Note: President George Washington issued his first Thanksgiving Proclamation at the request of the U.S. Congress. He issued the second after a time of domestic tension (The Whiskey Rebellion) and foreign challenges, including an embargo on maritime trade.
The First Proclamation, issued from New York City in October 1789
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 tranquillity, 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 shown 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.”
Washington’s Second Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, issued in late 1795:
By the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION.
WHEN we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war — an increasing prospect of the continuance of that exemption — the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed — the recent confirmation of that tranquility, by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it — the happy course of our public affairs in general — the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens, are circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine Beneficence towards us.
In such a state of things it is, in an especial manner, our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.
Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I GEORGE WASHINGTON, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States to set apart and observe Thursday the nineteenth day of February next, as a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer; and on that day to meet together, and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the Great Ruler of nations, for the manifold and signal mercies, which distinguish our lot as a nation; particularly for the possession of constitutions of government which unite, and by their union establish liberty with order — for the preservation of our peace foreign and domestic — for the seasonable controul which has been given to a spirit of disorder, in the suppression of the late insurrection — and generally, for the prosperous course of our affairs public and private; and at the same time, humbly and fervently to beseech the Kind Author of these blessings, graciously to prolong them to us — to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to him for them — to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value —t o preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity, and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits — to dispose us to merit the continuance of his favors, by not abusing them, by our gratitude for them, and by a correspondent conduct as citizens and as men — to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries — to extend among us true and useful knowledge —t o diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality, and piety; and finally, to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.
In testimony whereof I have caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my Hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia, the first day of January, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.
Go: WASHINGTON. By the President, Edm: Randolph.