Brethren—The occasion for which we are assembled here this day, to offer our humble thanks to the Dispenser of all Good, for the manifold blessings we enjoy at His hand, is not peculiar to us as Israelites. The celebration of this day is enjoined by no specific religious precept, distinguished by no special rites and observances, commemorative of no Jewish national event. It is in obedience to the proclamation of the chief magistrate of this state, calling on all religious denominations to assemble at their respective places of worship and render thanks and praise to our Eternal Benefactor, that we have met here this day. The “Thanksgiving Day” is an, old, time-honoured institution of the Puritan fathers, observed as a sacred custom by their descendants throughout the Union;—it is a “day of thanks” for the American people.
And do we not form, my brethren, an integral part of this body-politic? Do we not enjoy the precious fruit of the tree of liberty, that has been planted in this soil by the fathers of this country—whose parentage by adoption we also claim,—that affords shelter to millions of happy human beings, irrespective of creed and nationality? Are we not affected in common with our fellow-citizens entertaining religious convictions different from ours, by every event promotive of, or detrimental to the prosperity of this country? If our borders are threatened by foreign foes, our lives and homes too are put in jeopardy; if the authority of the law is disregarded, our peace and security too are at stake; if the crops fail and gaunt famine stalks abroad; if disease and pestilence rage, we too are visited by the affection, we too are the sufferers. Hence it is our duty cheerfully to mingle our voices with the general chorus of praise that is this day ascending from all parts of the Union, to the Supreme Ruler of nations and events, who has bestowed on us his blessings in such a signal manner; hence it becomes us “to enter His gates with thanks, His courts with praise.”
<<541>>There was a time, my friends, when we were treated as aliens in the various countries that gave us birth; when every privilege and right inseparably connected with the dignity of man, were denied us; when we were excluded from every participation in public celebrations by the people in whose midst we lived. That time, for us at least, is happily past. The law of this country recognises no distinction in favour or to the detriment of any religious denomination. Free as the air of heaven is the mind of man, sacred as the word of the living God is his religious opinion, and no persecution or oppression must check the free exercise of the one, no imposed disqualifications hinder the free expression of the other. And thus “civil disabilities on religious pious grounds” is a term long since unknown in the statute book of any commonwealth of this country. We are Israelites, but we are at the same time American citizens, in the purest and fullest sense of the word; our fate is bound up with that of our common country; and whenever danger is impending, we are, and must be in the foremost ranks to ward it off; we pray for its prosperity, rejoice in its happy progress, and render thanks to the Almighty for the blessing He has vouchsafed to bestow on it.