Proclamation for a General Fast
Broadside:4 Yale University Library
The minutes of the Governor’s Council of December 8, 1747, record that that body, “taking into Consideration the State of the War in general, the Sickness that lately rag’d over this City and the Province, the probability of our Enemies making a Descent on the City, and the Calamitous Situation of our Frontiers,” in order to awaken the inhabitants to “a just Sense of their Condition,” appointed Abraham Taylor and Thomas Hopkinson to draft a suitable proclamation for a general fast. Their draft was submitted the following day, it was read and approved, and the Council ordered that it be engrossed and published on December 10 “forenoon at the Court House with the usual Solemnity.”5
In this bare recital Franklin’s name is not mentioned and no suggestion made as to where Taylor and Hopkinson might have turned for a model. Franklin’s autobiography supplies the deficiency. His activity in the Association, he relates, won him the confidence of the members of the Council, and they consulted him in matters of importance to the Association. “Calling in the Aid of Religion, I propos’d to them the Proclaiming a Fast, to promote Reformation, and implore the Blessing of Heaven on our Undertaking. They embrac’d the Motion, but as it was the first Fast ever thought of in the Province, the Secretary had no Precedent from which to draw the Proclamation. My Education in New England, where a Fast is proclaim’d every Year, was here of some Advantage. I drew it in the accustomed Stile, it was translated into German, printed in both Languages and divulg’d thro’ the Province.”6
[December 9, 1747]
By the Honourable the President and Council of the
Province of Pennsylvania,
A Proclamation For a General Fast.
Forasmuch as it is the Duty of Mankind, on all suitable Occasions, to acknowledge their Dependance on the Divine Being, to give Thanks for the Mercies received, and no less to deprecate his Judgments, and humbly pray for his Protection: And as the Calamities of a bloody War, in which our Nation is now engaged, seem every Year more nearly to approach us, and the Expedition form’d for the Security of these Plantations, hath been laid aside: As the Inhabitants of this Province and City have been sorely visited with mortal Sickness in the Summer past,7 and there is just Reason to fear, that unless we humble ourselves before the Lord, and amend our Ways, we may be chastised with yet heavier Judgments: We have therefore thought fit, on due Consideration thereof, to appoint Thursday, the seventh Day of January next, to be observed throughout this Province as a Day of Fasting and Prayer; exhorting all, both Ministers and People, to observe the same with becoming Seriousness and Attention, and to join with one Accord in the most humble and fervent Supplications, That Almighty God would mercifully interpose, and still the Rage of War among the Nations, and put a Stop to the Effusion of Christian Blood: That he would preserve and bless our Gracious King, guide his Councils, and give him Victory over his Enemies, to the Establishing a speedy and lasting Peace: That he would bless, prosper and preserve all the British Colonies, and particularly, that he would take this Province under his Protection, confound the Designs and defeat the Attempts of its Enemies, and unite our Hearts, and strengthen our Hands in every Undertaking that may be for the Publick Good, and for our Defence and Security in this Time of Danger: That he would graciously please to bless the succeeding Year with Health, Peace and Plenty, and enable us to make a right Use of his late afflicting Hand, in a sincere and thorough Reformation of our Lives and Manners, to which the Ministers of all religious Societies are desired earnestly to exhort their People. And it is recommended to all Persons to abstain from servile Labour on the said Day.
Given at Philadelphia, under the Great Seal of the said Province, the Ninth Day of December, in the Twenty-first Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George II. by the Grace of God, of Great-Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Annoq; Domini, 1747.
Anthony Palmer, President
By Order of the Honourable the President and
Council, Richard Peters, Secretary.
God Save the King.
4. At the bottom: “Philadelphia: Printed by B. Franklin, MDCCXLVII.” Evans 6043.
5. Pa. Col. Recs., V, 168–9. As BF remembered it, the secretary of the Council, Rev. Richard Peters, was designated to draft the proclamation, not Taylor and Hopkinson. A model might have been Governor Shirley’s proclamation of Oct. 6, 1746. Evans 5808. BF’s established a precedent in Pennsylvania: Governor Morris proclaimed a fast during a disastrous drought in 1756 (Pa. Col. Recs., VI, 422); and thereafter such fast days were occasionally proclaimed.
6. Par. Text edit., pp. 280–2. The fast day was the occasion for several sermons supporting the Association. William Currie in A Sermon, Preached in Radnor Church (Evans 6119) warned his hearers of what they might expect from “a lawless Crew of French and Spanish Privateers; and which is a worse Enemy than even those, the barbarous, cruel, and inhuman Indians”; and, warmly endorsing Plain Truth, urged them to join the Association as “the only Means that seems to be in our Power at present.” Gilbert Tennent in A Sermon Preach’d at Philadelphia (Evans 6248) hailed the Association as “an important, necessary, and noble Undertaking,” and continued: “If any imagine that their Faith and Piety are sufficient to protect them from a temporal Enemy, without the Use of temporal Means, let them try for a while, if they please, the Vertue and Influence of them, (seperate from temporal or secular Means) to build Houses, furnish their Tables, and keep their Money and Goods from Thieves, and see what they can do; possibly this may convince them of their unhappy Mistake!”
7. The disease was supposed to have come from mud and stagnant water in Dock Creek. Pa. Col. Recs., V, 244.