Proclamations of Prayer and Thanksgiving
As we move into the Thanksgiving season, I thought you might be interested to learn about Thanksgiving Proclamations. In the next edition, we will learn about proclamations related to the actual celebration of Thanksgiving. In this edition, we will focus instead on proclamations of prayer and thanksgiving.
As committees of correspondence and legislative bodies not under the control of the British formed throughout the American Colonies, it was not unusual for them to call for a day of prayer, fasting, or thanksgiving. Does that surprise you in this day and age when any type of prayer or thanks to God is deemed politically incorrect? Imagine the coverage that would ensue if a legislative body called for citizens to ask for God’s guidance or to be unabashedly thankful for the country in which we live?
Well, let’s examine what took place as the Virginia House of Burgesses designated May 24, 1774 as a Day of Fasting and Prayer. They did so in response to legislation passed by the British Parliament which closed the port of Boston. The legislation, known as the Boston Port Act, was known to the British as one of “the Coercive Acts.” However, the Americans referred to those acts using a very different, but equally charged, word. They referred to them as “the Intolerable Acts.” By the way, you can read all of the Intolerable Acts on BingoforPatriots.com. Closure of the port brought great hardship upon the townspeople of Boston, and the Virginia House of Burgesses decided to issue a proclamation in support of their fellow colonists.
The text of the proclamation read as follows: “This House being deeply impressed with Apprehension of the great Dangers to be derived to British America, from the hostile Invasion of the City of Boston, in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose Commerce and Harbour are on the 1st Day of June next to be stopped by an armed Force, deem it highly necessary that the said first Day of June be set apart by the Members of this House as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer, devoutly to implore the divine Interposition for averting the heavy Calamity, which threatens Destruction to our civil Rights, and the Evils of civil War; to give us one Heart and one Mind firmly to oppose, by all just and proper Means, every Injury to American Rights, and that the Minds of his Majesty and his Parliament may be inspired from above with Wisdom, Moderation, and Justice, to remove from the loyal People of America all Cause of Danger from a continued Pursuit of Measures pregnant with their Ruin.”
Thomas Jefferson latter explained that the younger members of House of Burgesses felt compelled to issue the proclamation: “We must boldly take an unequivocal stand in the line with Massachusetts, determined to meet and consult on the proper measures in the council chamber, for the benefit of the library in that room. We were under conviction of the necessity of arousing our people from the lethargy into which they had fallen as to passing events; and thought that the appointment of a day of general fasting and prayer would be most likely to call up and alarm their attention. No example of such a solemnity had existed since the days of our distresses in the war of 55, since which a new generation had grown up. With the help therefore of Rushworth, whom we rummaged over for the revolutionary precedents and forms of the Puritans of that day, preserved by him, we cooked up a resolution, somewhat modernizing their phrases, for appointing the 1st day of June, on which the Port bill was to commence, for a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, to implore heaven to avert from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of the King and parliament to moderation and justice. To give greater emphasis to our proposition, we agreed to wait the next morning on Mr. Nicholas,