|Jennie Brownscombe (1850-1936)|
A Thanksgiving ProclamationAs Governor of Virginia Thomas Jefferson issued the following proclamation:
I do therefore by authority from the General Assembly issue this my proclamation, hereby appointing Thursday the 9th day of December next, a day of publick and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God, earnestly recommending to all the good people of this commonwealth, to set apart the said day for those purposes, and to the several Ministers of religion to meet their respective societies thereon, to assist them in their prayers, edify them with their discourses, and generally to perform the sacred duties of their function, proper for the occasion.
Given under my hand and the seal of the commonwealth, at Williamsburg, this 11th day of November, in the year of our Lord, 1779, and in the fourth of the commonwealth.
No Presidential Proclamation?
During the eight years that he was President, Thomas Jefferson refused to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation.
In his second inaugural Address in 1805 he stated:
In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the power of the General Government. I have, therefore, undertaken on no occasion to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it; but have left them as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State or Church authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.
In a letter to the Reverend Mr. Miller 23 January 1808 he further explained his reasoning:
I consider the government of the US. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise, of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the U. S. Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority.
I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted. But I have ever believed that the example of state executives led to the assumption of that authority by the general government, without due examination, which would have discovered that what might be a right in a state government, was a violation of that right when assumed by another. Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, & mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the US. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.The entire letter may be found here:
A Distinction between State and Federal GovernmentClearly Thomas Jefferson had no issues with Thanksgiving, but he did make a distinction between permissible actions for the state and federal governments.
Lighter Fare?Many years ago on a cold and drizzly November day I had the pleasure of attending a Thanksgiving Dinner with the Pilgrims at the Plimoth Plantation. If you are ever in New England this time of year I highly recommend it. Word of advice though, I had far more fun with the Wampanoags than with the Pilgrims.