OCTOBER 3, 1789, from the U.S. Capitol in New York City, President George Washington issued the first Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God.
Just one week earlier the first session of the U.S. Congress successfully approved the Bill of Rights, which put ten limitations on the power of the new Federal Government.
The States were concerned the Federal Government would get too powerful.
The Preamble to the Bill of Rights explained:
“The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…as amendments to the Constitution of the United States.”
The First of the Ten Amendments restricting the Federal Government’s abuse of its powers began:
“CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
President George Washington thanked God for the “Constitutions of government…particularly the national one now lately instituted,” stating in his Proclamation, OCTOBER 3, 1789:
“Whereas it is the DUTY of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of ALMIGHTY GOD, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and
Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me
‘to 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,
especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to ESTABLISH A FORM OF GOVERNMENT for their safety and happiness;’
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that GREAT AND GLORIOUS BEING, who is the BENEFICENT AUTHOR of all the good that was, that is, or that will be;
That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks,
for His kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation;
for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of HIS PROVIDENCE, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war;
for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed,
for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to ESTABLISH CONSTITUTIONS OF GOVERNMENT for our safety and happiness, and PARTICULARLY THE NATIONAL ONE NOW LATELY INSTITUTED,
for the CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;
and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to THE GREAT LORD AND RULER OF NATIONS, and beseech Him
to pardon our national and other transgressions,
to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually;
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;
to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord;
TO PROMOTE THE KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICE OF TRUE RELIGION AND VIRTUE, and the increase of science among them and us;
and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd of October, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine. -George Washington.”
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.