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This Day In Founders History – 3 October, Public Thanksgiving Proclamations Violate 1st Amendment

Washington issues Thanksgiving Proclamation, Madison later rejects

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This Day In Founders History – 3 October

On this day in 1789, President Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgiving,” the first nationwide Thanksgiving to be celebrated under the new Constitution (James Madison would later say this was an “establishment & refuse to follow the precedent).1 President Washington issued another proclamation for a day of thanksgiving to be held Thursday, February 19, 1795. President Madison also made two proclamations for days of Thanksgiving on November 16, 1814 and the second Thursday in April 1815. On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln issued his own proclamation establishing Thanksgiving Day be celebrated the last Thursday of November annually. Days of Thanksgiving had been both secular and religious celebrations in the 1600’s, often as a celebration of a good harvest, the celebration at Plymouth in the early 1620’s being perhaps one of the most-referenced today. Although Lincoln’s proclamation was for Thanksgiving to be celebrated the last Thursday of November, each state independently chose when to celebrate. On December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt and Congress signed a bill into law making Thanksgiving an official national holiday to be held the fourth Thursday of each November, as it is celebrated to this day.

1. See – Madison, James , On Government-Issued Religious Proclamations


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