President Abraham Lincoln was a busy man in 1863. His executive orders that year have shaped our way of life in the 21st century.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued and took effect January 1, 1863. Lincoln also gave a short speech at Gettysburg that has not only endured through the ages but is arguably the best oration this country has ever heard.
Then there is the president’s proclamation of October 3, 1863. Abraham Lincoln had been aware of writer Sara Josepha Hale’s campaign to institute Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. Up to this point the day was celebrated randomly by individual states without a set date and not at all in most southern states. Hale spent 30 + years writing letters to political office holders and editorials to any and all magazines and newspapers in the hopes they would promote her plan. Yet it was in 1863, in the midst of a bloody civil conflict, President Abraham Lincoln took Hale’s request to heart.
Lincoln wanted all Americans to “observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” It was his request to citizens to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
Early on celebrations of the holiday varied from region to region yet Thanksgiving has been an annual national holiday ever since 1863 evolving into the day we now know filled with family, food and thankfulness for our many blessings.
I think President Lincoln would be pleased at that.