COLORADO SPRINGS, November 21, 2012 ― It is late September, 1777. The British have taken Boston, Fort Ticonderoga in New York, and just recently, Philadelphia. The Continental Congress has fled west to York. Only twenty delegates remain together. Washington has been defeated at the battle of Brandywine and the remnants of his shattered army will soon enter their winter quarters at Valley Forge, destitute.
John Adams wrote in his diary: “The prospect is chilling, on every Side: Gloomy, dark, melancholy, and dispiriting.”
In the midst of all this, Sam Adams addressed the delegates:
“Let us awaken then, and evince a different spirit—a spirit that shall inspire the people with confidence in themselves and in us—a spirit that will encourage them to persevere in this glorious struggle, until their rights and liberties shall be established on a rock. We have proclaimed to the world our determination ‘to die freemen, rather than to live slaves.’ We have appealed to Heaven for the justice of our cause, and in Heaven we have placed our trust. Numerous have been the manifestations of God’s providence in sustaining us. In the gloomy period of adversity, we have had ‘our cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.’ We have been reduced to distress, and the arm of Omnipotence has raised us up. Let us still rely in humble confidence on Him who is mighty to save. Good tidings will soon arrive. We shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we act worthy of its aid and protection.”
Adams’s confidence was justified: On October 17, Gen. Horatio Gates received the surrender of British Gen. John Burgoyne at Saratoga, New York. It marked the turning point in the Revolutionary War.
On November 1, Congress declared Thursday, December 18, as “a day of thanksgiving” to God, “particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a measure to prosper the means used for the support of our troops and to crown our arms with most signal success.”
This was the first official Thanksgiving Day proclamation. Sam Adams would go on to become governor of Massachusetts and proclaim many more days of thanksgiving.
We still have much to be thankful for. Most of us will gather in our homes with friends and family to give thanks and feast on turkey and other traditional foods as we remember the struggles of the Founders and of our ancestors who often risked everything to get us to where we are today. Others will go to soup kitchens and shelters and be given an equally good meal.
Some will avoid the shopping frenzy on Friday to again serve such a meal to the homeless, as is done at the Marian House in Colorado Springs.
If we have been fretting over the rapid loss of our liberties in the last decade we should remember that we still have more liberty than most of humanity, past and present. The glass may not even be half full, but it is not empty either.
This Thanksgiving let us remember our many blessings and rededicate ourselves to the cause of Liberty, trusting, as the Founders did, in “humble confidence on Him who is mighty to save.”
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