However stretched and strained our nation – and our personal lives – seem
to be at times, surely it pales in comparison to the strains of the Civil
War that threatened to rip this nation asunder in the 1860s.
All the more amazing that, in the middle of that conflict, and with an end,
much less a satisfying end, nowhere in sight, President Abraham Lincoln
nonetheless took the time to issue a proclamation of thanks – and set aside
a day for national Thanksgiving. If you have never read that proclamation
– or just haven’t read it in a while – it’s worth a look.
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA .
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the
blessings of fruitful years 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 of so extraordinary a nature
that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is
habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has
sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their
aggression, 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 contracted by the advancing armies and navies
of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the field of peaceful
industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle,
or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the
mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded
even more abundantly than theretofore. Population has steadily increased
notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and
the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of
augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years
with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel 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 one voice,