History is abounding in tales of thanksgiving, however quiet and unfamiliar they may be. The beloved Pilgrims of Plymouth may be the most well-known thanks-givers (at least in the U.S.A.), but they weren’t the first or the last. There were Daniel and David in the Old Testament, Lehi and Moroni in the Book of Mormon, various Native American tribes, Spanish conquistadors, etc. There were many who recognized the Almighty as the giver of all that’s good with sacrifices, prayer, fasting or feasts. But for the traditional Thanksgiving as we know it today, we owe our thanks to “homeschoolers.”
George Washington penned the first presidential Thanksgiving proclamation at the behest of the Continental Congress, who had declared a variety of thanksgiving days of prayer throughout the Revolutionary War.
I love what he wrote: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor... (I) "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:...”
Following Washington’s presidency, officially proclaimed days of Thanksgiving were sporadic. It was James Madison (another homeschooler) who proclaimed the last day of national Thanksgiving prior to a very long dry spell. Many individual states issued their own proclamations, but there was nothing more on a national level. A home and self educated woman by the name of Sarah Josepha Hale (who, incidentally, was America’s first female magazine editor and the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) was passionate that the United States of America should set aside a uniform day to offer thanks as a nation. For decades she persuaded the women and petitioned the presidents of America to establish a national day of Thanksgiving. She succeeded in winning the hearts of many fellow Americans, but it wasn’t until another home-educated president was in office that anyone in the White House listened. The president? Abraham Lincoln.
In the springs of 1862 and 1863, President Lincoln issued Thanksgiving proclamations over victories in the battlefield. Then, in the fall of 1863, after the lobbying of Sara Hale for the revitalization of a national Thanksgiving on the same day President Washington had originally issued one, President Lincoln began anew the tradition of declaring the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday in which all gave thanks.
He wrote, in part: “... 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... 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... 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.”
To think of one homeschooled woman, doing what she could in her realm, and one homeschooled man doing what he could in his, together bringing about the grand tradition of an entire nation praising our Heavenly Father simultaneously is tremendous. God’s benevolence is no less today what it’s been in times past. Our nation will always be in need of Him. The power of an individual to influence for good is no less today, either. Our nation will always be in need of stubborn, stalwart, superb homeschooled people like Sarah Hale, Abraham Lincoln, and You.
For more information:
A Thanksgiving Hymn
Come, Ye Thankful Homeschoolers
Adaptation by Sasha N. Takis
Come, ye thankful families come;
Raise the song of school at home.
All are safely nestled in
Ere the culture storms begin.
God, our Maker, doth bestow
More edifying seeds to sow.
Come, learn in your temple, come;
Raise the song of school at home.
Education is God’s own,
Fruit of knowledge is his throne.
Not of the world, but in it dwell,
Gathered at home, all is well.
Free to choose the means and source,
The shape of our eternal course.
Lord of wisdom, grant that we
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