November 22, 2018
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Our REAL Thanksgiving and What It Means
As we savor and celebrate this joyous Thanksgiving holiday, as we gather with family and friends, enjoy turkey and baked ham and all the fixins’, and as we are comforted by wonderful fellowships, we do so for the 229th time that the American nation has done so since President George Washington proclaimed a “Day of Publick Thanksgiving,” for November 26, 1789. What is often lost is that this special day is also one for profound reflection, offering gratitude to Our Lord for the blessings and mercies we have received, as well as for rededicating ourselves to Him.
In contemporary America, it seems, this day has become for many simply the “day before Black Friday” and all those great pre-Christmas sales. Or, else, a day to watch the Macy’s Parade or some football. And, of course, the good food. Yes, indeed, it is all that, but Thanksgiving is much more. President Washington’s proclamation signaled thanks to Almighty God that the new American nation had survived war and, in fact, actually had become a “nation.”
Here is that 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 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 26th 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 which we experienced 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 hath 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 shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease 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 1789.
Notice in particular the first line of the 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….”
This sentiment, this belief was shared by almost all of the Framers of our Constitution. America must be a “Godly land,” or it would fail miserably. And those Fathers of the Constitution specifically acknowledged that. Although there would no national religious establishment, the respective States of the new republic had every right to continue with their own religious establishments and laws (North Carolina, for instance, required an elected office holder to be a Christian up until its 1868 post-War Between the State constitution was adopted). And even more, after adopting the first ten amendments—the Bill of Rights—to the Constitution, with its famous clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…,” the Congress almost immediately provided for paid chaplains: “Congress appointed chaplains for itself and the armed forces, sponsored the publication of a Bible, imposed Christian morality on the armed forces, and granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians.” [ https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel04.html]
It appears obvious what the Framers and our ancestors intended, just as it is equally obvious how the nation that they cobbled together into a confederation, consisting of independent states, was founded on the principle of subsidiarity and states’ rights. It was a nation grounded not in some flighty, abstract ideology, disconnected from and with no real basis in the citizenry, but rather founded upon the deep-seated and deeply-held traditions and beliefs of those citizens, much of which was inherited from the British Isles and from Europe.
In 2018 we live in profoundly perilous times, times in which arguably one half of our population has been horribly infected with the virus of Progressivist multiculturalism and hyper-political correctness, a poisonous brew that is both intolerant and gangrenous, employing the cudgels of “racism” and “sexism” as weapons of suppression and of its advancing totalitarian agenda which will brook no opposition, not any. For any poor soul who should venture even a mild demurrer, there comes the death sentence, the accusation of “racism,” or of “white supremacy,” or of “toxic masculinity.” And then the demand that the humiliated transgressor repent, again and again, prostrate himself before the new god of political correctness, and, probably lose his position or job, suffer abuse and recrimination, his reputation ruined…and perhaps in the future, even a cold jail cell as his destination.
This is not a surreal nightmare, not a bad dream; in America of 2018 it is a growing and horrifying reality.
And so, on this Thanksgiving, I think it even more appropriate for us to remind ourselves that this holiday is also one for our own rededication to the old Republic, to our historic inheritance, and to Our Blessed Lord…and for our own understanding of not just the sacrifices made by our ancestors, but as well the sacrifices—and they may well be great—required of each of us, if our nation and our families may survive.
In scouring over the words of previous presidents, I came across the following proclamation, a proclamation issued by President Jefferson Davis on July 25, 1863, shortly after Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. It combines words of “thanksgiving” and a supplication to God for His mercy, with an appeal to the citizens of the Confederacy who have been chastened by defeat, and who face hardship and suffering.
In 2018 those words equally apply to us: “that from Him, in His paternal providence…whether in victory or defeat, our humble supplications are due to His footstool,” but never to despair, for He is Lord.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Courage!
PROCLAMATION BY THE PRESIDENT
The Confederate States - Again do I call upon the people of the Confederacy -- a people who believe that the Lord reigneth, and that His overruling Providence ordereth all things -- to unite in prayer and humble submission under His chastening hand, and to beseech His favor on our suffering country.
It is meet that when trials and reverses befall us we should seek to take home to our hearts and consciences the lessons which they teach, and profit by the self-examination for which they prepare us. Had not our success on land and sea made us self-confident and forgetful of our reliance on Him? Had not the love of lucre eaten like a gangrene into the very heart of the land, converting too many of us into worshippers of gain and rendering them unmindful of their duty to their country, to their fellow-men, and to their God? Who, then, will presume to complain that we have been chastened, or to despair of our just cause and the protection of our Heavenly Father?
Let us rather receive in humble thankfulness the lesson which He has taught in our recent reverses, devoutly acknowledging that to Him, and not to our own feeble arms, are due the honor and the glory of victory; that from Him, in His paternal providence, come the anguish and sufferings of defeat, and that, whether in victory or defeat, our humble supplications are due to His footstool.
Now, therefore, I, JEFFERSON DAVIS, President of these Confederate States, do issue this, my Proclamation, setting apart Friday, the 21st day of August ensuing, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer; and I do hereby invite the people of the Confederate States to repair, on that day, to their respective places of public worship, and to unite in supplication for the favor and protection of that God who has hitherto conducted us safely through all the dangers that environed us.
In faith whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and the seal of the Confederate States, at Richmond, this twenty-fifth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three.
By the President: JEFFERSON DAVIS.