THE FIRST THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION – JUNE 20, 1676
“The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present War 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; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions.”
Continual gratitude to God, both in the heat of oppressive circumstances and in light of blessings as abundant as to leave us with little to ask or need from His hand, has always stumped mankind. What God brought to mind this day regarding thankfulness are the verses:
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones. Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine. Proverbs 3:5-10.
I believe the earliest of those Puritans depended upon the Lord minute-to-minute. There was a fear of the Lord, a reverence towards and persistent acknowledgement of Him. We have not a pallid equivalence in Modern America.
- The year – 1676. Imagine that, as a woman, you are standing in one of several small muddy puddles in your dirt floor cabin. You stare about the room, eyes studying the ceiling where you strategically placed pans beneath to catch water dropping steadily from it’s leaking thatch. Attempting to make a tender lard crust for a pasty of salted pork and moldy potatoes, your two-year old son boldly totters for the tenth time towards the open fireplace. You swiftly lurch forward, lifting the child with your free arm, and plop him into his makeshift bed, while handing him a few tiny painted gentlemen – molded lead figures. His only treasures. The lower 12 inch hem of your skirt weighs heavy as water and mud bedeck its torn, lifeless fringe. After tending the garden that is finally springing up with promises of vegetables, you praise God for tiny sprouts. Your only shoes are soaked and fireplace ashes leave the once ivory Sunday shoes gray and black. Two anemic hens peek into the room, and you seize your chance, quietly mouthing the words, “thank you Lord for providing my ease”. You reach for the larger bird, shove her under your arm, grabbing an old axe blade from a hook near the door and take her outside, flatten her body on a large split log, and slice her neck in a second. You leave the bloody snatch of feathers to be dealt with later. Silently, you collect three pieces of wood and toss them across the room near the fireplace, noting that your child is now pulling fists of flour from the table and laughing with delight as he squats and flings the mixture of coarse flour and floor dust into the air. With no mirror in the house, you never think to look at yourself. Not once do you consider that you’re bloody, muddy and feet cold to the bone. The pasties need to be done as your husband may return home any moment from his trip to survey the bay some twenty miles north where it is told natives migrated for the upcoming summer. Your mind cannot imagine the likes of such as these. Is your husband still alive? If so, he’ll be wanting supper. “Thank you Father for such a man as you have provided”. You don’t dwell on such thoughts and quietly sing a hymn of worship.
I can only relate this scene to one of many backpacking trips. We who are so much more sophisticated proudly perform this roughing-it routine for a fun weekend to test our skills and escape from our cold, lightning speed techno world that saturates our existence. Yet, the newcomer to North America pushed through the hours and days – occasionally reminiscing on easier times in England with the offerings of relative ease. At least there were carriages and no fear of faceless natives.
It’s now a month later, and your garden is coming along well. Spring flowers decorate your table. Your husband speaks of a meeting he plans to attend with others of his community council to write an official expression of thankfulness.
The First Thanksgiving Proclamation (June 20, 1676)
“On June 20, 1676, the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks 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”.
I wish we all made such proclamations. Imagine this
Let’s start with God is Good consistently, positive thankfulness and see where we go from there.