Primary Sources: Lincoln Declares Thanksgiving a National Holiday

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1 Primary Sources: Lincoln Declares Thanksgiving a National Holiday By Original document from the public domain, adapted by Newsela staff on Word Count 580 Soon after Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an annual holiday, he selected the annual White House turkey. Lincoln s son, Tad, named the turkey Jack. After the two became best buds, the boy begged his father to spare Jack's life. Jack became the first turkey to be pardoned, and the pardoning of a turkey each year at the White House has become a tradition. Photo: Photo: Wikimedia Editor's Note: The United States did not always celebrate Thanksgiving as we do today. At first, there was no national holiday. George Washington did declare a national day of thanksgiving in However, it was only for that year. President Abraham Lincoln declared several days of thanksgiving during his time in office. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered the Washington, D.C., government closed for Thanksgiving. His order did not cover the nation as a whole, however. By 1863, Lincoln had decided it was time do something more. The country was then in the middle of the Civil War, fought between the Union North and the Confederate South. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were away from home. Lincoln realized that many Americans would appreciate a day that would allow families to gather together. On October 3, he declared a new national day of Thanksgiving. It was to be held every year from then on. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 1

2 Lincoln did not come up with the idea entirely on his own, however. It originated with Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor. Hale was most famous for writing "Mary Had a Little Lamb." On September 28, 1863, Hale wrote Lincoln a letter. In it, she urged the president to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, held on a fixed date. Before 1863, Thanksgiving was mainly celebrated in New England and other Northern states. Each state chose when to celebrate, so it was not celebrated at the same time. Lincoln's official declaration of a new national day of thanksgiving is below. "Peace Has Been Preserved With All Nations" Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863 By Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America A Declaration The year that is ending has been filled with blessings. Our fields have been fruitful and the weather has been good. To these blessings, others have been added. They are so marvelous they should gladden us all, no matter how hard our hearts may be. We are in the middle of a terrible Civil War. It might seem that foreign nations would choose this moment to attack us since our army is weakened. Yet, peace has been preserved with all nations. Meanwhile, the armies of the Union have continued their advance. The areas in which fighting continues have shrunk steadily. "I Invite You To Observe A New Day Of Thanksgiving" The war has not stopped our nation's growth either. Forests have been cleared, enlarging the borders of our settlements. Mines have yielded ever greater riches than before. Our population has steadily increased, even with the losses on the battlefield. Our country is rejoicing in its increasing strength. No human hand or mind brought us these great things. They are the gifts of the Most High God. It seems to me proper that the whole American People should gratefully give thanks for these blessings. I do therefore offer an invitation to my fellow citizens living in every part of the United States. I invite you to observe a new day of Thanksgiving to our generous Father. It will be held on the last Thursday of November every year from now on. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 2

3 "Heal The Wounds" As we offer our thanks, we must remember the less fortunate. Let us humbly ask the Lord to care for all those who have become widows or orphans during this most dreadful war. Let us also ask the Almighty to heal the wounds of the nation. May he return our land to a state of peace and unity. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 3

4 Quiz 1 Which of the following are two MAIN ideas of the declaration? 1. Many good things had happened for Americans. 2. Lincoln wanted the nation to come together to give thanks. 3. The country had been split apart by the Civil War. 4. Thanksgiving will be held on the last Thursday of November. 1 and 2 2 and 3 3 and 4 1 and 4 2 Which sentence from the declaration would be MOST important to include in a summary? Our fields have been fruitful and the weather has been good. Forests have been cleared, enlarging the borders of our settlements. It seems to me proper that the whole American People should gratefully give thanks for these blessings. Let us humbly ask the Lord to care for all those who have become widows or orphans during this most dreadful war. 3 Read the section "Peace Has Been Preserved With All Nations." Which word from this section means "amazing" or "excellent"? preserved Declaration marvelous advance This article is available at 5 reading levels at 4

5 4 Read this section title. "I Invite You To Observe A New Day Of Thanksgiving" Which sentence uses "observe" in the SAME way as it is used in the section title? I want to observe your reaction to the news. They observed the animals at the zoo. You must observe how this girl dances. The class observed her birthday with a party. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 5

6 Answer Key 1 Which of the following are two MAIN ideas of the declaration? 1. Many good things had happened for Americans. 2. Lincoln wanted the nation to come together to give thanks. 3. The country had been split apart by the Civil War. 4. Thanksgiving will be held on the last Thursday of November. 1 and 2 2 and 3 3 and 4 1 and 4 2 Which sentence from the declaration would be MOST important to include in a summary? Our fields have been fruitful and the weather has been good. Forests have been cleared, enlarging the borders of our settlements. It seems to me proper that the whole American People should gratefully give thanks for these blessings. Let us humbly ask the Lord to care for all those who have become widows or orphans during this most dreadful war. 3 Read the section "Peace Has Been Preserved With All Nations." Which word from this section means "amazing" or "excellent"? preserved Declaration marvelous advance This article is available at 5 reading levels at 6

7 4 Read this section title. "I Invite You To Observe A New Day Of Thanksgiving" Which sentence uses "observe" in the SAME way as it is used in the section title? I want to observe your reaction to the news. They observed the animals at the zoo. You must observe how this girl dances. The class observed her birthday with a party. This article is available at 5 reading levels at 7

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