Begin Thanksgiving With a Breakfast Fast

The first proclamation for a national day of dedication to God’s graciousness was signed in March 1776 by John Hancock as president of the Continental Congress of the United Colonies. The language is startlingly different with its emphasis on humility, fasting and prayers for peace. We might consider embracing its message with a breakfast fast on Thanksgiving morning.

At the time England’s government had high taxes despite severe poverty to pay debts from a century of global conquests, and most recently by debt from wars against France in Europe and the French and Indian war in North America. Parliament insisted Colonialists pay their share of the successful and ongoing defense of North America.

The colonies had been prosperous. Benjamin Franklin in 1750 had publically proclaimed it was “Impossible to find a happier and more prosperous population on all the surface of the globe.”

Colonists fed themselves by hunting and harvesting crops and enriched themselves by shipping products from their hands and the hands of their slaves and indentured servants. Merchants traded with government issued paper money called Colonial Scrip which did not require banker financed debt. They smuggled in sugar and molasses with bribes and lax enforcement from sympathetic juries.

Beginning in 1763 parliament’s taxes, newly vigorous enforcement and British credit for commerce that replaced Colonial Script undermined the prosperity and self-government of the colonies.  By 1776 battles in Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill and George Washington’s command of the Continental Army, formed by the First Continental Congress in 1774, had driven all British forces from American soil.

Colonists in 1776 feared their rights and prosperity would be crushed as the British military prepared to return fortified by signed alliances with the “savages of the wilderness.”

Colonists were locked between an ocean on the east that carried British warships and haunting forests on the west from which Native Americans ambushed remote settlers and quickly vanished back inside. Land to the north provided a launching platform from which British armies could flow down the Hudson to divide and conquer. There was no escape to the south.

The Second Continental Congress tried one last time to avoid war by asking people to seek “God’s superintending providence” to assist all non-violent “lawful enterprises” and provide better direction.

“The Congress [does] carefully recommend, this Friday, the seventeenth of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of HUMILIATION, FASTING, AND PRAYER.” The proclamation urges everyone “with united hearts confess … our sins … and by a sincere repentance appeal to [God’s] righteous displeasure” and by the “mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain His pardon and forgiveness” to “frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies, and by inclining their hearts to justice and benevolence, prevent the further effusion of kindred blood.”

The irony is the original Thanksgiving proclamation by our Second Continental Congress desperately recommended its anxious people offer a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer in hopes of using non-violent lawful enterprises and appeals to the justice and benevolence of English people to preserve the Colonies’ abundant life and freedoms against a nation burdened by debt and poverty while brandishing a seemingly overwhelming military power continuously engaged around the globe.

Less than two months after the Day of Fasting, disappointed delegates wrote the Declaration of Independence, a declaration of war.

To honor the origins and original purpose of Thanksgiving beneath our unfurled flags on this national holiday, I recommend we rekindle that hope for peace with a breakfast fast of humiliation and reflection as we confess our shortcomings and rededicate ourselves to primarily depend on lawful enterprises and the justice and benevolence of people around the world.

And possibly most difficult at a time when respect for Congress is at a record low, we should thank Congress for its wisdom in originating a national day of Thanksgiving seeking peace and pray it rededicates itself to find ways to reduce or restrict war.

About Russellsclearskies

Writing to poke fun at a retired klutz like me who's curiously exploring the absurdities and complexities of the good life. .
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2 Responses to Begin Thanksgiving With a Breakfast Fast

  1. Gary says:

    Thanksgiving observed by the Pilgrims at Plymouth; another perspective.

    William Lockhart Made The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930). The painting shows common misconceptions about the event that persist to modern times: Pilgrims did not wear such outfits, and the Wampanoag are dressed in the style of Native Americans from the Great Plains.[13]
    Americans commonly trace the Thanksgiving holiday to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the Plymouth settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. Autumn or early winter feasts continued sporadically in later years, first as an impromptu religious observance, and later as a civil tradition.

    Squanto, a Patuxent Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them (Squanto had learned English during travels in England). Additionally the Wampanoag leader Massasoit had donated food stores to the fledgling colony during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.

    The Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth for three days after their first harvest, in 1621. Seventeenth-century accounts do not identify this as a Thanksgiving observance, rather it followed the harvest. Two colonists gave personal accounts of the 1621 feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims, most of whom were Separatists (English Dissenters), are not to be confused with Puritans who established their own Massachusetts Bay Colony nearby (current day Boston) in 1628 and had very different religious beliefs.[14]

    William Bradford, in Of Plymouth Plantation:

    They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

    Edward Winslow, in Mourt’s Relation:

    Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

    The Pilgrims held another Thanksgiving celebration in 1623, after a switch from communal farming to privatized farming,[15][16] a fast,[17] and a refreshing 14-day rain[17][18] resulted in a larger harvest. William DeLoss Love calculates that this thanksgiving was made on Wednesday, July 30, 1623, a day prior to the arrival of a supply ship with more colonists,[17] but prior to the fall harvest. In Love’s opinion this 1623 thanksgiving was significant because the order to recognize the event was from civil authority[19] (Governor Bradford), and not from the church, making it likely the first civil recognition of Thanksgiving in New England.[17]

    Referring to the 1623 harvest after the nearly catastrophic drought, Bradford wrote:

    And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving…

    By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty … for which they blessed God. And the effect of their particular planting was well seen, for all had … pretty well … so as any general want or famine had not been amongst them since to this day.[20]

    — William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation

  2. Jim Russell says:

    thanks for the stories. Jim

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