23 November 2010
Beaufort, South Carolina
Thanksgiving Day is soon upon us. This day has become marked as a time for families and friends to come together and give thanks for the many blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon us. Let us recount our blessings with all the grace that is the definition of a true Southron.
Unfortunately, on Thanksgiving Day we may hear of some credit given to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln for proclaiming the first Thanksgiving Day. Or, even more prominently, we see the first Thanksgiving Day associated with the Pilgrims who settled at Plymouth Rock, in what is now Massachusetts.
So much of what we hear about American history, and the genesis of our American holidays, is often simply wrong.
The first Thanksgiving in this country was, in fact, celebrated at Jamestown, Virginia in December 1607. The Berkley Plantation’s charter required that the day of the colonist’s safe arrival, “…shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving….” The Pilgrims were still thirteen years into the future. (See: “The Real First Thanksgiving”)
Of course, the politically correct love to point to the happy scene of the Pilgrims in their black garb, white collars and stiff hats, sitting at a grand banquet with the ruddy savages, all in all a scene of peace and ethnic tranquility. This joint celebration took place because the Pilgrims’ socialistic economic practices (i.e., a common storehouse) had driven them to the brink of starvation, before the Indians took pity and rescued them.
It should be noted that there was an even earlier Thanksgiving. History records that the Spanish settlement at Saint Augustine celebrated a feast with the indigenous peoples in 1565: “After the Mass, Menendez de Aviles invited the Timucuans to join him for the first communal meal of Europeans and natives together,” This was apparently the first communal act of thanksgiving in the first permanent European settlement of what is now the United States. (See: “In U.S. History, Florida beats New England professor says”)
But, despite all the credit incorrectly given to the Pilgrims of New England, it is President Lincoln who is oft credited with the first Thanksgiving proclamation because it began an unbroken string of such acts occurring in late November.
But Lincoln was not even the first president to do so since George Washington had issued such a proclamation in 1789. More to the point for us, Confederate President Jefferson Davis declared Friday, November 15, 1861 as, “…a day of national humiliation and prayer…,” — a full two years before Lincoln’s more famous declaration.
Since that time, Thanksgiving Day has become a federal holiday and has lost almost all of its original meaning. Now, Thanksgiving is little more than the opening day of shopping season, followed by a day, christened with the most befitting nickname, “Black Friday.” In 1861, however, it was a different story.
At the time he issued his proclamation, Pres. Davis understood the enormity of the danger the South was facing and his decision to call upon the, “…reverend clergy and the people of these Confederate States to repair on that day to their homes and usual places of public worship, and to implore blessing of Almighty God upon our people, that he may give us victory over our enemies, preserve our homes and altars from pollution, and secure to us the restoration of peace and prosperity” was more than just a platitude.
Now, in 2010 our country also faces many crises: economic crises, crises of faith; crises of the moral and political decay of society; our troops are at war in foreign fields; and our precious Southern heritage is under attack on many fronts.
During these hard times when all God’s people are suffering, let us be thankful of the blessing that we have. We have the love of our brothers and sisters and we have our rich Southern heritage. But of all our blessings, nothing is sweeter than the promise of God’s love and redemption.
During this Thanksgiving season, we should all remember the sacrifice of our noble Confederate forebears. We can learn much from their example made during their time of trial.
So, on this Thanksgiving Day, when we are giving thanks and enjoying the company of our family and friends, let’s stand tall with the knowledge that together we are perpetuating the wishes of President, Jefferson Davis and sharing in a ritual that proclaims the superiority of God and keeps us mindful of our need for his mercies.
Sons of Confederate Veterans