With many of us already making preparations for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we have decided to take a break from industry topics this week to have a blog dedicated to this special day.  For most of us in the U.S., Thanksgiving has come to mean family get-togethers, turkeys (or for you Cajuns, perhaps turduckens), football (and more football), Black Friday madness, and even the need to start putting up Christmas lights.   While all these things can be good in their own way (although I personally can’t say that for Black Friday), they really shouldn’t be the main focus of the next few days.  Rather, perhaps we should make a point of remembering and giving thanks for the blessings that we have received over the past year. In many cases these blessings came in response to difficulties and tragedy, such as the devastation caused by Harvey, Irma and Maria (and other weather events), the Mexico earthquakes, and multiple mass shootings.  It is often difficult to give thanks after such trying and sometime tragic events, but in each case there were “angels” present which helped and are continuing to help the victims of these events recover and rebuild.  To these angels, and to Him who sent them, we should truly be grateful.

The giving of thanks, whether to each other, or most importantly to the Creator, is a key ingredient in allowing us to weather the challenges that we will always face, whether as individuals, companies, entire industries or nation states. In this light, we, at Turner, Mason & Company want to thank all of you, our clients, subscribers, blog readers and fellow industry mates for the opportunities you have provided us throughout this past year; not only to serve you, but to hopefully inform you.  We wish each of you a relaxing, safe and fulfilling (in more ways than just from the turkey) week and hope this blog provides some context to the original reason we have a National Day of Thanksgiving.

With all the sensory overload that goes into the way Americans have come to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is easy to forget its original purpose.  Between the preparation of the traditional feast, the countless football games (not to mention basketball and hockey), and all the effort required to host/visit with numerous friends and family members, carving out time for reflection and gratitude is often difficult, if not near impossible.  Add to this the more recent phenomenon of Black Friday sales events, and all the Christmas preparation we feel obligated to begin as soon as the turkey is cleared away; and by next Monday, we will be exhausted and perhaps not much in the mood for giving thanks (especially if our team(s) didn’t win).  Thanksgiving wasn’t always this way.  In fact giving thanks, despite tough times, and in a communal way, was the whole purpose of the holiday.

When thinking about the origins of Thanksgiving, if you are American, the Pilgrims feasting with their Native American neighbors in 1621 in the Plymouth Colony certainly springs to mind.  In reality, while that is thought of as the “First Thanksgiving,” it just followed a tradition that people from many cultures had been practicing throughout the world for untold numbers of years; to give thanks to a Higher Authority for a good harvest.  It wasn’t even the First Thanksgiving held by Europeans in the New World, as Canadians can trace the origins of their Thanksgiving to a ceremony held in 1578.  And while the Plymouth feast did lead to regular “Thanksgiving” celebrations in the fall, first in American colonies and later the United States, it took over 200 years before Thanksgiving Day was made into a national holiday with a specified scheduled date in late November.

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

The year was 1863 and the U.S. was in the middle of the bloodiest war in her relatively short history.  The country was split; the war showed no end in sight and the whole concept of a “United States” was seriously in question.  But out of these dark days came a proclamation which set the precedent for America’s first true national day of Thanksgiving.  During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving, but it was not until two years later that a permanent holiday was established.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” She explained, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritative fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”

Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale’s request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln, she mentioned that she had been advocating a national Thanksgiving date for 15 years as the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book. George Washington was the first president to proclaim a day of thanksgiving, issuing his request on October 3, 1789, exactly 74 years before Lincoln’s.

The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

Washington, D. C.

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its 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 of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot 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 theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe 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 heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; 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 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 Praise 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, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness 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, tranquility 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 one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Next week we will resume our discussion of industry issues, addressing all the various challenges and opportunities facing our industry over the coming months and years.  Until then, please remember and give thanks for all your blessings, without regards to how the turkey tastes, whether your team won, or whether you were able to snag that last $99 flat screen on Black Friday.

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