.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Source: The Massachusetts Centinel (sic), Wednesday, October 14, 1789

Translated from In the original Colonial English.

Jordan Ulery