1865 December 7: ThanksgivingDay–“Peace again smiles upon us”
Thanksgiving Day was supposedly set as the last Thursday in November by President Abraham Lincoln in his 1863 proclamation, but in 1865 President Andrew Johnson declared December 7 as the National Day of Thanksgiving. Wisconsin Governor James T. Lewis had issued a proclamation declaring November 30th, but then changed the date when President Johnson issued his proclamation.
As has been our custom, we include the Thanksgiving artwork—1865’s by famed illustrator Thomas Nast—from Harper’s Weekly.
From The Polk County Press of November 29, 1865:
Gov. Lewis has changed the day for thanksgiving from November 30th to December 7, the day appointed by the President.
From The Prescott Journal of November 11, 1865:
Proclamation for Thanksgiving.
MADISON, Oct. 28.—Governor Lewis to-day issued the following proclamation :
BY THE GOVERNOR :
Peace again smiles upon us. The work of death has ceased. The authority of the government has been fully established, and traitors who once defied it, now bow in humble submission. The accursed institution of African Slavery has perished. The Union established by our fathers, cemented anew by the blood of their patriot sons, sends forth a brighter and a purer light to the oppressed of other nations.
The people of our State have enjoyed the blessings of health and prosperity and the privileges of education and divine worship. Our territory has not been polluted by the tread of the invader, our substance has been preserved.
For these and the many other favors and blessings which our Heavenly Father in His goodness has vouchsafed to us in providing for our wants and guarding us from danger, we should thank and praise Him. While we enjoy the gift let us not forget the Giver.
Feeling that we should express our gratitude and thankfulness for all these blessings and favors, I, James T. Lewis, Governor of the State of Wisconsin in accordance with a time-honored, custom, do here appoint
THURSDAY, the 30th Day of NOV., A. D. 1865,
a day of THANKSGIVING, PRAYER and PRAISE to ALMIGHTY GOD, and do recommend to the people that they meet on that day, in their usual places of worship, and
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,”¹
thank Him for His goodness towards us during the year that has passed, and ask for the continuence [sic] of his favors and blessing.
Given under my hand and the seal of the State in the Executive Chamber at Madison,
[L. S.] this 28th day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
. .and sixty-five.
JAMES T. LEWIS.
By the Governor,
LUCIUS FAIRCHILD, Sec. of State.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28.
By the President of the United States of America :
WHEREAS, It has pleased Almighty God, during the year which is now coming to an end, to relieve our beloved country from the fearful scourge of civil war, and to permit us to secure the blessings of peace, unity, and harmony, with a great enlargement of civil liberty;
AND WHEREAS, Our Heavenly Father has also, during the year, graciously averted from us the calamities of foreign war, pestilence, and famine, while our granaries are full of the fruits of an abundant season;
AND WHEREAS, Righteousness exalts a nation, while sin is a reproach to any people;
Now, Therefore, I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby recommend to the people thereof that they do set apart and observe the First Thursday of December as a day of National Thanksgiving to the Creator of the universe for these deliverances and blessings; and I do further recommend that on that occasion the whole people make confession of our national sins against His infinite goodness, and with one heart and one mind implore the Divine guidance in the ways of national virtue and holiness.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this 28th day of October, in the year of our Lord 1865, and of the Independence of the United States the 90th.
[Signed.] ANDREW JOHNSON.
By the President :
. .WM. H. SEWARD, Sec’y of State.
1. The first line from the doxology known as “Old One Hundreth” or simply Old Hundred.²
2. From the December 9, 1865, issue of Harper’s Weekly. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Chalmer Davee Library has microfilm copies of Harper’s Weekly for 1858-1865 (UWRF online catalog).