By Fr. Wes Clare
contributing writer 

The legacy of Thanksgiving

 

November 18, 2023



We live in an amazing country. Despite all the political junk going on these days and the worries about our future as a nation, we still have the right to speak our mind with others, the right to defend ourselves, the right to gather with whom we choose, the right to travel where we like and the right to vote for our elected officials, among other rights. To be sure, these and other rights may be at risk in the near future, so voting in our elections is more important these days than ever before. Nonetheless, our country is the one everyone else is trying to get into and for good reason. Not only do we still have the highest standard of living in the world but our individual liberty, tempered by a moral society is at the heart of our prosperity, rights enshrined in our nation’s Constitution, unable to be eliminated by our government, unlike a parliamentary system. The settlers in New England knew that this prosperity, along with our liberty, comes from God. They left a legacy of liberty for us that persists to this day.


Unlike the settlement at Jonestown in Virginia, the colony at New England was more for religious freedom than economic gain. Jamestown was founded as a loyal British settlement with the primary interest in agriculture and trade with England. New England, on the other hand, was first settled by Puritans, Bible-believing Christians who sought independence from the Church of England. One of the first settlements, Plymouth, formed a new government that was completely independent from the British Crown, known as the Mayflower Compact. That compact established representative government and ensured individual rights without allegiance to a monarch. As Bible-believing Christians, the Puritans stood against slavery. These Puritans, we know as the Pilgrims, befriended a Native American, Squanto, who saved their lives by building peace with a neighboring tribe and helping them succeed in farming to have provisions through the winter. He was miraculously able to meet them, having learned English from his own travels in England and having returned to his homeland in time to meet them, the most unlikely chain of events one could possibly imagine. The fact that he went to England at all, was able to secure passage home, which happened to be close to where the Pilgrims settled, were recognized as miracles from God. Squanto helped them befriend the neighboring tribe, whose chieftain was Massasoit and the Colony named in his honor we know as the state of Massachusetts. Their survival allowed our liberty to survive.


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As the colonies grew, their continued prosperity was recognized as God’s providence and in the years that followed, the colonies coalesced as a constitutional republic, with the liberty founded in the Mayflower Compact as the DNA behind the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. This reverence to God and love of liberty permeating our nation’s founding documents culminated the end of slavery with the Union victory in the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, perhaps anticipating victory when the Union Army was still facing terrible losses, in 1863 declared that the nation should recognize a day to thank God for blessing our nation. We know this now as Thanksgiving Day and it is important to continue this tradition.


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In our lifetime, the narrative that our nation’s founding is illegitimate has dominated the thinking of many people. Our nation’s mistakes are real but are far overshadowed by the godly compassion of American people. This is why over 700,000 people died to free African Americans from slavery. This is why brave souls gave their lives overseas in global conflicts throughout our history. This Thanksgiving, I invite you to consider God’s blessings in your own life. Consider also the blessings unique to our country. This Pilgrims had every reason to die off but God intervened. He does so for us as well, every day if we take the time to notice.


 
 

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