The First Thanksgiving
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THE FREEMAN | IDEAS ON LIBERTY
Our First Thanksgiving
by Sartell Prentice Jr. • November 1955 • Vol. 5/Issue 11 Our American Thanksgiving Day is a unique holiday, a day set aside by Presidential
Proclamation so that we may thank our Heavenly Father for the bountiful gifts he has bestowed on us during the year. It is also a day dedicated to the Family, the basic unit of our American society, the core and center around which all else in America revolves. This, too, is in accord with our basic religious faith, for the Commandment has come down to us to “honor thy father and thy mother.” And so, from wherever we may be, North, South, East, or West, we Americans travel, sometimes great distances, back to the family hearth, to be present at the traditional Family Reunion and Feast on Thanksgiving Day. But Thanksgiving Day has still another meaning; on this day we are asked to remember what Edmund Burke, in one of the most eloquent phrases to be found in all literature, described as “that little speck, scarce visible in the mass of national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body”—the tiny vessel, more accurately to be described as a “cockleshell,” the Mayflower, and its hundred passengers, men, women, and children, who sailed on her. Twelve years earlier, in 1608, they had fled from religious persecution in England and established a new home in Holland. Despite the warm welcome extended by the Dutch, as contrasted with the persecutions they had endured in England, their love for their homeland impelled them to seek English soil on which to raise their children, English soil on which they would be free to worship God in their own way. Finally, the Pilgrims landed, as we all know, on Plymouth Rock in the middle of December 1620, and on Christmas Day, in the words of Governor William Bradford, 1  they “begane to erecte ye first house for commone use to receive them and their goods.” So was established the...