Thanksgiving – The First Thanksgiving Proclamation

the first Thanksgiving


– George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

On June 20, 1676, the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks to God, for the good fortune that had seen their community securely established. By unanimous vote they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving, our first. That proclamation is reproduced here in the same language and spelling as the original.

“The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present Warr with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgments he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard…”

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many

Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God’s Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being perswaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and soulds as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.”

Continental Congress Thanksgiving Proclamation

Psalm 96

O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth.
Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.
For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.
Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.
O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.
Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously.
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.
Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice
Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.

The First Thanksgiving in Virginia
Settlers held first Thanksgiving at Berkeley Plantation on December 4, 1619,
a year before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth.

Charles Miller / Richmond Times-Dispatch
Each first Sunday in November a Thanksgiving Festival is held at the Berkeley Plantation in accordance with documentation from 1619. The event fulfills instructions given to the 38 settlers who arrived on the banks of the James River at Berkeley as documented in the proclamation:

Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.

The First Thanksgiving Celebration at Berkeley Plantation
The first Thanksgiving occurred when Captain John Woodlief led the newly-arrived English colonists to a grassy slope along the James River and instructed them to drop to their knees and pray in thanks for a safe arrival to the New World. It was December 4, 1619, and 38 men from Berkeley Parish in England vowed: “Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.” You’ll find their vow carved on a brick gazebo marking the location believed to be where Woodlief knelt beside the James River.

The Berkeley Plantation
Celebrate the 1619 landing of the original colonists at Berkeley Plantation. Join us at the site of the First Official Thanksgiving in America, for a day dedicated to history, food, and fun with tours of the 1726 mansion, walks in the colorful autumn gardens and a formal living history program.

Continental Congress Thanksgiving Proclamation
By the United States in Congress Assembled, 1782
It being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf.

George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
President, General George Washington
The Library of Congress — 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 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.

A copy of George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation as it appeared in The Massachusetts Centinel newspaper, Wednesday, October 14, 1789.

Thoughts on Thanksgiving
Adapted from The Light and the Glory, by Peter Marshall, and David Manuel
That summer of 1621 was beautiful. Much work went into the building of new dwellings, and ten men were sent north up the coast in the sailing shallop to conduct trade with the Indians. Squanto once again acted as their guide and interpreter. It was a successful trip, and that fall’s harvest provided more than enough corn to see them through their second winter.

Seven Things to Do With Your Family This Thanksgiving
Douglas Phillips Blog
Many of my happiest memories as a young man, and now as the head of my own household, come from Thanksgiving. Traditionally, Thanksgiving has been a day where our dearest loved ones gather around the table and feast, followed by a time of poetry reading, Scripture recitations, song, more feasting, and family story telling. But more than anything, Thanksgiving has come to be a time when we focus as a family on gratitude. It is a time to humble ourselves in the face of God’s great mercy, and to chronicle the providences and blessings of God in our life. One of the blessings for which we are most grateful is you — the many friends of Vision Forum. So this year, the Phillips family wants to begin our Thanksgiving celebration by sharing seven simple recommendations for your own day of thanksgiving.
History Of American Thanksgiving Day
By Robert H. Kreger
Thanksgiving Day as we know it today in America actually had its beginning in England before the 1600’s. Beginning in 1517 (the year Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany) the Protestant Reformation began. The word Protestant, refers to those individuals who protested the manner in which the Roman Catholic Church operated, and protested the doctrines it taught. This Protestant Reformation continued for many years, and in a sense it still continues today, but in many different forms and against many different enemies.

Archives and Analysis of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691
University of Virginia
This Plymouth Colony Archive presents a collection of searchable texts, including court records, Colony laws, 17th century texts, research and seminar analysis of various topics, biographical profiles of selected colonists, probate inventories, wills, maps, town and fort plans, architectural and material culture studies.

Turkey: The Means to a Socially Illicit End
By Gary North /
In a recent essay, Jeffrey Tucker observed: “turkey isn’t delicious.” He then went on at considerable length to show how to make a meal of turkey more delicious ­ and how not to cook the bird. He misses the point. He confuses ends with means. Mr. Tucker knows a lot about preparing turkey. I don’t. I do know a lot about eating turkey. And let me say from the start: Thanksgiving dinner is not about eating turkey. It’s about stuffing yourself with a high-fat, low-nutrition food that is socially questionable except at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving dinner is a revered middle-class celebration in America precisely because the middle class won’t allow itself the culinary debauchery of a food that lower-class families in the South have delighted in for three centuries, several times a week. That food is gravy. I don’t mean wimpy, light-colored turkey juice gravy. I mean thick, brown, clogs-your-arteries gravy.

Pilgrim Hall Museum
The mission of Pilgrim Hall Museum is to protect and foster this heritage as a dynamic national resource.

Annie’s Thanksgiving Day links page