George Washington issued this Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, the year of his inauguration as the first president.
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 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 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 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 wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed;
To protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to 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.
After the Civil War battles at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, President Abraham Lincoln issued this Thanksgiving Proclamation on July 15, 1863:
It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people, and to vouchsafe to the army and navy of the United States victories on land and on the sea so signal and so effective as to furnish reasonable grounds for augmented confidence that the union of these States will be maintained, their Constitution preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently restored.
These victories have been accorded not without sacrifices of life, limb, health, and liberty, incurred by brave, loyal and patriotic citizens. Domestic affliction in every part of the country follows in the train of these fearful bereavements.
It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father, and the power of his hand equally in these triumphs and in these sorrows.
Now, therefore, let it be known that I do set apart Thursday, the 6th day of August next, to be observed as a day for national thanksgiving, praise, and prayer, and I invite the people of the United States to assemble on that occasion in their customary places of worship, and, in the forms approved by their own consciences, render the homage due to the Divine Majesty for the wonderful things he has done in the nation’s behalf, and invoke the influences of his Holy Spirit to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion,
To change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the counsels of the government with wisdom adequate to so great a national emergency, and to visit with tender care and consolation throughout the length and breadth of our land all those who, through the vicissitudes of marches, voyages, battles, and sieges have been been brought to suffer in mind, body, or estate,
And finally to lead the whole nation through the paths of repentance and submission to the Divine Will back to the perfect enjoyment of union and fraternal peace.