Founding Fathers’ National Days of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer;
and National Days of Thanksgiving and Praise Proclamations

Congress proclaims a Day of Humiliation,
Fasting and Prayer

A Congressional Proclamation signed by John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, set aside May 17th, 1776 as a day of public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer throughout the Colonies, “that we may with united hearts confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease His righteous displeasure and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain His pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring His assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies;…” adding, “GOD save the PEOPLE,” in lieu of “GOD save the KING.”

Congressional Proclamation for a Day of
Thanksgiving

December 18th, 1777 was proclaimed by Henry Laurens, President of Congress, “to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: that at one time and with one voice, the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their DIVINE BENEFACTOR; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor; and their humble and earnest supplications that it may please God through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance…” concluding, “GOD Save The UNITED STATES of AMERICA!”

Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Humiliation,
and Prayer to Almighty God

His Excellency, Caesar Rodney, Esq., President, Captain-General and Commander-in-Chief of the DELAWARE STATE, proclaimed the first Thursday in May, 1779 “to be a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer to Almighty GOD, that he will be pleased to avert those impending calamities which we have but too well deserved: That He will grant us His Grace to repent of our sins, and amend our lives according to His holy Word; that He will continue that wonderful protection which hath led us through the paths of danger and distress: that He will be a husband to the widow, and a father to the fatherless children, who weep over the barbarities of a savage enemy: that He will grant us patience in suffering, and fortitude in adversity: that he will inspire us with humility, moderation and gratitude in prosperous circumstances:…That He will grant the blessings of peace to all contending nations, freedom to those who are in bondage, and comfort to the afflicted: that He will diffuse useful knowledge, extend the influence of true Religion, and give us that peace of mind which the world cannot give: that He will be our shield in battle, our comfort in the hour of death, and our kind parent and merciful Judge through time and through Eternity…And I do most earnestly recommend it to the inhabitants thereof to omit on that Day all recreations unsuitable to the purpose of such solemnity, to attend places of public worship, to humble themselves before Almighty GOD, implore His protection and blessings…”

Thomas Jefferson’s Proclamation for a Day of
Thanksgiving to Almighty God and Prayer

On December 9th, 1779 Thomas Jefferson, Governor of Virginia, proclaimed, “Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise, for the wonders which His goodness has wrought in conducting our forefathers to this western world; for His protection to them and to their posterity, amidst difficulties and dangers; for raising us their children from deep distress, to be numbered among the nations of the earth; and for arming the hands of just and mighty Princes in our deliverance; and especially for that He hath been pleased to grant us the enjoyment of health and so to order the revolving seasons, that the earth hath produced her increase in abundance, blessing the labours of the husbandman, and spreading plenty through the land; that He hath prospered our arms and those of our ally, been a shield to our troops in the hour of danger, pointed their swords to victory, and led them in triumph over the bulwarks of the foe; that He hath gone with those who went out into the wilderness against the savage tribes; that He hath stayed the hand of the spoiler, and turned back his mediated destruction, that He hath prospered our commerce, and given success to those who sought the enemy on the face of the deep; and above all, that He hath diffused the glorious light of the Gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of His eternal glory. Therefore,

Resolved, that it be recommended to the several States to appoint THURSDAY the 9th of December next, to be a day of publick and solemn THANKSGIVING to Almighty God for his mercies, and of PRAYER, for the continuance of His favour and protection to these United States; to beseech Him that he would be graciously pleased to influence our publick Councils, and bless them with wisdom from on high, with unanimity, firmness and success; that He would go forth with our hosts and crown our arms with victory; that He would grant to His church, the plentiful effusions of divine grace, and pour out His Holy Spirit on all Ministers of the Gospel; that He would bless and prosper the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth; that He would smile upon the labours of his people, and cause the earth to bring forth her fruits in abundance, that we may with gratitude and gladness enjoy them; that He would take into His holy protection our illustrious ally, give him victory over his enemies, and render him finally great, as the father of his people and the protector of the rights of mankind, that He would graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to contending nations. That He would in mercy look down upon us, pardon all our sins, and receive us into His favour; and finally, that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue, and support and protect them in the enjoyment of peace, liberty and safety. I do therefore by authority from the General Assembly issue this my proclamation, hereby appointing Thursday the 9th of December next, a Day of publick and solemn Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God, earnestly recommending to all the good people of this commonwealth, to set apart the said day for those purposes, and to the several Ministers of religion to meet their respective societies thereon, to assist them in their prayers, edify them with their discourses, and generally to perform the sacred duties of their function, proper for the occasion. Given under my hand and the seal of the Commonwealth, at Williamsburg, this 11th day of November, in the year of our Lord, 1779, and in the fourth of the Commonwealth. THOMAS JEFFERSON

John Hanson’s Proclamation for
a Day of Thanksgiving to God

Congress, with John Hanson as its President, proclaimed November 28, 1782 as a solemn Day of Thanksgiving to God, as follows:

“It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in solemn and public manner to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His providence in their behalf…Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY, the twenty-eighth day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify their gratitude to GOD for His goodness, by a cheerful obedience to his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness. Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.
JOHN HANSON, President”

New Hampshire Proclaims Day
of Fasting and Prayer

On Thursday, the Twenty-second Day of April, 1784, the State of New Hampshire, in General-Court assembled, appointed “a Day of general FASTING and PRAYER throughout the State; and do hereby call upon Ministers and people in their respective Religious Assemblies, devoutly to observe the same, and humbly and penitently confess their sins and implore pardoning mercy of God, through the merits of the Redeemer, and to offer up fervent Prayers and supplications to Almighty God, for all the mercies we stand in need of; especially that He would bless the public councils and determinations of Congress, give them wisdom, firmness and unanimity, and direct them to the best measures for the public good: That He would be pleased to reserve and strengthen the Union, bless our allies, and render the connections formed, lasting and mutually beneficial: That the blessings of civil and religious liberty, good government and order, may be the happy portion of the people of this State, and that they may long enjoy the blessings of peace: That He would bless the labor of the husbandman, prosper our merchandize and fishery, continue health amongst the people, and crown the year with His goodness; and grant that learning may flourish in our land, and the Religion of our Blessed Savior, in the purity of it, prevail throughout the world. And all servile labor and recreation are forbidden on said Day.
By Order of the COUNCIL and ASSEMBLY.

George Washington’s First Proclamation of
a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer

As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer on November 26th, 1789:

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, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and

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 and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:’

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; and we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1789.
GEORGE WASHINGTON.”

George Washington’s Second Proclamation of
a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer

On Thursday, the 19th of February, 1795, George Washington proclaimed another National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, in which he states:

“…In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experienced. Deeply penetrated with this sentiment, I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States, to set apart and observe Thursday, the19th day of February next, as a day of public Thanksgiving and Prayer, and on that day to meet together and render sincere and hearty thanks to the great Ruler of nations for the manifold and signal mercies which distinguish our lot as a nation; particularly for the possession of constitutions of government which unite and, by their union, establish liberty with order;…and at the same time humbly and fervently beseech the kind Author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us; to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to Him for them; to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value; to preserve us from the arrogance of prosperity, and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits, to dispose us to merit the continuance of His favors by not abusing them, by our gratitude for them, and by a corresponding conduct as citizens and as men to render this country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other countries; to extend among us true and useful knowledge; to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality and piety, and finally to impart all the blessings we possess or ask for ourselves to the whole family of mankind…Done is the city of Philadelphia the first day of January, 1795.
GEORGE WASHINGTON.”

John Adams’ Proclamation of a
Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer

On May 9th, 1798, John Adams, second President of the United States, proclaimed a national Day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, affirming, “That the citizens of these States, abstaining on that Day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies, agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming:

That all Religious Congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation; beseeching Him, at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by His Holy Spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for His inestimable favour and Heavenly Benediction…That the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens; and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion, may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth…
JOHN ADAMS”

John Adams’ 2nd Day of Humiliation,
Fasting and Prayer Proclamation

On April 25th, 1799, John Adams proclaimed another national Day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, in which he states, “I do hereby recommend…Thursday, the 25th day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America, as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting and prayer – That the citizens, on that day, abstaining as far as may be from their secular occupations, devote the time to the sacred duties of religion, in public and in private:

That they call to mind our numerous offences against the most High GOD, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that, through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come…And I do, also, recommend that with these acts of humiliation, penitence and prayer, fervent thanksgiving to the Author of all good be united, for the countless favors which He is still continuing to the people of the United States, and which render their condition as a nation eminently happy, when compared with the lot of others.
JOHN ADAMS.”

James Madison’s Day of Humiliation,
Fasting and Prayer Proclamation

On Thursday, January 12, 1815, James Madison, fourth President of the United States Proclaimed a national Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer to Almighty God, stating:

“The two houses of the National Legislature having, by a joint resolution expressed their desire that, in the present time of public calamity and war, a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of public Humiliation and Fasting, and of Prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms and a speedy restoration of peace: I have deemed it proper, by this proclamation, to recommend that Thursday the twelfth of January next be set apart as a Day on which all may have an opportunity of voluntarily offering, at the same time, in their respective religious assemblies, their humble adoration to the great Sovereign of the Universe, of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance and amendment. They will be invited by the same solemn occasion to call to mind the distinguished favors conferred on the American people, in the general health which has been enjoyed, in the abundant fruits of the season; in the progress of the arts instrumental to their comfort, their prosperity, and their security; and in the victories which have so powerfully contributed to the defense and protection of our country; a devout thankfulness for all which ought to be mingled with their supplications to the Beneficent Parent of the human race, that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offences against Him; to support and animate them in the discharge of their respective duties; to continue to them the precious advantages flowing from political institutions, so auspicious to their safety against dangers from abroad, to their tranquility at home, and to their liberties, civil and religious; and that He would, in a special manner, preside over the nation, in its public councils and constituted authorities, giving wisdom to its measures and success to its arms, in maintaining its rights, and in overcoming all hostile designs and attempts against it; and finally, that, by inspiring the enemy with dispositions favorable to a just and reasonable peace, its blessings may be speedily and happily restored.

Given at the city of Washington, the sixteenth day of November, one thousand eight hundred and fourteen, and of the independence of the United States the thirty-eighth.

JAMES MADISON.”

James Madison Proclaims a Day
of Thanksgiving and Praise to Almighty God

On the second Thursday in April, 1815, James Madison, President of the United Stated, proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to Almighty God, as follows:

“The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, have, by a joint resolution, signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity, as a Day of Thanksgiving, and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.

No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of events, and of the destiny of nations, than the people of the United States. His kind Providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling-places allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them, under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care, their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition, in due time, to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained, they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of His benign interposition. During the interval which succeeded, He reared them into the strength and endowed them with the resources which have enabled them to assert their national rights, and to enhance their national character, in another arduous conflict, which is now so happily terminated by a peace and reconciliation with those who have been our enemies. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift, we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.

It is for blessings such a these, and especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next, be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination, may, in their solemn assemblies, unite their hearts and their voices in a free will offering to their heavenly Benefactor, of their homage of Thanksgiving, and of their songs of Praise.

Given at the City of Washington on the fourth day of March, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, and of the independence of the United States the thirty ninth.

JAMES MADISON.”

From the foregoing, we note that founding fathers George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison all proclaimed Days of Thanksgiving, Prayer and Praise, and Days of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer to Almighty God, the “heavenly Benefactor” of the American Republic.

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