Thanksgiving founded amid controversy

22 Nov

From Melanie Kirkpatrick in the WSJ:

It is hard to imagine America’s favorite holiday as a source of political controversy. But that was the case in 1789, the year of our first Thanksgiving as a nation.

The controversy began on Sept. 25 in New York City, then the seat of government. The inaugural session of the first Congress was about to recess when Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey rose to introduce a resolution. He asked the House to create a joint committee with the Senate to “wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would 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 signal favors of Almighty God.”

The congressman made special reference to the Constitution, which had been ratified by the requisite two-thirds of the states in 1788. A day of public thanksgiving, he believed, would allow Americans to express gratitude to God for the “opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.”

Boudinot’s resolution sparked a vigorous debate. Rep. Aedanus Burke of South Carolina objected on the grounds that a Thanksgiving was too European. He “did not like this mimicking of European customs, where they made a mere mockery of thanksgivings.”

Rep. Thomas Tudor Tucker, also of South Carolina, raised two further objections. “Why should the President direct the people to do what, perhaps, they have no mind to do?” he asked. “If a day of thanksgiving must take place,” he said, “let it be done by the authority of the several States.”

Read the rest here

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