George Washington’s First Thanksgiving Proclamation
On September 28, 1789, just before the closing of the First Federal Congress, the Senate added its assent to a House resolution requesting that George Washington be asked to call for a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. Later that day, Congress ratified the Bill of Rights to be sent to the states for their ratification, and on the next day the first session of the first Federal Congress was adjourned. On October 3, George Washington issued America’s first presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation and the Gazette printed it in full in the next edition of the newspaper.[GEORGE WASHINGTON]. Newspaper. Gazette of the United States. New York, N.Y., October 7, 1789. 4 pp., In addition to the Thanksgiving Proclamation on page one, this issue also includes: a printing of the Treaty of Fort Harmar between the United States and they Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippewa, Pattawatima, and Sac Indian nations (p. 1, col. 2 to p. 2, col. 2). A report from London about an “African Genius” (p. 2, col. 2). And a report on the proceedings of Congress, including an act to suspend part of the Tonnage Duties Act (p. 4 col. 3).
LOT SOLD: $36,250
Urging his countrymen to give thanks “for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness… for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge,” Washington employed the exact language of the Congressional request to begin his proclamation but went further, giving thanks for “tranquility, union, and plenty” and asking the Almighty to guide the new nation’s leaders and government. He used the same approach a year later when he wrote what is now one of his most celebrated letters: “For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, [and] requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” Washington willingly echoed Moses Seixas’s stance on tolerance and added to it, just as he did in his Thanksgiving Proclamation when asking the Almighty “To render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and Constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed.”
Keno Auctions is honored to have displayed one of only two manuscript copies of Washington’s proclamation before it sold to a private collector late last year.