Union in Thanksgiving.
It was at a time when “union” as well as “liberty” was the watchword of our country, that the festival which is do distinctively American became more entirely a national affair. The incident which let to such a change of basis is thus described by the author of “Seward at Washington:”
One morning, early in October, 1863, Mr. Seward entered the President’s room and found him alone, busily engaged with a large pile of papers.
“They say, Mr. President,” he began, “that we are stealing away the rights of the States. So I have come to-day to advise you that there is another State right I think we ought to steal.”
Mr. Lincoln looked up from his papers with a quizzical expression.
“Well, Governor,” said he, “what do you want to steal now?”
“The right to name Thanksgiving day. We ought to have one national holiday all over the country, instead of letting the Governors of States name half a dozen different days.”
The President entered heartily into the suggestion, saying that he believed the usage had its origin in custom and not in constitutional law, so that a President “had as good a right to thank God as a Governor.” In fact, proclamations had already been issued by the executive after great victories, though the annual festival had always been designated by the Governors.
Mr. Seward drew from his portfolio the outline of such a proclamation, which they read over together, and perfected. It was duly issued, and since that time the President of the United States has always fixed the date for this national holiday.
Bessemer Herald (Bessemer, Michigan) Nov 23, 1895