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|Why Give Thanks?||
And like today, the President was still overseeing a terrible war, though signs of victory were clearly on the horizon and peace prevailed in the vast majority of American homes:
"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."
Despite the toll of the war effort, both in material industry and human life, the economy thrived and the population flourished -- as it does today:
"Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields 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."
Lincoln reminds us that the blessings we enjoyed then, and enjoy today, were not some luck of circumstance or the result of man's devices. Rather, they have been and always will be the gracious provision of God Almighty.
"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."
While Americans enjoy the bounty of a fruitful land, giving thanks to their Heavenly Father, it is also the design of our forefathers to extend a helping hand to those in need.
"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, tranquillity, and union."
Lincoln, holder of the highest political office in the land, completed his proclamation, replete with spiritual overtones and homage to Almighty God, by making it an official document of the United States government:
"In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed."
President Abraham Lincoln understood what giving thanks really meant. It is my hope and prayer that Americans will remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving again this year.
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