God of Our Fathers

Something for the weekend. God of Our Fathers. Written in 1876 to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it reminds each American how fortunate we are to live in this land.

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast;
Be Thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never-ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

America is a wonderful place, even when we acknowledge her flaws. I think one of the best tributes to America is contained in Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster, when he describes Daniel Webster addressing the Jury of the Damned: (more…)

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Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on God of Our Fathers  
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Thanksgiving Proclamation: 1914

Wilson

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

It has long been the honoured custom of our people to turn in the fruitful autumn of the year in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for his many blessings and mercies to us as a nation. The year that is now drawing to a close since we last observed our day of national thanksgiving has been, while a year of discipline because of the mighty forces of war and of change which have disturbed the world, also a year of special blessing for us. It has been vouchsafed to us to remain at peace, with honour, and in some part to succour the suffering and supply the needs of those who are in want. We have been privileged by our own peace and self-control in some degree to steady the counsels and shape the hopes and purposes of a day of fear and distress. Our people have looked upon their own life as a nation with deeper comprehension, a fuller realization of their responsibilities as well as of their blessings, and a keener sense of the moral and practical significance of what their part among the nations of the world may come to be. The hurtful effects of foreign war in their own industrial and commercial affairs have made them feel the more fully and see the more clearly their mutual interdependence upon one another and has stirred them to a helpful cooperation such as they have seldom practiced before. They have been quickened by a great moral stimulation. Their unmistakable ardour for peace, their earnest pity and disinterested sympathy for those who are suffering, their readiness to help and to think of the needs of others, has revealed them to themselves as well as to the world. (more…)

Published in: on November 28, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Thanksgiving Proclamation: 1864

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

 

It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps and our sailors on the rivers and seas with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

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 20th day of October, A.D. 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD,

Secretary of State .

 

Published in: on November 27, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanksgiving Proclamation: 1864  
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Thanksgiving Proclamation 1944

 

Thanksgiving 1944 saw Americans fighting around the globe, with their families back home praying for their safety.  FDR recognized this with his 1944 Thanksgiving Proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

 

In this year of liberation, which has seen so many millions freed from tyrannical rule, it 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 lands.

For the preservation of our way of life from the threat of destruction; for the unity of spirit which has kept our Nation strong; for our abiding faith in freedom; and for the promise of an enduring peace, we should lift up our hearts in thanksgiving.

For the harvest that has sustained us and, in its fullness, brought succor to other peoples; for the bounty of our soil, which has produced the sinews of war for the protection of our liberties; and for a multitude of private blessings, known only in our hearts, we should give united thanks to God.

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 Day to Christmas. Let every man of every creed go to his own version of the Scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved.

Now, Therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, in consonance with the joint resolution of the Congress approved December 26, 1941, do hereby proclaim Thursday the twenty-third day of November 1944 a day of national thanksgiving; and I call upon the people of the United States to observe it by bending every effort to hasten the day of final victory and by offering to God our devout gratitude for His goodness to us and to our fellow men.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this first day of November in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-four and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixty-ninth.


FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

 

 

Published in: on November 26, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanksgiving Proclamation 1944  
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Franksgiving

18_fdr_carves_thanksgiving_turkey_1933

 

 

Americans used to have the quaint custom of not putting out Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.  That custom seemed to bode ill for the American economy in 1939 with Thanksgiving falling on November 30.  President Lincoln had established the custom of Americans nationally thanking God for His blessings on the last Thursday in November.  Now another president was going to make a change in this custom.

1939 was a lackluster year for the American economy, and President Roosevelt made the decision in August that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday instead, November 23.  Polls indicated that a majority of the American people opposed the change with Republicans most opposed.

Twenty three states used the new date, twenty two states used the old date, and three states had holidays on both dates.  The confusion this caused was fodder for comedians with Curly in a Three Stooges short No Census, No Feeling, remarks on the Fourth of July being in October.  When Moe is incredulous, Curly responds, “You never can tell. Look what they did to Thanksgiving!” (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Franksgiving  

Tad and the Turkey

Turkey Pardon

Stories cluster about Lincoln like barnacles on a great ship.  Many of them cannot be sourced at all and have to be consigned to legend.  One such story that is probably just a legend is that of Tad and the Turkey.  The White House in 1863 received the gift of a live turkey that was to be fattened up for an eventual White House dinner.  Tad grew fond of the bird, named him Jack and eventually begged his father for the Turkey’s life.   Lincoln was reluctant at first, noting that the Turkey had been given as a gift for the table and not as a pet.  Tad’s pleas however eventually caused Lincoln to give the Turkey a presidential pardon.

Like all good legends this story has the participants behaving in character:  Tad always did have a menagerie of pets in the White House, and Lincoln was soft-hearted about animals and was a fairly indulgent father.    A sequel to the story had Jack the Turkey stepping to the front of a line of soldiers waiting to vote at a polling place set up at a White House.  Then Lincoln is supposed to have inquired of his son if Jack was going to vote.  Tad solemnly responded that Jack could not vote due to his being too young. (more…)

Published in: on November 23, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Johnny Cash: Thanksgiving

Something for the weekend. A reminder from the late, great Johnny Cash that we all have so much to thank God for when we sit down with our families next Thursday. Perhaps we should also recall these words from Theodore Roosevelt in his final Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1908:

For the very reason that in material well-being we have thus abounded, we owe it to the Almighty to show equal progress in moral and spiritual things. With a nation, as with the individuals who make up a nation, material well-being is an indispensable foundation. But the foundation avails nothing by itself. That life is wasted, and worse than wasted, which is spent in piling, heap upon heap, those things which minister merely to the pleasure of the body and to the power that rests only on wealth. Upon material well-being as a foundation must be raised the structure of the lofty life of the spirit, if this Nation is properly to fulfil its great mission and to accomplish all that we so ardently hope and desire. The things of the body are good; the things of the intellect better; the best of all are the things of the soul; for, in the nation as in the individual, in the long run it is character that counts. Let us, therefore, as a people set our faces resolutely against evil, and with broad charity, with kindliness and good-will toward all men, but with unflinching determination to smite down wrong, strive with all the strength that is given us for righteousness in public and in private life.

Published in: on November 22, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Johnny Cash: Thanksgiving  
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November 21, 1864: Letter to Mrs. Bixby

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,—I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. LINCOLN.

It is a magnificent letter and repeats themes from the Gettysburg address and looks forward to the Second Inaugural.  Alas, the letter demonstrates how frequently ill advised it is to rely on government records.  Two of Mrs. Bixby’s sons died fighting for the Union, another died as either a deserter or a prisoner of war and another deserted and survived the war.  The final son was honorably discharged from the Army.  (This is not that unusual.  One of my friends, when it came time for him to retire from the Marines, had quite a time convincing the Pentagon that he had not died fighting in Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968.)

Mrs. Bixby did not find the letter of comfort apparently.  According to a granddaughter, Mrs. Bixby was secretly in sympathy with the Confederacy and had little good to say of Mr. Lincoln.  She probably destroyed the letter soon after it was delivered to her on November 24, 1864, as the original letter, which was published at the time, promptly vanished from history.

Lincoln, although he signed the letter, may not have written it.  Theodore Roosevelt had a copy of it in his office and greatly admired it.  A witness indicated that at one point his Secretary of State John Hay, who had been one of Lincoln’s private secretaries, stated that he had written the letter, which would not have been an unusual procedure, although Lincoln wrote quite a bit of his own correspondence as President.  The question remains open, although on balance I think the authorship of the letter by Hay, mimicking Lincoln’s thoughts and style, probably has the stronger case than Lincoln’s own authorship.

Having said all of that, I assume that Lincoln’s heart did go out to Mrs.  Bixby.  He had seen two of his own sons die, and friends and relatives of his had fallen in the War.  He was a frequent visitor to Union hospitals around Washington to visit the Union wounded and knew well the immense human cost of the War that now, mercifully, was drawing to a close. (more…)

Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 21, 1864: Letter to Mrs. Bixby  

Roosevelt’s Rebel Uncles

 

Bulloch_Brothers_James_&_Irvine

During the Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt’s home was literally a house divided.  His father was whole heartedly for the Union, while his mother backed the Confederacy with the same passion.  Our of respect for his wife, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr, put aside his strong desire to enlist in the Union army and served in a civilian non-combatant capacity.  Many of his mother’s relations fought for the Confederacy, and Roosevelt, Jr, was especially fond of two of his uncles who had served in the Confederate Navy:

“My mother’s two brothers, James Dunwoody Bulloch and Irvine Bulloch, came to visit us shortly after the close of the war. Both came under assumed names, as they were among the Confederates who were at that time exempted from the amnesty. “Uncle Jimmy” Bulloch was a dear old retired sea-captain, utterly unable to “get on” in the worldly sense of that phrase, as valiant and simple and upright a soul as ever lived, a veritable Colonel Newcome. He was a commander in the Confederate navy, and was the builder of the famous Confederate war vessel Alabama. My uncle Irvine Bulloch was a midshipman on the Alabama, and fired the last gun discharged from her batteries in the fight with the Kearsarge. Both of these uncles lived in Liverpool after the war. “

My uncle Jimmy Bulloch was forgiving and just in reference to the Union forces, and could discuss all phases of the Civil War with entire fairness and generosity. But in English politics he promptly became a Tory of the most ultra-conservative school. Lincoln and Grant he could admire, but he would not listen to anything in favor of Mr. Gladstone. The only occasions on which I ever shook his faith in me were when I would venture meekly to suggest that some of the manifestly preposterous falsehoods about Mr. Gladstone could not be true. My uncle was one of the best men I have ever known, and when I have sometimes been tempted to wonder how good people can believe of me the unjust and impossible things they do believe, I have consoled myself by thinking of Uncle Jimmy Bulloch’s perfectly sincere conviction that Gladstone was a man of quite exceptional and nameless infamy in both public and private life.” (more…)

Published in: on November 20, 2014 at 4:30 am  Comments Off on Roosevelt’s Rebel Uncles  
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Interview With Julius Howell

 

Interview with one of the last surviving Confederate soldiers, Julius Howell, at the Library of Congress in 1947.  Howell was 101 years old at the time of the interview, and his voice and memory seem in fine shape for a man past the century mark.  Joining the 24th Virginia Cavalry at age 16 in 1862, he served as a courier during the war.  After the war he became an educator and was active in Confederate veteran groups.  He died one year after the interview.

Published in: on November 19, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Interview With Julius Howell  
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