Edward Rawson: The American tradition of Thanksgiving

“. ..that the Lord may behold us as a people, offering praise and thereby glorifying Him. ..”

Charlestown, Mass., June 20, 1676 – The American tradition of Thanksgiving, first celebrated by our Pilgrim Fathers more than half a century ago, was proclaimed today in formal statement for the first time from the steps of the Council House.

It was on December 20, 1620, that Governor John Carver gathered around him the small band at Plymouth, to thank God in the midst of overwhelming adversities for the great gift of life itself, in the wilderness of the first colony .

Today a more secure people, through a meeting in council, issued a formal proclamation, declaimed by Edward Rawson, secretary, and ordered to be published in all the towns, for observance on June 29 by “Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God.”

Lest too much credit be arrogated to ourselves for the idea, however, it should be recorded here that the idea of a “thanksgiving” is not original with this colony; it is indeed one of the reflections of the kindnesses of the Dutch who sheltered our fathers before the voyage to America. For it was the people of the Holland states who in 1597 held the first “Prayer of Thanksgiving,” to thank God for the victories by Prince Nassau over the armies of Spain.

Here is our first native proclamation of praise:

THE HOLY GOD having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present Warr with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgments he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to our selves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lords mercy that we are not consumed. It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed: and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions:

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of Gods Affiictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being perswaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and Acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.

By the Council, Edward Rawson, Sect.

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