THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, USA

An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis
Volume VI, Issue # 250, November 25, 2004
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor
Government Committed to & Acting in Accord with Conservative Principles
Ensures a Nation's Strength, Progress, & Prosperity
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THANKGIVING'S SIMPLE MEANING
By Ken Masugi

THANKSGIVING -- THE MEANING OF THIS AMERICAN HOLY DAY AS IT WAS FIRST ESTABLISHED BY PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON & REAFFIRMED AS WE KNOW IT TODAY BY PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN:  A DAY FOR PRAYER & RECOGNITION OF ALMIGHTY GOD'S AUTHORITY OVER HUMANKIND
FULL STORY:   We are all familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday as a time for family, feasting, and football. All of these are great American institutions, but we forget too easily the meaning of this national holiday as it was first established by President George Washington on October 3, 1789, and reaffirmed as we know it today by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863, exactly 74 years later. A mere glance at the two presidents' Thanksgiving proclamations reminds us of the noblest purposes of government, including its greatest ends fighting war and educating its citizens which fulfill all the objects of peace.

Moreover, the simplest meaning of Thanksgiving reminds us contrary to secularist courts and professors that these presidents were proclaiming a holy day, a day for prayer and recognition of Almighty God's authority over man. We are most human when we honor our duties, to our country and to our Creator, and the wisdom that unifies these duties. No understanding of the First Amendment, however crabbed, can possibly gainsay this official government acknowledgement of the power of the sacred in our lives.

A close reading of these two messages reveals a careful and subtle teaching about the higher purposes of government and of human life. Washington urged prayer "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...." Prayer should also lead this nation of "civil and religious liberty" to "promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among [other nations] and us...." God and the human mind are in alliance.

Even in the midst of "the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged," Lincoln first paints a picture of a prosperous, free, and indeed flourishing land. These are the "gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People." At the end of the proclamation, Lincoln asks for prayers not only of thanks but also "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience." Thus do we "commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers" in the war. Have we, as those Americans did, taken to heart the Thanksgiving prayers the Father of our Country urged upon us?

As our young men fight and die in Iraq and around the world, just as thousands died at home only a little more than three years ago, we should remember the war wisdom of Lincoln and the founding wisdom of Washington on Thanksgiving Day. Guided by prayer, we should recall our higher purposes. We enjoy the fruits of our leisure on account of the sacrifices of others today and before us. Thanksgiving Day is Memorial Day and the Fourth of July together, a time for both the Gettysburg Address and the Constitution as well as for the family, feasting, and football that complete American life.


LINKS TO RELATED TOPICS:
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Ken Masugi is Director of the Center for Local Government, Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and is a contributing editor of the Claremont Review of Books. He is the co-author of Democracy in California: Politics and Government in the Golden State.


The foregoing article by Ken Masugi was originally published in the November 24, 2004, issue of Precepts, a weekly publication of the Claremont Institute. The Institute, a Conservative political, cultural, and educational organization in the U.S.A., describes its central purpose as the mission "to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." Committed to American constitutionalism and republicanism as well as representative democracy, the Claremont Institute's mission statement declares: "America's Founders endowed our Republic with sound principles and a framework for governing that is unmatched in the history of mankind. The prosperity and freedom of America can only be made secure if they are guided by a return to these basic principles as our country enters the 21st. century."

The Claremont Institute is located at 937 W. Foothill Boulevard, Claremont, California 91711. For more information about the Institute, call (909) 621-6825.




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THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, USA
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Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor
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