The First Presidential National Day of Thanksgiving
The resolution was opposed by Anti-Federalists, who opposed increased power of the central government. Chief among the opposition were Aedanus Burke, & Thomas Tudor Tucker.
Burke was of the opinion that the holiday was too "European." He "did not like this mimicking of European customs, where they made a mere mockery of thanksgivings." Burke was referencing the fact that at thanksgivings, both sides of a war often sang Te Deum, a hymn of praise. He was objecting that both the winners & losers in a war gave thanksgiving. Tucker however, felt that the federal government did not have the power to propose a day of thanksgiving. He was of the opinion that "If a day of thanksgiving must take place, let it be done by the authority of the States."
Tucker also worried about the separation of church & state, as in his opinion, proclaiming a day of thanksgiving was a religious matter.
In the end, the resolution passed the House & the Senate, & a committee of Elias Boudinot, Roger Sherman, Peter Silvester, William Samuel Johnson, & Ralph Izard delivered the message to Washington on or before September 28, 1789. President Washington noted that "both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested [him] 'to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving & prayer.'"
It was formally declared on November 26 to "be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great & glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be." President George Washington made this proclamation on October 3, 1789 in New York City.
On the day of thanksgiving, Washington attended services at St. Paul's Chapel in New York City, & donated beer & food to imprisoned debtors in the city.
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, & humbly to implore His protection & favor, & 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 thanksgiving & prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety & happiness. Now therefore I do recommend & assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great & 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 & humble thanks, for His kind care & protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal & manifold mercies, & the favorable interpositions of His providence, which we experienced in the course & conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, & plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable & rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety & happiness, & particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil & religious liberty with which we are blessed; & the means we have of acquiring & diffusing useful knowledge; & in general for all the great & various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us. & also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers & supplications to the great Lord & Ruler of Nations & beseech Him to pardon our national & other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several & relative duties properly & punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, & constitutional laws, discreetly & faithfully executed & obeyed, to protect & guide all Sovereigns & Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) & to bless them with good government, peace, & concord. To promote the knowledge & practice of true religion & virtue, & the increase of science among them & Us, & generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my h& at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.