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 Ed 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 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:
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 persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ."
I. The Pilgrim's View of God:
The one and only; holy; active in human affairs; establishes deals (contractual obligations/relationships) with people; just; retributive; discernable; punitive; merciful; superior; capable of being pleased or displeased; compassionate; fatherly; protector; aware of positive and negative actions and attitudes; to be feared; accessible; thankworthy; praiseworthy; sovereign; good; beneficent; acts in response to His creatures needs and actions; to be glorified; accessible in times of need; hears prayers and acts accordingly; has demonstrated His worthiness...worthy of the best and totality of our mental, emotional, and physical existence; deserving of our service; approached by Jesus Christ.
II. The Pilgrim's View of Themselves:
Dependent; fortunate to be surviving; strangers in a strange land; at war continually; distinct from those who do not have a contractual relationship to God; related to God as a special people; reaping the just yet merciful consequences of their sin; knee high to a grasshopper; objects of mercy and grace; children of God; watched over; previously afflicted, currently at rest; aware of God's dealings; fragile; fearful of offending the Lord; fearful of being members of International Brotherhood of Ungrateful Lepers Union Local #1996; ones created to praise, thank and thus glorify God; people under authority; individuals who are part of a whole; full-time servants of God; related to God by their union with Jesus Christ.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion/Response:
1. How does the Pilgrim's view of God and themselves compare to yours?
2. Is the Pilgrim's fear of "be(ing) found an Insensible people" appropriate for us today?
3. How is thanksgiving related to contentment? Is giving thanks because "it could be worse" the right idea?
4. What makes true thanksgiving difficult? What can one do to facilitate thanksgiving?
5. Have you ever "counted your blessings, name(d) them one by one"? What was the effect on you?