"Mankind is never truly thankful for the benefits of life until they have experienced the want of them."--an Army surgeon near Valley Forge, first official Thanksgiving day, 1789
|Canadian troops attend a Thanksgiving service |
in the bombed-out Cambrai Cathedral
France, October 1918
"When was the first Thanksgiving? Most of us think of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621. But if the question is about the first national Thanksgiving holiday, the answer is that the tradition began at a lesser-known moment in 1777 in York, Pa.
In July 1776, the American colonists declared independence from Britain. The months that followed were so bleak that there was not much to give thanks for. The Journals of the Continental Congress record no Thanksgiving in that year, only two days of "solemn fasting" and prayer.
For much of 1777, the situation was not much better. British troops controlled New York City. The Americans lost the strategic stronghold of Fort Ticonderoga, in upstate New York, to the British in July. In Delaware, on Sept. 11, troops led by Gen. George Washington lost the Battle of Brandywine, in which 200 Americans were killed, 500 wounded and 400 captured. In Pennsylvania, early in the morning of Sept. 21, another 300 American soldiers were killed or wounded and 100 captured in a British surprise attack that became known as the Paoli Massacre.
Philadelphia, America's largest city, fell on Sept. 26. Congress, which had been meeting there, fled briefly to Lancaster, Pa., and then to York, a hundred miles west of Philadelphia. One delegate to Congress, John Adams of Massachusetts, wrote in his diary, "The prospect is chilling, on every Side: Gloomy, dark, melancholy, and dispiriting."
His cousin, Samuel Adams, gave the other delegates -- their number had dwindled to a mere 20 from the 56 who had signed the Declaration of Independence -- a talk of encouragement. He predicted, "Good tidings will soon arrive. We shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we act worthy of its aid and protection.
He turned out to have been correct, at least about the good tidings. On Oct. 31, a messenger arrived with news of the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. The American general, Horatio Gates, had accepted the surrender of 5,800 British soldiers, and with them 27 pieces of artillery and thousands of pieces of small arms and ammunition.
Saratoga turned the tide of the war -- news of the victory was decisive in bringing France into a full alliance with America. Congress responded to the event by appointing a committee of three that included Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Daniel Roberdeau of Pennsylvania, to draft a report and resolution. The report, adopted Nov. 1, declared Thursday, Dec. 18, as "a day of Thanksgiving" to God, so that "with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor."
It was the first of many Thanksgivings ordered up by Samuel Adams. Though the holidays were almost always in November or December, the exact dates varied. (Congress didn't fix Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November until 1941.)
In 1778, a Thanksgiving resolution drafted by Adams was approved by Congress on Nov. 3, setting aside Wednesday, Dec. 30, as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, "It having pleased Almighty God through the Course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold Mercies on the People of these United States."
After the Revolution, Adams, who was eventually elected governor of Massachusetts, maintained the practice of declaring these holidays. In October of 1795, the 73-year-old governor proclaimed Thursday, Nov. 19, as "a day of Public Thanksgiving to God," recommending that prayer be offered that God "would graciously be pleased to put an end to all Tyranny and Usurpation, that the People who are under the Yoke of Oppression, may be made free; and that the Nations who are contending for freedom may still be secured by His Almighty Aid."
A year later, Gov. Adams offered a similar Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring Thursday, Dec. 15, 1796, as "a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Praise to Our Divine Benefactor." He recommended "earnest Supplication to God" that "every Nation and Society of Men may be inspired with the knowledge and feeling of their natural and just rights" and "That Tyranny and Usurpation may everywhere come to an end."
These statements were greeted with cynicism and derision by some of Adams's younger political opponents, who saw them as archaic. One of them, Christopher Gore, wrote a friend that it would be an occasion for a real day of thanksgiving when Adams finally retired.
It turned out, though, that the ideas of thanking God for America's blessings -- and of praying for the spread of freedom everywhere -- would long outlast Adams's career. The concepts still meet with skepticism from time to time. But they are reason enough to pause during tomorrow's football game or family feast and raise a glass to the Founding Father who began our Thanksgiving tradition.".......
"On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible," and this is what's not taught. This is what's left out. "The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford's detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims -- including Bradford's own wife -- died of either starvation, sickness, or exposure.
"When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well." They were collectivists! Now, "Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives.
"He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. ... Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years -- trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it -- the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild's history lesson," every kid gets. "If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future." Here's what he wrote: "'The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing -- as if they were wiser than God,' Bradford wrote.
"'For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense...that was thought injustice.'" That was thought injustice. "Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford's community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?" 'This had very good success,' wrote Bradford, "for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." Bradford doesn't sound like much of a Clintonite, does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? ... In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. ... So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.
"The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the 'Great Puritan Migration.'" Now, aside from this program, have you heard this before? Is this "being taught to children -- and if not, why not? I mean, is there a more important lesson one could derive from the Pilgrim experience than this?" What if Bill and Hillary Clinton had been exposed to these lessons in school? Do you realize what we face in next year's election is the equivalent of people who want to set up these original collectivists communes that didn't work, with nobody having incentive to do anything except get on the government dole somehow because the people running the government want that kind of power. So the Pilgrims decided to thank God for all of their good fortune. And that's Thanksgiving. And read George Washington's first Thanksgiving address and count the number of times God is mentioned and how many times he's thanked. None of this is taught today. It should be. Have a happy Thanksgiving, folks. You deserve it. Do what you can to be happy, and especially do what you can to be thankful, because in this country you have more reasons than you've ever stopped to consider.".......
via Keys History, Jerry Wilkinson:
"French Huguenot Admiral Gaspard de Coligny sent Admiral Jean Ribault to North America. He landed at the mouth of a river they named "Mai" (the St. Johns River of Jacksonville) because they landed in the month of May. Ribault's arrival also provided the first Protestant prayer offered up on North America. The Indians were friendly to Ribault. He then sailed north and established a small settlement near present-day Port Royal, South Carolina and returned to France. At this time, all of the southeastern United States was called Florida.
In 1564 one of Ribault's officers, Rene Laudonniere, was sent back from France with 300 men and four women. They built Fort Caroline six miles up the St. Johns River. Again, the Indians welcomed the returning Frenchmen who survived with the help of Timucuan Indian's grain, fruit and wild game. With this apparent success, Laudonniere called for music and a feast to celebrate their good fortune on June 30, 1564. Of this celebration he wrote: "We sang a psalm of Thanksgiving unto God, beseeching Him that it would please His Grace to continue His accustomed goodness toward us." This was 57 years before the better known Thanksgiving celebration at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Laudonniere retrieved two Spanish sailors thought to have been ship wrecked with Fontaneda from the Indians in 1564.".......
Mark Steyn sets the table:
"No, it's very strange that Europeans don't quite understand what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about. You know, holidays in countries tend to be ancient religious holidays, obviously Christmas and Easter, or ones named for battles, or dead kings or queens, or whatever. And what I like about Thanksgiving is it's very small scale, very modest, very intimate, very American, and absolutely gets to the key of things, which is thanking God for the blessings of this great land. And it's my favorite holiday, and I love it more each year I'm here. ...
I am thankful that Mohamed Atef, a key al-Qa'eda lieutenant blown up in a devastating US raid, has gone off to Paradise to claim his 72 virgins. Paradise must be running quite low on virgins these days. I hope Mr Atef pulled rank on all the other martyrs... I am also thankful I don't live in a cave. That the son of a successful Saudi building contractor, made spectacularly rich by western investment, should have wound up digging himself his own personal hole is in its way a poignant emblem of the Middle East's perverse misunderstanding of modernity. ...
The turkey came from Mexico, but was generally assumed to be a "bird of India" (in French, dinde) everywhere except Britain, where it was named after Turkey because it was similar to a pre-existing bird introduced from Turkey but actually from Guinea, and subsequently re-named the guinea fowl, which was thought to be less confusing than re-naming the new turkey the mexico, though in America there is a sub-species of turkey called the mexicana.
We still have wild turkey over here, in every state except Alaska. Every morning, round about six, a great long line of them waddle out from behind my daughter's playhouse across the lawn and into the woods. The wild gobbler has a lighter build, with a longer neck and a smaller head, and his flesh tastes a lot juicier, which is one reason why the turkey recipe in my local Baptist church's brand new fundraising cookbook begins: "First purchase hunting licence."
Whatever his Mexicali-Turkic-Indian-Guinean appellation, in the Appalachians the turkey was considered such a robust exponent of the American temperament that Benjamin Franklin wanted to make him the young Republic's national emblem. "For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character," wrote Franklin in 1784. "Besides he is a rank Coward: the little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country."
By contrast, the turkey is "a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a Red Coat on".
Mark Steyn :
"But on this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens – a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan – the United States can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply.
Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. When they sign on to an enterprise they claim to believe in – shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling post-Taliban democracy – most of them send token forces under constrained rules of engagement that prevent them doing anything more than manning the photocopier back at the base.
If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It's not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the U.S. soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history. [...]
Americans should, as always, be thankful this Thanksgiving, but they should also understand just how rare in human history their blessings are.".......
Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee.
And bless our loved ones everywhere,
And keep them in Your loving care.
Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee.
And bless our loved ones everywhere,
And keep them in Your loving care.
|"This Thanksgiving, in addition to rejoicing in precious time spent with loved ones, let us find ways to serve and encourage each other in both word and deed. We also offer a special word of thanks for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, many of whom must celebrate this holiday separated from the ones for whom they are most thankful. As one people, we seek God's protection, guidance, and wisdom, as we stand humbled by the abundance of our great Nation and the blessings of freedom, family, and faith."|
Just for the historical record, here are some other contenders for the "First Thanksgiving":
* May, 1541: Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and 1,500 men celebrated at the Palo Dur Canyon -- located in the modern-day Texas Panhandle -- after their expedition from Mexico City in search of gold. In 1959 the Texas Society Daughters of the American Colonists commemorated the event as the "first Thanksgiving."
* June 30, 1564: French Huguenot colonists celebrated in a settlement near Jacksonville, Florida. This "first Thanksgiving," was later commemorated at the Fort Carolina Memorial on the St. Johns River in eastern Jacksonville.
* Sept. 8, 1565: St Augustine, Fla.; "This is where Spanish Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore... This is where he, 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families and artisans, and the Timucuan Indians who occupied the village of Seloy gathered at a makeshift altar and said the first Christian Mass. And afterward, this is where they held the first Thanksgiving feast. The Timucuans brought oysters and giant clams. The Spaniards carried from their ships garbanzo beans, olive oil, bread, pork and wine.
* Winter, 1610: famine caused the deaths of 430 of the 490 settlers. In the spring of 1610, colonists in Jamestown, Virginia, enjoyed a Thanksgiving service after English supply ships arrived with food. This colonial celebration has also been considered the "first Thanksgiving."
Oysters on a Florida beach sounds pretty good right about now. But wherever you are, have a great Thanksgiving with the people you love and/or tolerate.
And pass me a giant clam, please.
|Psalm 100:4-5 The Message Bible|
Enter with the password: “Thank you!” Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him. For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever.
Amen and amen!
Nearly Five Centuries Later--UPDATE:
It just occurred to me that Mark Steyn said: "No, it's very strange that Europeans don't quite understand what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about."
But they once did, at least when they were exploring the Americas. Coronado's men in the Texas Panhandle. French Huguenots on the St. John's River. The English at Jamestown and later Plymouth. Even the Portuguese explorer Cabral held Mass with Indians present in Brazil.
Have the Europeans forgotten something? Have we?