Whether you commend or condemn the actions of President Abraham Lincoln, he was an astute strategist. He took every opportunity to achieve a political advantage over the Confederacy. This detail can be seen even in his lesser-known, “Thanksgiving Proclamation.”
Upon the urging of the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, Lincoln released a Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863. The decree obviously focused on being thankful, but he also subtly reminded Confederate leaders that he did not politically acknowledge their government as a separate state. He recognized only a united people. In his proclamation, Lincoln noted that the “whole American People,” with “one heart and one voice, acknowledge the mercies of the Most High God.” The President then invited his “fellow citizens in every part of the United States, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens (italics added).”
Another political message Lincoln hoped to convey was to sow the seeds for the long, delicate process of winning the peace. This can be seen in the final sentences in which he implored “the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union (italics added).”
While the Civil War did not end for another year-and-a-half and Lincoln was never able to implement his ideas for winning the peace, the whole American people have an opportunity to follow his admonition this Thanksgiving: give thanks to God, make a conscious and intentional effort to reach out to those who may not politically agree with you, and win the peace.
JoAnna M. McDonald, Ph.D., has been a historian, writer, and public speaker for twenty years, specializing in strategic studies and strategic leadership. Currently, she is in an interim position as an environmental and historic preservation specialist.