In late September of 1863, with the Civil War still raging, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the final Thursday in November would be a National Day of Thanks. He and his cabinet hoped that the day of solemn gratitude would help “heal the wounds of the nation.”1
But the decision to observe a national Thanksgiving holiday was not something that had just occurred to the President. There’s evidence that it came about due to the repeated lobbying of one of America’s most prominent magazine editors. Sarah Josepha Hale ran Godey’s Lady Book, which at the time had a circulation of over 150,000, making it one of the most widely-read and influential periodicals in the country. (She is also famous for penning the poem “Mary’s Lamb,” which you know as “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”)
Just weeks before Lincoln’s proclamation, Hale had written to both the President and his Secretary of State William Seward, urging them to declare a national Thanksgiving. She reminded them that only the chief executive had the power to make the holiday “permanently, an American custom and institution.” Within a week of receiving Hale’s letter, Seward drafted the official proclamation.
It can’t be proved that Hale’s letter was directly responsible for Lincoln’s and Seward’s actions. But for more than 30 years she had been publicly campaigning for a fixed, national day of thanks to be held on the last Thursday of November. Over those three decades she had written numerous articles and editorials supporting the idea.
Her strong desire to see this holiday didn’t stem from the idea that the nation lacked gratitude. (Though all people in all time periods could arguably be more thankful for their blessings.) Beginning in the 1830s Hale saw that the nation was growing increasingly divided over the question of slavery. As abolitionists in the North gained greater support for ending the practice in every state, their counterparts in the South grew more determined to preserve their system.
Hale believed that a National Day of Thanksgiving could be a unifying measure that would help ease the tensions that threatened to tear the country in two.
But it was not to be.
Over four years of fierce fighting, casualties in the Civil War totaled more than 1.7 million.2 On average, roughly one man in ten in the U.S. had been killed or wounded in the fighting.
Hale’s hope then became that a nationwide observance of Thanksgiving would help to heal the deep wounds inflicted by the war. A sentiment expressed by Lincoln in his proclamation: “(I) 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 Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”3
It is good to be reminded we have much for which to be thankful. We wish you and your loved ones a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving.
If you ever have any questions about your investments or retirement plans, please feel free to give me a call at 801-545-0696.
Stonecreek Wealth Advisors, Inc., A Financial Advisor in Utah
11576 S State Street, Bldg. 1002
Draper, UT 84020
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