George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 26 November 1789]

Thursday 26th. Being the day appointed for a thanksgiving I went to St. Pauls Chapel though it was most inclement and stormy—but few people at Church.

On 25 Sept. 1789 the House of Representatives resolved that the president should recommend a day of thanksgiving and prayer to the people of the United States acknowledging divine favor and especially the “opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.” The Senate concurred on 26 Sept. (DE PAUW description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends , 3:226; Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 1st Cong., 1st sess., 92). The wording of the resolution did not escape comment. Rep. Aedanus Burke of South Carolina objected to the “mimicking of European customs.” Thomas Tudor Tucker, of South Carolina, felt that Congress had no right to ask for a day of thanksgiving. Citizens “may not be inclined to return thanks for a Constitution until they have experienced that it promotes their safety and happiness. We do not yet know but they may have reason to be dissatisfied with the effects it has already produced; but whether this be so or not, it is a business with which Congress have nothing to do. . . . If a day of thanksgiving must take place, let it be done by the authority of the several States; they know best what reason their constituents have to be pleased with the establishment of this Constitution” (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 1st Cong., 1st sess., 949–50). GW issued the proclamation on 3 Oct., assigning 26 Nov. as the first Thanksgiving Day under the Constitution (DLC:GW). In celebration of the day the president contributed £7 10s. 4d. for “provisions & beer” to prisoners confined for debt in the New York City jail (DECATUR description begins Stephen Decatur, Jr. Private Affairs of George Washington: From the Records and Accounts of Tobias Lear, Esquire, his Secretary. Boston, 1933. description ends , 91; N.Y. Journal, 3 Dec. 1789).

Index Entries