“It is resolved, as the sense of this Congress, that it is highly proper that a day of PUBLIC THANKSGIVING should be observed throughout this province, and it is accordingly recommended to the several religious assemblies in the province that Thursday, the fifteenth day of December next, be observed as a day of Thanksgiving to render thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings we enjoy.
“At the same time, we think it incumbent on this people to humble themselves before God to account for their sins, for which he hath been pleased in his righteous judgment to suffer so great a calamity to befall us, as the present controversy between Great Britain and the Colonies; as also to implore the divine blessing upon us, that by the assistance of his grace, we may be enabled to reform whatever is amiss among us, that so God may be pleased to continue to us the blessings we enjoy, and remove the tokens of his displeasure by causing harmony and union to be restored between Great Britain and the Colonies, that we may again rejoice in the smiles of our sovereign and the possession of those privileges which have been transmitted to us, and have the hopeful prospect that they shall be handed down entire to posterity under the Protestant Succession in the illustrious House of Hanover.”
The proclamation, the first for a Colonial legislature, was signed by John Hancock on behalf of Massachusetts’ First Provincial Congress in October 1774. Despite the hopes it expressed for reconciliation with King George III and the British Parliament, it was clear the relationship between sovereign and colony was coming unraveled. Less than two years later, delegates from the Bay State and a dozen other colonies would declare their independence.
This was not the first Thanksgiving, of course, credit for which goes to the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony. And there are proclamations more famous such as Abraham Lincoln’s issued in the midst of the Civil War that his countrymen “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”