John Hancock (1737-1793) was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the president of the Continental Congress, and governor of Massachusetts. It was during his time as governor that he issued the following November 8, 1780 proclamation declaring a day of Thanksgiving for December 7, 1780. (See other proclamations issued by John Hancock and others here.)
John Hancock, Esq.;
For a Day of THANKSGIVING
Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all Mercies, amidst the Vicissitudes and Calamities of War, to bestow Blessing on the People of these States, which call for their devout and thankful Acknowledgments; more especially in the late remarkable Interposition of His watchful Providence, in rescuing the Person of our Commander in Chief, and the Army, from imminent Dangers, at the Moment when Treason was ripened for Execution; in prospering the labors of the Husbandmen, and causing the earth to yield its Increase in plentiful Harvests; and above all, in continuing to us the Enjoyment of the Gospel of Peace:
I do therefore, by and with the Advice of the Council, recommend to the good People of this Commonwealth, to set apart THURSDAY the Seventh Day of December next, (the Day recommended by the Congress of the States) to be observed as a Day of public THANKSGIVING and PRAYER:— That all the People may assemble on that Day, to celebrate the Praises of our Divine Benefactor,—to confess our Unworthiness of the least of his Favors,—and to offer our fervent Supplications to the GOD of all Grace, that it may please Him to pardon our heinous Transgressions, and incline our Hearts for the future to keep all his Laws,—to comfort and relieve our Brethren who are in any wise afflicted or distressed,—to smile upon our Husbandry and Trade,—to direct our public Councils,—and lead our Forces by Land and Sea to Victory,—to take our illustrious Ally under His special Protection, and favor our joint Councils and Exertions for the Establishment of speedy and permanent Peace,—to cherish all Schools and Seminaries of Education,—and to cause the Knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the Earth.
Given at the Council-Chamber in Boston, the Eighth Day of November, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty, and in the Fifth Year of the Independence of the United States of America.
By His Excellency’s Command,
John Avery, Sec’y