(Official Washington Examiner editorial, Nov. 23, Thanksgiving Day)  Thanksgiving is not a day just for feasting and perhaps for random expressions of thanks. It’s a day for thanks specifically to God and thanks specifically for national blessings.

In his first Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789George Washington made clear one of the primary blessings for which thanks to God was due. The first paragraph emphasizes it: “Especially by affording [to the people of the United States] an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Several sentences later, he elaborated: “for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government … [and] for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed.”

In that latter clause, he was echoing the famous Plymouth Colony’s 1623 declaration of Thanksgiving, in which William Bradford penned thanks for the “freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.”

Specifically, then, we are to be grateful for the rational system of constitutional, republican government bequeathed to us and for the liberties, especially religious liberty, which this government protects.

These days there’s a widespread belief, especially among younger adults, that America’s governmental system is a failure or, worse, that the American experiment itself is ignoble. This belief, however, is the voice of ignorance, married to a deficit of moral reasoning.

Although the government has been weighted down with too many counterproductive accessories, the constitutional system remains what British statesman William Gladstone acknowledged to be “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.” The nation it serves, firmly rooted in the liberty of conscience from which all other liberties flow, has been among the greatest forces for good the world has ever known.

Too few people of any age, but especially younger ones, understand and appreciate how the Constitution works well — and works for what is good. We need renewed esteem and gratitude for the Constitution’s moral and practical genius…. [The full editorial is at this link.]


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