Ruth and Esther Theater
Thursday, June 13, 2024
Featuring the Creative Works of Dennis L. Dunn
A Thanksgiving Proclamation
            The end of the bloodiest and most costly war in American history was within sight. The President, fighting off the demons of depression that were so severe his staff and friends kept him away from razors, paused to reflect. 
            He was favored for reelection.   The tide of battle had turned. Yet the images of the dead and dying, the fields of crosses lying upon consecrated ground, haunted his sleep and reduced him to tears.
            To what do men turn in times of trial? Some seek a drink. Abraham Lincoln went to his knees. 
            Then he picked up his pen.   Below are his words proclaiming a national day of “thanksgiving and praise”:
It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with his guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad, and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their campus, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while he has opened to us new sources of wealth, and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, he has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may be then, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid, that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust, and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the great Disposer of events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased him to assign as a dwelling-place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

            Abraham Lincoln, October 24, 1864

                                                               Seeds of Greatness
            Sick. Weary. Wet. 
            Half would be dead within a year. Victims of malnutrition and disease. They were ill prepared for the winters of Massachusetts. 
            Yet we celebrate the Pilgrims. 
            The answer is that with them the seeds of Democracy sprouted for the first time since ancient Athens. The Mayflower Compact provided the colonists would be bound by the a system of government in which majority rule would bind them all. 
            A social contract. Democracy.
            We take it for granted. But it was revolutionary at the time. 
            But there is much more about them that is worthy of respect. And what we honor in them, says a lot about us as a People and what we aspire to be:
                        *          They came for religious freedom.   It was illegal at the time not to attend the Church of England. The Pilgrims (members of the Separatist Church) sought to meet independently and, failing in that effort, moved to Amsterdam to practice their religion freely.   From there, many came to America.  References to God and faith are woven into the Mayflower Compact, for God was central to their lives.
                        *          They came for a better life. The Pilgrims sought economic freedom, too. That meant to have homes and farms of their own – the opportunity to gain wealth.
                        *          They sacrificed for their future. They promised the investors who financed their trip (the venture Capitalists of their day) land and the profits from seven years of their labor.  
                        *          They tried to live in peace. The Pilgrims were blessed when a local Indian who could speak English, Squanto, showed up.   He taught them how to fish and farm the land.   (Alas, later on, the colony had fights with other local tribes.)
                        *          They shared.   Enjoying a bumper crop, they invited Squanto and members of his Tribe of Wampanoag Indians to join them in a three day feast.
                        *          They mostly got along. Although the leaders of the expedition were members of the Separatists Church, two-thirds were not. Yet, these people were welcomed and eventually included in the colony as fellow “Pilgrims”. 
                        *          They had good P.R.   Their struggles and successes were duly recorded for posterity.   But that wasn't enough.   They needed a free press. (That's us!) Magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned for 40 years for a national day of thanksgiving. 
     Finally, Lincoln, seeking to focus on the positive, rather than the defeats and deaths that plagued his soul, proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in 1863. He did it again in 1864. 
            He would be dead before he could proclaim a day of Thanksgiving during a year of peace. 
            In a hard, cold and weary land, the Pilgrims planted seeds of greatness. 
(NOTE to be REMOVED: Above paragraph may be better at the end.   Please check and adjust punctuation on current last paragraph, if used.)
            Enjoy the Turkey.  Pig out on the football. Put up with your family. (Even the know-it- alls, like me, who dig out this trivia.)
            But spend a few moments also giving thanks: to God; to your family; for a Nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  For freedom of religion, speech and the pursuit of happiness.