In the midst of war, Lincoln offered thanks
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln revived the presidential tradition of delivering a Thanksgiving proclamation. Presidents ever since have followed his example.
The year that is drawing toward a close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatching Providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unparalleled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to invite and provoke the aggressions of foreign states, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracting by the advancing armies and navies of the union.
No human council hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand, worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath, nevertheless, remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and voice, by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens; and I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him, for such singular deliverances and blessings, that do also, with humble penitence for our national perseverance and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.