Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

I wonder how the ACLU would have responded to Abraham Lincoln’s “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” issued in Washington, D.C. October 3, 1863. He sure was no advocate of the “separation of faith and state.”

During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders. While perhaps not as immediately strategic as his war room decisions or as revolutionary as his Emaciation Proclamation, Lincoln’s America’s National Day of Thanksgiving declaration has proven one of the most enduring and unifying gifts ever given by an American president to his people.

It began with a simple citizen request. Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, wrote Lincoln urging him to declare “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” She made her case, saying, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.” The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

Lincoln, who’s religious faith underwent a profound transformation while in office, moving from Deism back to the Calvinism of his youth (See his great “Second Inaugural” to glimpse Lincoln’s spiritual conversion.

On April 1, 1864, Secretary of State William Seward, under direction of Lincoln crafted the following declaration in Lincoln’s name.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They 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 one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

While we do and should maintain a clear separation of “Church and State” – that is protect both religious institutions from governmental power and governmental policy from any specific religious institutional control, we most certainly shall not have separation of “Faith and State.” Lincoln sure didn’t advocate divorcing prayer from policy!

 

 

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus