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A Proclamation for Thanksgiving and Praise

This proclamation from the Mercury Collection is dated to December 5, 1778. The top portion of the proclamation was originally issued by Henry Laurens, the President of the Continental Congress, and was subsequently reissued by the state of Massachusetts later that year. The original proclamation at the top of the page calls for the observance of a public day of thanksgiving and prayer on December 30, 1778. The proclamation was then reissued on December 5, 1778 by the State of Massachusetts. The bottom portion of the proclamation echoes the sentiments of the Continental Congress, and informs the citizens of Massachusetts that the state government will also be observing December 30, 1778 as a day of prayer. Since communication was slow during this era, it was necessary to give citizens ample time to be made aware of special occasions and observances.

In the earliest days of our nation, prayer proclamations were not uncommon since many of the Founding Fathers were deeply religious. Congress would usually issue prayer proclamations biannually, with days of thanksgiving and praise reserved for the winter and days of penitence and confession reserved for the spring. Once Congress issued a proclamation copies were usually mailed to the thirteen states so that they may also participate in the special days of observance.[1] In accordance to tradition, this proclamation calls for a day of thanksgiving and praise, which will be observed in the winter. The part of the proclamation issued by Congress reads in part, as follows:

“It having pleased Almighty GOD, through the Course of the present Year, to bestow great and manifold Mercies on the People of these United States; and it being the indispensable Duty of all Men gratefully to acknowledge their Obligations to Him for Benefits received:

“Resolved, That it be and hereby is recommended to the Legislative, or Executive Authority of each of the said States, to appoint WEDNESDAY the Thirtieth Day of December next, to be observed as a Day of Public THANKSGIVING and PRAISE; that all the People may with united Hearts, on that day, express a just sense of his unmerited Favors; particularly, in that it hath pleased him, by his over-ruling Providence to support us in a just and necessary War for the Defense of our Rights and Liberties, by affording us seasonable Supplies for our Armies; by disposing the Heart of a powerful Monarch to enter into Alliance with us, and aid our cause; by defeating the Councils and evil Designs of our Enemies, and giving us Victory over their Troops; and by the Continuance of that Union among these States, which by his Blessing will be their future Strength and Glory.

“And it is further recommended, That together with devout Thanksgivings, may be joined a penitent Confession of our sins, and humble Supplication for Pardon, through the Merits of our Savior; so that under the Smiles of Heaven, our public Councils may be directed, our Arms by Land and Sea prospered, our Liberty and Independence secured, our Schools and Seminaries of Learning flourish, our Trade be revived, our Husbandry and Manufactures increased, and the Hearts of all impressed with undissembled Piety, with Benevolence and Zeal for the Public Good.”[2]


George N. Briggs, A Proclamation


[1] Davis, Derek. Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. Oxford University Press. May 4, 2000. p. 83-87.

[2] “A Proclamation”. Continental Congress. December 5, 1778. Mercury Collection.



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