In light of America’s current war
in Iraq and ongoing war against terrorism, the actions of our Founding Fathers
in times of war are instructive. This
is the text of the first national day of thanksgiving in America (set for December 18,
1777), declared by the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777:


November 1, 1777

FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending
Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to
him for benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand
in Need of; And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy not only to continue
to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence, but also to smile upon
us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defence and Establishment
of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; 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:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these
United States, to
set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn
and Praise;
That with one Heart and 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 manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited
every Favour, and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD,
through the Merits of Jesus
, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That
it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these
States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole; to inspire
our Commanders both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and
Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty
GOD, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings,
INDEPENDENCE and PEACE; That it may please him to prosper the Trade and Manufactures
of the People and the Labour of the Husbandman, that our Land may yet yield
its Increase; To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for
cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing
Hand, and to prosper the Means of Religion for the promotion and enlargement
of that Kingdom which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in
the Holy Ghost

And it is further recommended, that servile Labour, and such Recreation as,
though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment,
be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

Extract from the Minutes,

Charles Thomson, Secr.

[This proclamation can be found in: Journals of the American Congress From 1774 to 1788 (Washington: Way and Gideon, 1823), Vol. II, pp. 309-310]

This is text excerpted from a national fast declared by the Continental Congress
on March 16, 1776:


In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America
are imminently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an
insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of
these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the
most reverent devotion, publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence
of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his
interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous
efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and posterity.
. . . Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly
impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence, and of their
duty, devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprizes, on his aid and direction,
Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed
by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; 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;
. . . that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our
officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude, to guard and protect them in
the day of battle, and to crown the continental arms, by sea and land, with
victory and success: Earnestly beseeching him to bless our civil rulers, and
the representatives of the people, in their several assemblies and conventions;
to preserve and strengthen their union, to inspire them with an ardent, disinterested
love of their country; to give wisdom and stability to their counsels; and direct
them to the most efficacious measures for establishing the rights of America
on the most honourable and permanent basis—That he would be graciously
pleased to bless all his people in these colonies with health and plenty, and
grant that a spirit of incorruptible patriotism, and of pure undefiled religion,
may universally prevail; and this continent be speedily restored to the blessings
of peace and liberty, and enabled to transmit them inviolate to the latest posterity.
And it is recommended to Christians of all denominations, to assemble for public
worship, and abstain from servile labour on the said day.

[Source: Journals of the American Congress From 1774 to 1788 (Washington: Way and Gideon, 1823), Vol. I, pp. 286-287]