Lincoln and Thanksgiving: The Origin of an American Holiday

Lincoln and Thanksgiving: The Origin of an American Holiday

In Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the autumn
of 1621, 53 men, women and children celebrated their first harvest in the New World. The great Indian chief, Massasoit, brought
90 of his men to the three-day party. From all reports, a good time was had by all. How did this event, which happened almost
400 years ago, become a part of the American story and our oldest national tradition? Credit goes to many people, but two stand
out. One you know, and one you should know: Abraham
Lincoln and Sarah Josepha Hale. More on both in a moment. As a religious people, Americans have always
had a keen sense they have been blessed by Providence. The pilgrims certainly felt this, and so did
subsequent generations, including George Washington. Washington was the first president to declare
a national day of public thanksgiving and praise. But it wasn’t until the Civil War that the
idea of a national Day of Thanksgiving fully took hold. In the autumn of 1863—at the height of the
Civil War, when Americans were bitterly divided— Abraham Lincoln nevertheless called for a day of national thanksgiving. Lincoln began his proclamation this way: “The
year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful
fields and healthful skies.” It was an extraordinary way to characterize
1863—the bloodiest year of the war. But even “in the midst of a civil war of
unequaled severity and magnitude,” Lincoln continued, the nation had much to be thankful
for and much to look forward to. The day was coming when America would again
be united and experience, as Lincoln put it, “a large increase of freedom.” It was a profoundly hopeful message, reminding
Americans of their nation’s capacity for renewal. Lincoln’s decision to call for a national
Thanksgiving came at the urging of a far-sighted and persistent magazine editor who believed
such a celebration would have a “deep moral influence” on the American character. Her name was Sarah Josepha Hale. More than any single person, she is the reason
we celebrate Thanksgiving today. By the 1840s, many states had established
an annual day of thanksgiving, but the date varied widely from state to state. Hale saw the value of a day in which the entire
nation celebrated as one. For two decades, she conducted a campaign
to consolidate public support for her idea. As the influential editor of one of the most
popular periodicals of the 19th century, year after year she wrote columns making the case
for the holiday; she published fiction and poems with a Thanksgiving Day theme; and she
offered her readers recipes for traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as roast turkey and
pumpkin pie. And, by the way, she also wrote the nursery
rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Presidents Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore,
and Franklin Pierce, to whom she had written letters, showed little interest in her cause. But Lincoln saw its potential. His proclamation was the first in what became
an unbroken string of annual Thanksgiving proclamations by every subsequent president. Congress finally sealed the deal in 1941,
when President Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation making Thanksgiving an official national holiday. Lincoln and Hale believed the act of expressing
gratitude had tremendous healing power. In his Thanksgiving proclamation, Lincoln
spoke not as commander-in-chief of the Union forces, but as president of the entire nation—North
and South. He made no reference to “rebels” or “enemies.” Rather, the president spoke of “the whole
American people.” It’s a message that resonates today, when
Americans, even within families, are divided over issues of politics and culture. Thanksgiving, our nation’s oldest tradition,
brings us together just as it brought the pilgrims and Indians together in 1621. Lincoln said it best when he called on every
American to celebrate Thanksgiving “with one heart and one voice.” Thanksgiving gives us a moment to focus on
the blessings of being Americans, on the prosperity, security and freedom we enjoy. If Lincoln could focus on these blessings
in the middle of the Civil War, we should certainly be able to do so today. Here’s a suggestion: at this year’s Thanksgiving
table, ask everyone to spend a minute to say what they are grateful for. I suspect you’ll find your guests will have
a long and eloquent list. And if they don’t, you can help them out:
suggest they start with family, friends, and living in the freest country in the world. After all, if we don’t give thanks, what’s
the point of Thanksgiving? I’m Melanie Kirkpatrick, senior fellow at
the Hudson Institute and author of Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience,
for Prager University.

100 thoughts on “Lincoln and Thanksgiving: The Origin of an American Holiday

  1. I was expecting after a few minutes for the topic to turn to far leftists wanting to abolish thanksgiving bc of its origins. Pleasant surprise, you made a non partisan video for once. Hats off

  2. And Ironically the Hale lady that is mentioned here, she was a pagan who followed Greek and Norse mythologies. None of HER letters to Presidents or officials mentioned thanking God or the Lord Jesus Christ in the Judeo-Christian heritage of our country. Rather, Hale suggested Thursday (Thor’s Day) as a day we should all give thanks. In Norse myth, November was the month that animals were slaughtered and sacrificed so there would be food for the coming winter. Her husband was a free Mason.

  3. The current orange BLOTUS couldn't do any of these good deeds. We are a lost nation and will surely pay dearly for his poor leadership…The world used to look to us for guidance. Now they look elsewhere. sad.

  4. the video says that it will talk about the origin, but rather ignores what actually happened to the native americans.

  5. And sitting around a leftist table at Thanksgiving and asking that question? It could be pretty quiet. They're not grateful for anything.

  6. I feel like I am the only one watching this who is under the age of 20 and I’m being bribed to watch it by my grandpa

  7. Free? Kinda, I guess… “Freest in the world”? No, that’s not true. For videos with “university” in the title, the speakers are not very educated about global affairs. Hyperbole reveals your ignorance and bias.

  8. Dear Melanie Kirkpatrick

    Are you aware of Squanto? When you were talking about the origins of Thanksgiving at the beginning of the video you seem to leave an him out.

    The reason why Squanto was important was that he helped translate between the Pilgrims(who were actually called Separatists) and Wampanoag tribe.

    If you are wondering about the reason why the Pilgrims were called Separatists is because they illegally split from the Church of England.

    Why is it when mention an historical figure the person tends to be a Social/Economic Conservative?

    The reason I ask this question is because nearly every historical figure that has been mentioned in Prageru has been a Social/Economic conservative.

    Have you considered mentioning historical figures on the other side of the spectrum?

    Here are some links.


    Connor Compton


    I did find the proclamation that George Washington made. For more information click on the link above.

  9. I am thankful for my obedience and enslavement by an authoritarian government that was built on hate murder! USA one of the greatest countries ever stolen and sold on Santa Monica Blvd like a two dollar tranny hoe. She left out that America would destroy whole native villages before celebrating their god forsaken holiday and Lincoln was never trying to free slaves. Tell the truth prager. Another problem with the mid education institutions all run and operated by fraternal orders one must take secret oaths to. Your whole europeon abrahamic authoritarian enslavement structure has been compromised.

  10. 0:41 was there really that much of a jewish presence back then that the "religious people" image needs to be depicted as almost half jewish? seems like america was 99% christian especially around the time of the first harvest. A quick look at the wiki says there was only like 2000 jews in 1790. might aswell add a mosque in there for good measure.

  11. My Thanksgiving blessing (expression of gratitude). This can presented as an affirmation or toast too. The bold type can be used as a shorter version. And it can be adapted to all faiths.

  12. For a holiday that is usually assosiated with having a religious background, I give PragerU credit for not really bringing that part up. Kudos to you!

  13. I like PagerU videos, most of them resonate with me. I do not agree with some details or messages as well. Keep good work & stop calling any country the 'greatest' or the 'freest' one in the world because it does not exist. I was in more free countries than America is.

  14. I'm thankful Hillary isn't president. I'm thankful that it's so easy to piss off a liberal. I'm thankful Trump doesn't care what ignorant democrats have to say. I'm thankful that I never became a liberal.

  15. Do you seriously say Indian? As far as I know, Indians have always lived in India not North America. We don't have healthy skies or food anymore. The American people were wiped out by the people who stole the name and now call themselves Americans. America Inc. Is not the freest nation and the fact you think so is so sad. I'm thankful that Trump has only 2 years left.

  16. I get it that white people are "totally innocent" when it comes to the harm brought on my people for hundreds of years, BUT … why was the term "SAVAGES" used to describe the indigenous people in the 'Declaration of Independence"?
    And why was it NEVER REMOVED???
    And wasn't it white people who wrote the document?
    I guess that stuff will never be spoken truthfully about in any PragerU videos.

  17. Happy Thanksgiving America.
    I love The Suiwt Potatos whit marshmallows on tap.
    Thanks to President Lincoln and Josepha.

  18. Should we be thankful for living in a country that celebrates a murderous racist dictator… Why because he supported "Thanksgiving" amid his bid to kill women and children, force Blacks out of the country, jail his opposition, imprison, torture, execute civilians? No, I'm not talking about the #orangeman

  19. Why does Prager use the historical Confederate flag but the modern American flag? Shouldn't it use the union flag of the time and the Confederate flag? Weird propaganda.

  20. As much as I like Trumps jokes and constant trolling of the left, I wish he would have more of this mindset of uniting the US as one. He couldn't even pardon the turkey without trolling them, which was pretty funny though and I highly doubt it would an ounce of good even if he tried anyway.

  21. I sent this Thanksgiving note to my readers—-I read an interesting article today. The tease line to get you to open the article stated that a certain a billionaire [Oprah Winfrey] has a formula she follows when she opens her eyes every morning. We learn that the first words out of her mouth without fail are “Thank You.” But we do not learn about who she might be talking to; is it the maid who wakes her and serves her breakfast in bed on the best Lenox?

    I looked carefully thru this Oh so politically correct piece to find one mention of God. There was none. Other well knowns were said to be thankful too but they also fail to mention God, or if they wanted to mention the true source of all our benefits what they wanted to say hit the copy floor.

    The mental gymnastics used to avoid any mention of the Deity in this insipid piece made me think it was ghost written by Olympian Nadia Comaneci. For certain the writer does not understand the meaning of Thanksgiving.

    Of course we should all feel grateful for what is ours. But Thanksgiving is something that requires a sense of divine providence. And so we read in scripture,

    “Enter into his gates with Thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” [Psalm 100:4]

    By all means say Thank You. But when saying thank you don’t forget to look up to God.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

    Yankee Steve

  22. Some of you might find this video i made interesting, check it out. its about Atlantis being the Americas.

  23. "After all if we don't give thanks, what's the point of Thanksgiving?" After all if we don't give thanks TO GOD, what's the point of Thanksgiving." I think you forgot the most important part. Just giving thanks to the air, means nothing. We need to constantly remember this nation stands because the Lord Jesus Christ WILLS it so. And that's the ONLY Reason!

  24. I'm thankful that I'm free enough to not have to spill out my guts at the dinner table about what I should be thankful for.

  25. While Hale and Lincoln certainly contributed towards the eventual realization of a shared celebration on one day, this narator is giving each far more credit than they deserved. While I have not read this person's book, based on the content of this video she is certainly no expert. I however am and have studied the holiday probably longer than she has been alive.

    To start with I am descended from over 30 of the people she credits with holding the first thanksgiving in 1621. This is what sparked my interest over 50 years ago.

    No one knows for sure who held the first Thanksgiving celebration in the new world. The first actual Thanksgiving celebration held by the residents of Plymouth Colony took place in 1623. What took place in 1621 was a harvest celebration which is NOT the same thing. They ate beans sweetened with molasses and drank beer that today's beer drinkers would probably find a bit weak.

    The first known and verifiable English colonial celebration of an actual Thanksgiving took place at the Popham Colony in what is today known as the state of Maine. It took place in the autumn of 1607. It included prayers of Thanksgiving, a feast and the invitation of their Native American friends to join in.

    It is not known if the lost Roanoke Colony celebrated a thanksgiving but probably not likely as they were probably too busy trying to survive.

    It is claimed that the first Thanksgiving took place in Texas in 1598, however…

    My Spanish ancestors celebrated Thanksgiving in September of 1565 in St. Augustine. It consisted of a Roman Catholic mass of Thanksgiving. Then they had dinner. Afterwards they marched north and mass murdered some French protestants who had the audacity of embracing Protestantism and oh yeah, for being French.

    And yet the very first one that took place may very well have been in Texas after all since a Conquistador was known to have traveled to Texas in the 1550's along with a Roman Catholic priest and it is claimed that they celebrated at least one mass of Thanksgiving at that time.

    Or did it?

    Around a thousand years ago the Norse had colonized first Iceland then Greenland and to the west of Greenland they explored and attempted to settle. While some of the details are still murky and there are contradicting claims regarding the various places they traveled to, at least some of these Norse explorers were Roman Catholic and they too brought Roman Catholic priests with them. While no written accounts have survived, it was fairly common for Roman Catholic priests to say a mass of Thanksgiving following either a close call or escape from danger or survival of a calamity or just simply for a good harvest and humans have been having good harvests for thousands of years. It is likely though not yet proven that the Norse celebrated he first European Thanksgiving roughly a thousand years or so ago.

    Europeans have been holding harvest celebrations and Thanksgiving celebrations, not always both linked as one, for thousands of years. Pagans gave thanks to their various Pagan gods and Christians and Jews and Muslims have thanks to their god. But the very first Thanksgiving in North America may no even have been celebrated by Europeans at all. Several indigenous peoples also thanked their various deities for good fortune and good harvest or good hunting.

    Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the codification of a united Thanksgiving that had already been taking place for generations. The focus on Lincoln and Hale though is misplaced. Neither actually achieved their goal and neither was the first to try to make it happen. But making it happen also was not a desirable goal until the 20th century and here is why. Even though Thanksgiving and Harvest celebrations are not always connected, by the 19th century they almost universally were. The problem with having everyone in the nation celebrate on the same day was hat harvest times occurred at different times of the year. In Maine it might be appropriate to celebrate in September as their harvest is mostly done by then. In Rhode Island harvest isn't complete until usually October. In Virginia is often not done until late November. When George Washington declared a national day of Thanksgiving, he had Virginia's celebration in mind as he was from that state. I now live in Florida and we harvest year round so we can hold ours any time. It wasn't until the invention of better ways to preserve food including freezing and refrigeration that we could all celebrate a modern Thanksgiving on the same day. It had little to do with Lincoln or Hale or Washington for that matter and it certainly had nothing to do with my Mayflower or St. Augustine ancestors. You can thank the inventors of the Freezer and the can Nicolas Appert, William Cullen and Oliver Evens.

    Meanwhile back to the Pilgrims. Since most people think of the Pilgrims as the originators of the Thanksgiving holiday I thought I might tell you about how their first Thanksgiving went.

    They woke up at sunrise. They already had their clothes and shoes on. The celebration was to take place on the Sabbath and they were not permitted to perform any work on the Sabbath and that included putting on garments and boots. It had rained the night before. So they trudged up the hill to the meeting house just after sun rise through the muddy unpaved street and went inside he meeting house which doubled as a fort. The sat down on hard benches and prayed. When they were all assembled the religious leaders would take turns giving sermons and reading from the Bible and leading the congregation in prayer. At some point they broke for a meal. They got up and walked over to where beans had been set the night before on a table and they each took a bowl and scooped out the beans. Then they all took a cup of beer, yes the children too and then they sat down, prayed over their food and ate the beans and drank the beer. Afterwards they continued with the service as before. When the sun set the service concluded. At that point the Sabbath was regarded as being over as well so they were free to perform work again so they cleaned up after the earlier meal and then carried home their various eating implements. When they got home the children were sent to bed, animals were fed (they didn't have many in 1623) and the adults would say some more prayers and they too would go to bed. The beans they ate were like modern navy beans though the exact variety is not known. They ate a variety of beans prepared the same way. They sweetened the beans with molasses and occasionally spices. They were also known to add flavor with pork fat or any available meat. For the most part, the only beverage the Pilgrims drank with any regularity was beer. The beer that they drank, however, was a very weak watered down version of what people drink today. It was not brewed to get drunk or even alight buzz going as they didn't believe in drunkenness. They drank it because they believed water to be poisonous. But beer was manufactured by fermentation which involves alcohol which was known even then to have some medicinal qualities. To get a sense of how their beer might have tasted (not what was served in their taverns back in England) go to your local store and buy a bottle of traditional English Ale, nearly any brand will do. Then take it home and cut it with 3 parts water to every 1 part of Ale. The Pilgrims may have originally stocked their ship with casks of commercially produced ale which would have been a lot stronger, but they had run completely out long before the first thanksgiving and were brewing their own which was far weaker.

    I mentioned they made their own beer after a while because of course they ran out. The next ship to come alone was the Fortune in 1621 and they brought 35 colonists and absolutely no supplies at all including no beer. The next ships to come alone were the Anne and the Little James in the summer of 1623. The little James was by then the only ship to bring supplies and no doubt that included English Ale but by then they had been without supplies for three years and were making their own. They were probably grateful for the better quality ale but also probably drank it all prior to that first Thanksgiving. Even though children were usually served milk during much of their younger childhood, only children who could nurse had access to milk. The first cows to arrive in Plymouth didn't get their until the spring of 1624 when the Charity brought a bull and three cows and three cows would not have produced enough milk for a colony which by then had a population of just over 100 many of whom were children. Since no milk was available for children to drink at either the first harvest celebration in 1621 or the first Thanksgiving in 1623 in Plymouth they drank weak beer.

    The Thanksgiving meal eaten by the Popham Colony in 1607 was a bit more diverse though also likely included ale or beer due to the fact that they were not religious fanatics and so just prepared the meal as they would any other harvest celebration which they did combine with a Thanksgiving celebration much like we do today. The meal served by Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth Massachusetts for those who would like to eat there on Thanksgiving day neither resembles what was served on the first Thanksgiving held in that town nor the first harvest festival. The Pilgrims for example would never have attempted to eat a cranberry as they were believed to be poisonous.

  26. PragerU a set of Cuckservatives eager to pretend there was no party switch and that Lincoln was one of their own as the Fervently drool at the idea of a confederacy and putting minorities back into chains, and women back in the kitchen much like the Handmaid's tale. Course Cuckservatives have no shame so their thankful for that.

  27. OK I don't understand what the deal is with these prager universities referring to native Americans as Indians they are not from India that's a totally different place they are native Americans. I don't think it's necessarily an insult but it's like referring to ourselves as French instead of American I personally won't be insulted by being called French but it is just not accurate

  28. Lincoln had a good heart, but his actions caused a chain-reaction that resulted in the federal government having too much power, leading to a steady decrease in freedom that lasts even today.

  29. But feminist say that women were slaves?! How is she reading, writing, or an influential editor of a popular editorial? Obviously, she was transgender.

  30. No. The civil war was the moral interests of the north versus the commercial interests of the South. The US was founded in Jamestown in the south, which was a commercial venture. Lincoln needed a creation myth that was religiously and morally oriented and occurred in the north. In that lady's Thanksgiving campaign, he found his opportunity.

  31. I'm Brazilian and I wish I could celebrate Thanksgiving Day in U.S. someday. Americans, be grateful for your amazing nation.

  32. there so many versions of what really happen on the first Thanksgiving. we maybe not known for sure. but the thanksgiving of today which it gives a day to apperictie the people in our lives and life its self

  33. Nice story; but hey left out the "Holocaust" of the Native American Indians; their murder and the theft of land as well as the enforcement of "religious" Doctrine that had no room for Indian Tradition! I believe in "TRUTH"; Truth can be found in Repentance of "Evil ways, thoughts and actions" and for me Jesus Christ! America continues to give "thanksgiving for GOD' bounty" but refuse to acknowledge their sin and "turn their hearts" back to GOD, Sovereign Creator of the Universe, heaven and earth! Be Blessed! I stopped the video, my "hope is that you will surprise me with "Truth" as I continue, listening and open to learning new things!

  34. Good video, I'm just tired of people implying that the "First" Thanksgiving happened in Plymouth, Mass and not the Berkley Plantation in Virginia.

  35. I got an ad of the guy trying to impeach Trump and he just blatantly lied. He said the Mueller report came back saying that Trump did come back saying that he colluded with the Russians to win the election

  36. Massachusetts is a terrible place to live now, Well except Boston, Stay away from Massachusetts, Your paycheck will thank you

  37. All American presidents are owned and directed by Zionists. 🇮🇱 And you think you have American president. 😂😂

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