Saturday, November 28, 2009

Library of Congress - Recognition of God in Thanksgiving Proclamations

Many today try to sell the idea that we as a nation have very little religious tradition. However, that goes against what you find in so many sources. While you might discount a source created by a Christian or conservative partisan, you might consider the following text, which is from the Library of Congress. It is supporting text from a bill that passed the House in 2004 (as far as I can tell from the Thomas record, the Senate has taken no action). It makes a dandy summary of a thread in our history.

THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATIONS HAVE RECOGNIZED GOD

On September 25, 1789, the First Congress unanimously approved a resolution calling on President George Washington to proclaim a National Day of Thanksgiving for the people of the United States by declaring, `a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a constitution of government for their safety and happiness.' See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 101 (1985) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting).

In Washington's Proclamation of a Day of National Thanksgiving, he wrote that it is the `duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor. . . .' 30 The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, at 427 (John C. Fitzpatrick ed., Gov't Printing Office 1939). His proclamation of a day of thanksgiving, which we still celebrate, is an elegant national prayer, requested by the very Congress that drafted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me `to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceable to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.' Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late ware, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

30 The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, at 427-28 (John C. Fitzpatrick ed., Gov't Printing Office 1939).

John Adams declared in 1799, `As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and due acknowledgment of the governing providence of a Supreme Being and of the Accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of heart and righteous distributor of rewards and punishments are conducive equally to the happiness and rectitude of individuals and to the well-being of communities . . . I do hereby recommend . . . to be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer. . . .' 9 The Works of John Adams 172 (Charles F. Adams ed., 1850-56) (reprint by Books for Librarians Press, 1969).

President James Madison, on July 9, 1812, proclaimed that the third Thursday in August `be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of Mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes . . .' 2 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 498 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

President James Madison, on March 4, 1815 declared `a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace. No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States.' 2 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 546 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

Andrew Johnson proclaimed `on the occasion of the obsequies of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States' that `a special period be assigned for again humbling ourselves before Almighty God. . . .' 8 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 3504 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.) (Proclamation of April 25, 1865).

President Woodrow Wilson, on October 19, 1917, proclaimed that `Whereas, the Congress of the United States, . . . requested me to set apart by official proclamation a day upon which our people should be called upon to offer concerted prayer to Almighty God for His divine aid . . . And, Whereas, it behooves a great free people, nurtured as we have been in eternal principles of justice and of right, a nation which has sought from the earliest days of its existence to be obedient to the divine teachings which have inspired it in the exercise of its liberties, to turn always to the supreme Master and cast themselves in faith at His feet, praying for His aid and succor . . .' 17 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 8377 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.) (Proclamation of Oct. 19, 1917).

President Roosevelt's 1944 Thanksgiving Proclamation declared: `[I]t is fitting that we give thanks with special fervor to our Heavenly Father for the mercies we have received individually and as a nation and for the blessings He has restored, through the victories of our arms and those of our Allies, to His children in other land . . . To the end that we may bear more earnest witness to our gratitude to Almighty God, I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas.' Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 675 n.3 (1984) (citing Proclamation No. 2629, 9 Fed. Reg. 13,099 (1944)).

Official announcements proclaiming Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other national holidays are, to this day, made in religious terms. President Bush, in his 2002 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, stated, `We also thank God for the blessings of freedom and prosperity; and, with gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the importance of faith in our lives.' Weekly Compilation of Presidential Papers, Vol. 38, No. 47, at 2072 (November 25, 2002).

Recognition of God in the Presidential Oath of Office and Inaugural Addresses

Every President of the United States, since Washington, has taken the Oath of Office with his hand placed upon the Bible. See Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 436 (1962). Every President has ended his Oath with, `So help me, God.' Id. at 436.

Every President, without exception, has acknowledged God upon entering office:

George Washington, 1st, `that Almighty Being who rules over the universe . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 3 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

John Adams, 2nd, `that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 28 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd, `And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.' Speeches of the American Presidents 40 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

James Madison, 4th, `that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.' Speeches of the American Presidents 51 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

James Monroe, 5th, `with a firm reliance on the protection of Almighty God . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 69 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

John Quincy Adams, 6th, `knowing that `except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain' with fervent supplications for His favor. . . .' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 60 (1989).

Andrew Jackson, 7th, `my most fervent prayer to that Almighty Being before whom I now stand . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 95 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Martin Van Buren, 8th, `the Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all.' Speeches of the American Presidents 108 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

William Henry Harrison, 9th, `the Beneficent Creator has made no distinction amongst men . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 116 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

John Tyler, 10th, `the all-wise and all-powerful Being who made me . . .' 4 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1890 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

James Polk, 11th, `I fervently invoke the aid of that Almighty Ruler of the Universe in whose hands are the destinies of nations and of men . . .' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 100 (1989).

Zachary Taylor, 12th, `to which the goodness of Divine Providence has conducted our common country.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 114 (1989).

Millard Fillmore, 13th, `I have to perform the melancholy duty of announcing to you that it has pleased Almighty God to remove from this life Zachary Taylor . . .' Philip Kunhardt, Jr., The American President 218-223 (Riverhead Books 1999); `I rely upon Him who holds in His hands the destinies of nations . . .' 6 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 2600 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.) (Special Message, July 10, 1850).

Franklin Pierce, 14th, `there is no national security but in the nation's humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 153 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

James Buchanan, 15th, `In entering upon this great office I must humbly invoke the God of our fathers . . .' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 125 (1989).

Abraham Lincoln, 16th, `Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.' Speeches of the American Presidents 181 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Andrew Johnson, 17th, `Duties have been mine; consequences are God's.' 8 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 3504 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

Ulysses S. Grant, 18th, `I ask the prayers of the nation to Almighty God in behalf of this consummation.' Speeches of the American Presidents 225 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th, `Looking for the guidance of that Divine Hand by which the destinies of nations and individuals are shaped . . .' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 159 (1989).

James Garfield, 20th, `They will surely bless their fathers and their fathers' God that the Union was preserved, that slavery was overthrown . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 251 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Chester Arthur, 21st, `I assume the trust imposed by the Constitution, relying for aid on divine guidance . . .' 10 James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 4621 (Bureau of National Literature, Inc.).

Grover Cleveland, 22nd, `And let us not trust to human effort alone, but humbly acknowledging the power and goodness of Almighty God, who presides over the destiny of nations. . . ..' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 173 (1989).

Benjamin Harrison, 23rd, `invoke and confidently expect the favor and help of Almighty God, that He will give to me wisdom . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 277 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Grover Cleveland, 24th, `I know there is a Supreme Being who rules the affairs of men and whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people, and I know He will not turn from us now if we humbly and reverently seek His powerful aid.' Speeches of the American Presidents 274 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

William McKinley, 25th, `Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 291 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th, `with gratitude to the Giver of Good who has blessed us with the conditions which have enabled us . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 324 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Howard Taft, 27th, `. . . support of my fellow citizens and the aid of the Almighty God in the discharge of my responsible duties.' Speeches of the American Presidents 362 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Woodrow Wilson, 28th, `I summon all honest men, all patriotic, all forward-looking men, to my side. God helping me, I will not fail them, if they will but counsel and sustain me!' Speeches of the American Presidents 380 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Warren G. Harding, 29th, `that passage of Holy Writ wherein it is asked: `What doth the Lord require of thee . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 420 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Calvin Coolidge, 30th, `[America] cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 433 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988). Calvin Coolidge also stated, `Our government rests upon religion. It is from that source that we derive our reverence for truth and justice, for equality and liberty, and for the rights of mankind. Unless the people believe in these principles, they cannot believe in our Government.' `Coolidge Declares Religion Our Basis,' N.Y. Times, Oct. 16, 1924 (October 15, 1924, address in connection with the unveiling of an equestrian statue of Francis Asbury.)

Herbert Hoover, 31st, `I ask the help of Almighty God in this service to my country to which you have called me.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 267 (1989). Also according to President Hoover, `Our Founding Fathers did not invent the priceless boon of individual freedom and respect for the dignity of men. That great gift to mankind sprang from the Creator and not from governments.' `The Protection of Freedom,' Address by Herbert Hoover, West Branch, Iowa, Aug. 10, 1954.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd, `In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask the blessing of God.' Speeches of the American Presidents 489 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Harry S. Truman, 33rd, `all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 286 (1989).

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th, `At such a time in history, we, who are free, must proclaim anew our faith. This faith is the abiding creed of our fathers. It is our faith in the deathless dignity of man, governed by eternal moral and natural laws. This faith defines our full view of life. It establishes, beyond debate, those gifts of the Creator that are man's inalienable rights, and that make all men equal in His sight! . . . The enemies of this faith know no god but force, no devotion but its use. . . . Whatever defies them, they torture, especially the truth. Here, then, is joined no pallid argument between slightly differing philosophies. This conflict strikes directly at the faith of our fathers and the lives of our sons. . . . This is the work that awaits us all, to be done with bravery, with charity--and with prayer to Almighty God.' Speeches of the American Presidents 566, 568 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

John F. Kennedy, 35th, `the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.' Speeches of the American Presidents 604 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th, `We have been allowed by Him to seek greatness with the sweat of our hands and the strength of our spirit. . . . [W]e learned in hardship . . . that the judgment of God is harshest on those who are most favored.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 313 (1989).

Richard M. Nixon, 37th, `as all are born equal in dignity before God, all are born equal in dignity before man.' Speeches of the American Presidents 662 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Gerald Ford, 38th, `to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right . . .' Speeches of the American Presidents 698 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988).

Jimmy Carter, 39th, `what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 328 (1989).

Ronald Reagan, 40th, `We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free.' Speeches of the American Presidents 749 (Steven Anzovin & Janet Podell eds., The H.W. Wilson Co. 1988). 133

[Footnote]

[Footnote 133: When awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Reagan stated, `History comes and goes, but principles endure and ensure future generations to defend liberty--not a gift of government, but a blessing from our Creator.' `For the Record,' The Washington Post (January 15, 1993) at A22.]

George Bush, 41st, `Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love.' Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States, S. Doc. No. 101-10, at 346 (1989).

Bill Clinton, 42nd, `with God's help, we must answer the call.' Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, William J. Clinton, 1993, Book 1, at 3 (Gov't Printing Office 1994).

George W. Bush, 43rd, `We are not this story's Author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. . . . God bless you all, and God bless America.' Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, George W. Bush, 2001, Book 1, at 3 (Gov't Printing Office 2003).


See the page here:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&db_id=cp108&r_n=hr691.108&sel=TOC_158846&

4 comments:

Alan said...

The text above was not part of the bill passed by the House. It was instead supporting argument presented by the Republican majority of the House committee that reported the bill.

For the sense of the Senate, you need read only the text that body ratified on June 10, 1797:

"the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion"

(http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/bar1796t.asp#art11)

History Matters said...

You correct that the text quoted from the Library of Congress is part of the supporting arguments. However, the text is still a very nice historical summary, isn't it?

As far as your quote from the Treaty of Tripoli, I have addressed that before. My claim is not at all that our country is officially Christian, and that is all the treaty quote claims. Two U.S. Supreme Court statements in the century AFTER that treaty affirm that we DO have a Christian heritage strongly woven into our very fabric.

A previous post that addresses the Treaty of Tripoli can be found here: Christian Nation or Not? What Would John Adams Say?

Alan said...

Thanks for your reply. I am most interested to know the "Two U.S. Supreme Court statements in the century AFTER that treaty affirm that we DO have a Christian heritage." I base my understanding of America as a secular republic on the laws that we pass and should live by.

History Matters said...

Alan,

I don't really disagree with your statement that America is a secular republic, depending on what you mean. Some have used a "separation" argument to say that elected representatives may not use their religious beliefs to help them decide moral issues. Some say that city council members may not open a meeting with prayer. Some say it means school children may not give other students gifts with a religious message. I don't agree with those statements.

Some complain that a President may not declare a day of prayer. But our founders, the same ones who wrote the Constitution, asked Presidents to do just that. A proclamation is not a law. The First Amendment prohibits federal LAWS that interfere with religion or establish a national religion. If you are talking along those lines, we agree.

Read what Justice Marshall had to say: http://churchvstate.blogspot.com/2007/10/chief-justice-john-marshall-on.html. Is he recommending laws limiting worship to Christianity? No. Nor do the cases mentioned below.

See these posts:

http://churchvstate.blogspot.com/2008/06/supreme-court-1799-christianity-is-our.html

http://churchvstate.blogspot.com/2008/07/more-from-supreme-court-christian.html

http://churchvstate.blogspot.com/2007/12/supreme-court-says-this-is-christian.html

You could also check out a 1931 case, referred to here:
wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=23909