Lee Edwards, distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation, reminds us that as the name implies, Thanksgiving Day is about giving thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings we enjoy. Edwards writes:
George Washington was first in war, first in peace, and in November 1789 the first president to proclaim a national day of Thanksgiving, openly acknowledging God as the source of all “the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.”
Among the “favors” were a Declaration of Independence that inspires us to the present day, a remarkable military victory over the most powerful nation in the world, and an ingenious Constitution of checks and balances that places “we the people” at the center of our government.
For the next fourscore and seven years, most states honored a November date as a day of prayer and fasting, but there was no national celebration. Of the early presidents, only James Madison, in 1814 and 1815, issued proclamations.
Then in November 1863, with the Civil War still raging, President Abraham Lincoln officially declared the last Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving. Echoing Washington, President Lincoln asked Americans to “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 employment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.”