Happy Thanksgiving!

My plan for today is to go comatose in front of the television – I hope your day is just as joyous.

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation is interesting reading: it is very difficult to conceive how anyone in the US could have been in a celebrating mood in 1863. The question is, what is the relation between Providence and the nation? He openly says the nation is being punished for its “sins.” The goods in the first paragraph which seem pettier, i.e. border expansion, population increase, seem to point to the hope for “peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union” mentioned near the end. I suspect a call to a higher notion of justice is implicit in the proclamation, which is post-Gettysburg, post-Emancipation Proclamation: the domestic production, the fact life is going on in the Union despite the Civil War, divorces this country from martial virtue and its attendant notions. “Sins” indicates a still greater concern.


  1. @ David: Agreed.

    Lincoln’s use of theism is strange, even, and they’d probably object to that. He starts with mentioning that blessings must soften the hearts of those “insensible” to “watchful Providence of Almighty God” Whether or not those people get converted, well, that’s a different story. Point is, they’re open to something.

    Then, after listing the specific blessings, he proclaims them absolutely the gifts of the Most High God, who is merciful even while dealing with sins.

    Note the difference between “Almighty” and “Most High:” the first is about God’s power, and Lincoln stays true to the original definition of power by using the title before God has done anything specific. “Most High” is about God’s authority.

    In the last paragraph, we get “Father,” “Almighty Hand” (this heals), “Divine purposes” (we don’t fully understand these, but what we do understand – our purposes of “peace, harmony, tranquility and Union” ties into it). “Father” is God fully Revealed: his power is one part of him, his authority stems from the fact our purposes are only effectual when coincidental with His.

    So yeah. There’s a whole teaching about religion and the nation in there.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving, Ashok!!!!

    I’ve been cleaning and grocery shopping- there’s not much else to distract me today, but blech.

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