Samuel Adams on Thanksgiving

When most Americans hear the name Samuel Adams, their thoughts are first of the lager that bears his name. But as Ira Stoll reminds us, the cousin of second U.S. President John Adams holds an important place in this nation’s history, particularly as it relates to the holiday we celebrate today.

[The battle of] Saratoga [in October 1777] turned the tide of the war — news of the victory was decisive in bringing France into a full alliance with America. Congress responded to the event by appointing a committee of three that included Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Daniel Roberdeau of Pennsylvania, to draft a report and resolution. The report, adopted Nov. 1, declared Thursday, Dec. 18, as “a day of Thanksgiving” to God, so 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.”

Stoll goes on to record that Adams, who was elected governor of Massachusetts after the war, made several declarations on celebrating a day of thanksgiving, which was “greeted with cynicism and derision” by some. Stoll concludes:

It turned out, though, that the ideas of thanking God for America’s blessings — and of praying for the spread of freedom everywhere — would long outlast Adams’s career. The concepts still meet with skepticism from time to time. But they are reason enough to pause during [today’s] football game or family feast and raise a glass to the Founding Father who began our Thanksgiving tradition.

Read the whole thing here.

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