Sarah Josepha Hale lobbies for a holiday
In ``Northwood, a Tale of New England,'' (1827) Sara Josepha Hale, later editor of Godey's Lady's Book, campaigns for a national thanksgiving day. This story is based on a 1623 fast at Plymouth Plantation, rather than the 1621 feast. At her urging, President Lincoln established Thanksgiving in 1863. Mr. Frankford, who they feared would exert himself too much, was now installed on the wide sofa, (or settle) drawn up to the fire, and all the pillows to be found in the house, as he thought, were gathered for him to nestle in. When he was fairly arranged, like a Turk on his divan, half sitting, half reclining, he addressed Squire Romilly, and inquired the cause of the Thanksgiving he had heard mentioned.
``Is it a festival of your church?'' said he.
``No; it is a festival of the people, and appointed by the Governor of the State.''
``But there is some reason for the custom -- is there not?'' inquired the Englishman.
``Certainly; our Yankees seldom do what they cannot justify by reasons of some sort,'' replied the Squire. ``This custom of a public Thanksgiving is, however, said to have originated in a providential manner.''
Mr. Frankford smiled rather incredulously.
The Squire saw the smile, but took no heed, while he went on.
``Soon after the settlement of Boston, the colony was reduced to a state of destitution, and nearly without food. In this strait the pious leaders of the pilgrim band appointed a solemn and general fast.''
``If they had no food they must have fasted without that formality,'' said Frankford.
``True; but to convert the necessity into a voluntary and religous act of homage to the Supreme Ruler they worshipped and trusted, shows their sagacity as well as piety. The faith that could thus turn to God in the extremity of physical want, must have been of the most glowing kind, and such enthusiasm actually sustains nature. It is the hidden manna.''
``I hope it strengthened them: pray, how long did the fast continue?''
``It never began.''
``Indeed! Why not?''
``On the very morning of the appointed day, a vessel from London arrived laden with provisions, and so the fast was changed into a Thanksgiving.''
``Well, that was wise; and so the festival has been continued to the present day?''
``Not with any purpose of celebrating that event,'' replied the Squire. ``It is considered as an appropriate tribute of gratitude to God to set apart one day of Thanksgiving in each year; and the autumn is the time when the overflowing garners of America call for this expression of joyful gratitude.''
``Is Thanksgiving Day universally observed in America?'' inquired Mr. Frankford.
``Not yet; but I trust it will become so. We have too few holidays. Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival, and observed by all our people.''