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THE MEANING OF

THANKSGIVING DAY
The American Calendar
Amy A. Kass | Leon R. Kass
A Project of WhatSoProudlyWeHail.org














For additional materials and opportunities for comment,
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Copyright © 2012, editorial matter by What So Proudly We Hail

Cover: Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914
Design by Jessica Cantelon

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Table of Contents

*
Suitable for students, grades 5–8

1. THANKSGIVING: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY
The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving Day
*
2
William Bradford, Excerpts from Of Plymouth
Plantation 6
George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation
*
11
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Excerpt from Northwood 13
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, “Our National Thanksgiving”
*
17
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Letter to President Abraham Lincoln
*
18
Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Proclamation
*
20
Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, Modern Thanksgiving
Proclamations
*
22
James W. Ceaser, Excerpt from “No Thanks to Gratitude” 25

2. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS: THE THINGS FOR
WHICH WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL
Harvest
John Greenleaf Whittier, “For an Autumn Festival” 29
John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Corn Song”
*
31

Hearth and Home
Louisa May Alcott, “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”
*
33
Lydia Maria Child, “Thanksgiving Day”
*
48
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving” 49
Edgar Albert Guest, “Thanksgiving”
*
54
Susan Minot, “Thanksgiving Day” 56
Ana Menéndez, “Celebrations of Thanksgiving:
Cuban Seasonings” 64

Prosperity
Harriet Beecher Stowe, “How We Kept Thanksgiving at
Oldtown”
*
68
Jack London, “Thanksgiving on Slav Creek”
*
76
Sarah Orne Jewett, “The Lost Turkey”
*
83
Langston Hughes, “Those Who Have No Turkey”
*
90

Neighborliness and Hospitality
Sarah Orne Jewett, “The Night Before Thanksgiving”
*
96
O. Henry, “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”
*
100

Liberty and Equal Opportunity
Daniel Webster, Excerpt from “The First Settlement of
New England” 106



Dorothy Canfield Fisher, “A New Pioneer”
*
110
Edward Everett Hale, “Thanksgiving at the Polls” 115

3. DISCUSSION GUIDES
Discussion Guide for George Washington’s
Thanksgiving Proclamation 125
Discussion Guide for “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” 133

About the Cover 141

Acknowledgments 142





















1. Thanksgiving: An American Holiday
1
Thanksgiving:
An American Holiday

2

The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a venerable and much beloved American holiday. In colonial times it
was primarily a harvest holiday, in which the colonists offered thanks for a good harvest,
sometimes by feasting, sometimes by fasting. A holiday was already celebrated in the
Spanish colony of Florida in the sixteenth century, and in the British colonies of Virginia
and Massachusetts in the seventeenth century, most famously in 1621, when the Pilgrims
at Plymouth, Massachusetts celebrated their first successful harvest in the company of
some of the Native American tribesmen. Thanksgiving became a regularly celebrated
national holiday only during the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of
national Thanksgiving in 1863. The holiday became fixed to the fourth Thursday in
November by an act of the United States Congress in 1941.

The Early Colonists’ Thanksgiving

In May of 1541, Spanish explorers under Francisco Vásquez de Coronado camped on the
rim of Palo Duro Canyon (near modern-day Amarillo, Texas) and joined together in a
celebration of thanksgiving. Nearly a quarter-century later, French Huguenot colonists at
Fort Caroline, Florida set aside a day for solemn praise and thanksgiving in June 1564. In
the late summer of 1607, English settlers in Maine united with Abnaki Indians for a
harvest feast. Three years later, English colonists in Jamestown, Virginia held a jubilant
day of thanksgiving when fresh supply ships arrived, providing the surviving colonists
with much-needed food after a severe winter and disastrous drought. In 1619, pursuant to
their charter, English settlers at Berkeley Hundred, Virginia decreed that the day of their
arrival “shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty
God.”
1


Of course, the most famous early American thanksgiving celebration occurred at
Plymouth Plantation in the fall of 1621, when about fifty Pilgrims joined with nearly a
hundred Pokanoket Indians—including the tribe’s chief, or Massasoit, Ousamequin—for
a three-day-long harvest festival.
2
Desiring to separate from the Church of England and
set up their own government, the Pilgrims had left England aboard the Mayflower the
previous August. After two months of weathering choppy seas, they reached the New
World, landing at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. While still aboard ship, on November 11,
the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact, in which they “Covenant[ed] and
Combine[d] [them] selves together into a Civil Body Politic, for [their] better ordering
and preservation.”
3



1
The Indian Massacre of 1622, however, forced the colonists to take refuge in Jamestown, and the
settlement at Berkeley Hundred—along with its thanksgiving tradition—was abandoned for some time.
Catherine Clinton, “A History of the Thanksgiving Holiday,” Gilder Lehrman Institute, available at
www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/government-and-civics/essays/history-thanksgiving-holiday.
2
As different accounts refer to the Indians either as Pokanoket or as Wampanoag, it is helpful to point out
that the former were a smaller tribe within the Wampanoag Nation.
3
The Mayflower Compact, WhatSoProudlyWeHail.org, www.whatsoproudlywehail.org/curriculum/the-
meaning-of-america/mayflower-compact.
The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving Day
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3

On December 18, after sending out parties to explore the area, the Mayflower docked
at Plymouth Rock on the western side of Cape Cod Bay, and the new colonists settled in
for a harsh winter. They spent their first few months in the New World aboard the ship.
More than half died, victims of poor nutrition, inadequate housing, and disease.

Shortly after moving to land in March 1621, the Pilgrims met an English-speaking
Patuxet Indian named Tisquantum (“Squanto”) who served as a guide and translator for
the Englishmen and the local Pokanoket tribe. The Native Americans helped the colonists
adapt to the New World, teaching them what to farm and how to hunt local animals and
providing the colonists with needed supplies when their stores were low. In the fall, to
celebrate their successful harvest, the Pilgrims hosted the Native Americans for a feast of
lobsters, clams, vegetables, and, famously, a “great store of wild Turkies.”
4
Writing in
Mourt’s Relation, his firsthand account of the colony at Plymouth Rock, Edward
Winslow describes the festivities:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that
so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered
the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a
little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time,
amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians
coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with
some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and
they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and
bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although
it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the
goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you
partakers of our plenty.
5


An American Holiday

Although the colonists set aside other days for thanksgiving, these were much more
somber affairs than the harvest festival we now think of as America’s “first
Thanksgiving.” In November 1777, the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was
issued by the Continental Congress following the Colonial victories over British General
John Burgoyne in the Battles of Saratoga. In the Proclamation, Congress “recommended
to the legislative or executive Powers of these United States to set apart Thursday, the
eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise.”
6
Near the end
of the Revolutionary War—after the British House of Commons had voted to end the war
in America, but before the formal signing of the Treaty of Paris—the Congress
proclaimed another “day of solemn Thanksgiving to God for all his mercies.”
7


4
William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1646, see below.
5
Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation, 1622, based on facsimile edition of the original 1622 edition, with
updated spelling provided by Caleb Johnson and paragraphing by the 1969 Dwight Heath version, available
at www.histarch.uiuc.edu/plymouth/mourt6.html.
6
National Historical Society, The Journal of American History, Vol. 6, 557, available at GoogleBooks.
7
“Founders Give Thanks,” Library of Congress,
www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/thanksgiving/.
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4

The first Thanksgiving Day celebrated under the new Constitution, took place on
November 26, 1789, the first year of George Washington’s presidency. At the
encouragement of the House of Representatives, President Washington proclaimed a day
to be devoted to “public thanksgiving and prayer,” and sent money to supply debtors in
prison with provisions, thus beginning the Thanksgiving Day tradition of charity.
8

Washington’s proclamation, however, did not result in a new holiday: John Adams,
Washington’s successor, recommended a “National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and
Prayer,” rather than a thanksgiving day, while Thomas Jefferson opposed the
proclamation of both thanksgiving and fast days as counter to the separation of church
and state.
9


Although many states, particularly in New England, continued to have annual
observances of thanksgiving, there wasn’t another national Thanksgiving Day until
Abraham Lincoln proclaimed one in 1863 to celebrate the Union victories at Gettysburg
and Vicksburg—an act we owe, in part, to the efforts of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. The
editor of the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book and famous author of “Mary Had a
Little Lamb,” Hale had devoted an entire chapter to the importance of Thanksgiving
traditions in her 1827 novel, Northwood. She campaigned to make the day a national
holiday, year after year sending letters to governors, congressmen, senators, and to the
White House, addressing notes to at least six different presidents.

By 1855, fourteen states recognized the fourth Thursday in November as
Thanksgiving Day, with two others celebrating the holiday on the third Thursday.
Territories such as California and Oregon even proclaimed the holiday before being
recognized as states. In September 1863, Hale published an editorial once again urging
President Lincoln to proclaim a national Thanksgiving Day. On October 3—the same
date on which Washington had offered his Thanksgiving Proclamation—Lincoln
declared that Thanksgiving Day would be observed on the last Thursday in November.
Writing in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln urged Americans to remember the
“gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins,
hath nevertheless remembered mercy” and to “fervently implore the imposition of the
Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it.”
10


After the Civil War

Following the Civil War, the once solemn day of Thanksgiving became a celebratory
holiday to rival the Pilgrims’ harvest festival in Plymouth. By the early twentieth century,
the religious nature of the holiday had melded with the civic, and it acquired a new
purpose, as an occasion to incorporate newcomers into American customs. Festivals in
honor of the Pilgrims became popular, as did the ubiquitous grade-school Pilgrims-and-
Indians pageants. Costumed parades were held in different cities, and in 1921 Gimbels

8
George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789, see below.
9
See Thanksgiving Day Proclamations, 1789–2011, WhatSoProudlyWeHail.org,
www.whatsoproudlywehail.org/curriculum/the-american-calendar/thanksgiving-day-proclamations-1789-
present.
10
Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863, see below.
The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving Day
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5

Department Store sponsored a Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia. In 1938,
Macy’s did the same for New York, bringing the famous Uncle Sam balloon to the streets
of Manhattan. Football soon became its own Thanksgiving Day tradition, with many
college teams choosing to play their big games on the holiday.

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt joined the continuous line of presidents
since Lincoln to offer a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. He differed with his
predecessors, however, by declaring that the holiday would be celebrated on the second-
to-last Thursday of November, since that year the last Thursday was on November 30 and
retailers were concerned that the late date would not leave enough time for Christmas
shopping. Roosevelt’s change was met with a storm of protest, and sixteen states refused
to accept the president’s proclamation and continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on the
last Thursday of the month. To settle the matter, Congress established the Federal
Thanksgiving Day holiday. On October 6, 1941, the House of Representatives passed a
motion declaring “the last Thursday in November a legal holiday.” The Senate then
passed an amendment “making the fourth Thursday in November a legal holiday” (to
avoid the trouble caused by the occasional fifth Thursday in November), and President
Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941.
11


Today, Thanksgiving is perhaps our most beloved national holiday, yet it is
celebrated quietly, privately, with festive meals prepared at home and shared with family
and friends. The busy streets of the city are quiet, the concerns with getting and spending
are set aside, and the entire nation, household by household in the year’s colorful autumn
of the year, establishes and perpetuates its own traditions of celebrating the bounties of
nature and of expressing gratitude. The remarkable Thanksgiving mood and activity are
highlighted by the contrast with the day after Thanksgiving, known as “Black Friday,”
when the shopping season for Christmas opens with a vengeance at midnight.

There is another tradition associated with the holiday: Every year since 1863, every
president since Abraham Lincoln has issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, in
which—in addition to officially announcing the day—he offers his own ideas about the
holiday.
12
Perusing these proclamations is an interesting and illuminating way of
discovering the evolving idea of the meaning of the holiday and the things for which
Americans—or at least their leaders—believe we should be grateful.

11
“Congress Establishes Thanksgiving,” Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives,
www.archives.gov/legislative/features/thanksgiving/.
12
See Thanksgiving Day Proclamations, 1789–2011, WhatSoProudlyWeHail.org,
www.whatsoproudlywehail.org/curriculum/the-american-calendar/thanksgiving-day-proclamations-1789-
present.

6

Excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation
WILLIAM BRADFORD

William Bradford (1590–1657), a member of the English Puritan sect that had left
England for more tolerant Holland, was one of the Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower
to set up a colony in the New World. Bradford, who became the long-term governor of
the Plymouth colony, kept a journal of the group’s experiences in Holland, their
transatlantic voyage, and the early years of the settlement at Plymouth, from which he
eventually published Of Plymouth Plantation in 1650, having brought the account of the
colony up to date through 1646. In these two excerpts Bradford tells, first, of the end of
the voyage of the Mayflower and the landing of the Pilgrims on Cape Cod in the autumn
of 1620, and, second, of the unexpected and marvelous first harvest the following year.

Imagine yourself aboard ship, as the days go by and the stormy sea continues to
threaten. What emotions loom large? How do you react to the sight of land? Given
Bradford’s description of what the Puritans faced on land, how would you feel about
your new “home”? Bradford suggests that they could be sustained only by “the Spirit of
God and His grace.” Can you appreciate why the arriving Puritans were inclined to
praise God and to thank Him for His “loving kindness” to them? Would your faith and
gratitude be confirmed by the surprising harvest the following summer?

Of their Voyage, and how they Passed the Sea;
and of their Safe Arrival at Cape Cod

September 6 [1620?]. These troubles being blown over, and now all being compact
together in one ship, they put to sea again with a prosperous wind, which continued
divers days together, which was some encouragement unto them; yet, according to the
usual manner, many were afflicted with seasickness. . . .

After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather for a season, they were encountered
many times with cross winds and met with many fierce storms with which the ship was
shroudly
1
shaken, and her upper works made very leaky; and one of the main beams in
the midships was bowed and cracked, which put them in some fear that the ship could not
be able to perform the voyage. So some of the chief of the company, perceiving the
mariners to fear the sufficiency of the ship as appeared by their mutterings, they entered
into serious consultation with the master and other officers of the ship, to consider in time
of the danger, and rather to return than to cast themselves into a desperate and inevitable
peril. And truly there was great distraction and difference of opinion amongst the
mariners themselves; fain would they do what could be done for their wages’ sake (being
now near half the seas over) and on the other hand they were loath to hazard their lives
too desperately. But in examining of all opinions, the master and others affirmed they
knew the ship to be strong and firm under water; and for the buckling of the main beam,
there was a great iron screw the passengers brought out of Holland, which would raise the

1
An old form of shrewdly in its original meaning wickedly.
William Bradford, Excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation
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7

beam into his place; the which being done, the carpenter and master affirmed that with a
post put under it, set firm in the lower deck and otherways bound, he would make it
sufficient. And as for the decks and upper works, they would caulk them as well as they
could, and though with the working of the ship they would not long keep staunch, yet
there would otherwise be no great danger, if they did not overpress her with sails. So they
committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed.

In sundry of these storms the winds were so fierce and the seas so high, as they could
not bear a knot of sail, but were forced to hull
2
for divers days together. And in one of
them, as they thus lay at hull in a mighty storm, a lusty
3
young man called John Howland,
coming upon some occasion above the gratings was, with a seele
4
of the ship, thrown into
sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard
and ran out at length. Yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water)
till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook
and other means got into the ship again and his life saved. And though he was something
ill with it, yet he lived many years after and became a profitable member both in church
and commonwealth. In all this voyage there died but one of the passengers, which was
William Butten, a youth, servant to Samuel Fuller, when they drew near the coast.

But to omit other things (that I may be brief) after long beating at sea they fell with
that land which is called Cape Cod; the which being made and certainly known to be it,
they were not a little joyful. After some deliberation had amongst themselves and with
the master of the ship, they tacked about and resolved to stand for the southward (the
wind and weather being fair) to find some place about Hudson’s River for their
habitation. But after they had sailed that course about half the day, they fell among
dangerous shoals and roaring breakers, and they were so far entangled therewith as they
conceived themselves in great danger; and the wind shrinking upon them withal, they
resolved to bear up again for the Cape and thought themselves happy to get out of those
dangers before night overtook them, as by God’s good providence they did. And the next
day they got into the Cape Harbor where they rid in safety. . . .

Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their
knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious
ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet
on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. And no marvel if they were thus joyful,
seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on the coast of his own Italy,
as he affirmed, that he had rather remain twenty years on his way by land than pass by
sea to any place in a short time, so tedious and dreadful was the same unto him.

But here I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amazed at this poor
people’s present condition; and so I think will the reader, too, when he well considers the
same. Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation

2
To heave or lay-to under very short sail and drift with the wind.
3
Lively, merry; no sexual connotation. Howland, a servant of Governor Carver, rose to be one of the
leading men of the Colony.
4
Roll or pitch.
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8

(as may be remembered by that which went before), they had now no friends to welcome
them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no houses or much less
town to repair to, to seek for succour. It is recorded in Scripture as a mercy to the Apostle
and his shipwrecked company, that the barbarians showed them no small kindness in
refreshing them, but these savage barbarians, when they met with them (as after will
appear) were readier to fill their sides full of arrows than otherwise. And for the season it
was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and
violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much
more to search an unknown coast. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and
desolate wilderness, fall [sic] of wild beasts and wild men—and what multitudes there
might be of them they knew not. Neither could they, as it were, go up to the top of
Pisgah
5
to view from this wilderness a more goodly country to feed their hopes; for
which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to the heavens) they could have
little solace or content in respect of any outward objects. For summer being done, all
things stand upon them with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods
and thickets, represented a wild and savage hue. If they looked behind them, there was
the mighty ocean which they had passed and was now as a main bar and gulf to separate
them from all the civil parts of the world. If it be said they had a ship to succour them, it
is true; but what heard they daily from the master and company? But that with speed they
should look out a place (with their shallop
6
) where they would be, at some near distance;
for the season was such as he would not stir from thence till a safe harbor was discovered
by them, where they would be, and he might go without danger; and that victuals
consumed apace but he must and would keep sufficient for themselves and their return.
Yea, it was muttered by some that if they got not a place in time, they would turn them
and their goods ashore and leave them. Let it also be considered what weak hopes of
supply and succour they left behind them, that might bear up their minds in this sad
condition and trials they were under; and they could not but be very small. It is true,
indeed, the affections and love of their brethren at Leyden was cordial and entire towards
them, but they had little power to help them or themselves. . . .

What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought
not the children of these fathers rightly say: “Our fathers were Englishmen which came
over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the
Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity,” etc. “Let them therefore
praise the Lord, because He is good: and His mercies endure forever.” “Yea, let them
which have been redeemed of the Lord, shew how He hath delivered them from the hand
of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found
no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let
them confess before the Lord His loving-kindness and His wonderful works before the
sons of men. ”

[The First Thanksgiving]
7


5
A Biblical reference, a high place or ridge.
6
A small open boat propelled by oars or sails and used chiefly in shallow waters.
7
This passage records an event that took place a few weeks after those of the first passage, though the
actual date of this first thanksgiving festival is nowhere related.
William Bradford, Excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation
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9

After this, the 18th of September they sent out their shallop to the Massachusetts, with
ten men and Squanto for their guide and interpreter, to discover and view that Bay and
trade with the natives. The which they performed, and found kind entertainment. The
people were much afraid of the Tarentines, a people to the eastward which used to come
in harvest time and take away their corn, and many times kill their persons. They returned
in safety and brought home a good quantity of beaver, and made report of the place,
wishing they had been there seated. But it seems the Lord, who assigns to all men the
bounds of their habitations, had appointed it for another use. And thus they found the
Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for
which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and
dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all
things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were
exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of
which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began
to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they
came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great
store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had
about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that
proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their
friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

[May–July 1623]
8


I may not here omit how, notwithstand[ing] all their great pains and industry, and the
great hopes of a large crop, the Lord seemed to blast, and take away the same, and to
threaten further and more sore famine unto them. By a great drought which continued
from the third week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great
heat for the most part, insomuch as the corn began to wither away though it was set with
fish, the moisture whereof helped it much. Yet at length it began to languish sore, and
some of the drier grounds were parched like withered hay, part whereof was never
recovered. Upon which they set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by
humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a
gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians’ admiration that lived

8
This last paragraph comes much later in Bradford’s account. According to the Alfred A. Knopf edition, it
“is written on the verse of fol. 102. It was ‘overslipped in its place,’ noted Bradford, who at first wrote
most of it on the verso of fol. 79 as of 1622; but discovering his error before completing the passage, drew
his pen across it and noted beneath: ‘This is to be here rased out and is to be placed on page 103 where it
is inserted.”

The thanksgiving day to which it refers is most likely not the same one that he recounts in the previous
passage. Some scholars (e.g., William DeLoss Love in The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England)
argue that this thanksgiving celebration was observed on July 30, 1623. As the editors of this edition of
Bradford’s work note, “the Pilgrims never had a regular fall Thanksgiving Day. A law of 15 Nov. 1636
(Plymouth Colony Records XI 18) allows the Governor and Assistants ‘to command solemn days of
humiliation by fasting, etc., and also for thanksgiving as occasion shall be offered.’”
THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY
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10

amongst them. For all the morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and
very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to
overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause
of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence,
and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked and
therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits,
as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the
Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as,
through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and
rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanks-
giving.



11

Thanksgiving Proclamation

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Universally admired for his courage, integrity, and judgment, George Washington
(1732–99) had great influence and power as the nation’s first president (1789–97). But
ever mindful of the precedents that he would be setting for future leadership, he took
pains to cultivate practices and manners that would stand the nation in good stead long
after he was gone from the scene. Such considerations appear evident in his
Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789, Washington’s (and the nation’s) first presidential
proclamation, issued in the first year of his first term.

What reasons does Washington give for issuing this proclamation? What, according
to the Proclamation, are the blessings for which the earliest citizens of the United States
should have been grateful? For what things should they humbly offer God their prayers
and supplications? What does Washington hope to accomplish with this Proclamation?
For what things should a modern-day proclamation recommend giving thanks? Does
Washington’s Proclamation violate the principle of the separation of church and state?
Conversely, can the United States—or any nation—survive and flourish without a
connection to something higher than itself or without acknowledging its dependence on a
higher power?
1


By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty
God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection
and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee
requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-
giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal
favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to
establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th. day of November next
to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being,
who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may
then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and
protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the
signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we
experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of
tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and
rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government
for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for
the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of

1
For more questions, see the Discussion Guide below. We also invite you to visit our website to view a
video model conversation about this selection.
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acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various
favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and
supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our
national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to
perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national
government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just
and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and
guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to
bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and
practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and
generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone
knows to be best.


13

Excerpt from Northwood
SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE

This excerpt, taken from the 1852 edition of her popular 1827 novel, Northwood, is the
first of three selections from the writings of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788–1879), the
influential American editor, author (she wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), and
champion of education for women. Widowed in 1822 with five children to support, Hale
took up a literary career, publishing a book of poems in 1823 and assuming the
editorship of Ladies’ Magazine in 1828. She would go on to edit Godey’s Lady’s Book
in 1837, which would become the most widely circulated women’s magazine in the
country, and would assume a leading role in the establishment of Vassar College. These
selections trace the (finally successful) campaign that Hale waged over many years to
establish Thanksgiving as a national American holiday.

In this literary selection, a New Hampshire farmer, Squire Romilly, explains to a
skeptical Englishman, Mr. Frankford, the meaning of the New England Thanksgiving
holiday. Describe the scene and mood in the house. What does it indicate about the
special place of Thanksgiving in this home? What, according to the Squire, is the reason
for a day of public Thanksgiving in New England? Why does he believe that it should be
celebrated nationally, like the Fourth of July, and observed by all of the people? Is
Thanksgiving, according to Squire Romilly, a religious, moral, or political holiday? How
might a national celebration of Thanksgiving “be a grand spectacle of moral power and
human happiness, such as the world has never yet witnessed”?

The supper was now in active preparation. The large table was set forth, and covered with
a cloth as white as snow. Lucy placed all in order, while Sophia assisted her mother to
bring in the various dishes. No domestics appeared, and none seemed necessary. Love,
warm hearted love, supplied the place of cold duty; and the labor of preparing the
entertainment was, to Mrs. Romilly, a pleasure which she would not have relinquished to
have been made an empress, so proud was she to show Sidney [her son, returned home
after a long absence] her cookery; and she tried to recollect the savory dishes he used to
like, and had prepared them now in the same manner. At length all was pronounced
ready, and after Squire Romilly had fervently besought a blessing, they took their seats.

The supper consisted of every luxury the season afforded. First came fried chicken
floating in gravy; then broiled ham, wheat bread, as white as snow, and butter so yellow
and sweet, that it drew encomiums from the Englishman, till Mrs. Romilly colored with
pleasure while she told him she made it herself. Two or three kinds of pies, all excellent,
as many kinds of cake, with pickles and preserves, and cranberry sauce—the last
particularly for Sidney—furnished forth the feast. The best of young hyson,
1
with cream
and loaf sugar, was dispensed around by the fair hand of Sophia, who presided the
department of the tea pot; her mother being fully employed in helping her guests to the
viands, and urging them to eat and make out a supper, if they could.

1
A Chinese tea. Young hyson is considered high quality.
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Sidney’s feelings were too much occupied to allow any great appetite for mere
corporeal food. He wanted every moment to gaze on the loved faces smiling around him,
or listen to voices whose soft tones, when calling him son or brother made every fibre of
his heart thrill with rapture.

But Frankford was as hungry as fasting and fever could make him. He was just in that
stage of convalescence when the appetite demands its arrearages with such imperious
calls, that the whole mind is absorbed in the desire of satisfying its cravings. He did
honor to every dish on the table; till Sidney, fearing he would injure himself by eating to
excess, was obliged to beg he would defer finishing his meal till the next morning; “for
you know, Mr. Frankford,” added he, laughing, “the physician forbade your making a full
meal till you could walk a mile before taking it.”

“If that be the case,” said Squire Romilly, “I hope you will exert yourself to-morrow.
It is our Thanksgiving, and I should be loath to have the dinner of any one at my table
abridged. It will, indeed, be a day of joy to us, and Sidney could not have come home at a
more welcome season.”

While he spoke, he directed a glance towards Silas, whose cheeks, fresh as they were,
showed a heightened color, and his black eyes were involuntarily cast down. Sidney
observed it, and asked his father if there was to be any peculiarity in the approaching
festival.

“Do you,” said he, “still have your plum pudding and pumpkin pies as in former
times?”

“O yes,” replied his father, “our dinner will be the same; but our evening’s
entertainment will be different.”

A wink from Mrs. Romilly, who evidently pitied the embarrassment of Silas,
prevented further inquiries or explanations, and they soon obeyed her example of rising
from the table.

Mr. Frankford, who they feared would exert himself too much, was now installed on
the wide sofa, (or settle) drawn up to the fire, and all the pillows to be found in the house
as bethought were gathered for him to nestle in. When he was fairly arranged like a Turk
on his divan, half sitting, half reclining, he addressed Squire Romilly, and inquired the
cause of the Thanksgiving he had heard mentioned.

“Is it a festival of your church?” said he.

“No; it is a festival of the people, and appointed by the Governor of the State.”

“But there is some reason for the custom—is there not?” inquired the Englishman.

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Excerpt from Northwood
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15

“Certainly; our Yankees seldom do what they cannot justify by reasons of some sort,”
replied the Squire. “This custom of a public Thanksgiving is, however, said to have
originated in a providential manner.”

Mr. Frankford smiled rather incredulously.

The Squire saw the smile, but took no heed, while he went on.

“Soon after the settlement of Boston, the colony was reduced to a state of destitution,
and nearly without food. In this strait the pious leaders of the pilgrim band appointed a
solemn and general fast.”

“If they had no food they must have fasted without that formality,” said Frankford.

“True; but to convert the necessity into a voluntary and religious act of homage to the
Supreme Ruler they worshiped and trusted, shows their sagacity as well as piety. The
faith that could thus turn to God in the extremity of physical want, must have been of the
most glowing kind, and such enthusiasm actually sustains nature. It is the hidden manna.”

“I hope it strengthened them: pray, how long did the fast continue?”

“It never began.”

“Indeed! Why not?

“On the very morning of the appointed day, a vessel from London arrived laden with
provisions, and so the fast was changed into a Thanksgiving.”

“Well, that was wise; and so the festival has been continued to the present day?”

“Not with any purpose of celebrating that event,” replied the Squire. “It is considered
as an appropriate tribute of gratitude to God to set apart one day of Thanksgiving in each
year; and autumn is the time when the overflowing garners of America call for this
expression of joyful gratitude.”

“Is Thanksgiving Day universally observed in America?” inquired Mr. Frankford.

“Not yet; but I trust it will become so. We have too few holidays. Thanksgiving, like
the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival, and observed by all our
people.”

“I see no particular reason for such an observance,” remarked Frankford.

“I do,” returned the Squire. “We want it as the exponent of our Republican
institutions, which are based on the acknowledgment that God is our Lord, and that, as a
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16

nation, we derive our privileges and blessings from Him. You will hear this doctrine set
forth in the sermon to-morrow.”

“I thought you had no national religion.”

“No established religion you mean. Our people do not need compulsion to support the
gospel. But to return to our Thanksgiving festival. When it shall be observed, on the same
day, throughout all the states and territories, it will be a grand spectacle of moral power
and human happiness, such as the world has never yet witnessed.”


17

Our National Thanksgiving

SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE

In this 1858 editorial from Godey’s Lady’s Book, its editor Sarah Josepha Buell Hale
appeals directly, this time in her own name, for a national day of Thanksgiving. After
opening with two stanzas of the Protestant hymn “Praise to God, Immortal Praise,”
which indicates the things for which we should offer “grateful vows and solemn praise,”
Hale offers the reasons for and benefits of having a national day of thanksgiving. What
are those reasons and benefits? Why does she say that Thanksgiving Day would be (is) a
“truly American Festival,” or that the last Thursday in November “will become a day of
AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world”? What is the connection between
giving thanks and acts of charity? Between both and national unity and harmony? What
is the relation between the hymn and Hale’s argument for nationalizing the holiday? Is
Thanksgiving Day a religious or political holiday?

“All the blessings of the fields,
All the stores the garden yields,
All the plenty summer pours,
Autumn’s rich, o’erflowing stores,
Peace, prosperity, and health,
Private bliss and public wealth,
Knowledge with its gladdening streams,
Pure religion’s holier beams—
Lord, for these our souls shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise.”

We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different
States—as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years, and which, we hope,
will this year be adopted by all—that THE LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be
the DAY OF NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people. Let this day,
from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand
THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation, when the noise and tumult of worldiness
may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion,
and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart. This truly American Festival falls, this
year on the twenty-fifth day of this month.

Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action, by sending good gifts to the poor,
and doing those deeds of charity that will, for one day, make every American home the
place of plenty and of rejoicing. These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage
to the popular heart; and if rightly managed, will greatly aid and strengthen public
harmony of feeling. Let the people of all the States and Territories sit down together to
the “feast of fat things,” and drink, in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine
giver of all our blessings, the pledge of renewed love to the Union, and to each other; and
of peace and good-will to all men. Then the last Thursday in November will soon become
the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world.

18

Letter to President Abraham Lincoln

SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE

In this letter, written on September 28, 1863, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale takes her
campaign on behalf of a national Thanksgiving holiday directly to the President of the
United States. Five days later, Abraham Lincoln responded by issuing the presidential
proclamation (see next selection) for the first of what has become 150 years of unbroken
celebrations of Thanksgiving as an official national American holiday. Hale had been
campaigning for this holiday for many years, and, as her letter indicates, she had by the
end lined up powerful support for the cause. What does it say about the United States that
a private citizen or journalist, dedicated to some worthy cause, can have such influence
and prevail in the end? Readers will note that the letter was written at the height of the
Civil War, and that several times Hale refers to the proposed holiday as a “Union
Festival” or a “Union Thanksgiving.” Why might she be making this presidential appeal
in the midst of the Civil War? Why might she hope that her appeal could now be
successful? What might a day of national and Union thanksgiving do for the nation, both
during and after the conflict? In what mood, and for what blessings, could one give
thanks to God during that horrendous war?

Philadelphia, Sept. 28th 1863.

Sir.—

Permit me, as Editress of the “Lady’s Book,” to request a few minutes of your precious
time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and—as I trust—even
to the President of our Republic, of some importance. This subject is to have the day of
our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.

You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing
interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it
now needs National recognition and authoritive [sic] fixation, only, to become
permanently, an American custom and institution.

Enclosed are three papers (being printed these are easily read) which will make the
idea and its progress clear and show also the popularity of the plan.

For the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea in the “Lady’s Book,” and placed
the papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories—also I have sent these to
our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen—and commanders in the
Navy. From the recipients I have received, uniformly the most kind approval. Two of
these letters, one from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan
are enclosed; both gentlemen as you will see, have nobly aided to bring about the desired
Thanksgiving Union.

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Letter to President Abraham Lincoln
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19

But I find there are obstacles not possible to be overcome without legislative aid—
that each State should, by statute, make it obligatory on the Governor to appoint the last
Thursday of November, annually, as Thanksgiving Day;—or, as this way would require
years to be realized, it has ocurred [sic] to me that a proclamation from the President of
the United States would be the best, surest and most fitting method of National
appointment.

I have written to my friend, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and requested him to confer with
President Lincoln on this subject[.] As the President of the United States has the power of
appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories; also for the Army and
Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag—could
he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National
Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and
patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending
these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of
Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus the great Union Festival of America
would be established.

Now the purpose of this letter is to entreat President Lincoln to put forth his
Proclamation, appointing the last Thursday in November (which falls this year on the
26th) as the National Thanksgiving for all those classes of people who are under the
National Government particularly, and commending this Union Thanksgiving to each
State Executive: thus, by the noble example and action of the President of the United
States, the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would
be forever secured.

An immediate proclamation would be necessary, so as to reach all the States in
season for State appointments, also to anticipate the early appointments by Governors.

Excuse the liberty I have taken

With profound respect

Yrs truly

Sarah Josepha Hale,
Editress of the “Ladys Book”


20

Thanksgiving Proclamation

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

As noted above, Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) issued this proclamation for a day of
national thanksgiving in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, not long after the battle of
Gettysburg and several other Union successes seemed to have turned the tide toward a
Union victory. Like so many of his famous speeches, this modest presidential
proclamation displays the extraordinary understanding, statesmanship, and generosity of
soul that distinguished the sixteenth President of the United States.

Read the proclamation slowly, paragraph by paragraph and line by line, in order to
discern what Lincoln is hoping to teach the nation. How does his beginning capture the
audience’s sympathy? What, exactly, are the blessings for which he believes that
thanksgiving is in order, even “in the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and
severity”? Why does he believe that, despite the human “waste” of the war, the country
may be permitted to “expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom”? What
is his understanding of “the Most High God,” His relation to the United States, and “our
sins”? Imagining yourself a Confederate auditor of this proclamation; would you be
inclined to accept the invitation and recommendation Lincoln offers in the long fifth
paragraph to “my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States”? Is Lincoln’s case
for “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father” still persuasive today?

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful
fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are
prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so
extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which
is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes
seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been
preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and
obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict,
while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the
Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to
the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has
enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the
precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has
steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege,
and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength
and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Proclamation
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21

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great
things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in
anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and
gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American
people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and
also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and
observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our
beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while
offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings
they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience,
commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or
sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and
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.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United
States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the
Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

22

Modern Thanksgiving Proclamations

RONALD REAGAN AND BARACK OBAMA

A president’s speech or declaration reflects and reveals the mind and heart of the
president who makes it. It also tells us something about the spirit of the times and the
beliefs of the nation to which it is addressed. In fact, one could learn a lot about the
changing opinions and sentiments of our nation by reading, in order, all the presidential
Thanksgiving proclamations from Washington (and especially Lincoln) to the present
day. To enable readers to experience some of these changes, we present here two recent
proclamations, one from 1988 by President Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) and one from
2011 by President Barack Obama (b. 1961). Compare these two proclamations, both
with each other and with those of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, above. What is the
tone, mood, and spirit of each proclamation? To whom, and for what, is thanksgiving
being recommended? Which one comes closer to your own understanding of the meaning
of the National Day of Thanksgiving?

I.

The celebration of Thanksgiving Day is one of our Nation’s most venerable and
cherished traditions. Almost 200 years ago, the first President of these United States,
George Washington, issued the first national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation under the
Constitution and recommended to the American people that they “be devoted to the
service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that
was, that is, or that will be.” He called upon them to raise “prayers and supplications to
the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations,” not merely for continued blessings on our own
land but on all rulers and nations that they might know “good government, peace, and
concord.”

A century ago, President Grover Cleveland called for “prayers and song of praise”
that would render to God the appreciation of the American people for His mercy and for
the abundant harvests and rich rewards He had bestowed upon our Nation through the
labor of its farmers, shopkeepers, and tradesmen. Both of these Proclamations included
something else as well: a recognition of our shortcomings and transgressions and our
dependence, in total and in every particular, on the forgiveness and forbearance of the
Almighty.

Today, cognizant of our American heritage of freedom and opportunity, we are again
called to gratitude, thanksgiving, and contrition. Thanksgiving Day summons every
American to pause in the midst of activity, however necessary and valuable, to give
simple and humble thanks to God. This gracious gratitude is the service of which
Washington spoke. It is a service that opens our hearts to one another as members of a
single family gathered around the bounteous table of God’s Creation. The images of the
Thanksgiving celebrations at America’s earliest settlement—of Pilgrim and Iroquois
Confederacy assembled in festive friendship—resonate with even greater power in our
Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, Modern Thanksgiving Proclamations
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23

own day. People from every race, culture, and creed on the face of the Earth now inhabit
this land. Their presence illuminates the basic yearning for freedom, peace, and
prosperity that has always been the spirit of the New World.

In this year when we as a people enjoy the fruits of economic growth and
international cooperation, let us take time both to remember the sacrifices that have made
this harvest possible and the needs of those who do not fully partake of its benefits. The
wonder of our agricultural abundance must be recalled as the work of farmers who, under
the best and worst of conditions, give their all to raise food upon the land. The gratitude
that fills our being must be tempered with compassion for the needy. The blessings that
are ours must be understood as the gift of a loving God Whose greatest gift is healing. Let
us join then, with the psalmist of old:

O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, Make known His deeds among the
peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, Tell of all His wonderful works!
Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do
hereby proclaim Thursday, November 24, 1988, as a National Day of thanksgiving, and I
call upon the citizens of this great Nation to gather together in homes and places of
worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many
blessings God has bestowed upon us.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of August, in the
year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-eight, and of the Independence of the
United States of America the two hundred and thirteenth.

RONALD REAGAN

II.

One of our Nation’s oldest and most cherished traditions, Thanksgiving Day brings us
closer to our loved ones and invites us to reflect on the blessings that enrich our lives.
The observance recalls the celebration of an autumn harvest centuries ago, when the
Wampanoag tribe joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony to share in the fruits of a
bountiful season. The feast honored the Wampanoag for generously extending their
knowledge of local game and agriculture to the Pilgrims, and today we renew our
gratitude to all American Indians and Alaska Natives. We take this time to remember the
ways that the First Americans have enriched our Nation’s heritage, from their generosity
centuries ago to the everyday contributions they make to all facets of American life. As
we come together with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate, let us set aside our
daily concerns and give thanks for the providence bestowed upon us.

Though our traditions have evolved, the spirit of grace and humility at the heart of
Thanksgiving has persisted through every chapter of our story. When President George
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24

Washington proclaimed our country’s first Thanksgiving, he praised a generous and
knowing God for shepherding our young Republic through its uncertain beginnings.
Decades later, President Abraham Lincoln looked to the divine to protect those who had
known the worst of civil war, and to restore the Nation “to the full enjoyment of peace,
harmony, tranquility, and union.”

In times of adversity and times of plenty, we have lifted our hearts by giving humble
thanks for the blessings we have received and for those who bring meaning to our lives.
Today, let us offer gratitude to our men and women in uniform for their many sacrifices,
and keep in our thoughts the families who save an empty seat at the table for a loved one
stationed in harm’s way. And as members of our American family make do with less, let
us rededicate ourselves to our friends and fellow citizens in need of a helping hand.

As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the
hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts
that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to
pay them forward in the year to come.

Now, Therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by
virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States,
do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 24, 2011, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I
encourage the people of the United States to come together—whether in our homes,
places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and
neighbors—to give thanks for all we have received in the past year, to express
appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and to share our bounty with others.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of November, in
the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States
of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

BARACK OBAMA

25

Excerpt from “No Thanks to Gratitude”

JAMES W. CEASER

James W. Ceaser is the Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia,
where he has taught since 1976. He has written widely on American political thought,
political institutions, and campaigns. In this excerpt from an essay on the importance of
gratitude for civic memory and national attachment (2011), Ceaser examines the
relationship among politics, religion, and Thanksgiving Day, raising questions as to the
true nature of the day and where it fits in our constitutional republic.

What is gratitude? How might it be important for American citizenship and American
public life? Can gratitude—which is, however defined, a free expression of the heart—be
commanded or made into an obligation? To whom, and for what, is America’s civic
expression of gratitude appropriate today? What are the strengths and weaknesses of
each of the opposing positions mentioned in the last paragraph in this selection?

The virtue of gratitude enjoys a special status in American public life. The obligation to
display gratitude is recognized by a statute, enacted in 1941, that establishes an official
national holiday of Thanksgiving. The statute codified a long practice, unbroken from
Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863, of a presidential declaration fixing each year a
day of thanksgiving. Before Lincoln, Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison
proclaimed thanksgiving days, in some instances at the urging of Congress, but the
practice ended with Madison.

Under the terms of the statute, the holiday has no direct religious connection. History
makes clear, however, that the expression of gratitude to God for our national blessings
was originally at the core of the whole exercise. The opening phrase of Washington’s
first proclamation in 1789 reads: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge
the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and
humbly to implore his protection and favor. . . .”

A sense of the religious character of these proclamations can be gleaned from a
passage, not at all untypical, from John Kennedy’s declaration in 1963:

Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings—let
us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals—and let us resolve to share those
blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world . . .
On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed
by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let
us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the
great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all
men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist.

THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY
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The religious dimension of this day of gratitude has for quite some time now been
supplemented (or tamed) by tying the holiday into a day of memory of the Pilgrims and
their encounter with the Indians. In this vein, it is more often celebrated as “Thanksgiving
Day” than, in JFK’s words, “a day of national thanksgiving.” Indeed, the earliest holidays
proclaimed by Washington, Adams, and Madison made no mention of the Pilgrims, and
the dates they selected bore no special connection to the harvest (some were in the winter
and the spring). . . .

Still, the tradition continues, and the connection of Thanksgiving to public
expressions of gratitude to God requires us to ask in what measure government has an
interest in cultivating the religious aspect of gratitude, and in what measure a religious
people, through their public officials, may give thanks to God. Different answers have
been given to these questions. George Washington believed that governmental
encouragement of religion, where there was no violation of constitutional principle, was
both permissible and, in light of the public benefits of religion, good policy. Many have
taken the opposite view, some out of animosity for religion, others from an understanding
of what they think the Constitution, or a liberal political system, allows. James Madison,
who twice agreed to declare a day of thanksgiving, evidently had doubts about his action
and probably let the practice lapse because of them. In a later reflection he commented:
“Altho’ recommendations only, they [official expressions of religious gratitude] imply a
religious agency, making no part of the trust delegated to political rulers.”

The legal standing of the holiday of Thanksgiving (and for that matter Christmas) is
not an issue today, as neither holiday is officially designated as religious. (It is another
matter for the National Day of Prayer, established by statute in 1952, where the religious
aspect is integral to the statute.) Still, some dispute about Thanksgiving continues, for it
is clear that custom connects it to religion. For most people of faith, this practice is
generally seen as a natural and fitting expression of the spirit of the people. For those
who are unfriendly to religion, however, any mention of religious gratitude under the
cover of public authority should be discouraged or banned. The wall of separation of
religion and politics can never be high enough.
Public and Private Blessings:
The Things for Which
We Should Be Grateful
Harvest

29

For an Autumn Festival

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

Thanksgiving was, to begin with, a festival of the harvest, with gratitude expressed for the
bounty of nature. This harvest hymn was written in 1859 by Massachusetts Quaker poet
and ardent abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–92) for exercises at the
Congregational Church as part of the annual fair of the Amesbury and Salisbury
Agricultural and Horticultural Society. Whittier, who grew up on a New England farm
and had little formal education, was heavily influenced by his pious upbringing, earning
him the moniker “America’s finest religious poet.”

Here, he begins by pointing out that, although the pagan earth-worshipping festivals
of Persia and Greece have long since disappeared, beauty, nature, woman’s grace and
household skill, and manhood’s toil are still honored among us, as we are summoned to
acknowledge the blessings born of earth, sun, and rain. What is “Nature’s bloodless
triumph”? Who is “our common mother,” and what is her relation to “our Father’s
hand”? Why does the poet say that “the bounty overruns our due,” and what should be
our response to this unmerited plenty? The poet credits sunshine and rain, but he also
credits our God-given power to transform the rugged soil, “Freedom’s arm” that “can
change a rocky soil to gold,” and our “brave and generous lives” that warm the cold and
inhospitable world around us. Is this a song of praise to nature (earth, sky, sun, or rain),
to God, or to the power of human beings? For what, finally, and to whom, does he seek to
awaken our thanksgivings? How does this gratitude differ from the pagan worship of the
earth goddess and sky god?

The Persian’s flowery gifts, the shrine
Of fruitful Ceres, charm no more;
The woven wreaths of oak and pine
Are dust along the Isthmian shore.

But beauty hath its homage still,
And nature holds us still in debt;
And woman’s grace and household skill,
And manhood’s toil, are honored yet.

And we, to-day, amidst our flowers
And fruits, have come to own again
The blessings of the summer hours,
The early and the latter rain;

To see our Father’s hand once more
Reverse for us the plenteous horn
Of autumn, filled and running o’er
With fruit, and flower, and golden corn!

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Once more the liberal year laughs out
O’er richer stores than gems or gold;
Once more with harvest-song and shout
Is Nature’s bloodless triumph told.

Our common mother rests and sings,
Like Ruth, among her garnered sheaves;
Her lap is full of goodly things,
Her brow is bright with autumn leaves.

Oh, favors every year made new!
Oh, gifts with rain and sunshine sent
The bounty overruns our due,
The fullness shames our discontent.

We shut our eyes, the flowers bloom on;
We murmur, but the corn-ears fill,
We choose the shadow, but the sun
That casts it shines behind us still.

God gives us with our rugged soil
The power to make it Eden-fair,
And richer fruits to crown our toil
Than summer-wedded islands bear.

Who murmurs at his lot to-day?
Who scorns his native fruit and bloom?
Or sighs for dainties far away,
Beside the bounteous board of home?

Thank Heaven, instead, that Freedom’s arm
Can change a rocky soil to gold,—
That brave and generous lives can warm
A clime with northern ices cold.

And let these altars, wreathed with flowers
And piled with fruits, awake again
Thanksgivings for the golden hours,
The early and the latter rain!


31

The Corn Song

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

In this poem from 1850, John Greenleaf Whittier pays special homage to corn, the Native
American crop. Have you every stopped to think about the glory that is corn? Why is it
singled out for special praise? How does it differ from the apple, the orange, and the
grape of the vine? To whom is thanks due for corn: Those who plowed the earth and
chased away the robber crows? “The kindly earth”? “Our farmer girls”? Or God? Why
might the blessing of corn have been the most fundamental reason for Thanksgiving?
Might it still be so today, whether we know it or not? If not, what are you first thankful
for instead?

Heap high the farmer’s wintry hoard!
Heap high the golden corn!
No richer gift has Autumn poured
From out her lavish horn!

Let other lands, exulting, glean
The apple from the pine,
The orange from its glossy green,
The cluster from the vine;

We better love the hardy gift
Our rugged vales bestow,
To cheer us when the storm shall drift
Our harvest-fields with snow.

Through vales of grass and meads of
flowers
Our ploughs their furrows made,
While on the hills the sun and showers
Of changeful April played.

We dropped the seed o’er hill and plain,
Beneath the sun of May,
And frightened from our sprouting grain
The robber crows away.

All through the long, bright days of June
Its leaves grew green and fair,
And waved in hot midsummer’s noon
Its soft and yellow hair.

And now, with autumn’s moonlit eves,
Its harvest-time has come,
We pluck away the frosted leaves,
And bear the treasure home.

There, richer than the fabled gift
Apollo showered of old,
Fair hands the broken grain shall sift,
And knead its meal of gold.

Let vapid idlers loll in silk
Around their costly board;
Give us the bowl of samp and milk,
By homespun beauty poured!

Where’er the wide old kitchen hearth
Sends up its smoky curls,
Who will not thank the kindly earth,
And bless our farmer girls?

Then shame on all the proud and vain,
Whose folly laughs to scorn
The blessing of our hardy grain,
Our wealth of golden corn!

Let earth withhold her goodly root,
Let mildew blight the rye,
Give to the worm the orchard’s fruit,
The wheat-field to the fly:

But let the good old crop adorn
The hills our fathers trod;
Still let us, for his golden corn,
Send up our thanks to God!
Hearth and Home

33

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT

This story from 1881 by the beloved New England author of Little Women, Louisa May
Alcott (1832–88) presents a picture of a nineteenth-century Thanksgiving in a farming
family in New Hampshire before there were stoves and supermarkets, when all food was
raised in the fields around the house and cooked in the hearth that kept the house warm.
The daughter of Boston transcendentalist Bronson Alcott—whose social circle included
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne—Alcott turned
to the practical aspects of life and living after a utopian commune her father founded
collapsed. She often focuses on themes of domestic living and family life, based on
remembrances of her own childhood.

How do you account for the “mutual patience, affection, and courage [that] made the
old farm-house a very happy home”? What, exactly, is it that makes a house a home?
Why are the children so eager to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner? How well did they
do? For what is this family grateful? What do you think of the way they express their
gratitude?

Sixty years ago, up among the New Hampshire hills, lived Farmer Bassett, with a
houseful of sturdy sons and daughters growing up about him. They were poor in money,
but rich in land and love, for the wide acres of wood, corn, and pasture land fed, warmed,
and clothed the flock, while mutual patience, affection, and courage made the old farm-
house a very happy home.

November had come; the crops were in, and barn, buttery, and bin were overflowing
with the harvest that rewarded the summer’s hard work. The big kitchen was a jolly place
just now, for in the great fireplace roared a cheerful fire; on the walls hung garlands of
dried apples, onions, and corn; up aloft from the beams shone crook-necked squashes,
juicy hams, and dried venison—for in those days deer still haunted the deep forests, and
hunters flourished. Savory smells were in the air; on the crane hung steaming kettles, and
down among the red embers copper saucepans simmered, all suggestive of some
approaching feast.

A white-headed baby lay in the old blue cradle that had rocked six other babies, now
and then lifting his head to look out, like a round, full moon, then subsided to kick and
crow contentedly, and suck the rosy apple he had no teeth to bite. Two small boys sat on
the wooden settle shelling corn for popping, and picking out the biggest nuts from the
goodly store their own hands had gathered in October. Four young girls stood at the long
dresser, busily chopping meat, pounding spice, and slicing apples; and the tongues of
Tilly, Prue, Roxy, and Rhody went as fast as their hands. Farmer Bassett, and Eph, the
oldest boy, were “chorin’ ’round” outside, for Thanksgiving was at hand, and all must be
in order for that time-honored day.

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To and fro, from table to hearth, bustled buxom Mrs. Bassett, flushed and floury, but
busy and blithe as the queen bee of this busy little hive should be.

“I do like to begin seasonable and have things to my mind. Thanksgivin’ dinners
can’t be drove, and it does take a sight of victuals to fill all these hungry stomicks,” said
the good woman, as she gave a vigorous stir to the great kettle of cider apple-sauce, and
cast a glance of housewifely pride at the fine array of pies set forth on the buttery shelves.

“Only one more day and then it will be the time to eat. I didn’t take but one bowl of
hasty pudding this morning, so I shall have plenty of room when the nice things come,”
confided Seth to Sol, as he cracked a large hazel-nut as easily as a squirrel.

“No need of my starvin’ beforehand. I always have room enough, and I’d like to have
Thanksgiving every day,” answered Solomon, gloating like a young ogre over the little
pig that lay near by, ready for roasting.

“Sakes alive, I don’t, boys! It’s a marcy it don’t come but once a year. I should be
worn to a thread-paper with all this extra work atop of my winter weavin’ and spinnin’,”
laughed their mother, as she plunged her plump arms into the long bread trough and
began to knead the dough as if a famine were at hand.

Tilly, the oldest girl, a red-cheeked, black-eyed lass of fourteen, was grinding briskly
at the mortar, for spices were costly, and not a grain must be wasted. Prue kept time with
the chopper, and the twins sliced away at the apples till their little brown arms ached, for
all knew how to work, and did so now with a will.

“I think it’s real fun to have Thanksgiving at home. I’m sorry Gran’ma is sick, so we
can’t go there as usual, but I like to mess ’round here, don’t you, girls?” asked Tilly,
pausing to take a sniff at the spicy pestle.

“It will be kind of lonesome with only our own folks.” “I like to see all the cousins
and aunts, and have games, and sing,” cried the twins, who were regular little romps, and
could run, swim, coast, and shout as well as their brothers.

“I don’t care a mite for all that. It will be so nice to eat dinner together, warm and
comfortable at home,” said quiet Prue, who loved her own cozy nooks like a cat.

“Come, girls, fly ’round and get your chores done, so we can clear away for dinner
jest as soon as I clap my bread into the oven,” called Mrs. Bassett presently, as she
rounded off the last loaf of brown bread which was to feed the hungry mouths that
seldom tasted any other.

“Here’s a man comin’ up the hill lively!” “Guess it’s Gad Hopkins. Pa told him to
bring a dezzen oranges, if they warn’t too high!” shouted Sol and Seth, running to the
door, while the girls smacked their lips at the thought of this rare treat, and Baby threw
his apple overboard, as if getting ready for a new cargo.
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35

But all were doomed to disappointment, for it was not Gad, with the much-desired
fruit. It was a stranger, who threw himself off his horse and hurried up to Mr. Bassett in
the yard, with some brief message that made the farmer drop his ax and look so sober that
his wife guessed at once some bad news had come; and crying, “Mother’s wuss! I know
she is!” out ran the good woman, forgetful of the flour on her arms and the oven waiting
for its most important batch.

The man said old Mr. Chadwick, down to Keene, stopped him as he passed, and told
him to tell Mrs. Bassett her mother was failin’ fast, and she’d better come today. He
knew no more, and having delivered his errand he rode away, saying it looked like snow
and he must be jogging, or he wouldn’t get home till night.

“We must go right off, Eldad. Hitch up, and I’ll be ready in less’n no time,” said Mrs.
Bassett, wasting not a minute in tears and lamentations, but pulling off her apron as she
went in, with her head in a sad jumble of bread, anxiety, turkey, sorrow, haste, and cider
apple-sauce.

A few words told the story, and the children left their work to help her get ready,
mingling their grief for “Gran’ma” with regrets for the lost dinner.

“I’m dreadful sorry, dears, but it can’t be helped. I couldn’t cook nor eat no way now,
and if that blessed woman gets better sudden, as she has before, we’ll have cause for
thanksgivin’, and I’ll give you a dinner you won’t forget in a hurry,” said Mrs. Bassett, as
she tied on her brown silk pumpkin-hood, with a sob for the good old mother who had
made it for her.

Not a child complained after that, but ran about helpfully, bringing moccasins,
heating the footstone, and getting ready for a long drive, because Gran’ma lived twenty
miles away, and there were no railroads in those parts to whisk people to and fro like
magic. By the time the old yellow sleigh was at the door, the bread was in the oven, and
Mrs. Bassett was waiting, with her camlet cloak on, and the baby done up like a small
bale of blankets.

“Now, Eph, you must look after the cattle like a man and keep up the fires, for there’s
a storm brewin’, and neither the children nor dumb critters must suffer,” said Mr. Bassett,
as he turned up the collar of his rough coat and put on his blue mittens, while the old
mare shook her bells as if she preferred a trip to Keene to hauling wood all day.

“Tilly, put extry comfortables on the beds to-night, the wind is so searchin’ up
chamber. Have the baked beans and Injun-puddin’ for dinner, and whatever you do, don’t
let the boys get at the mince-pies, or you’ll have them down sick. I shall come back the
minute I can leave Mother. Pa will come to-morrer anyway, so keep snug and be good. I
depend on you, my darter; use your jedgment, and don’t let nothin’ happen while
Mother’s away.”

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“Yes’m, yes’m—good-bye, good-bye!” called the children, as Mrs. Bassett was
packed into the sleigh and driven away, leaving a stream of directions behind her.

Eph, the sixteen-year-old boy, immediately put on his biggest boots, assumed a sober,
responsible manner and surveyed his little responsibilities with a paternal air, drolly like
his father’s. Tilly tied on her mother’s bunch of keys, rolled up the sleeves of her
homespun gown, and began to order about the younger girls. They soon forgot poor
Granny, and found it great fun to keep house all alone, for Mother seldom left home, but
ruled her family in the good old-fashioned way. There were no servants, for the little
daughters were Mrs. Bassett’s only maids, and the stout boys helped their father, all
working happily together with no wages but love; learning in the best manner the use of
the heads and hands with which they were to make their own way in the world.

The few flakes that caused the farmer to predict bad weather soon increased to a
regular snowstorm, with gusts of wind, for up among the hills winter came early and
lingered long. But the children were busy, gay, and warm in-doors, and never minded the
rising gale nor the whirling white storm outside.

Tilly got them a good dinner, and when it was over the two elder girls went to their
spinning, for in the kitchen stood the big and little wheels, and baskets of wool rolls ready
to be twisted into yarn for the winter’s knitting, and each day brought its stint of work to
the daughters, who hoped to be as thrifty as their mother.

Eph kept up a glorious fire, and superintended the small boys, who popped corn and
whittled boats on the hearth; while Roxy and Rhody dressed corn-cob dolls in the settle
corner, and Bose, the brindled mastiff, lay on the braided mat, luxuriously warming his
old legs. Thus employed, they made a pretty picture, these rosy boys and girls, in their
homespun suits, with the rustic toys or tasks which most children nowadays would find
very poor or tiresome.

Tilly and Prue sang, as they stepped to and fro, drawing out the smoothly twisted
threads to the musical hum of the great spinning wheels. The little girls chattered like
magpies over their dolls and the new bed-spread they were planning to make, all white
dimity stars on a blue calico ground, as a Christmas present to Ma. The boys roared at
Eph’s jokes, and had rough and tumble games over Bose, who didn’t mind them in the
least; and so the afternoon wore pleasantly away.

At sunset the boys went out to feed the cattle, bring in heaps of wood, and lock up for
the night, as the lonely farm-house seldom had visitors after dark. The girls got the
simple supper of brown bread and milk, baked apples, and a doughnut all ’round as a
treat. Then they sat before the fire, the sisters knitting, the brothers with books or games,
for Eph loved reading, and Sol and Seth never failed to play a few games of Morris with
barley corns, on the little board they had themselves at one corner of the dresser.

“Read out a piece,” said Tilly from Mother’s chair, where she sat in state, finishing
off the sixth woolen sock she had knit that month.
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“It’s the old history book, but here’s a bit you may like, since it’s about our folks,”
answered Eph, turning the yellow page to look at a picture of two quaintly dressed
children in some ancient castle.

“Yes, read that. I always like to hear about the Lady Matildy I was named for, and
Lord Bassett, Pa’s great-great-great grandpa. He’s only a farmer now, but it’s nice to
know we were somebody two or three hundred years ago,” said Tilly, bridling and
tossing her curly head as she fancied the Lady Matilda might have done.

“Don’t read the queer words, ’cause we don’t understand ’em. Tell it,” commanded
Roxy, from the cradle, where she was drowsily cuddled with Rhody.

“Well, a long time ago, when Charles the First was in prison, Lord Bassett was a true
friend to him,” began Eph, plunging into his story without delay. “The lord had some
papers that would have hung a lot of people if the king’s enemies got hold of ’em, so
when he heard one day, all of a sudden, that soldiers were at the castle gate to carry him
off, he had just time to call his girl to him and say: ‘I may be going to my death, but I
won’t betray my master. There is no time to burn the papers, and I can not take them with
me; they are hidden in the old leathern chair where I sit. No one knows this but you, and
you must guard them till I come or send you a safe messenger to take them away.
Promise me to be brave and silent, and I can go without fear.’ You see, he wasn’t afraid
to die, but he was to seem a traitor. Lady Matildy promised solemnly, and the words were
hardly out of her mouth when the men came in, and her father was carried away a
prisoner and sent off to the Tower.”

“But she didn’t cry; she just called her brother, and sat down in that chair, with her
head leaning back on those papers, like a queen, and waited while the soldiers hunted the
house over for ’em: wasn’t that a smart girl?” cried Tilly, beaming with pride, for she was
named for this ancestress, and knew the story by heart.

“I reckon she was scared, though, when the men came swearin’ in and asked her if
she knew anything about it. The boy did his part then, for he didn’t know, and fired up
and stood before his sister; and he says, says he, as bold as a lion: ‘If my lord had told us
where the papers be, we would die before we would betray him. But we are children and
know nothing, and it is cowardly of you to try to fight us with oaths and drawn swords!’”

As Eph quoted from the book, Seth planted himself before Tilly, with the long poker
in his hand, saying, as he flourished it valiantly:

“Why didn’t the boy take his father’s sword and lay about him? I would, if any one
was ha’sh to Tilly.”

“You bantam! He was only a bit of a boy, and couldn’t do anything. Sit down and
hear the rest of it,” commanded Tilly, with a pat on the yellow head, and a private resolve
that Seth should have the largest piece of pie at dinner next day, as reward for his
chivalry.
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“Well, the men went off after turning the castle out of window, but they said they
should come again; so faithful Matildy was full of trouble, and hardly dared to leave the
room where the chair stood. All day she sat there, and at night her sleep was so full of
fear about it, that she often got up and went to see that all was safe. The servants thought
the fright had hurt her wits, and let her be, but Rupert, the boy, stood by her and never
was afraid of her queer ways. She was ‘a pious maid,’ the book says, and often spent the
long evenings reading the Bible, with her brother by her, all alone in the great room, with
no one to help her bear her secret, and no good news of her father. At last, word came
that the king was dead and his friends banished out of England. Then the poor children
were in a sad plight, for they had no mother, and the servants all ran away, leaving only
one faithful old man to help them.”

“But the father did come?” cried Roxy, eagerly.

“You’ll see,” continued Eph, half telling, half reading.

“Matilda was sure he would, so she sat on in the big chair, guarding the papers, and
no one could get her away, till one day a man came with her father’s ring and told her to
give up the secret. She knew the ring, but would not tell until she had asked many
questions, so as to be very sure, and while the man answered all about her father and the
king, she looked at him sharply. Then she stood up and said, in a tremble, for there was
something strange about the man: ‘Sir, I doubt you in spite of the ring, and I will not
answer till you pull off the false beard you wear, that I may see your face and know if
you are my father’s friend or foe.’ Off came the disguise, and Matilda found it was my
lord himself, come to take them with him out of England. He was very proud of that
faithful girl, I guess, for the old chair still stands in the castle, and the name keeps in the
family, Pa says, even over here, where some of the Bassetts came along with the
Pilgrims.”

“Our Tilly would have been as brave, I know, and she looks like the old picter down
to Gran’ma’s, don’t she, Eph?” cried Prue, who admired her bold, bright sister very
much.

“Well, I think you’d do the settin’ part best, Prue, you are so patient. Till would fight
like a wild cat, but she can’t hold her tongue worth a cent,” answered Eph; whereat Tilly
pulled his hair, and the story ended with a general frolic.

When the moon-faced clock behind the door struck nine, Tilly tucked up the children
under the “extry comfortables,” and having kissed them all around, as Mother did, crept
into her own nest, never minding the little drifts of snow that sifted in upon her coverlet
between the shingles of the roof, nor the storm that raged without.

As if he felt the need of unusual vigilance, old Bose lay down on the mat before the
door, and pussy had the warm hearth all to herself. If any late wanderer had looked in at
midnight, he would have seen the fire blazing up again, and in the cheerful glow the old
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cat blinking her yellow eyes, as she sat bolt upright beside the spinning wheel, like some
sort of household goblin, guarding the children while they slept.

When they woke, like early birds, it still snowed, but up the little Bassetts jumped,
broke the ice in their jugs, and went down with cheeks glowing like winter apples, after a
brisk scrub and scramble into their clothes. Eph was off to the barn, and Tilly soon had a
great kettle of mush ready, which, with milk warm from the cows made a wholesome
breakfast for the seven hearty children.

“Now about dinner,” said the young housekeeper, as the pewter spoons stopped
clattering, and the earthen bowls stood empty.

“Ma said, have what we liked, but she didn’t expect us to have a real Thanksgiving
dinner, because she won’t be here to cook it, and we don’t know how,” began Prue,
doubtfully.

“I can roast a turkey and make a pudding as well as anybody, I guess. The pies are all
ready, and if we can’t boil vegetables and so on, we don’t deserve any dinner,” cried
Tilly, burning to distinguish herself, and bound to enjoy to the utmost her brief authority.

“Yes, yes!” cried all the boys, “let’s have a dinner anyway; Ma won’t care, and the
good victuals will spoil if they ain’t eaten right up.”

“Pa is coming to-night, so we won’t have dinner till late; that will be real genteel and
give us plenty of time,” added Tilly, suddenly realizing the novelty of the task she had
undertaken.

“Did you ever roast a turkey?” asked Roxy, with an air of deep interest.

“Should you darst to try?” said Rhody, in an awe-stricken tone.

“You will see what I can do. Ma said I was to use my judgment about things, and I’m
going to. All you children have got to do is to keep out of the way, and let Prue and me
work. Eph, I wish you’d put a fire in the best room, so the little ones can play in there.
We shall want the settin’-room for the table, and I won’t have them pickin’ ’round when
we get things fixed,” commanded Tilly, bound to make her short reign a brilliant one.

“I don’t know about that. Ma didn’t tell us to,” began cautious Eph who felt that this
invasion of the sacred best parlor was a daring step.

“Don’t we always do it Sundays and Thanksgivings? Wouldn’t Ma wish the children
kept safe and warm anyhow? Can I get up a nice dinner with four rascals under my feet
all the time? Come, now, if you want roast turkey and onions, plum-puddin’ and mince-
pie, you’ll have to do as I tell you, and be lively about it.”

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Tilly spoke with such spirit, and her suggestion was so irresistible, that Eph gave in,
and, laughing good-naturedly, tramped away to heat up the best room, devoutly hoping
that nothing serious would happen to punish such audacity.

The young folks delightedly trooped away to destroy the order of that prim apartment
with housekeeping under the black horse-hair sofa, “horseback-riders” on the arms of the
best rocking chair, and an Indian war-dance all over the well-waxed furniture. Eph,
finding the society of peaceful sheep and cows more to his mind than that of two excited
sisters, lingered over his chores in the barn as long as possible, and left the girls in peace.

Now Tilly and Prue were in their glory, and as soon as the breakfast-things were out
of the way, they prepared for a grand cooking time. They were handy girls, though they
had never heard of a cooking school, never touched a piano, and knew nothing of
embroidery beyond the samplers which hung framed in the parlor; one ornamented with a
pink mourner under a blue weeping-willow, the other with this pleasing verse, each word
being done in a different color, which gave the effect of a distracted rainbow:

This sampler neat was worked by me,
In my twelfth year, Prudence B.

Both rolled up their sleeves, put on their largest aprons, and got out all the spoons,
dishes, pots, and pans they could find, “so as to have everything handy,” Prue said.

“Now, sister, we’ll have dinner at five; Pa will be here by that time, if he is coming
to-night, and be so surprised to find us all ready, for he won’t have had any very nice
victuals if Gran’ma is so sick,” said Tilly, importantly. “I shall give the children a piece
at noon” (Tilly meant luncheon); “doughnuts and cheese, with apple-pie and cider, will
please ’em. There’s beans for Eph; he likes cold pork, so we won’t stop to warm it up, for
there’s lots to do, and I don’t mind saying to you I’m dreadful dubersome about the
turkey.”

“It’s all ready but the stuffing, and roasting is as easy as can be. I can baste first-rate.
Ma always likes to have me, I’m so patient and stiddy, she says,” answered Prue, for the
responsibility of this great undertaking did not rest upon her, so she took a cheerful view
of things.

“I know, but it’s the stuffin’ that troubles me,” said Tilly, rubbing her round elbows
as she eyed the immense fowl laid out on a platter before her. “I don’t know how much I
want, nor what sort of yarbs to put in, and he’s so awful big, I’m kind of afraid of him.”

“I ain’t! I fed him all summer, and he never gobbled at me. I feel real mean to be
thinking of gobbling him, poor old chap,” laughed Prue, patting her departed pet with an
air of mingled affection and appetite.

“Well, I’ll get the puddin’ off my mind fust, for it ought to bile all day. Put the big
kettle on, and see that the spit is clean, while I get ready.”
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Prue obediently tugged away at the crane, with its black hooks, from which hung the
iron tea-kettle and three-legged pot; then she settled the long spit in the grooves made for
it in the tall andirons, and put the dripping-pan underneath, for in those days meat was
roasted as it should be, not baked in ovens.

Meantime Tilly attacked the plum-pudding. She felt pretty sure of coming out right,
here, for she had seen her mother do it so many times, it looked very easy. So in went
suet and fruit; all sorts of spice, to be sure she got the right ones, and brandy instead of
wine. But she forgot both sugar and salt, and tied it in the cloth so tightly that it had no
room to swell, so it would come out as heavy as lead and as hard as a cannon-ball, if the
bag did not burst and spoil it all. Happily unconscious of these mistakes, Tilly popped it
into the pot, and proudly watched it bobbing about before she put the cover on and left it
to its fate.

“I can’t remember what flavorin’ Ma puts in,” she said, when she had got her bread
well soaked for stuffing. “Sage and onions and apple-sauce go with goose, but I can’t feel
sure of anything but pepper and salt for a turkey.”

“Ma puts in some kind of mint, I know, but I forget whether it is spearmint,
peppermint, or pennyroyal,” answered Prue, in a tone of doubt, but trying to show her
knowledge of “yarbs,” or, at least, of their names.

“Seems to me it’s sweet majoram or summer savory. I guess we’ll put both in, and
then we are sure to be right. The best is up garret; you run and get some, while I mash the
bread,” commanded Tilly, diving into the mess.

Away trotted Prue, but in her haste she got catnip and wormwood, for the garret was
darkish, and Prue’s little nose was so full of the smell of the onions she had been peeling,
that everything smelt of them. Eager to be of use, she pounded up the herbs and scattered
the mixture with a liberal hand into the bowl.

“It doesn’t smell just right, but I suppose it will when it is cooked,” said Tilly, as she
filled the empty stomach, that seemed aching for food, and sewed it up with the blue
yarn, which happened to be handy. She forgot to tie down his legs and wings, but she set
him by till his hour came, well satisfied with her work.

“Shall we roast the little pig, too? I think he’d look nice with a necklace of sausages,
as Ma fixed him at Christmas,” asked Prue, elated with their success.

“I couldn’t do it. I loved that little pig, and cried when he was killed. I should feel as
if I was roasting the baby,” answered Tilly, glancing toward the buttery where piggy
hung, looking so pink and pretty it certainly did seem cruel to eat him.

It took a long time to get all the vegetables ready, for, as the cellar was full, the girls
thought they would have every sort. Eph helped, and by noon all was ready for cooking,
and the cranberry-sauce, a good deal scorched, was cooking in the lean-to.
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Luncheon was a lively meal, and doughnuts and cheese vanished in such quantities
that Tilly feared no one would have an appetite for her sumptuous dinner. The boys
assured her they would be starving by five o’clock, and Sol mourned bitterly over the
little pig that was not to be served up.

“Now you all go and coast, while Prue and I set the table and get out the best chiny,”
said Tilly, bent on having her dinner look well, no matter what its other failings might be.

Out came the rough sleds, on went the round hoods, old hats, red cloaks, and
moccasins, and away trudged the four younger Bassetts, to disport themselves in the
snow, and try the ice down by the old mill, where the great wheel turned and splashed so
merrily in the summer-time.

Eph took his fiddle and scraped away to his heart’s content in the parlor, while the
girls, after a short rest, set the table and made all ready to dish up the dinner when that
exciting moment came. It was not at all the sort of table we see now, but would look very
plain and countrified to us, with its green-handled knives, and two-pronged steel forks, its
red-and-white china, and pewter platters, scoured till they shone, with mugs and spoons
to match, and a brown jug for the cider. The cloth was coarse, but white as snow, and the
little maids had seen the blue-eyed flax grow, out of which their mother wove the linen;
they had watched and watched while it bleached in the green meadow. They had no
napkins and little silver; but the best tankard and Ma’s few wedding-spoons were set
forth in state. Nuts and apples at the corners gave an air, and the place of honor was left
in the middle for the oranges yet to come.

“Don’t it look beautiful?” said Prue, when they paused to admire the general effect.

“Pretty nice, I think. I wish Ma could see how well we can do it,” began Tilly, when a
loud howling startled both girls, and sent them flying to the window. The short afternoon
had passed so quickly that twilight had come before they knew it, and now, as they
looked out through the gathering dusk, they saw four small black figures tearing up the
road, to come bursting in, all screaming at once: “The bear, the bear! Eph, get the gun!
He’s coming, he’s coming!”

Eph had dropped his fiddle, and got down his gun before the girls could calm the
children enough to tell their story, which they did in a somewhat incoherent manner.
“Down in the holler, coastin’, we heard a growl,” began Sol, with his eyes as big as
saucers. “I see him fust lookin’ over the wall,” roared Seth, eager to get his share of
honor.

“Awful big and shaggy,” quavered Roxy, clinging to Tilly, while Rhody hid in Prue’s
skirts, and piped out: “His great paws kept clawing at us, and I was so scared my legs
would hardly go.”

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“We ran away as fast as we could go, and he came growlin’ after us. He’s awful
hungry, and he’ll eat every one of us if he gets in,” continued Sol, looking about him for
a safe retreat.

“Oh, Eph, don’t let him eat us,” cried both little girls, flying upstairs to hide under
their mother’s bed, as their surest shelter.

“No danger of that, you little geese. I’ll shoot him as soon as he comes. Get out of the
way, boys,” and Eph raised the window to get good aim.

“There he is! Fire away, and don’t miss!” cried Seth, hastily following Sol, who had
climbed to the top of the dresser as a good perch from which to view the approaching
fray.

Prue retired to the hearth as if bent on dying at her post rather than desert the turkey,
now “browning beautiful,” as she expressed it. But Tilly boldly stood at the open
window, ready to lend a hand if the enemy proved too much for Eph.

All had seen bears, but none had ever come so near before, and even brave Eph felt
that the big brown beast slowly trotting up the dooryard was an unusually formidable
specimen. He was growling horribly, and stopped now and then as if to rest and shake
himself.

“Get the ax, Tilly, and if I should miss, stand ready to keep him off while I load
again,” said Eph, anxious to kill his first bear in style and alone; a girl’s help didn’t count.

Tilly flew for the ax, and was at her brother’s side by the time the bear was near
enough to be dangerous. He stood on his hind legs, and seemed to sniff with relish the
savory odors that poured out of the window.

“Fire, Eph!” cried Tilly, firmly.

“Wait till he rears again. I’ll get a better shot then” answered the boy, while Prue
covered her ears to shut out the bang, and the small boys cheered from their dusty refuge
among the pumpkins.

But a very singular thing happened next, and all who saw it stood amazed, for
suddenly Tilly threw down the ax, flung open the door, and ran straight into the arms of
the bear, who stood erect to receive her, while his growlings changed to a loud “Haw,
haw!” that startled the children more than the report of a gun.

“It’s Gad Hopkins, tryin’ to fool us!” cried Eph, much disgusted at the loss of his
prey, for these hardy boys loved to hunt and prided themselves on the number of wild
animals and birds they could shoot in a year.

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“Oh, Gad, how could you scare us so?” laughed Tilly, still held fast in one shaggy
arm of the bear, while the other drew a dozen oranges from some deep pocket in the
buffalo-skin coat, and fired them into the kitchen with such good aim that Eph ducked,
Prue screamed, and Sol and Seth came down much quicker than they went up.

“Wal, you see I got upsot over yonder, and the old horse went home while I was
floundering in a drift, so I tied on the buffalers to tote ’em easy, and come along till I see
the children playin’ in the holler. I jest meant to give ’em a little scare, but they run like
partridges, and I kep’ up the joke to see how Eph would like this sort of company,” and
Gad haw-hawed again.

“You’d have had a warm welcome if we hadn’t found you out. I’d have put a bullet
through you in a jiffy, old chap,” said Eph, coming out to shake hands with the young
giant, who was only a year or two older than himself.

“Come in and set up to dinner with us. Prue and I have done it all ourselves, and Pa
will be along soon, I reckon,” cried Tilly, trying to escape.

“Couldn’t, no ways. My folks will think I’m dead ef I don’t get along home, sence the
horse and sleigh have gone ahead empty I’ve done my arrant and had my joke; now I
want my pay, Tilly,” and Gad took a hearty kiss from the rosy cheeks of his “little
sweetheart,” as he called her. His own cheeks tingled with the smart slap she gave him as
she ran away, calling out that she hated bears and would bring her ax next time.

“I ain’t afeared—your sharp eyes found me out: and ef you run into a bear’s arms you
must expect a hug,” answered Gad, as he pushed back the robe and settled his fur cap
more becomingly.

“I should have known you in a minute if I hadn’t been asleep when the girls squalled.
You did it well, though, and I advise you not to try it again in a hurry, or you’ll get shot,”
said Eph, as they parted, he rather crestfallen and Gad in high glee.

“My sakes alive—the turkey is all burnt one side, and the kettles have biled over so
the pies I put to warm are all ashes!” scolded Tilly, as the flurry subsided and she
remembered her dinner.

“Well, I can’t help it. I couldn’t think of victuals when I expected to be eaten alive
myself, could I?” pleaded poor Prue, who had tumbled into the cradle when the rain of
oranges began.

Tilly laughed, and all the rest joined in, so good-humor was restored, and the spirits
of the younger ones were revived by sucks from the one orange which passed from hand
to hand with great rapidity while the older girls dished up the dinner. They were just
struggling to get the pudding out of the cloth when Roxy called out: “Here’s Pa!”

“There’s folks with him,” added Rhody.
Louisa May Alcott, “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”
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“Lots of ’em! I see two big sleighs chock full,” shouted Seth, peering through the
dusk.

“It looks like a semintary. Guess Gran’ma’s dead and come up to be buried here,”
said Sol, in a solemn tone. This startling suggestion made Tilly, Prue, and Eph hasten to
look out, full of dismay at such an ending of their festival.

“If that is a funeral, the mourners are uncommonly jolly,” said Eph, dryly, as merry
voices and loud laughter broke the white silence without.

“I see Aunt Cinthy, and Cousin Hetty—and there’s Mose and Amos. I do declare,
Pa’s bringin’ ’em all home to have some fun here,” cried Prue, as she recognized one
familiar face after another.

“Oh, my patience! Ain’t I glad I got dinner, and don’t I hope it will turn out good!”
exclaimed Tilly, while the twins pranced with delight, and the small boys roared:

“Hooray for Pa! Hooray for Thanksgivin’!”

The cheer was answered heartily, and in came Father, Mother, Baby, aunts, and
cousins, all in great spirits; and all much surprised to find such a festive welcome
awaiting them.

“Ain’t Gran’ma dead at all?” asked Sol, in the midst of the kissing and hand-shaking.

“Bless your heart, no! It was all a mistake of old Mr. Chadwick’s. He’s as deaf as an
adder, and when Mrs. Brooks told him Mother was mendin’ fast, and she wanted me to
come down to-day, certain sure, he got the message all wrong, and give it to the fust
person passin’ in such a way as to scare me ’most to death, and send us down in a hurry.
Mother was sittin’ up as chirk as you please, and dreadful sorry you didn’t all come.”

“So, to keep the house quiet for her, and give you a taste of the fun, your Pa fetched
us all up to spend the evenin’, and we are goin’ to have a jolly time on’t, to jedge by the
looks of things,” said Aunt Cinthy, briskly finishing the tale when Mrs. Bassett paused
for want of breath.

“What in the world put it into your head we was comin’, and set you to gittin’ up such
a supper?” asked Mr. Bassett, looking about him, well pleased and much surprised at the
plentiful table.

Tilly modestly began to tell, but the others broke in and sang her praises in a sort of
chorus, in which bears, pigs, pies, and oranges were oddly mixed. Great satisfaction was
expressed by all, and Tilly and Prue were so elated by the commendation of Ma and the
aunts, that they set forth their dinner, sure everything was perfect.

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But when the eating began, which it did the moment wraps were off; then their pride
got a fall; for the first person who tasted the stuffing (it was big Cousin Mose, and that
made it harder to bear) nearly choked over the bitter morsel.

“Tilly Bassett, whatever made you put wormwood and catnip in your stuffin’?”
demanded Ma, trying not to be severe, for all the rest were laughing, and Tilly looked
ready to cry.

“I did it,” said Prue, nobly taking all the blame, which caused Pa to kiss her on the
spot, and declare that it didn’t do a mite of harm, for the turkey was all right.

“I never see onions cooked better. All the vegetables is well done, and the dinner a
credit to you, my dears,” declared Aunt Cinthy, with her mouth full of the fragrant
vegetable she praised.

The pudding was an utter failure in spite of the blazing brandy in which it lay—as
hard and heavy as one of the stone balls on Squire Dunkin’s great gate. It was speedily
whisked out of sight, and all fell upon the pies, which were perfect. But Tilly and Prue
were much depressed, and didn’t recover their spirits till dinner was over and the evening
fun well under way.

“Blind-man’s bluff,” “Hunt the slipper,” “Come, Philander,” and other lively games
soon set everyone bubbling over with jollity, and when Eph struck up “Money Musk” on
his fiddle, old and young fell into their places for a dance. All down the long kitchen they
stood, Mr. and Mrs. Bassett at the top, the twins at the bottom, and then away they went,
heeling and toeing, cutting pigeon-wings, and taking their steps in a way that would
convulse modern children with their new-fangled romps called dancing. Mose and Tilly
covered themselves with glory by the vigor with which they kept it up, till fat Aunt
Cinthy fell into a chair, breathlessly declaring that a very little of such exercise was
enough for a woman of her “heft.”

Apples and cider, chat and singing, finished the evening, and after a grand kissing all
round, the guests drove away in the clear moonlight which came out to cheer their long
drive.

When the jingle of the last bell had died away, Mr. Bassett said soberly, as they stood
together on the hearth: “Children, we have special cause to be thankful that the sorrow we
expected was changed into joy, so we’ll read a chapter ’fore we go to bed, and give
thanks where thanks is due.”

Then Tilly set out the light-stand with the big Bible on it, and a candle on each side,
and all sat quietly in the fire-light, smiling as they listened with happy hearts to the sweet
old words that fit all times and seasons so beautifully.

When the good-nights were over, and the children in bed, Prue put her arm round
Tilly and whispered tenderly, for she felt her shake, and was sure she was crying:
Louisa May Alcott, “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”
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“Don’t mind about the old stuffin’ and puddin’, deary—nobody cared, and Ma said
we really did do surprisin’ well for such young girls.”

The laughter Tilly was trying to smother broke out then, and was so infectious, Prue
could not help joining her, even before she knew the cause of the merriment.

“I was mad about the mistakes, but don’t care enough to cry. I’m laughing to think
how Gad fooled Eph and I found him out. I thought Mose and Amos would have died
over it, when I told them, it was so funny,” explained Tilly, when she got her breath.

“I was so scared that when the first orange hit me, I thought it was a bullet, and
scrabbled into the cradle as fast as I could. It was real mean to frighten the little ones so,”
laughed Prue, as Tilly gave a growl.

Here a smart rap on the wall of the next room caused a sudden lull in the fun, and
Mrs. Bassett’s voice was heard, saying warningly, “Girls, go to sleep immediate, or
you’ll wake the baby.”

“Yes’m,” answered two meek voices, and after a few irrepressible giggles, silence
reigned, broken only by an occasional snore from the boys, or the soft scurry of mice in
the buttery, taking their part in this old-fashioned Thanksgiving.


48

Thanksgiving Day

LYDIA MARIA CHILD

Lydia Maria Child (1802–80) was an American novelist, journalist, scholar, and activist.
Born to an abolitionist family, she was influenced by the anti-slavery beliefs of her
brother, a Harvard Divinity School professor and Unitarian minister, and the prominent
abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and would advocate all her life for the abolition of
slavery. In 1826, she founded a children’s periodical, Juvenile Miscellany.

This famous poem, written in 1844, describes, in stages, the journey and eager
anticipation of children traveling once again, over the river and through the wood, to the
traditional Thanksgiving dinner at their grandparents’ home. Imagining yourself in their
place, what do you think makes the journey and the day so special? For what things do
the children sing “hurrah,” and how are they related? What role do memory and the
repetitions of tradition play in the delights of this holiday? How does the structure of the
poem convey those delights?

Over the river and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way
to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood—
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play—
Hear the bells ring
“Ting-a-ling-ding!”
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting hound!
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barn-yard gate!
We seem to go
Extremely slow—
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood—
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!


49

John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) remains one of our most profound students of the
American soul—in all its mystery and complexity. Never one to cover up the faces of evil
and darkness, Hawthorne provides us with opportunities to see most deeply into the highs
and lows of the human condition, especially as it is influenced by the tensions between
freedom and piety, as both wrestle with the penchant for wickedness. This disturbing
story, published in 1852 under a pseudonym (“Rev. A. A. Royce”), is no exception. The
gathering and mood of John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving are, at first glance, a far cry from
those most of us associate with this holiday—although, truth to tell, people in troubled
families often experience this holiday with added tension and mixed emotions. So too do
the events of the evening reflect this, as Inglefield’s wayward daughter Prudence comes
to join the hearth she had not long ago abandoned.

Why does she return, and on Thanksgiving Day? Why does she leave so abruptly, and
in the manner she does? Given the fact and the way that Prudence leaves, would it have
been better had she not come at all? What does Hawthorne mean when he says her
presence produced “one of those intervals when sorrow vanishes in its own depth of
shadow, and joy starts forth in transitory brightness”? Is this “transitory joy” at hearth
and home what this holiday is really all about? Is thanksgiving truer and deeper when we
recognize that the blessings of hearth and home are in fact impermanent, and that our
abundance and our family ties cannot be taken for granted? Or is Hawthorne (or perhaps
only Rev. Royce) suggesting that, in a world of sin and separation, there is finally not
much to be thankful about?

On the evening of Thanksgiving day, John Inglefield, the blacksmith, sat in his elbow-
chair, among those who had been keeping festival at his board. Being the central figure of
the domestic circle, the fire threw its strongest light on his massive and sturdy frame,
reddening his rough visage, so that it looked like the head of an iron statue, all aglow,
from his own forge, and with its features rudely fashioned on his own anvil. At John
Inglefield’s right hand was an empty chair. The other places round the hearth were filled
by the members of the family, who all sat quietly, while, with a semblance of fantastic
merriment, their shadows danced on the wall behind them. One of the group was John
Inglefield’s son, who had been bred at college, and was now a student of theology at
Andover. There was also a daughter of sixteen, whom nobody could look at without
thinking of a rose-bud almost blossomed. The only other person at the fireside was
Robert Moore, formerly an apprentice of the blacksmith, but now his journeyman, and
who seemed more like an own son of John Inglefield than did the pale and slender
student.

Only these four had kept New England’s festival beneath that roof. The vacant chair
at John Inglefield’s right hand was in memory of his wife, whom death had snatched
from him since the previous Thanksgiving. With a feeling that few would have looked for
in his rough nature, the bereaved husband had himself set the chair in its place next his
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own; and often did his eye glance thitherward, as if he deemed it possible that the cold
grave might send back its tenant to the cheerful fireside, at least for that one evening.
Thus did he cherish the grief that was dear to him. But there was another grief which he
would fain have torn from his heart; or, since that could never be, have buried it too deep
for others to behold, or for his own remembrance. Within the past year another member
of his household had gone from him, but not to the grave. Yet they kept no vacant chair
for her.

While John Inglefield and his family were sitting round the hearth with the shadows
dancing behind them on the wall, the outer door was opened, and a light footstep came
along the passage. The latch of the inner door was lifted by some familiar hand, and a
young girl came in, wearing a cloak and hood, which she took off, and laid on the table
beneath the looking-glass. Then, after gazing a moment at the fireside circle, she
approached, and took the seat at John Inglefield’s right hand, as if it had been reserved on
purpose for her.

“Here I am, at last, father,” said she. “You ate your Thanksgiving dinner without me,
but I have come back to spend the evening with you.”

Yes, it was Prudence Inglefield. She wore the same neat and maidenly attire which
she had been accustomed to put on when the household work was over for the day, and
her hair was parted from her brow, in the simple and modest fashion that became her best
of all. If her cheek might otherwise have been pale, yet the glow of the fire suffused it
with a healthful bloom. If she had spent the many months of her absence in guilt and
infamy, yet they seemed to have left no traces on her gentle aspect. She could not have
looked less altered, had she merely stepped away from her father’s fireside for half an
hour, and returned while the blaze was quivering upwards from the same brands that
were burning at her departure. And to John Inglefield she was the very image of his
buried wife, such as he remembered her on the first Thanksgiving which they had passed
under their own roof. Therefore, though naturally a stern and rugged man, he could not
speak unkindly to his sinful child, nor yet could he take her to his bosom.

“You are welcome home, Prudence,” said he, glancing sideways at her, and his voice
faltered. “Your mother would have rejoiced to see you, but she has been gone from us
these four months.”

“I know it, father, I know it,” replied Prudence, quickly. “And yet, when I first came
in, my eyes were so dazzled by the fire-light, that she seemed to be sitting in this very
chair!”

By this time the other members of the family had begun to recover from their
surprise, and became sensible that it was no ghost from the grave, nor vision of their
vivid recollections, but Prudence, her own self. Her brother was the next that greeted her.
He advanced and held out his hand affectionately, as a brother should; yet not entirely
like a brother, for, with all his kindness, he was still a clergyman, and speaking to a child
of sin.
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“Sister Prudence,” said he, earnestly, “I rejoice that a merciful Providence hath turned
your steps homeward, in time for me to bid you a last farewell. In a few weeks, sister, I
am to sail as a missionary to the far islands of the Pacific. There is not one of these
beloved faces that I shall ever hope to behold again on this earth. O, may I see all of
them—yours and all—beyond the grave!”

A shadow flitted across the girl’s countenance.

“The grave is very dark, brother,” answered she, withdrawing her hand somewhat
hastily from his grasp. “You must look your last at me by the light of this fire.”

While this was passing, the twin-girl—the rosebud that had grown on the same stem
with the castaway—stood gazing at her sister, longing to fling herself upon her bosom, so
that the tendrils of their hearts might intertwine again. At first she was restrained by
mingled grief and shame, and by a dread that Prudence was too much changed to respond
to her affection, or that her own purity would be felt as a reproach by the lost one. But, as
she listened to the familiar voice, while the face grew more and more familiar, she forgot
everything save that Prudence had come back. Springing forward, she would have
clasped her in a close embrace. At that very instant, however, Prudence started from her
chair, and held out both her hands, with a warning gesture.

“No, Mary,—no, my sister,” cried she, “do not you touch me. Your bosom must not
be pressed to mine!”

Mary shuddered and stood still, for she felt that something darker than the grave was
between Prudence and herself, though they seemed so near each other in the light of their
father’s hearth, where they had grown up together. Meanwhile Prudence threw her eyes
around the room, in search of one who had not yet bidden her welcome. He had
withdrawn from his seat by the fireside, and was standing near the door, with his face
averted, so that his features could be discerned only by the flickering shadow of the
profile upon the wall. But Prudence called to him, in a cheerful and kindly tone:

“Come, Robert,” said she, “won’t you shake hands with your old friend?”

Robert Moore held back for a moment, but affection struggled powerfully, and
overcame his pride and resentment; he rushed towards Prudence, seized her hand, and
pressed it to his bosom.

“There, there, Robert!” said she, smiling sadly, as she withdrew her hand, “you must
not give me too warm a welcome.”

And now, having exchanged greetings with each member of the family, Prudence
again seated herself in the chair at John Inglefield’s right hand. She was naturally a girl of
quick and tender sensibilities, gladsome in her general mood, but with a bewitching
pathos interfused among her merriest words and deeds. It was remarked of her, too, that
she had a faculty, even from childhood, of throwing her own feelings, like a spell, over
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her companions. Such as she had been in her days of innocence, so did she appear this
evening. Her friends, in the surprise and bewilderment of her return, almost forgot that
she had ever left them, or that she had forfeited any of her claims to their affection. In the
morning, perhaps, they might have looked at her with altered eyes, but by the
Thanksgiving fireside they felt only that their own Prudence had come back to them, and
were thankful. John Inglefield’s rough visage brightened with the glow of his heart, as it
grew warm and merry within him; once or twice, even, he laughed till the room rang
again, yet seemed startled by the echo of his own mirth. The grave young minister
became as frolicsome as a school-boy. Mary, too, the rosebud, forgot that her twin-
blossom had ever been torn from the stem, and trampled in the dust. And as for Robert
Moore, he gazed at Prudence with the bashful earnestness of love new-born, while she,
with sweet maiden coquetry, half smiled upon and half discouraged him.

In short, it was one of those intervals when sorrow vanishes in its own depth of
shadow, and joy starts forth in transitory brightness. When the clock struck eight,
Prudence poured out her father’s customary draught of herb tea, which had been steeping
by the fireside ever since twilight.

“God bless you, child!” said John Inglefield, as he took the cup from her hand; “you
have made your old father happy again. But we miss your mother sadly, Prudence, sadly.
It seems as if she ought to be here now.”

“Now, father, or never,” replied Prudence.

It was now the hour for domestic worship. But while the family were making
preparations for this duty, they suddenly perceived that Prudence had put on her cloak
and hood, and was lifting the latch of the door.

“Prudence, Prudence! where are you going?” cried they all, with one voice.

As Prudence passed out of the door, she turned towards them, and flung back her
hand with a gesture of farewell. But her face was so changed that they hardly recognized
it. Sin and evil passions glowed through its comeliness, and wrought a horrible
deformity; a smile gleamed in her eyes, as of triumphant mockery, at their surprise and
grief.

“Daughter,” cried John Inglefield, between wrath and sorrow, “stay and be your
father’s blessing, or take his curse with you!”

For an instant Prudence lingered and looked back into the fire-lighted room, while her
countenance wore almost the expression as if she were struggling with a fiend, who had
power to seize his victim even within the hallowed precincts of her father’s hearth. The
fiend prevailed; and Prudence vanished into the outer darkness. When the family rushed
to the door, they could see nothing, but heard the sound of wheels rattling over the frozen
ground.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving”
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53

That same night, among the painted beauties at the theatre of a neighboring city, there
was one whose dissolute mirth seemed inconsistent with any sympathy for pure
affections, and for the joys and griefs which are hallowed by them. Yet this was Prudence
Inglefield. Her visit to the Thanksgiving fireside was the realization of one of those
waking dreams in which the guilty soul will sometimes stray back to its innocence. But
Sin, alas! is careful of her bond-slaves; they hear her voice, perhaps, at the holiest
moment, and are constrained to go whither she summons them. The same dark power that
drew Prudence Inglefield from her father’s hearth—the same in its nature, though
heightened then to a dread necessity—would snatch a guilty soul from the gate of heaven,
and make its sin and its punishment alike eternal.

54

Thanksgiving

EDGAR ALBERT GUEST

Edgar Guest (1881–1959), today little known or read, was a prolific, British-born, and
popular American poet in the first half of the twentieth century, much beloved by
American readers (and known as “the People’s Poet”) for his optimistic and sentimental
verse. An immigrant to the United States when he was ten, Guest started writing at age
fourteen for the Detroit Free Press as a police reporter and then composer of daily
rhymes, which eventually became so popular that they were nationally syndicated.

Like Hawthorne’s story but with a completely different flavor, this poem (1917)
speaks about Thanksgiving as a singular day of homecoming. It also speaks poignantly
about home as a place that appears to remain the same despite the passage of time. How
old is the speaker in the poem? Why does he comment so often about what is “old”?
Gathering evidence from each stanza, can you say what he most likes about
Thanksgiving? What does he mean by saying, “We’ve come for a time to be just what we
are”? What will enable him to “put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers”?

Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.
Father’s a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin’ our stories as women an’ men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.
Home from the east land an’ home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,
Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.
Edgar Albert Guest, “Thanksgiving”
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55

Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.


56

Thanksgiving Day

SUSAN MINOT

Not all homecomings for Thanksgiving are as cheerful as the one envisioned in the
previous poem by Edgar Guest. This story from 1984 is the work of Susan Minot (b.
1956), who started her literary career writing short stories in the New Yorker and Grand
Street magazine. A recipient of the O. Henry Prize for short fiction, she has also
published four novels. In this story, she raises questions about how to celebrate the
holiday when your parents or grandparents who have traditionally hosted Thanksgiving
are no longer able to do so. What is the mood in the old Vincent home? Is this a close
family? Compare and contrast the words and deeds of the adults and the children. Is the
Thanksgiving spirit alive here? Why or why not? In many families, Thanksgiving is a
matter of tradition: should the Vincent family tradition continue?

Gus and Rosie Vincent waited for their six children to crawl out of the station wagon and
then slammed the doors. The Vincents were always the first to arrive.

They would pull up to the house in Motley, Massachusetts, where their father grew
up, and crunch across the gravel, and in the doorway was Ma with her dark blue dress
pleated from collar to waist and they would give her kisses, then file in to dump their
coats in the coatroom and right away the first thing would be the smell of Pa’s cigar. He
waited in the other room. Every Thanksgiving they descended upon him and every year it
was the same.

The three girls wore matching plaid skirts with plaid suspender straps. Caitlin and
Sophie, who looked alike, had on hair bands of the same material. Delilah, the youngest
daughter, was darker, with a short pixie. She said it wasn’t fair she didn’t have long hair
too. The three boys came after, Gus and Sherman, and Chickie, in grey flannels.
Chickie’s were shorts, since he was the baby.

For Sophie, the best thing was getting to see the cousins, especially the other
Vincents. Bit, the only girl cousin, was Sophie’s age, ten. And Churly was the oldest of
everybody; he was fourteen. Churly and Bit arrived with Uncle Charles and Aunt Ginny.
Sophie hesitated because sometimes you didn’t give them a kiss. On Aunt Ginny’s
cardigan was the turkey pin she wore every year. The other cousins were the Smalls.
Aunt Fran used to be a Vincent before she married Uncle Thomas. They had three boys.
The oldest was Teever Small, who drooled.

Once everyone was there, the children had to put their coats on for the annual picture.
Bit had a white rabbit muff that Teever Small grabbed at, trying to flirt. “That’s enough
of that,” said his father, but Bit had already snatched it back. Sophie felt how soft the fur
was, thinking about the dead rabbit; the muff was in the shape of a rabbit too. The grown-
ups shuffled everybody around, then stood beside Sophie’s father, who had the camera.
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They crossed their arms against the cold, talking to one another and watching to make
sure the kids didn’t move.

“I’ll be doggone,” said Uncle Thomas. Sophie stared at his bow tie. “Will you look at
that.”

“A bunch of young ladies and young gentlemen,” said Aunt Fran, smacking her
orange lips. She had white hair like Ma’s, except hers was short.

“Knock it off, Churly,” Uncle Charles said.

Sophie turned around. Churly was smirking. He had a head shaped like a wooden golf
club, with his long neck, and a crew cut like the other boys. Sohpie looked back at the
house and saw Ma inside, watching through the French doors.

After the picture was taken, Rosie Vincent told her children to say hello to Livia, and
the cousins tagged along. The hall to the kitchen was dark, the floor with a sheen from
the glow at the end. The kitchen was pale grey, with no lights on, and a white enamel
table in the middle. Livia gave them pinched kisses, her eyes darting around the room,
checking on food, on the children. She was huge and huffing in her white uniform. The
kitchen smelled of Worcestershire sauce and turkey. “Are you behaving yourselves
now?” She held up a shiny wooden spoon. When she was cooking, everything on Livia
sweated, the steam rising behind her from the pots on the stove.

“Not me,” Churly said. “I always try to be as naughty as possible.”

Caitlin laughed while Sophie looked at Livia’s face, which meant business. Livia sat
down, “Now what are the seven blessed sacraments?” she asked, addressing Gus and
Rosie’s children—Catholic, thanks to their mother. Livia tipped one ear forward the way
Sophie had seen the priest do in confession. Sophie fingered a tin Jell-O mold shaped like
a fish, and Catilin busied herself by tucking in Sherman’s shirttails. No one answered.
Livia rattled them off herself, slicing apples so the blade came right to her thumb without
even looking. The cousins drifted off into the pantry as Livia thought up new questions—
all having to do with catechism.

The dining-room table has already been set. The cranberry sauce had a spoon sticking
out. Bit stole some mint wafers, reaching past the blue water goblets into the middle of
the table, and gave one to Sophie. “It’s okay,” said Bit, noticing Sophie’s expression.

“I saw that,” Churly said from the doorway. Sophie blushed. He came in and
whispered, “All right, you guys . . .” and she saw how his eyes were like those light-blue
paperweights that had white lines of glass streaked from the middle. He leaned past them
and plucked a candy of the cut-glass boat. “Delish,” he said. “Don’t mind if I do.”

In the living room, the grown-ups stood stirring drinks at the red-leather bar stand;
then they sat down. Sophie’s mother was the only one without a Scotch or a Dubonnet.
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There was nothing to do while the grown-ups talked except to look around at each tiny
thing. Three walls were covered with books, and over the mantelpiece was a portrait of
Dr. Vincent, so dark and shiny that the lights reflected off it. One side of the room was all
French windows, with dead vines at the edges. The windows overlooked the lawn. Beside
the fireplace was a child’s rocking chair with a red back, an antique. Gus had gotten to it
first and was sitting there, holding onto his ankles, next to Ma’s place on the sofa. They
had the hard kind of sofas with wooden arms and wood in a curve along the back. You
could tell it was Ma’s place because of the brown smudge on the ceiling from her
cigarette smoke.

The girls examined their grandmother. Her shoes, the pair her granddaughters liked
the best, were pale lavender with pink trim and flat bows, her fancy shoes.

“Gussie,” said Aunt Fran, the one person in the world who called Sophie’s father that.
She said it as if it tasted bad. “How’d you like the game?” The last time they had seen
each other was at the Harvard halftime in October when they were stretching their legs
under the bleachers. Gus, with his children, said, “Good day to you,” as if he saw his
sister every day, which he didn’t, each walking in the opposite direction.

The grown-ups talked about the sports the boys were playing.

“Churly’s on the debating team,” said Uncle Charles. He was the oldest Vincent son.

“I certainly am,” said Churly, the only one of the children taking up a seat. “Anyone
want to argue?”

Under a lamp was a picture of Ma before she married. She was holding a plume of
roses at her waist; her chin to the side, her dark eyes and dark hair swept up.

The grown-ups were talking about the woman next door who died after she cut her
finger on a splinter from a Christmas-tree ornament. Ma said how appropriate it was that
a pheasant appeared out of the woods at Mr. Granger’s funeral.

“But she was the one who loved to shoot,” said Aunt Fran with her Adam’s apple
thrust out.

“Terrible story about their son,” said Sophie’s mother. Her thumb rubbed her knuckle
while the conversation continued.

They talked without looking at each other, their chairs all facing in. Aunt Fran
addressed her remarks to the one spot in the room where no one sat or stood. She and
Uncle Thomas were having a pond dug in the back of their house and by mistake the
workers had struck a pipe. Aunt Fran and Uncle Thomas told the story at the same time,
interrupting each other.

Susan Minot, “Thanksgiving Day”
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59

Uncle Charles said, “It’s like a zoo at my house.” When he made jokes, he barely
cracked a smile. Bit was lucky, she got to have a pony and three dogs and sheep. “Our
sheep just stand there in the rain,” said Churly.

Uncle Charles said the chickens hated him. And now they had a turtle, with a chain
attached to the loop on its shell so it wouldn’t run away. It chooses to sleep where I’m
accustomed to park my car,” he said.

“A what?” said Pa, angry at having to strain.

“Turtle,” yelled Uncle Charles.

“Where’s our turtle soup then?” said Pa and some of the family chuckled. Sophie
didn’t think he was kidding. He sat there still as a statue, his hands gripping the
mahogany claws of his chair.

Caitlin was up at the bar with Churly, pouring a ginger ale. Sophie got Bit and Delilah to
go to the owl room, and the boys followed. There were glass owls and a hollow brass owl
with a hinge so its head lifted off, two china owls with flowers, owl engravings, and a
needlepoint of an owl that Caitlin had done from a kit. They had a game they played by
closing their eyes and then going to nose to nose with someone and saying, “One, two,
three, Owl-lee, Owl-lee,” and opening their eye, imitating an owl. Delilah and Sherman
were playing it.

Stretching down the corridor were group silhouettes of Vincent ancestors, black
cutouts of children with ringlets, holding hoops, or men with bearded profiles. There
were Pa’s team pictures from Noble & Greenough and his class pictures from Harvard.
All the faces in the photographs had straight noses and white eyeballs and hide-grey
complexions. In one, Pa lay on his side, lengthwise, in front of everyone else. Sophie
tried to match him with the Pa back in the living room. You never saw Pa smile, that was
common knowledge, except in one picture that Vincents had at home, of Pa with the
Senator. His job had been to write speeches, and according to Sophie’s mother, he got a
dollar a year to do it. In the picture, his grin is closed, like a clown’s. There was Pa in an
army uniform—but Sophie knew that story of that. Pa missed the war, sailing to France
on the exact day Armistice was declared. At the end of the hall, Sophie came to the
picture of Pa’s brother, the famous doctor who discovered the cure for a disease whose
name she could never remember. He had died a long time ago.

When they drifted back into the living room, Uncle Charles was recalling when the
lawn froze and they could skate over the sunken garden.

“Not true,” said Pa, gurgling. “My lawn was never an ice rink.”

“Sure,” said Sophie’s father. “Everything was frozen solid.”

Pa said, “Never happened in my lifetime.”
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Uncle Charles clamped on his pipe with his back teeth. “Oh yes it did, Pa. You must
be losing your memory.” His voice was squeaky.

“Ma,” demanded Pa.

With her perfectly calm face, ma said, “I do remember it, yes.” She looked at Pa and
said gently, “It was when you were away.”

“Nonsense,” he said. “I never went anywhere.”

The children’s table was wobbly. This year Sophie got to sit at the big table, and Caitlin
and Churly, too. Bit said she was glad to stay at the children’s table where she wouldn’t
have to use good manners.

When the plates came, they had everything on them already, even creamed onions,
whether you liked them or not. Pa looked down at the food in front of him.

“Gravy, Granpa?” shouted Aunt Fran. Half-frowning, he regarded her. She swing a
silver ladle over his turkey, bringing it up with a flourish. “Yummy,” she said in a
booming voice.

Everyone at the table used loud voices—family behavior. When Sophie went out to
go to the bathroom, she stood for a moment in the hall between the Chinese portraits and
listened to the clatter behind her, the hollow echo from the high ceilings, Aunt Fran’s
hooting, the knives clinking on the china, her mother’s voice saying something quietly to
the little table. Sophie could tell Uncle Charles from his whine, and her grandmother was
the slow voice enunciating each word the way old people do because they’re tired of
talking. Sophie went up close to study one Indian picture—you could see the tongue of
the snake and the man’s pink fingernails and even the horse’s white eyelashes. Ma said
they used one cat hair at a time to paint it. In the bathroom was the same brown soap
shaped like an owl. The towels she used were so stiff it was like drying your hands with
paper.

Sophie came back as Aunt Fran was saying, “He’s a crook.”

“Now stop that,” said Ma, lifting her chin.

“Who is?” asked Churly, brightening.

“Never mind,” said Ma to her knife and fork.

So Churly asked, “What’d he steal?”

Ma said, “They’ve started reshingling the house in North Eden.” The Vincents went
to Maine every summer. A drawer in one of the side tables was always kept pulled out—
a red velvet slab with rows of arrowheads, ones that Pa had found on Boxed Island in
Susan Minot, “Thanksgiving Day”
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Maine. You played Kick-the-Can on the sloping lawn after supper. When Churly was it,
Sophie would let herself get caught. One time, playing spy, they saw Ma on her balcony
with her hair all down, falling down her arms like a white shawl. Sometimes Ma and Pa
were like ghosts. You’d see them pass behind a window in their house, or snapping out a
light and vanishing. In the daytime, Ma’s hair would be twisted into a knot at the back.

Aunt Fran was wondering wehtehr there didn’t used to be a porch around the house at
Cassett Harbor, the old house. Uncle Thomas shouted, “That’s right. Mrs. Lothrop said
they’d have the Herreshoff teas on that porch.”

“The correct term,” said Ma, “is piazza.”

“It must have been quite a view,” said Sophie’s mother.

“It’s where you’d sit with your beaux,” said Ma.

“We tore down the piazza,” said Pa. Sophie was surprised he was listening.

Aunt Fran said, “I thought it burned down.”

“Yes.” Ma’s nod was meant to end the discussion.

“How’d it burn down?” Churly asked. His long neck went up and his ears stuck out.
Sophie felt herself flushing.

Pa said, “It—was—torn—down.” His shoulders were round and low and his chin
hovered inches above his plate.

Down at her end, Ma said, “The remainder was torn down, yes.” Pa glared at her. His
bottom lip drooped, as white as the rest of his face.

“How’d it burn down?” Churly asked eagerly.

Ma pulled some empty dishes over the tablecloth toward her. “You finish,” she said.
She stood up and carried some things to the sideboard, then glanced over at the table to
see what else to take. She piled small dishes on the turkey platter in front of Pa and went
to lift it.

“Don’t touch that,” he said. He didn’t look at her, or at the platter, but stared at the
middle of the table.

“I think you’re done,” said his wife.

Sophie’s mother pushed her chair back. “Let me . . .” Her napkin bloomed like a
white flower when she let go of it on the table.

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“I’m not through,” said Pa. “I want to pick.” He didn’t move.

“Now, Pa,” said Aunt Fran. “We’ve got Livia’s pies coming.”
“Damn Livia’s pies,” he said. “Only occasionally you will disguise a voyage and
cancel all that crap.”

The little table fell quiet.

“I’m all ready for dessert.” Uncle Thomas looked perky. “You ready for dessert there,
Churly?”

Churly nodded, then looked to see what Pa would do next.

Caitlin and Sophie started to take their plates, but their mother gave them a stay-put
look and made several quick trips through the swinging door.

Pa growled, “I’ve been eating goddamned custard all Monday.”

Aunt Ginny asked, “What kind of pies do we have?” Each year they had the same:
apple, mince and pumpkin. Everyone began saying which kind they wanted. Ma sat back
down.

As they ate their pie and ice cream, Pa kept mumbling. “Bunch of idiots. . . . Going to
knock it off like a bullhorn. . . . Newspaper, then cigar. . . .”

“No dessert for you, Pa?” Uncle Charles asked.

“I wouldn’t set foot in there to piss,” said Pa Vincent.

Ma went down and whispered into Pa’s ear. No one could hear what she said, but Pa
answered in a loud, slow voice, “Why won’t you go shoot yourself?”

In the kitchen, Sophie and Caitlin watched Churly tell Livia. She fidgeted with pans and
finally set them in the sink. “Your grandfather just needs his nap,” said Livia. She studied
the children’s faces to see if they understood this. She was frowning. Her gaze drifted off
and she turned her mammoth back to them, kept on sudsing things in the sink. He’ll be
wanting his . . .” but they couldn’t hear what.

In the living room, the grown-ups were serving coffee. On the tray were miniature
blue enamel cups, a silver bowl holding light-brown-sugar rocks, and chocolate mints in
tissue paper envelopes.

Ma and Aunt Fran came down from upstairs where they had taken Pa.

“Everything all right?” bellowed Uncle Thomas. His wife scowled at him.

Susan Minot, “Thanksgiving Day”
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Ma took her place on the sofa. “Fine,” she said. “Fine.”

Rosie handed her a cup with a tiny gold spoon placed on the saucer. Delilah, her arm
draped across her mother’s knee, felt brave. “Was Pa mad at us?” she asked. Caitlin
glared at her.

“Hah,” shouted Uncle Charles, half-laughing, “he wasn’t mad at me.”

Sophie’s father said, “He didn’t know what he was saying, Delou.” He was over by
the window.

Ma sipped at the rim of her cup. Gus Vincent touched the curtain with one finger and
gazed out. Rosie busily poured more coffee.

Looking at Delilah, Ma said, “He was not mad at you, dear.”

Aunt Ginny looked up, surprised. “The turkey was delicious,” she said.

“Oh shut up, Virginia,” said Uncle Charles.

Sophie looked up at Churly and noticed his ear sticking out and all his features
flattened out, stiff, into a mask.

Uncle Thomas said, “Super meal, super.” He jiggled the change in his pocket, waiting
for something to happen.

“You can thank Livia for that.” Ma set down her saucer. Sherman was in the rocking
chair at her feet, lurching to and fro.

“Yes,” said Rosie Vincent, “but you arranged it so beautifully.”

Ma folded her hands. Her expression was matter-of-fact. “Actually, I don’t think I’ve
ever arranged anything beautifully in my whole life.”

The grown-ups exchanged looks and for a moment there was no sound except for
Sherman creaking in the rocking chair at Ma’s feet. He got up, all at once aware of
himself, and scurried himself to his mother. The chair went on rocking. Ma stared at it.
Rocking empty, it meant something to her.

So she reached out one lavender shoe to still it, and did just that.



64

Celebrations of Thanksgiving:
Cuban Seasonings

ANA MENÉNDEZ

Many Americans today, no less than in times past, are immigrants—or children of
immigrants—who live between the culture of their homeland and the culture of their new
home to which they are, sooner or later, assimilated. This story, written in 2004 by Los
Angeles-born Cuban American novelist and journalist Ana Menéndez (b. 1970) shows the
way a Cuban immigrant family dealt with this cultural “doubleness” around the
peculiarly American holiday of Thanksgiving. The daughter of Cuban exiles, Menéndez
has written four books of fiction, earning a Pushcart Prize, and has worked as a
columnist for the Miami Herald.

What was the original attitude of the Menéndez family toward Thanksgiving? Why did
they strive to transform the holiday and give it a Cuban flavor? How successful was this
effort at transformation? What happened over the years to this family and its
Thanksgiving traditions—and was it inevitable? What do you make of the author’s prayer
at the last Thanksgiving she recounts? Has the holiday served to make these immigrants
more American? More grateful?

We called it “Tansgibin” and to celebrate, we filled our plates with food that was
strenuously—almost comically—Cuban: black beans and rice, fried plantains, yucca.
Back then we didn’t know enough to know we were being ethnic, much less trendy. This
was simply the kind of food we ate, secure in our culinary superiority, and heirs to a long
kitchen tradition that expressed everything from annoyance (“You’re making my life a
yogurt”) to ubiquity (“Like parsley, he’s in all the sauces”) in terms of food.
Thanksgiving, in our own small context, seemed the perfect holiday. And if we were a bit
embarrassed at not having invented it ourselves, we went about transforming it with the
religious zeal of people finding themselves suddenly, woefully, far from home.

At the center of the party was, of course, the pig. In the early years, when my parents
still dreamt of returning to their island, Tansgibin was celebrated, as were all major
holidays in Cuba, with roasted pork. This was a time when the family was closest and
largest, still bound by common memories and hopes, and a 50-pound pig roasting in the
backyard seemed perfectly natural.

The day before, the men would drive out to Homestead to pick out a live pig for
slaughter. The pig was then cleaned, split down its rib cage (a process I never witnessed),
and laid out over newspapers and a large tray in the kitchen to marinate. The marinade,
the mojo, was the most important part of the equation and families lived and died by their
mojo recipes. Today you can buy a strange chemical syrup in bottles labeled “mojo”—of
which the best one can say about it is that it’s another sad example of the banality of
exile.

Ana Menéndez , “Celebrations of Thanksgiving: Cuban Seasonings”
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Mojo is not complicated to make, at any rate. And it makes up in exuberance for
whatever it lacks in subtlety. First, several heads of garlic are peeled and then mashed
with a little salt (to keep them from jumping) in a large mortar. If one is marinating pork,
and therefore large quantities are called for, the garlic goes into a blender along with
fresh sour orange juice. Cumin might be added, perhaps dried oregano. This is blended
well and the whole thing poured over the pig. In the years before concern over food
poisoning, the pig was covered and left on the table all night. As a girl, I was so addicted
to the salty mojo that I often would sneak down to the kitchen and scoop up dripping
fingerfuls of the stuff from the wells of the pig’s open ribs.

The following day, the men would dig a hole in the backyard, light a fire, and set the
pig to roasting over a grill, covered with banana leaves, and later foil. It had every aspect
of ritual, as well as dress rehearsal—for come Christmas Eve the whole thing would be
repeated with far more ceremony and purpose. These were long, warm days in Miami.
The men—shirtless and drinking beer as they told jokes and reminisced—tended to the
roasting from morning until evening. The rest of the meal was up to the women and the
day was a whirlwind of pots and rice makers and sizzling sazón (seasonings) and smells
and the “hish hish” of the pressure cooker hurrying along its charge of black beans, and
then of yucca. It was a happy, bantering gathering, as I remember all women’s efforts in
the kitchen; and perhaps I’m one of the few women of my generation who does not
consider the kitchen a chore or an affront to my independence, but rather a place of
warmth and sustenance.

Those were happy days, colored as they were by the brief honeyed hour of childhood,
and when I look back on them now I have a strange sense of them having taken place not
in America, but in the Cuba of my parents’ memories. But change, always inevitable and
irrevocable, came gradually. As usual, it was prefigured by food. One year someone
brought a pumpkin pie from Publix. It was pronounced inedible. But a wall had been
breached. Cranberry sauce followed. I myself introduced a stuffing recipe (albeit
composed of figs and prosciutto) that to my current dismay became a classic. Soon began
the rumblings about pork being unhealthy. And besides, the family was shrinking: first
through sicknesses and then death, and finally through misunderstandings and the
pressures of a life that became more hurried and graceless by the day. A whole pig
seemed suddenly an embarrassing extravagance, a desperate and futile grasping after the
old days.

And so came the turkey. I don’t remember when exactly. I do recall that at the time, I
had been mildly relieved. I had already begun to develop an annoyance with my family’s
narrow culinary tastes—which to me signaled a more generalized lack of curiosity about
the wider world. I had not yet discovered M.F.K. Fisher,
23
and at any rate, I wasn’t old
enough to understand that a hungry man has no reason to play games with his palate. I
remember that soon after that first turkey appeared, there was much confusion over how
to cook this new beast. The problem was eventually resolved by treating the bird exactly
as if it were a pig. In went the garlic and the sour orange, the night-long mojo bath. When
this didn’t seem quite enough to rid the poor turkey of its inherent blandness, someone

23
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908–92), an American food writer.
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came up with the idea of poking small incisions right into the meat and stuffing them
with slivered garlic. Disaster, in this way, was mostly averted. And to compliment the
cook one said, “This tastes just like roast pork.”

I moved away from Miami almost 10 years ago. I’ve only been back for one or two
Christmas Eve celebrations. But somehow I’ve always found myself in the city on
Thanksgiving. My sister still claims it as her favorite holiday, even if the past few years
she’s used the occasion to leave town. The celebrations wax and wane. Occasionally we
can still muster large crowds, though we haven’t had pork for years now. Sometimes it is
another occasion to see the larger family, and also to witness the ravages. It was on one
such Thanksgiving that I overheard my father’s mother ask him, “Tell me, have we been
in this country a long time?” I was in the library of my parents’ home, writing what
would become my first book, and I immediately put the line into a story. None of us
knew it then, but she had already begun the long decline into the forgetting illness that
would eventually finish tearing apart the family as she babbled quietly in a corner, “Is
this Tia Cuca’s house? I have to return home, my mother is expecting me in
Cárdenas . . .”

This last Thanksgiving was the smallest on record. We gathered, for the first time in
memory, not at a massive folding table in the porch, but around the regular dining room
table at my parent’s home. It was just me, my parents, my mother’s mother, and her
sister. My husband was in Iraq, covering the war. My sister was in Aruba with her
boyfriend. My grandmother’s husband was dead, as was her sister’s. And my other
grandmother had been temporarily shut in a nursing home, a final act of forgetting which
my father could not stomach on Tansgibin.

When it came time to say grace, my father refused. “You have nothing to be thankful
for?” my mother asked, angrily. “Plenty,” my father said through clenched teeth. The old
women eyed each other nervously. In the silence, the one agnostic among us began to
pray. Probably I expressed an ironic thanks for family and asked that there be peace in
the world. I’ve forgotten the smirking details. I do remember that the rest of the meal
passed in awkward silence. There was war within and war without and there is a lot about
that Thanksgiving that I wish could have been different. But the turkey was delicious. I
realized, with a pang of nostalgia that surprises me still, that it tasted just like roast pork.






Prosperity

68

How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

In this selection from her partially autobiographical and partially fictional account of
“New England in its seed-bed,” before the hot suns of modern progress had developed its
sprouting germs” (published in 1869), Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–96), author of
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), remembers, perhaps with some embellishment, what
Thanksgiving was like in her childhood, when the family gathered in the home of her
grandmother for “the king and high priest of all festivals.” The general scene—like
Stowe’s account itself—is filled with energy, exuberance, merriment, joy, and good will,
as the family’s prosperity and abundance of food and good cheer are shared with all
around.

Collecting concrete examples from the story, can you say what kind of prosperity is to
be found at Oldtown? Is Thanksgiving in Oldtown a departure from, or a fulfillment of,
the religious teachings and political aspirations of their Puritan ancestors: “to form a
state of society of such equality of conditions, and to make the means of securing the
goods of life so free to all, that everybody should find abundant employment for his
faculties in a prosperous seeking of his fortunes”? How does the combination of
abundance of food, charitable concern for the needy, and lively music and dancing
contribute to the creation of community? Is there anything spiritual or religious in the
Oldtown Thanksgiving?

On the whole, about this time in our life we were a reasonably happy set of children. The
Thanksgiving festival of that year is particularly impressed on my mind as a white day.

Are there any of my readers who do not know what Thanksgiving day is to a child?
Then let them go back with me, and recall the image of it as we kept it in Oldtown.

People have often supposed, because the Puritans founded a society where there were
no professed public amusements, that therefore there was no fun going on in the ancient
land of Israel, and that there were no cakes and ale, because they were virtuous. They
were never more mistaken in their lives. There was an abundance of sober, well-
considered merriment; and the hinges of life were well oiled with that sort of secret
humor which to this day gives the raciness to real Yankee wit. Besides this, we must
remember that life itself is the greatest possible amusement to people who really believe
they can do much with it,—who have that intense sense of what can be brought to pass by
human effort, that was characteristic of the New England colonies. To such it is not
exactly proper to say that life is an amusement, but it certainly is an engrossing interest
that takes the place of all amusements. . . .

Our good Puritan fathers intended to form a state of society of such equality of
conditions, and to make the means of securing the goods of life so free to all, that
everybody should find abundant employment for his faculties in a prosperous seeking of
Harriet Beecher Stowe, “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown”
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his fortunes. Hence, while they forbade theatres, operas, and dances, they made a state of
unparalleled peace and prosperity, where one could go to sleep at all hours of day or
night with the house door wide open, without bolt or bar, yet without apprehension of any
to molest or make afraid.

There were, however, some few national fêtes:—Election day, when the Governor
took his seat with pomp and rejoicing, and all the housewives outdid themselves in
election cake, and one or two training days, when all the children were refreshed, and our
military ardor quickened, by the roll of drums, and the flash of steel bayonets, and
marchings and evolutions,—sometimes ending in that sublimest of military operations, a
sham fight, in which nobody was killed. The Fourth of July took high rank, after the
Declaration of Independence; but the king and high priest of all festivals was the autumn
Thanksgiving.

When the apples were all gathered and the cider was all made, and the yellow
pumpkins were rolled in from many a hill in billows of gold, and the corn was husked,
and the labors of the season were done, and the warm, late days of Indian Summer came
in, dreamy and calm and still, with just frost enough to crisp the ground of a morning, but
with warm trances of benignant, sunny hours at noon, there came over the community a
sort of genial repose of spirit,—a sense of something accomplished, and of a new golden
mark made in advance on the calendar of life,—and the deacon began to say to the
minister, of a Sunday, “I suppose it’s about time for the Thanksgiving proclamation. . . .”

We also felt its approach in all departments of the household,—the conversation at
this time beginning to turn on high and solemn culinary mysteries and receipts of
wondrous power and virtue. New modes of elaborating squash pies and quince tarts were
now ofttimes carefully discussed at the evening fireside by Aunt Lois and Aunt Keziah,
and notes seriously compared with the experiences of certain other Aunties of high repute
in such matters. I noticed that on these occasions their voices often fell into mysterious
whispers, and that receipts of especial power and sanctity were communicated in tones so
low as entirely to escape the vulgar ear. I still remember the solemn shake of the head
with which my Aunt Lois conveyed to Miss Mehitable Rossiter the critical properties of
mace, in relation to its powers of producing in corn fritters a suggestive resemblance to
oysters. As ours was an oyster-getting district, and as that charming bivalve was perfectly
easy to come at, the interest of such an imitation can be accounted for only by the
fondness of the human mind for works of art.

For as much as a week beforehand, “we children” were employed in chopping mince
for pies to a most wearisome fineness, and in pounding cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in
a great lignum-vitæ mortar; and the sound of this pounding and chopping re-echoed
through all the rafters of the old house with a hearty and vigorous cheer, most refreshing
to our spirits.

In those days there were none of the thousand ameliorations of the labors of
housekeeping which have since arisen,—no ground and prepared spices and sweet herbs;
everything came into our hands in the rough, and in bulk, and the reducing of it into a
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state for use was deemed one of the appropriate labors of childhood. Even the very salt
that we used in cooking was rock-salt, which we were required to wash and dry and
pound and sift, before it became fit for use.

At other times of the year we sometimes murmured at these labors, but those that
were supposed to usher in the great Thanksgiving festival were always entered into with
enthusiasm. There were signs of richness all around us,—stoning of raisins, cutting of
citron, slicing of candied orange-peel. Yet all these were only dawnings and intimations
of what was coming during the week of real preparation, after the Governor’s
proclamation had been read.

The glories of that proclamation! We knew beforehand the Sunday it was to be read,
and walked to church with alacrity, filled with gorgeous and vague expectations.

The cheering anticipation sustained us through what seemed to us the long waste of
the sermon and prayers; and when at last the auspicious moment approached,—when the
last quaver of the last hymn had died out,—the whole house rippled with a general
movement of complacency, and a satisfied smile of pleased expectation might be seen
gleaming on the faces of all the young people, like a ray of sunshine through a garden of
flowers.

Thanksgiving now was dawning! We children poked one another, and fairly giggled
with unreproved delight as we listened to the crackle of the slowly unfolding document.
That great sheet of paper impressed us as something supernatural, by reason of its mighty
size, and by the broad seal of the State affixed thereto; and when the minister read
therefrom, “By his Excellency, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a
Proclamation,” our mirth was with difficulty repressed by admonitory glances from our
sympathetic elders. Then, after a solemn enumeration of the benefits which the
Commonwealth had that year received at the hands of Divine Providence, came at last the
naming of the eventful day, and, at the end of all, the imposing heraldic words, “God save
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” And then, as the congregation broke up and
dispersed, all went their several ways with schemes of mirth and feasting in their heads.

And now came on the week in earnest. In the very watches of the night preceding
Monday morning, a preternatural stir below stairs, and the thunder of the pounding-
barrel, announced that the washing was to be got out of the way before daylight, so as to
give “ample scope and room enough” for the more pleasing duties of the season. . . .

In the corner of the great kitchen, during all these days, the jolly old oven roared and
crackled in great volcanic billows of flame, snapping and gurgling as if the old fellow
entered with joyful sympathy into the frolic of the hour; and then, his great heart being
once warmed up, he brooded over successive generations of pies and cakes, which went
in raw and came out cooked, till butteries and dressers and shelves and pantries were
literally crowded with a jostling abundance.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown”
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A great cold northern chamber, where the sun never shone, and where in winter the
snow sifted in at the window-cracks, and ice and frost reigned with undisputed sway, was
fitted up to be the storehouse of these surplus treasures. There, frozen solid, and thus well
preserved in their icy fetters, they formed a great repository for all the winter months; and
the pies baked at Thanksgiving often came out fresh and good with the violets of April.

During this eventful preparation week, all the female part of my grandmother’s
household, as I have before remarked, were at a height above any ordinary state of
mind,— they moved about the house rapt in a species of prophetic frenzy. It seemed to be
considered a necessary feature of such festivals, that everybody should be in a hurry, and
everything in the house should be turned bottom upwards with enthusiasm,—so at least
we children understood it, and we certainly did our part to keep the ball rolling. . . .

Moreover, my grandmother’s kitchen at this time began to be haunted by those
occasional hangers-on and retainers, of uncertain fortunes, whom a full experience of her
bountiful habits led to expect something at her hand at this time of the year. . . .

Aunt Lois never had a hearty conviction of the propriety of these arrangements; but
my grandmother, who had a prodigious verbal memory, bore down upon her with such
strings of quotations from the Old Testament that she was utterly routed.

“Now,” says my Aunt Lois, “I s’pose we’ve got to have Betty Poganut and Sally
Wonsamug, and old Obscue and his wife, and the whole tribe down, roosting around our
doors, till we give ’em something. That’s just mother’s way; she always keeps a whole
generation at her heels.”

“How many times must I tell you, Lois, to read your Bible?” was my grandmother’s
rejoinder; and loud over the sound of pounding and chopping in the kitchen could be
heard the voice of her quotations: “If there be among you a poor man in any of the gates
of the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut
thy hand, from thy poor brother. Thou shalt surely give him; and thy heart shall not be
grieved when thou givest to him, because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless
thee in all thy works; for the poor shall never cease from out of the land. . . .”

Besides these offerings to the poor, the handsomest turkey of the flock was sent,
dressed in first-rate style, with Deacon Badger’s dutiful compliments, to the minister; and
we children, who were happy to accompany black Cæsar on this errand, generally
received a seed-cake and a word of acknowledgment from the minister’s lady.

Well, at last, when all the chopping and pounding and baking and brewing,
preparatory to the festival, were gone through with, the eventful day dawned. All the
tribes of the Badger family were to come back home to the old house, with all the
relations of every degree, to eat the Thanksgiving dinner. And it was understood that in
the evening the minister and his lady would look in upon us, together with some of the
select aristocracy of Oldtown.

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Great as the preparations were for the dinner, everything was so contrived that not a
soul in the house should be kept from the morning service of Thanksgiving in the church,
and from listening to the Thanksgiving sermon, in which the minister was expected to
express his views freely concerning the politics of the country, and the state of things in
society generally, in a somewhat more secular vein of thought than was deemed exactly
appropriate to the Lord’s day. But it is to be confessed, that, when the good man got
carried away by the enthusiasm of his subject to extend these exercises beyond a certain
length, anxious glances, exchanged between good wives, sometimes indicated a
weakness of the flesh, having a tender reference to the turkeys and chickens and chicken
pies, which might possibly be overdoing in the ovens at home. But your old brick oven
was a true Puritan institution, and backed up the devotional habits of good housewives,
by the capital care which he took of whatever was committed to his capacious bosom. A
truly well-bred oven would have been ashamed of himself all his days, and blushed
redder than his own fires, if a God-fearing house-matron, away at the temple of the Lord,
should come home and find her pie-crust either burned or underdone by his over or under
zeal; so the old fellow generally managed to bring things out exactly right.

When sermons and prayers were all over, we children rushed home to see the great
feast of the year spread.

What chitterings and chatterings there were all over the house, as all the aunties and
uncles and cousins came pouring in, taking off their things, looking at one another’s
bonnets and dresses, and mingling their comments on the morning sermon with various
opinions on the new millinery outfits, and with bits of home news, and kindly
neighborhood gossip.

Uncle Bill, whom the Cambridge college authorities released, as they did all the other
youngsters of the land for Thanksgiving day, made a breezy stir among them all,
especially with the young cousins of the feminine gender.

The best room on this occasion was thrown wide open, and its habitual coldness had
been warmed by the burning down of a great stack of hickory logs, which had been
heaped up unsparingly since morning. It takes some hours to get a room warn, where a
family never sits, and which therefore has not in its walls one particle of the genial
vitality which comes from the in-dwelling of human beings. But on Thanksgiving day, at
least, every year, this marvel was effected in our best room.

Although all servile labor and vain recreation on this day were by law forbidden,
according to the terms of the proclamation, it was not held to be a violation of the
precept, that all the nice old aunties should bring their knitting-work and sit gently
trotting their needles around the fire; nor that Uncle Bill should start a full-fledged romp
among the girls and children, while the dinner was being set on the long table in the
neighboring kitchen. Certain of the good elderly female relatives, of serious and discreet
demeanor, assisted at this operation.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown”
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But who shall do justice to the dinner, and describe the turkey, and chickens, and
chicken pies, with all that endless variety of vegetables which the American soil and
climate have contributed to the table, and which, without regard to the French doctrine of
courses, were all piled together in jovial abundance upon the smoking board? There was
much carving and laughing and talking and eating, and all showed that cheerful ability to
despatch the provisions which was the ruling spirit of the hour. After the meat came the
plum-puddings, and then the endless array of pies, till human nature was actually
bewildered and overpowered by the tempting variety; and even we children turned from
the profusion offered to us, and wondered what was the matter that we could eat no more.

When all was over, my grandfather rose at the head of the table, and a fine venerable
picture he made as he stood there, his silver hair flowing in curls down each side of his
clear, calm face, while, in conformity to the old Puritan custom, he called their attention
to a recital of the mercies of God in his dealings with their family.

It was a sort of family history, going over and touching upon the various events which
had happened. He spoke of my father’s death, and gave a tribute to his memory; and
closed all with the application of a time-honored text, expressing the hope that as years
passed by we might “so number our days as to apply our hearts unto wisdom”; and then
he gave out that psalm which in those days might be called the national hymn of the
Puritans.

“Let children hear the mighty deeds
Which God performed of old,
Which in our younger years we saw,
And which our fathers told.

“He bids us make his glories known,
His works of power and grace.
And we’ll convey his wonders down
Through every rising race.

“Our lips shall tell them to our sons,
And they again to theirs;
That generations yet unborn
May teach them to their heirs.

“Thus shall they learn in God alone
Their hope securely stands;
That they may ne’er forget his works,
But practise his commands.”

This we all united in singing to the venerable tune of St. Martin’s, an air which, the
reader will perceive, by its multiplicity of quavers and inflections gave the greatest
possible scope to the cracked and trembling voices of the ancients, who united in it with
even more zeal than the younger part of the community.
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Uncle Fliakim Sheril, furbished up in a new crisp black suit, and with his spindle-
shanks trimly incased in the smoothest of black silk stockings, looking for all the world
just like an alert and spirited black cricket, outdid himself on this occasion in
singing counter, in that high, weird voice that he must have learned from the wintry
winds that usually piped around the corners of the old house. But any one who looked at
him, as he sat with his eyes closed, beating time with head and hand, and, in short, with
every limb of his body, must have perceived the exquisite satisfaction which he derived
from this mode of expressing himself. I much regret to be obliged to state that my
graceless Uncle Bill, taking advantage of the fact that the eyes of all his elders were
devotionally closed, stationing himself a little in the rear of my Uncle Fliakim, performed
an exact imitation of his counter, with such a killing facility that all the younger part of
the audience were nearly dead with suppressed laughter. Aunt Lois, who never shut her
eyes a moment on any occasion, discerned this from a distant part of the room, and in
vain endeavored to stop it by vigorously shaking her head at the offender. She might as
well have shaken it at a bobolink
1
tilting on a clover-top. In fact, Uncle Bill was Aunt
Lois’s weak point, and the corners of her own mouth were observed to twitch in such a
suspicious manner that the whole moral force of her admonition was destroyed.

And now, the dinner being cleared away, we youngsters, already excited to a tumult
of laughter, tumbled into the best room, under the supervision of Uncle Bill, to relieve
ourselves with a game of “blind-man’s-buff,” while the elderly women washed up the
dishes and got the house in order, and the men-folks went out to the barn to look at the
cattle, and walked over the farm and talked of the crops. . . .

Whenever or wherever it was that the idea of the sinfulness of dancing arose in New
England, I know not; it is a certain fact that at Oldtown, at this time, the presence of the
minister and his lady was held not to be in the slightest degree incompatible with this
amusement. I appeal to many of my readers, if they or their parents could not recall a
time in New England when in all the large towns dancing assemblies used to be statedly
held, at which the minister and his lady, though never uniting in the dance, always gave
an approving attendance, and where all the decorous, respectable old church-members
brought their children, and stayed to watch an amusement in which they no longer
actively partook. No one looked on with a more placid and patronizing smile than Dr.
Lothrop and his lady, as one after another began joining the exercise, which, commencing
first with the children and young people, crept gradually upwards among the elders. . . .

Of course the dances in those days were of a strictly moral nature. The very thought
of one of the round dances of modern times would have sent Lady Lothrop behind her big
fan in helpless confusion, and exploded my grandmother like a full-charged arsenal of
indignation. As it was, she stood, her broad, pleased face radiant with satisfaction, as the
wave of joyousness crept up higher and higher round her, till the elders, who stood
keeping time with their heads and feet, began to tell one another how they had danced
with their sweethearts in good old days gone by, and the elder women began to blush and

1
A small New World blackbird.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown”
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bridle, and boast of steps that they could take in their youth till the music finally subdued
them, and into the dance they went.

“Well, well!” quoth my grandmother; “they’re all at it so hearty, I don’t see why I
shouldn’t try it myself.” And into the Virginia reel she went, amid screams of laughter
from all the younger members of the company.

But I assure you my grandmother was not a woman to be laughed at; for whatever she
once set on foot, she “put through” with a sturdy energy befitting a daughter of the
Puritans.

“Why shouldn’t I dance?” she said, when she arrived red and resplendent at the
bottom of the set. “Didn’t Mr. Despondency and Miss Muchafraid and Mr. Readytohalt
all dance together in the Pilgrim’s Progress?”—and the minister in his ample flowing
wig, and my lady in her stiff brocade, gave to my grandmother a solemn twinkle of
approbation.

As nine o’clock struck, the whole scene dissolved and melted; for what well-
regulated village would think of carrying festivities beyond that hour?

And so ended our Thanksgiving at Oldtown.


76

Thanksgiving on Slav Creek

JACK LONDON

In contrast to the previous story, the “prosperity” in this tale exists mainly as a hope—in
keeping with the root meaning of the word, (Latin: pro + spes, hope) “according to
hope”—as the main characters hopefully prospect (“look forward”: pro + specere) for
gold. Like them, Jack London (1876–1916) participated in the Yukon Gold Rush of 1897.
But the only gold he brought back was an experience that he would mine for gems of
literature for much of his writing life, as evidenced in his well-known novels like Call of
the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906), as well as in his stories like “To Build a Fire”
(1908) and “Thanksgiving on Slav Creek” (1900), all of which draw on the places he saw
and the people he met during those simultaneously hope-filled and brutal times in the
Northwestern Yukon territory.

In this story, Nella and George Tichborne have left their home “down in the States”
and come to the Yukon territory in search of gold. Accompanied by Ikeesh, an Indian
woman, they brave the darkness and the freezing cold to beat out “the stampede” of
fortune hunters rushing to stake a prospecting claim on Slav Creek, rumored to be a
place where anyone might strike it rich. Can you imagine what the experience must have
been like for these three? What enabled them to bear the brutal conditions? For what
purpose do they want to find gold? What would be their ultimate “prosperity”? What is
the significance of the uninvited guest who suddenly appears at the end? What makes this
story a tale of “true Thanksgiving”?

She woke up with a start. Her husband was speaking in a low voice, insistently.

“Come,” he added. “Get up. Get up Nella. Quick. Get up.”

“But I don’t want to get up,” she objected, striving vainly to lapse back into the
comfortable drowse.

“But I say you must. And don’t make any noise, but come along. Hurry! Oh, do
hurry. Our fortune’s made if you will only hurry!”

Nella Tichborne was now wide awake, what with the suppressed excitement in his
whispers, and she thrust her feet out with a shiver upon the cold cabin floor.

“What is it?” she asked, petulantly. “What is it?”

“’Ssh!” he sibilated. “Don’t make a noise. Mum’s the worse. Dress at once.”

“But what is it?”

“Be quiet, if you love me, and dress.”
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“Now, George, I won’t move an inch until you tell me.” She capped the ultimatum by
sitting back on the edge of the bunk.

The man groaned. “Oh, the time, the precious time, you’re losing! Didn’t I tell you
our fortune was made? Do hurry! It’s a tip. Nobody knows. A secret. There’s a stampede
on. ’Ssh! Put on warm clothes. It’s the coldest yet. The frost is sixty-five below. I’m
going to call Ikeesh. She would like to be in on it, I know. And oh, Nella—”

“Yes?”

“Do be quick.”

He stepped across to the other end of the cabin where a blanket partitioned the room
into two, and called Ikeesh. The Indian woman was already awake. Her husband was up
on his Bonanza claim, though this was her cabin, in which she was entertaining George
Tichborne and Nella.

“What um matter, Tichborne?” she asked. “Um Nella sick?”

“No, no. Stampede. Rich creek. Plenty gold. Hurry up and dress.”

“What um time?”

“Twelve o’clock. Midnight. Don’t make any noise.”

Five minutes later the cabin door opened and they passed out.

“’Ssh!” he cautioned.

“Oh, George! Have you got the frying-pan?”

“Yes.”

“And the gold-pan? And the axe?”

“Yes, yes, Nella. And did you remember the baking-powder?”

They crunched rapidly through the snow, down the hill into sleeping Dawson. Light
stampeding packs were on their backs, containing a fur robe each, and the barest
necessaries for a camp in the polar frost. But Dawson was not sleeping, after all. Cabin
windows were flashing into light, and ever and anon the mumble of voices drifted to
them through the darkness. The dogs were beginning to howl and the doors to slam. By
the time they reached the Barracks the whole town was aroar behind them. Here the trail
dropped abruptly over the bank and crossed the packed ice of the Yukon to the farther
shore.

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George Tichborne swore softly and to himself; but aloud: “It’s leaked out somehow,
and everybody’s in it. Sure to be a big stampede now. But hurry up; they’re all behind us,
and we’ll make it yet!”

“George!” A frightened wail punctured the still air and died away as Nella slipped on
the icy footing and shot down the twenty-foot embankment into the pit of darkness
beneath.

“Nella! Nella! Where are you?” He was falling over the great ice-blocks and groping
his away to her as best he could. “Are you hurt? Where are you?”

“All right! Coming!” she answered, cheerily. “Only the snow’s all down my back and
melting. Brrr!”

Hardly were the trio reunited when two black forms plumped into their midst from
above. These were followed by others, some arriving decorously, but the majority
scorning the conventional locomotion and peregrinating along on every other portion of
their anatomies but their feet. They also had stampeding packs on their backs and a great
haste in their hearts.

“Where’s the trail?” the cry went up. And thereat all fell to seeking for the path across
the river.

At last, George Tichborne found it, and, with Nella and Ikeesh, led the way. But in
the darkness they lost it repeatedly, slipping, stumbling, and falling over the wildly piled
ice. Finally, in desperation, he lighted a candle, and as there was not a breath of wind, the
way was easier. Nella looked back at the fifty stampeders behind and laughed half-
hysterically. Her husband gritted his teeth and plunged savagely on.

“At least we’re at the head of the bunch, the very first,” he whispered to her, as they
swung south on the smoother trailer which ran along under the shadow of the bluffs.

But just then a flaming ribbon rose athwart the sky, spilling pulsating fire over the
face of the night. The trail ahead lighted up, and as far as they could see it was cumbered
with shadowy forms, all toiling in one direction. And now those behind began to pass
them, one by one, straining mightily with the endeavor.

“Oh, Nella! Hurry!” He seized her hand and strove to drag her along. “It’s the one
chance we’ve been waiting for so long. Think of it if we fail!”

“Oh! Oh!” She gasped and tottered. “We will never make it! No, never!”

There was a sharp pain in her side, and she was dizzy with the unwonted speed.
Ikeesh grunted encouragement and took her other hand. But none the less the vague
forms from the rear continued to steadily overtake and pass them.

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Hours which were as centuries passed. The night seemed without end to Nella.
Gradually her consciousness seemed to leave her, her whole soul narrowing down to the
one mechanical function of walking. Ever lifting, ever falling, and ever lifting anon, her
limbs seemed to have become great pendulums of time. And before and behind
glimmered two eternities, and between the two eternities, ever lifting, ever falling, she
pulsed in vast rhythmical movement. She was no longer Nella Tichborne, a woman, but a
rhythm—that was all, a rhythm. Sometimes the voices of Ikeesh and her husband came to
her faintly; but in her semi-conscious condition she really did not hear. To-morrow there
would be no record of the sounds; for a rhythm is not receptive to sound. The stars paled
and dimmed, but she did not heed; the aurora-borealis shrouded its fires, and the darkness
which is of the dawn fell upon the earth, but she did not know.

But ere the darkness fell, Ikeesh drew up to Tichborne and pointed to the loom of the
mountains above the west shore of the river.

“Um Swede Creek?” she asked, laconically, pointing whither the trail led.

“No,” he replied. “Slav Creek.”

“Um no Slav Creek. Slav Creek—” She turned and pointed into the darkness five
degrees to the south. “Um Slav Creek.”

He came suddenly to a stop. Nella persisted in walking on, heedless of his outcries,
till he ran after her and forced her to stop. She was obedient, but as a rhythm she no
longer existed. The two eternities, which it was her task to hold apart, had rushed
together, and she was not. So she wandered off to the old home down in the States, and
sat under the great trees, and joyed in the warm sunshine—the old home, the old
mortgaged home, which had driven them poleward after the yellow gold! The old home
which it was their one aim to redeem! But she forgot all this, and laughed, and babbled,
and poured the sunshine back and forth from hand to hand. How warm it was! Was there
ever the like?

Tichborne conferred with Ikeesh. She so stolidly reiterated that Slav Creek lay farther
to the south that he believed.

“Somebody went astray in the dark,” he exulted, “and the rest followed his trail like
sheep. Come on! Come on! We’ll be in at the finish yet, and ahead of no end of those that
passed us!”

He cut across a five-mile flat into the south-west, and two hours later, with gray dawn
creeping over the landscape, entered the wood-hidden mouth of Slav Creek. The fresh
signs of the stampede were so many and so various that he knew Ikeesh had spoken true,
though he feared that the mistake had occurred too late in the night to have led enough on
the wild-goose chase up Swede Creek.

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“Oh, Nella,” he called to his wife, stumbling blindly at his heels, “it’s all right. We
are sure to get a claim. Day has come. Look about you. This is Slav Creek, and behold
the day is Thanksgiving day!”

She turned a blank face upon him. “Yes, the mortgage shall be lifted, principal and
interest, I promise you—George and I both promise you. Even now, to-morrow, do we go
north to lift the mortgage.”

Tichborne glanced helplessly at Ikeesh.

“Um much tired,” she commented, dryly. “But um be all right bime-by. Bime-by
make camp, um be all right.”

They hastened on for five miles more, when they came to the first white-blazed trees
and fresh-planted stakes of the newly located claims. Hour after hour, they traveled up
the frozen bed of the creek, and still, stake to stake, the claims stretched in an unbroken
line. Even the man and the Indian women grew weary and panted. Ikeesh kept a jealous
eye on Nella’s face, and now and again, when it turned white, rubbed with snow the tip of
the nose and the stretched skin of the cheek-bones. They passed many men—the
successful ones—rolled in their furs by the side of the trail, or cooking and warming
themselves over crackling fires of dry spruce. At eleven o’clock the sun rose in the south-
east; but though there was no warmth in its rays, it gave a cheerier aspect to things.

“How much farther do the stakes run?” Tichborne asked of a man limping down the
trail.

“I staked 179,” the man answered, stopping to pound the aching muscles of his legs.
“But there were about ten more behind me: so I guess they’ve run it up to 189.”

“And this is 107,” Tichborne calculated aloud. “Five-hundred-foot claims—ten to the
mile—about eight miles yet, eh?”

“Reckon you’ve ’bout hit it on the head,” the other assured him. “But you’d better
hurry. Half the stampede went wrong up Swede Creek—that’s the next one to this—but
they’re onto themselves now, and crossing the divide and tapping Slav Creek in the
hundred-and-eighties.

“But they’re having a terrible time” he shouted back as he went on his way. “I met the
first one that succeeded in crossing over. He said the trail was lined with people tee-
totally played out, and that he knew himself five frozen to death on the divide.”

Frozen to death! The phrase served to rouse Nella from her maze of memory visions.
Her glimmering senses came back to her, and she opened her eyes with a start. The
interminable night was gone—spent where or how she could not say—and day broke
upon her with a blinding flash. She looked about. Everything was strange and unreal.
Both her companions were limping pitifully, and she was aware of a great full pain in her
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own limbs. Her husband turned his head, and she saw his face and beard a mass of
bristling ice. Ikeesh’s mouth was likewise matted with frost, and her brows and lashes
long and white. And Nella felt the weight on her own lashes, and the difficulty of
drawing them apart from each other whenever she closed her eyes. The double excessive
demand of the toil and the frost had burned up all the fuel of her body, and she felt cold
and faint with hunger. This latter she found worse than the agony of the overused
muscles; for a quivering nausea came upon her, and her knees trembled and knocked
together with weakness.

Occasionally Tichborne made excursions to one side or the other in search of the
claim-stakes, which were not always posted in the creek-bed. At such times Nella
dropped down to rest, but Ikeesh dragged her afoot again, and shook her, and struck her
harsh blows upon her body. For Ikeesh knew the way of the cold, and that a five-minute
rest without fire meant death. So Nella has lapses and cruel awakenings till the whole
thing seemed a hideous nightmare. Sometimes, the trees became glibbering shades, and
Slav Creek turned to an Inferno, with her husband as Virgil, and leading her from circle
to circle of the damned. But at other times, when she was dimly conscious, the memory
of the old home was strong upon her, and the mortgage nerved her on.

A long, long time afterward—ages afterward, it seemed—she heard George cry aloud
joyfully, and looking at him as though from a great distance, she saw him slashing the
bark from a standing tree, and writing on the white surface with a lead-pencil. At last!
She sank down into the snow, but Ikeesh struck her a stinging blow across the mouth.
Nella came back angrily to her feet, but Ikeesh pushed her away and set her to work
gathering dry wood.

Again came a long lapse, during which she toiled mechanically and unknowing; and
when she next found herself she was in the furs by a big fire, and Ikeesh was stirring a
batter of flour and water and boiling coffee. To her surprise, Nella felt much better after
her rest, and was able to look about her. George ran up with a gold-pan of gravel which
he had got from the creek bottom through an air-hole, and warmed his hands by the fire.
When he had panned it out he brought the prospect over to her. The streak of black sand
on the bottom was specked with yellow grains of glistening gold, and there were several
small nuggets besides. He leaped up and down and about like a boy, for all his weary
body.

“We’ve struck it at last, Nella!” he cried. “The home is safe! If that is a surface
indication, what must it be on bed-rock?”

“Tell you what—”

They turned their heads, startled. A man had crawled up to the fire unobserved in
their excitement.

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“Tell you what,” he glowed, “it’s the richest creek in Alaska and the Northwest.
Sure!” He sat down uninvited, and tried to unfasten his ice-bound moccasins. “Say, I
broke through the ice up here a piece and wet my feet. I kind of think they’re freezing.”

Ikeesh stopped from her cooking, and Tichborne lending a hand, they cut off the new-
comer’s moccasins and socks and rubbed his white feet till the glow of life returned.

“Tell you what,” the sufferer went on, unconcernedly, while they worked over him,
“judging from indications, you people are located on the richest run of the creek. Sure!
But I got in on it; you betcher life I did! Got lost on Swede Creek, too, and hit across the
divide. Say! No end of frozen men on that trail. But I got in on it, tell you what!”

“A true Thanksgiving, Nella.”

George Tichborne passed her a tin plate of flapjacks swimming in bacon grease and a
great mug of piping black coffee. She seized his hand impulsively and pressed it, and her
eyes grew luminously soft . . . .

“Tell you what—” she heard the new-comer begin; but a vision of the old home,
warm in the sunshine, came into her eyes, and she dropped off to sleep without hearing
“what.”


83

The Lost Turkey

SARAH ORNE JEWETT

In this story from 1902, novelist and short story writer Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909)
explores the connection between doing good for others and prospering oneself, as well as
the relationship between material wealth and some richer prosperity. Jewett was raised
in South Berwick, Maine and was profoundly influenced by her experiences observing
local farmers and fishermen, as well as her New England coastal upbringing, elements of
which are visible in her writing. In this story, for example, a rupture has occurred
between old farmer Jones and his daughter-in-law Sarah and grandson Johnny, after the
death of Jones’s son (and Sarah’s husband), leaving the former embittered and the latter
impoverished.

Who or what is most responsible for effecting the reconciliation: the doctor with his
speech to farmer Jones, the storekeeper who asks Jones to deliver mail to Johnny,
Jones’s willingness to drop off the mail, Johnny’s wishful (mis)taking of the turkey,
Sarah’s remorse for her part in the rupture, her later offer of hospitality, or Mrs. Jones’s
welcoming of her grandson? Was this all just the work of chance, or was there some
mysterious power working its way through the unintended acts of generosity? Where,
according to this story, does true prosperity lie? Does wealth need to become benefaction
for the wealthy to prosper? For what sort of prosperity do we most wish to give thanks?

There were only two persons in the kitchen, a woman and a boy, who had spread his
school-books on the table by the window, and set a determined elbow on either side of
his slate like buttresses for failing energy. The arithmetic was wide open above the slate
at an early page of fractions.

The boy’s mother, a sad-looking, pretty woman, was busy getting supper, but she
hovered near the table and cast many a loving glance at her son’s distress. She had been a
quick scholar herself, and such sums were as easy as plain knitting. One often hears of
the sorrows of hens that have hatched ducks, but Mrs. Sarah Jones knew the more painful
solicitudes of the duck—the swimming bird who must see her feathered darling balked
and landlocked upon the shore.

“I thought they looked easy, Johnny,” she ventured, timidly. “If I didn’t know ’twas
best for you to puzzle ’em out alone I’d—”

“If I can only do this one!” said Johnny, in a dreamy tone, as he figured away with
new hopefulness. “There, you see here, mother!” and he held up his slate.

“Yes, you’ve got it!” she cried, joyfully, as her eager eye found its way through a
queer maze of stumbling figures. “Yes, that’s all right. Now you’ve got the right idea,
you won’t have so much trouble again.” She looked the prouder because he could not see
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her as she stood over him. Johnny had shown first-rate pluck and courage, and had been
pleasant, too, as she reminded her affectionate heart, all through this great emergency.

“Now you won’t find the rest of them so hard,” she said, as she turned away and
stooped down to open the oven door.

“How good my supper’s goin’ to taste!” exclaimed the boy. “Fred Hollis says they’re
goin’ to have a lot of folks from out West at his house to spend Thanksgiving.”

Mrs. Jones sighed, and a quick flush of color came into her face; the boy thought she
had burned her hand at the oven.

“No, I ain’t hurt,” she said, seeing his troubled face. “No, I was only thinking o’ your
Thanksgiving day. I am afraid I ain’t goin’ to have anything nice to give you. I hoped to
have some kind of a treat, Johnny, but having to pay for shingling the house has taken
every mite o’ money I had, and I’m owin’ four dollars yet. We’ve got to do with what
there is in the house.”

“Ain’t we goin’ to have any turkey?” inquired Johnny, ruefully.

“No, nor any chicken, either. I ain’t got ’em, and I can’t go in debt to buy. If I begin to
get in debt I can’t ever get out again. But I’ll make you a nice, good cake,” she urged, by
way of consolation as she saw his disappointed face. “There’s lots of people that don’t
have turkeys.”

Johnny could not bring himself to smile or treat so grave a subject lightly. “Cake alone
ain’t enough for dinner!” he said to himself, bitterly. The news of their poverty was
harder to bear at this hungry moment than if it were after supper, instead of before it.

“Why don’t we keep turkeys ourselves, mother?” Johnny demanded. “Lots of folks
do, and then we could have one whenever we wanted it.”

“We did keep them, you know, but something has ailed the chicks of late years. I
heard to-day that even your grandfather would have to buy, and I’ve known him to raise a
flock of sixty. Your Grandma Jones was luckier than anybody, and always got the highest
prices.”

There was a silence. Johnny was now plunged in deep reflection, and his face almost
for the first time took on a serious, manly look. “Mother,” he said, “what is it makes us
feel so poor? Is it because my father died?”

“Yes, dear,” said Sarah Jones.

She stood still in the middle of the floor, looking at him, and her eyes were filled with
tears. The boy’s clothes were faded and outgrown; she could see a great patch on the
elbow next her, and his stockings below his short trousers were darned half-way down
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the leg. Johnny’s face was bright and handsome, but she could hardly bear his honest,
questioning look.

“Your grandpa and grandma don’t like me, dear. They didn’t want your father to
marry when he did, and he went right against their wishes. ’Twas chiefly because your
Grandfather Jones and my father had quarreled, and there was a lawsuit between them. I
see now ’twas hard for the old folks; ’twas like having an enemy come among ’em. When
your father died they came and offered to take you and bring you up, and I refused ’em. I
said I could get along. But they pressed it too far when my heart was ’most broken,
anyway, losing o’ your father, and I said things I wish now I hadn’t said and reproached
’em as I shouldn’t now. So that’s why we don’t speak together, and why you’re so poor.
If they had you I don’t know but they’d give you every single thing you want. They’d lost
their only son; I should have had patience with them,” she continued, reproaching herself,
and standing before Johnny.

The boy’s face did not change; he looked away, and then he took his pencil again and
made some marks on his slate as if he were going on with his figuring. His grandfather
had the same slow, set way of behaving, and the mother’s heart knew a sudden pain.
Johnny was nothing but a boy; she ought not to have told him.

“I’d rather live with you,” he said, presently, with great effort. “I belong to you and
father most, don’t I? I don’t care if there ain’t a turkey just this once,” and the mother
took a step nearer, and kissed him quite unexpectedly.

“Come, put away your books now; I want the table for supper,” she said to him, trying
to speak as if there were nothing the matter.

* * *

It was, as everybody said, real Thanksgiving weather. There was not quite snow enough
for sleighing, but the sky was already gray with the promise of more. The mountains on
the far horizon looked blue and cold, and the nearer hills were black and dismal, as if
even the thick fur of pine-trees that covered them could hardly keep the world from
freezing.

Old Mr. Jones was one of the last to untie his horse and start toward home. It was
three miles from the village to his farm, and he had spent nearly the whole afternoon in
Barton’s store; there had been some business to do with men whom he met there, and an
inner pocket was filled with money that had been paid him for some pine timber.

He was a very stern-looking person as he sat in the old armchair by the stove. One
could believe that he was possessed of authority as well as wealth, and that he had kept
his mind upon a grudge for years together. The loss of his son had seemed harder to him
than it might have seemed to most men; he had almost resented it. Whatever cheerfulness
had been his in early life was all gone now, and his wife, a timid, affectionate woman,
who feared and obeyed him in all things, believed as he did, that they were unjustly
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treated in the matter of happiness. Each year found them better off in this world’s goods,
and poorer in the power of using things to make either themselves or other people happy.

The good old doctor had come into the store late in the afternoon to wait for the mail-
carrier, who was due at five o’clock.

“How’s your wife getting on?” he asked, kindly, and was told that she was still ailing,
but no worse than common.

“You need a younger woman there to help her, Henry,” said the doctor. “She needs
somebody there while you are away at work. I thought the other day that she was
drooping from being so much alone, and from brooding over the past,” he added, in a low
voice. “I want to have a talk with you some of these days. You know I mean your good as
much as hers. Why don’t you let bygones be bygones?”

“You can’t make believe if the right feelings aren’t there,” said Henry Jones. “If you
are alluding to my family, I can only say that that woman my son married has expressed
her feelings once for all. She probably feels the same way now.”

“Now, Henry,” said the doctor, pleasantly, “you know that we went to school together
and have always been friendly. I’ve seen you through a good many troubles, and before I
die I want to see you through this biggest one. That’s a nice boy growing up, and he’s got
a good mother. You never showed her any great kindness, and yet you wanted to rob her
of all she had to live for. She turned on you that day just as any creature will that fights
for her young. You took the wrong way to do the right thing, and only got your pay for it.
You must put your pride in your pocket and go and tell her you’re sorry and want her to
come right home and bring Johnny and spend the winter. You’ve got a better teacher in
your district this year than there is in theirs.”

The old man shook his head. “You don’t understand nothin’ at all about it,” he began,
dolefully. “I don’t see what I can do. I wish there was peace amongst us, but—” And at
this point the doctor moved impatiently away.

“I had to buy a turkey for Thanksgivin’ this year,” he heard the old farmer
complaining to a fresh arrival. The store was full of neighbors now, who had seen the
mail-carrier arrive. “Yes, I had to buy a turkey, first time I ever done such a thing, and
there’s nobody but wife and me to set down to it. Seems hard; yes, but ’tis one o’ them
Vermont turkeys, and a very handsome one, too; I don’t know’s ’twill equal those we’ve
been accustomed to.”

The doctor sighed as he looked over his shoulder and saw Henry Jones’s stolid face,
and saw him lift the great turkey with evident pride because it was the best and largest to
be bought that year; the doctor could not help wondering what Johnny and his mother
would feast upon.

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There was a good deal of cheerfulness in the store—jokes and laughter and humorous
questioning of newcomers. The busy storekeeper and postmaster was not averse to taking
his part in these mild festivities of Thanksgiving eve.

As Mr. Jones approached to take his evening mail of the weekly newspaper and a
circular or two he found another small budget pressed into his hand.

“You’re goin’ right by, an’ I’m goin’ to close early. I expect you’ll be willin’ to leave
it. ’Tis for your grandson, Johnny. He’ll want his little paper to read to-morrow. It’s one
the doctor sends him,” said the storekeeper, boldly. “You just give a call as you go by,
an’ they’ll come right out.”

If Henry Jones had heard the roar of laughter in the store a moment after he had shut
the door behind him, that copy of the paper might have been dropped at once and lain
under the fresh-fallen snow until spring. A certain pride and stiffness of demeanor stood
the old man in good stead, but he was very angry indeed as he put the great turkey into
his wagon and the mail-matter beside it. He drove away up the road in grim fury. Perhaps
he should meet some one to whom he could depute the unwelcome errand. But the
doctor’s words could not be put out of mind, and his own conscience became more and
more disturbed. It was beginning to snow hard, and the young horse was in a hurry to get
home. The turkey soon joggled and bumped from its safe place under the seat to the very
back of the farm wagon, while the newspaper, which had been in the corner, blew
forward out of sight and got under the buffalo-robe.

Just as the reluctant messenger came to a cold-looking little house by the roadside
Johnny himself came out to shut the gate, which was blowing in the wind. He was
bareheaded, and as warm as a furry squirrel with his good supper of bread and butter and
milk and gingerbread, but he looked very small and thin as his grandfather caught sight of
him. For years the two had never been so near together,—Johnny and his mother sat far
back in the church,—and there was now an unexpected twinge in the old man’s heart,
while Johnny was dumb with astonishment at this unexpected appearance.

“That you, John?” said the old farmer, in a businesslike tone, but with no unkindness;
his heart was beating ridiculously fast. “There’s something there in the wagon for your
folks. The postmaster was in a hurry to get it to you,” he added. But the horse would not
stand, and he did not look back again at the boy. Johnny reached up, and seeing nothing
but the great turkey, made a manful effort to master the weight of it and get it over the
tail-board, and then went triumphantly through the swinging gate as his grandfather,
perfectly unconscious of such an involuntary benefaction, passed rattling up the road
trying to hold the colt as best he might.

As for Johnny, his face shone with joy as he dumped the great bird on the kitchen
floor and bade his mother look.

“’Twas my grandpa out there, and he said he’d brought something for my folks. Now,
sir, ain’t we goin’ to have a turkey for Thanksgivin’!”
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Whereupon, to Johnny’s despair and complete surprise, his mother sat down in the
little rocking-chair and began to cry.

* * *

“I certain sure put it into the wagon, well under the seat,” said old Mr. Jones to his wife,
who had come out through the long shed to the barn to hold the lantern. “I certain sure
put it in with my own hands; as nice a gobbler as we ever raised ourselves.”

“Did you pass anybody on the road, or leave the horse so they could have stolen
anything out?” asked Mrs. Jones, looking very cold and deeply troubled. “Why, I’ve got
the stuffing all made a’ready. I counted on your bringin’ it, and on getting it all prepared
to roast to-morrow. I have to divide up my work; I can’t do as I used to,” she mourned,
adding her mite of trouble to their general feeling of despair. “There, I don’t care much
whether we have a turkey or not. We don’t seem to have as much to be thankful for as
some folks.”

The lantern-light shone on her face, and Mr. Jones saw how old and pitiful she looked,
and by contrast he thought of the little boy’s cheerful chirp and hearty “Thank you!” as
he took the paper. Whether it was what the doctor had said, or whether it was the natural
workings of a slow conscience, there was a queer disturbance in his mind. He could not
manage to tell his wife about stopping to leave the mail.

“I guess I’ll drive back,” he said, doubtfully. But the snow was falling like a blizzard,
faster and faster, as he looked out of the door. “I certain would if I had anybody to go
with me, but this colt is dreadful restless. I couldn’t get out and leave him to pick the
turkey up if I saw it laying right in the road. I guess we’ve got to let it go and trust to
Providence. The road’s rough enough, but I can’t see how that turkey jolted out, either!”
he grumbled. “I feel too lame to go afoot.”

“There, I thought when you let Asa go off to-day, ’stead of to-morrow, you’d be liable
to need him; you ain’t so young as you used to be, Henry,” said his wife. “I’ll have ye a
good cup o’ tea, and we won’t mind about the turkey more than we can help.”

They passed a solemn evening together, and the great snow-storm raged about their
warm house. Many times the old man reproached his own want of spirit in not going back
along the road.

* * *

In the morning, very early, there was a loud knocking at the kitchen door. When Mrs.
Jones opened it she found a boy standing there with a happy, eager face.

“Are you my grandma?” demanded Johnny. “Mother sent her best respects, and we
thank you very much for the turkey, and she hopes you and my grandpa will stop, going
home from meeting, and eat dinner. She’d be real glad to have you.”
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“What’s all this?” demanded Mr. Henry Jones, who had heard the message with
astonished ears, and stood in the doorway behind his wife, with his spectacles on his
forehead like a lighthouse. “Where’d you get your turkey, sir? I’d like to know!”

“Why, right out of your wagon,” said Johnny. “That one you brought last night. It’s
the handsomest one mother ever had in the house; she cried like everything about it.” The
child’s voice faltered, he was so excited with his errand, and so spent with his eager
journey through the deep snow.

“Come right in, dear!” cried the grandmother, grateful enough for the sight of him.
And when Henry Jones saw her lead him to the fire, and then with a sob take the little
fellow right into her arms and hug him, and begin to cry, too, he turned away and looked
out of the window. The boy was their very own.

“There, give him some warm breakfast before he goes back; he must have started
early,” said the grandfather. “I’ll put the colt in and take him back myself. She must have
meant what she said, to start him up here like that, soon as day broke!”

When Johnny’s mother saw the old man and the little boy plowing along in the old
sleigh, and saw how they were talking and even laughing together, she thanked Heaven
for this sudden blessing. “I wa’n’t going to be slow about taking the next step, when an
old man like him had taken the first one,” she said to herself.

As for the lost turkey, it was already in the oven at that moment; but the true
Thanksgiving feast that year was the feast of happiness in all their hearts.

“O my!” exclaimed Johnny early that afternoon, as he leaned back in his chair.
“Grandma, aren’t you glad this turkey didn’t wander in the wet grass and die when it was
a chick?”


90

Those Who Have No Turkey

LANGSTON HUGHES

This story by celebrated African American poet and short-story writer Langston Hughes
(1902–67), written in 1918 when he was still in high school, raises the disturbing
possibility that prosperity may in fact be the enemy of gratitude and thanksgiving.
Hughes himself did not grow up in material comfort or stability; after his parents
separated, he moved with his mother and grandmother half a dozen times before finally
settling in Cleveland, Ohio. Here, young Diane Jordan, from rural downstate Ohio,
comes to spend Thanksgiving with her wealthy aunt Ruth (her mother’s sister) and her
two daughters (Diane’s cousins) in a prosperous part of Cleveland. Distressed over
discovering that the local newsboy and his family could not afford turkey for
Thanksgiving, Diane impulsively invites him and his entire family to share the festive
meal at her aunt’s home.

What is the difference between the life or outlook of Diane’s mother (Mrs. Jordan)
and that of her sister Ruth (Mrs. Samuel P. Crane)? What do you think is responsible for
that difference: is it the contrast between country and city life and customs, or is it
something else? Why is Diane so interested in Tubby Sweeny, and so eager to invite him
and his family? Imagine yourself as an invisible guest at the Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt
Ruth’s. What was the experience like? Why is the story called “Those Who Have No
Turkey”? How should our knowledge of the existence of such people influence the way
we celebrate Thanksgiving? The way we live the rest of the year? How can the wealthy
best show their gratitude?

A stretch of farmland, gray in the dawning, a flash of blue lake water, long lines of
freight cars, the sound of many whistles and the shrill shriek of the brakes, with the
sleepy voice of the porter calling “Cleveland,” told the girl that she had arrived at the end
of her journey. One big puff, a final jolt, and the long limited came to a stop. Clasping her
old traveling bag in one hand, a bundle under her arm and a shawl over her shoulder,
fifteen-year-old Diane Jordan stepped to the platform, for the first time in her life in a
large city.

It was early Thanksgiving morning, sometimes called the Day of Big Dinners, that
Diane got her first view of Cleveland. Of course, her two cousins with Aunt Ruth were at
the station to meet her. After many kisses and exclamations of welcome they guided the
rather dazed little country girl out to their big limousine and whirled away uptown. Diane
looked out of the auto window and enjoyed the ride, while Aunt Ruth asked about her
only sister, Diane’s mother, and her activities in the country, for Mrs. Crane had not been
to visit her relative for some years.

The Jordan family and the Crane family were in no wise alike, as the two sisters had
married into vastly different positions in life. One went to a farm down in the southern
part of Ohio with her husband and tilled the soil for a living. Their crops were usually
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good and they did well, but their mode of living remained that of simple, generous-
hearted countryfolk. The other girl married Samuel Crane, a wealthy banker. The whisper
of gossips said that she loved his money and not the man, but be that as it may, she
gained an enviable social position; she lived in one of the finest houses on upper Euclid
Avenue and sent her daughter to an exclusive private school. Mr. Crane died four years
after their marriage. Mrs. Crane, busy with her social duties, seldom saw her country
sister, but since her two children had spent a summer on the farm, she had always
intended to have her niece, Diane, visit in the city. So that accounts for the presence of
countrified, tomboyish, unsophisticated Diane Jordan seated in a richly lined limousine
between the stylishly clad daughters of Mrs. Samuel P. Crane.

Soon the big auto rolled up a cement driveway and stopped under the porte cochere of
the largest house Diane had ever seen. She marveled at its size, but the inside was still
more wonderful. It is useless to attempt to describe Diane’s feelings upon entering this
mansion, so different from her rural home, as no one but a Dickens could do it.

However, after an hour or so of this indoor splendor and her doll-like cousins, Diane,
a hardy child of the out-of-doors, grew a bit tired and decided to inspect the yard since
Aunt Ruth would not let her help get dinner. Once in a while the scent of turkey floated
in from the kitchen. In the country she always helped her mother cook, but here they
seemed to hire folks to do the work. Well, city people were queer. Even their yards were
not the same. Why, in the country, one had a whole farm to play in, but here the houses
took up all the room, so finding the space between the house and the fence too small,
Diane’s adventurous feet led her to examine the neighborhood.

She had walked a block or two, stopping now and then to stare at some strange new
object, when she reached a corner where two car lines crossed and many autos were
passing in all directions. The scene was interesting, so she leaned against a lamppost and
watched the city people go by until her attention was attracted to a small red-haired boy
yelling at the top of his voice, “Extra papers, just out!” He reminded Diane of little
brother at home. Her gaze must have attracted his attention for he demanded, “Paper,
lady?” Perhaps he called her lady because her dresses were unusually long for a girl of
fifteen, but on the farm clothes are not of the latest fashion.

“What kind o’ paper you got?” asked the girl.

“Press or News,” replied the little urchin.

Diane pondered. “Well, give me the best one,” she said, “’cause Pa told me to bring
him a city paper.”

“I’ve only got two left and if you take ’em both you’ll be sure and get the best one,”
urged the little newsie, anxious to sell out.

“All right, I’ll take them,” she agreed. “You’re in a hurry to get home and eat some
turkey, aren’t you?”
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“Turkey! What do yuh mean?” asked the boy to whom the word was but a name. “We
ain’t got no turkey.”

This answer was surprising to Diane. The girl could not imagine anyone not having
turkey for Thanksgiving. All the people in the country had one. Truly, city ways were
strange! Why, she had never known anybody to be without a turkey on Thanksgiving
Day except once when her Uncle Si said that he was “just durned tired of having what
other folks had,” so his wife cooked two ducks and a chicken instead of the usual fowl.
Perhaps this boy’s mother intended to have duck.

“Well, you’re going to have duck for dinner, then?” Diane said.

“Naw, we ain’t got no duck,” he replied.

“Poor little boy,” she thought. “Why then, it must be chicken, isn’t it?” her voice
suggested.

“Naw, we ain’t got no chicken, either.”

“Well, what in the world have you got?” she demanded of this peculiar boy who had
neither turkey, duck, nor chicken for dinner on Thanksgiving.

“We ain’t got nothin’ yet,” he said, and looking up into Diane’s sympathetic face, he
added, “and we won’t have much if dere’s not enough pennies in my pocket to get
somethin’. My mother’s sick.”

“Oh-o—,” said Diane, looking down at the ragged little boy. It took her a long time to
comprehend. She had never heard of anybody having nothing for dinner except the poor
war-stricken Belgians, and that was because the Germans had eaten up everything. “Oh,”
she repeated. “Are you going to buy something?”

“Sure I am,” he replied proudly. “Want to help me count my change?”

He had a dollar fifty-four cents.

“Gee, I kin get a dandy dinner with this,” he said. “Ma’s able to cook now.”

However, Diane was not very sure about how much a dollar fifty-four cents would
buy, especially for a Thanksgiving meal. Suddenly a big thought came to her. She would
ask the little boy and his mother to her aunt’s house for dinner. Surely Aunt Ruth would
not mind. In the country they always had lots of extra company at the Thanksgiving table.

The newsie was rather puzzled at the strange girl’s generosity. Nothing like this had
ever happened to him before and he had sold papers in the streets since the age of three.
Finally Diane forced him to accept her invitation, the lure of unknown turkey being too
much for the little fellow. He promised to come at three.
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“Where do you live?” he asked skeptically.

“Down there,” Diane pointed to the large house not far away. “I mean I don’t live
there but I am staying there now and you and your mother can come down today for
dinner.”

“But I got two sisters,” said the boy.

“Oh, bring them along.” What were two sisters added to a dinner party? Why, her
mother’s table at home could feed twenty at once, if necessary.

“And I got a little brother, too,” he continued.

“Well,” murmured Diane, “bring him with you. I like babies.” However, she hoped
that he had no more relatives. “Now, tell me your name,” she demanded, “so I can tell
Aunt Ruth who’s coming.”

“Tubby Sweeny,” he replied, “and we’ll sure be there. S’long.” Off he ran down the
street to deliver the invitation.

Diane went back to the great house without a doubt in the world but that her aunt
would be “tickled to death” to have extra company for dinner. Mrs. Crane had been
worried about her niece for the last twenty minutes and when she learned of the
invitation, that august lady was too shocked for words. At first she hotly refused to admit
the coming guests to her home. However, after many hugs and kisses and tearful
entreaties from her two daughters, who thought it would be great fun to have such queer
company, and from Diane, who declared she would not eat unless the newsboy and his
family could eat, too, the elderly lady finally consented. She gave one of the maids
instructions to have every one of the guests, when they came, wash their face and hands
thoroughly before entering the drawing room. Diane was satisfied, although she thought
the washing unnecessary. They never sterilized visitors at her house.

About three o’clock the family came. They were of foreign extraction and none of
them, except Tubby, spoke English well. There was the weak little mother, who did not
understand the invitation at all but came only because her son insisted; the small twin
sisters; and the cute, but none too fat, baby with big black eyes and tiny, mischievous
hands that kept Mrs. Crane’s nerves on edge. They always wanted to touch something
and babies quite often break things!

During dinner the quiet little mother did not talk much, but the young Sweenys—they
ate and jabbered to their hearts’ content. They expressed a marvelous joy and delight over
the turkey, as they had never even tasted that fowl before. And as for the plum pudding
and large, round pies, no words in the world could express their feelings! But when they
had finished, their stomachs were as tight as kettledrums from very fullness, and the baby
resembled a pert little cherub like those painted around Madonna’s pictures. Indeed, the
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tired-looking woman who held the babe would have made a wonderful model if some
artist wished to paint “A Madonna of the Poor.”

After the ice cream had been eaten and each one of the children had a handful of nuts,
the little mother said that they must go, much to Mrs. Crane’s relief. The woman thanked
them very sincerely for the grand dinner and each one of the little Sweenys kissed Diane
and would have kissed the others too, but the Cranes refused to go through the ordeal as
they said kissing breeds germs. After the door had closed upon the departing Sweeny
party, Mrs. Crane declared: “Those people were the strangest dinner guests I have ever
entertained!” And when Diane got back to the farm, she told her mother all about it and
ended her story with “Well, Ma, I never knew before that there are people in the world
who have no turkey on Thanksgiving.”














Neighborliness and Hospitality

96

The Night Before Thanksgiving

SARAH ORNE JEWETT

This selection, like the next one, explores the blessings of neighborliness and hospitality,
given and received. In this story (1899) by Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909), old Mrs.
Mary Ann Robb, a woman who formerly had delighted in bringing aid and sustenance to
the poor, is sadly contemplating her situation on the night before Thanksgiving. Her
nearest neighbor, John Marder, has been leading a group of townspeople who are trying
to force Mrs. Robb to give up her home and to enter the town poorhouse, and the time for
her departure now seems imminent. But as she looks out her window at the sunset, a
sudden gleam of light induces a ray of hope. She begins to think of an orphan boy
(Johnny Harris) whom she had once cared for in his time of great need: “Poor Johnny
Harris, perhaps he’s thinkin’ o’ me, if he’s alive.” Her thought proves father to the deed,
as Harris arrives to produce a most splendid and heartwarming Thanksgiving. Describe
in detail the plight of Mrs. Robb. Why does her nearest neighbor want to remove her?
What is the significance of the gleam of light? Why does remembering her previous
assistance to Johnny Harris lift her spirits? Why does Johnny Harris return? Can
neighborly gifts given or received ever be forgotten? How can they be properly “re-
paid”? What is their connection to Thanksgiving and to giving thanks?

I.

There was a sad heart in the low-storied, dark little house that stood humbly by the
roadside under some tall elms. Small as her house was, old Mrs. Robb found it too large
for herself alone; she only needed the kitchen and a tiny bedroom that led out of it, and
there still remained the best room and a bedroom, with the low garret overhead.

There had been a time, after she was left alone, when Mrs. Robb could help those
who were poorer than herself. She was strong enough not only to do a woman’s work
inside her house, but almost a man’s work outside in her piece of garden ground. At last
sickness and age had come hand in hand, those two relentless enemies of the poor, and
together they had wasted her strength and substance. She had always been looked up to
by her neighbors as being independent, but now she was left, lame-footed and lame-
handed, with a debt to carry and her bare land, and the house ill-provisioned to stand the
siege of time.

For a while she managed to get on, but at last it began to be whispered about that
there was no use for any one so proud; it was easier for the whole town to care for her
than for a few neighbors, and Mrs. Robb had better go to the poorhouse before winter,
and be done with it. At this terrible suggestion her brave heart seemed to stand still. The
people whom she cared for most happened to be poor, and she could no longer go into
their households to make herself of use. The very elms overhead seemed to say, “Oh,
no!” as they groaned in the late autumn winds, and there was something appealing even
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to the strange passer-by in the look of the little gray house, with Mrs. Robb’s pale,
worried face at the window.
II.

Some one has said that anniversaries are days to make other people happy in, but
sometimes when they come they seem to be full of shadows, and the power of giving joy
to others, that inalienable right which ought to lighten the saddest heart, the most
indifferent sympathy, sometimes even this seems to be withdrawn.

So poor old Mary Ann Robb sat at her window on the afternoon before Thanksgiving
and felt herself poor and sorrowful indeed. Across the frozen road she looked eastward
over a great stretch of cold meadow land, brown and wind-swept and crossed by icy
ditches. It seemed to her as if before this, in all the troubles that she had known and
carried, there had always been some hope to hold: as if she had never looked poverty full
in the face and seen its cold and pitiless look before. She looked anxiously down the road,
with a horrible shrinking and dread at the thought of being asked, out of pity, to join in
some Thanksgiving feast, but there was nobody coming with gifts in hand. Once she had
been full of love for such days, whether at home or abroad, but something chilled her
very heart now.

Her nearest neighbor had been foremost of those who wished her to go to the town
farm, and he had said more than once that it was the only sensible thing. But John
Mander was waiting impatiently to get her tiny farm into his own hands; he had advanced
some money upon it in her extremity, and pretended that there was still a debt, after he
cleared her wood lot to pay himself back. He would plough over the graves in the field
corner and fell the great elms, and waited now like a spider for his poor prey. He often
reproached her for being too generous to worthless people in the past and coming to be a
charge to others now. Oh, if she could only die in her own house and not suffer the pain
of homelessness and dependence!

It was just at sunset, and as she looked out hopelessly across the gray fields, there was
a sudden gleam of light far away on the low hills beyond; the clouds opened in the west
and let the sunshine through. One lovely gleam shot swift as an arrow and brightened a
far cold hillside where it fell, and at the same moment a sudden gleam of hope brightened
the winter landscape of her heart.

“There was Johnny Harris,” said Mary Ann Robb softly. “He was a soldier’s son, left
an orphan and distressed. Old John Mander scolded, but I couldn’t see the poor boy in
want. I kept him that year after he got hurt, spite o’ what anybody said, an’ he helped me
what little he could. He said I was the only mother he’d ever had. ‘I’m goin’ out West,
Mother Robb,’ says he. ‘I sha’n’t come back till I get rich,’ an’ then he’d look at me an’
laugh, so pleasant and boyish. He wa’n’t one that liked to write. I don’t think he was
doin’ very well when I heard,—there, it’s most four years ago now. I always thought if he
got sick or anything, I should have a good home for him to come to. There’s poor Ezra
Blake, the deaf one, too,—he won’t have any place to welcome him.”

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The light faded out of doors, and again Mrs. Robb’s troubles stood before her. Yet it
was not so dark as it had been in her sad heart. She still sat by the window, hoping now,
in spite of herself, instead of fearing; and a curious feeling of nearness and expectancy
made her feel not so much light-hearted as light-headed.

“I feel just as if somethin’ was goin’ to happen,” she said. “Poor Johnny Harris,
perhaps he’s thinkin’ o’ me, if he’s alive.”

It was dark now out of doors, and there were tiny clicks against the window. It was
beginning to snow, and the great elms creaked in the rising wind overhead.

III.

A dead limb of one of the old trees had fallen that autumn, and, poor firewood as it might
be, it was Mrs. Robb’s own, and she had burnt it most thankfully. There was only a small
armful left, but at least she could have the luxury of a fire. She had a feeling that it was
her last night at home, and with strange recklessness began to fill the stove as she used to
do in better days.

“It’ll get me good an’ warm,” she said, still talking to herself, as lonely people do,
“an’ I’ll go to bed early. It’s comin’ on to storm.”

The snow clicked faster and faster against the window, and she sat alone thinking in
the dark.

“There’s lots of folks I love,” she said once. “They’d be sorry I ain’t got nobody to
come, an’ no supper the night afore Thanksgivin’. I’m dreadful glad they don’t know.”
And she drew a little nearer to the fire, and laid her head back drowsily in the old
rocking-chair.

It seemed only a moment before there was a loud knocking, and somebody lifted the
latch of the door. The fire shone bright through the front of the stove and made a little
light in the room, but Mary Ann Robb waked up frightened and bewildered.

“Who’s there?” she called, as she found her crutch and went to the door. She was
only conscious of her one great fear. “They’ve come to take me to the poorhouse!” she
said, and burst into tears.

There was a tall man, not John Mander, who seemed to fill the narrow doorway.

“Come, let me in!” he said gayly. “It’s a cold night. You didn’t expect me, did you,
Mother Robb?”

“Dear me, what is it?” she faltered, stepping back as he came in, and dropping her
crutch. “Be I dreamin’? I was a-dreamin’ about— Oh, there! What was I a-sayin’? ’Tain’t
true! No! I’ve made some kind of a mistake.”
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Yes, and this was the man who kept the poorhouse, and she would go without
complaint; they might have given her notice, but she must not fret.

“Sit down, sir,” she said, turning toward him with touching patience. “You’ll have to
give me a little time. If I’d been notified I wouldn’t have kept you waiting a minute this
stormy night.”

It was not the keeper of the poorhouse. The man by the door took one step forward
and put his arm round her and kissed her.

“What are you talking about?” said John Harris. “You ain’t goin’ to make me feel like
a stranger? I’ve come all the way from Dakota to spend Thanksgivin’. There’s all sorts o’
things out here in the wagon, an’ a man to help get ’em in. Why, don’t cry so, Mother
Robb. I thought you’d have a great laugh, if I come and surprised you. Don’t you
remember I always said I should come?”

It was John Harris, indeed. The poor soul could say nothing. She felt now as if her
heart was going to break with joy. He left her in the rocking-chair and came and went in
his old boyish way, bringing in the store of gifts and provisions. It was better than any
dream. He laughed and talked, and went out to send away the man to bring a wagonful of
wood from John Mander’s, and came in himself laden with pieces of the nearest fence to
keep the fire going in the mean time. They must cook the beef-steak for supper right
away; they must find the pound of tea among all the other bundles; they must get good
fires started in both the cold bedrooms. Why, Mother Robb didn’t seem to be ready for
company from out West! The great, cheerful fellow hurried about the tiny house, and the
little old woman limped after him, forgetting everything but hospitality. Had not she a
house for John to come to? Were not her old chairs and tables in their places still? And he
remembered everything, and kissed her as they stood before the fire, as if she were a girl.

He had found plenty of hard times, but luck had come at last. He had struck luck, and
this was the end of a great year.

“No, I couldn’t seem to write letters; no use to complain o’ the worst, an’ I wanted to
tell you the best when I came;” and he told it while she cooked the supper. “No, I wa’n’t
goin’ to write no foolish letters,” John repeated. He was afraid he should cry himself
when he found out how bad things had been; and they sat down to supper together, just as
they used to do when he was a homeless orphan boy, whom nobody else wanted in winter
weather while he was crippled and could not work. She could not be kinder now than she
was then, but she looked so poor and old! He saw her taste her cup of tea and set it down
again with a trembling hand and a look at him. “No, I wanted to come myself,” he
blustered, wiping his eyes and trying to laugh. “And you’re going to have everything you
need to make you comfortable long’s you live, Mother Robb!”

She looked at him again and nodded, but she did not even try to speak. There was a
good hot supper ready, and a happy guest had come; it was the night before
Thanksgiving.

100

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

O. HENRY

For those who are down and out or who live alone, even our most beloved holidays can
be depressing. Yet hospitable and neighborly acts in their direction can be costly, and not
only to the benefactor. These issues are humorously but powerfully raised in this short
story (1905) by O. Henry (pseudonym for William Sydney Porter [1862–1910]), who
casts an ironic and irreverent eye on Thanksgiving Day—perhaps on institutionalized
ritual altogether. Every Thanksgiving for the past nine years, Stuffy Pete, a homeless
man, has been summoned from his bench in New York’s Union Square by an “Old
Gentleman,” who takes him to a restaurant, orders up a sumptuous dinner, and sits by
watching Stuffy eat. This year, however, Stuffy is interrupted on his way to the park when
“two old ladies of ancient family” invite him into their home and serve him a meal more
sumptuous than his traditional fare. By the time he meets the old gentleman at the
familiar bench, Stuffy is already stuffed to the gills. Nonetheless, he goes with the old
gentleman to eat his traditional dinner. The story concludes with one of O. Henry’s
famous “twisty” endings.

Why does Stuffy Pete go? Why does the old gentleman invite him? Would you
consider either of them a good neighbor? What is the meaning of the story’s title? In
what ways, if any, might both Stuffy Pete and the old man be regarded as “gentlemen”?
Does the outcome of the story vindicate the narrator’s seeming irreverence for tradition
and for gentlemanliness? Or has there been, despite the outcome, an expression of true
neighborliness and the spirit of Thanksgiving?
1


There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-
made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the
porch the old pump looks than it used to. Bless the day. President Roosevelt gives it to us.
We hear some talk of the Puritans, but don’t just remember who they were. Bet we can
lick ’em, anyhow, if they try to land again. Plymouth Rocks? Well, that sounds more
familiar. Lots of us have had to come down to hens since the Turkey Trust got its work
in. But somebody in Washington is leaking out advance information to ’em about these
Thanksgiving proclamations.

The big city east of the cranberry bogs had made Thanksgiving Day an institution.
The last Thursday in November is the only day in the year on which it recognizes the part
of America lying across the ferries. It is the one day that is purely American. Yes, a day
of celebration, exclusively American.

And now for the story which is to prove to you that we have traditions on this side of
the ocean that are becoming older at a much rapider rate than those of England are—
thanks to our git-up and enterprise.

1
For more questions, see the Discussion Guide below. We also invite you to visit our website to view a
video model conversation about this selection.
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Stuffy Pete took his seat on the third bench to the right as you enter Union Square
from the east, at the walk opposite the fountain. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years
he had taken his seat there promptly at one o’clock. For every time he had done so things
had happened to him—Charles Dickensy things that swelled his waistcoat above his
heart, and equally on the other side.

But to-day Stuffy Pete’s appearance at the annual trysting place seemed to have been
rather the result of habit than of the yearly hunger which, as the philanthropists seem to
think, afflicts the poor at such extended intervals.

Certainly Pete was not hungry. He had just come from a feast that had left him of his
powers barely those of respiration and locomotion. His eyes were like two pale
gooseberries firmly imbedded in a swollen and gravy-smeared mask of putty. His breath
came in short wheezes; a senatorial roll of adipose tissue denied a fashionable set to his
upturned coat collar. Buttons that had been sewed upon his clothes by kind Salvation
fingers a week before flew like popcorn, strewing the earth around him. Ragged he was,
with a split shirt front open to the wishbone; but the November breeze, carrying fine
snowflakes, brought him only a grateful coolness. For Stuffy Pete was overcharged with
the caloric produced by a super-bountiful dinner, beginning with oysters and ending with
plum pudding, and including (it seemed to him) all the roast turkey and baked potatoes
and chicken salad and squash pie and ice cream in the world. Wherefore he sat, gorged,
and gazed upon the world with after-dinner contempt.

The meal had been an unexpected one. He was passing a redbrick mansion near the
beginning of Fifth Avenue, in which lived two old ladies of ancient family and a
reverence for traditions. They even denied the existence of New York, and believed that
Thanksgiving Day was declared solely for Washington Square. One of their traditional
habits was to station a servant at the postern gate with orders to admit the first hungry
wayfarer that came along after the hour of noon had struck, and banquet him to a finish.
Stuffy Pete happened to pass by on his way to the park, and the seneschals gathered him
in and upheld the custom of the castle.

After Stuffy Pete had gazed straight before him for ten minutes he was conscious of a
desire for a more varied field of vision. With a tremendous effort he moved his head
slowly to the left. And then his eyes bulged out fearfully, and his breath ceased, and the
rough-shod ends of his short legs wriggled and rustled on the gravel.

For the Old Gentleman was coming across Fourth Avenue toward his bench. Every
Thanksgiving Day for nine years the Old Gentleman had come there and found Stuffy
Pete on his bench. That was a thing that the Old Gentleman was trying to make a tradition
of.

Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had found Stuffy there, and had led him to
a restaurant and watched him eat a big dinner. They do those things in England
unconsciously. But this is a young country, and nine years is not so bad. The Old
Gentleman was a stanch American patriot, and considered himself a pioneer in American
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tradition. In order to become picturesque we must keep on doing one thing for a long
time without ever letting it get away from us. Something like collecting the weekly dimes
in industrial insurance. Or cleaning the streets.

The Old Gentleman moved, straight and stately, toward the Institution that he was
rearing. Truly, the annual feeding of Stuffy Pete was nothing national in its character,
such as the Magna Charta or jam for breakfast was in England. But it was a step. It was
almost feudal. It showed, at least, that a Custom was not impossible to New Y—ahem!—
America.

The Old Gentleman was thin and tall and sixty. He was dressed all in black, and wore
the old-fashioned kind of glasses that won’t stay on our nose. His hair was whiter and
thinner than it had been last year, and he seemed to make more use of his big, knobby
cane with the crooked handle.

As his established benefactor came up Stuffy wheezed and shuddered like some
woman’s over-fat pug when a street dog bristles up at him. He would have flown, but all
the skill of Santos-Dumont could not have separated him from his bench. Well had the
myrmidons of the two old ladies done their work.

“Good morning,” said the Old Gentleman. “I am glad to perceive that the vicissitudes
of another year have spared you to move in health about the beautiful world. For that
blessing alone this day of thanksgiving is well proclaimed to each of us. If you will come
with me, my man, I will provide you with a dinner that should make your physical being
accord with the mental.”

That is what the Old Gentleman said every time. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine
years. The words themselves almost formed an Institution. Nothing could be compared
with them except the Declaration of Independence. Always before they had been music in
Stuffy’s ears. But now he looked up at the Old Gentleman’s face with tearful agony in his
own. The fine snow almost sizzled when it fell upon his perspiring brow. But the Old
Gentleman shivered a little and turned his back to the wind.

Stuffy had always wondered why the Old Gentleman spoke his speech rather sadly.
He did not know that it was because he was wishing every time that he had a son to
succeed him. A son who would come there after he was gone—a son who would stand
proud and strong before some subsequent Stuffy, and say: “In memory of my father.”
Then it would be an Institution.

But the Old Gentleman had no relatives. He lived in rented rooms in one of the
decayed old family brownstone mansions in one of the quiet streets east of the park. In
the winter he raised fuchsias in a little conservatory the size of a steamer trunk. In the
spring he walked in the Easter parade. In the summer he lived at a farmhouse in the New
Jersey hills, and sat in a wicker armchair, speaking of a butterfly, the ornithoptera
amphrisius, that he hoped to find some day. In the autumn he fed Stuffy a dinner. These
were the Old Gentleman’s occupations.
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Stuffy Pete looked up at him for a half minute, stewing and helpless in his own self-
pity. The Old Gentleman’s eyes were bright with the giving-pleasure. His face was
getting more lined each year, but his little black necktie was in as jaunty a bow as ever,
and his linen was beautiful and white, and his gray mustache was curled gracefully at the
ends. And then Stuffy made a noise that sounded like peas bubbling in a pot. Speech was
intended; and as the Old Gentleman had heard the sounds nine times before, he rightly
construed them into Stuffy’s old formula of acceptance.

“Thankee, sir. I’ll go with ye, and much obliged. I’m very hungry, sir.”

The coma of repletion had not prevented from entering Stuffy’s mind the conviction
that he was the basis of an Institution. His Thanksgiving appetite was not his own; it
belonged by all the sacred rights of established custom, if not by the actual Statute of
Limitations, to this kind old gentleman who had preëmpted it. True, America is free; but
in order to establish tradition some one must be a repetend—a repeating decimal. The
heroes are not all heroes of steel and gold. See one here that wielded only weapons of
iron, badly silvered, and tin.

The Old Gentleman led his annual protégé southward to the restaurant, and to the
table where the feast had always occurred. They were recognized.

“Here comes de old guy,” said a waiter, “dat blows dat same bum to a meal every
Thanksgiving.”

The Old Gentleman sat across the table glowing like a smoked pearl at his corner-
stone of future ancient Tradition. The waiters heaped the table with holiday food—and
Stuffy, with a sign that was mistaken for hunger’s expression, raised knife and fork and
carved for himself a crown of imperishable bay.

No more valiant hero ever fought his way through the ranks of an enemy. Turkey,
chops, soups, vegetables, pies, disappeared before him as fast as they could be served.
Gorged nearly to the uttermost when he entered the restaurant, the smell of food had
almost caused him to lose his honor as a gentleman, but he rallied like a true knight. He
saw the look of beneficent happiness on the Old Gentleman’s face—a happier look than
even the fuchsias and the ornithoptera amphrisius had ever brought to it—and he had not
the heart to see it wane.

In an hour Stuffy leaned back with a battle won.

“Thankee kindly, sir,” he puffed like a leaky steampipe; “thankee kindly for a hearty
meal.”

Then he arose heavily with glazed eyes and started toward the kitchen. A waiter
turned him about like a top, and pointed him toward the door. The Old Gentleman
carefully counted out $1.30 in silver change, leaving three nickels for the waiter.

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They parted as they did each year at the door, the Old Gentleman going south, Stuffy
north.

Around the first corner Stuffy turned, and stood for one minute. Then he seemed to
puff out his rags as an owl puffs out his feathers, and fell to the sidewalk like a
sunstricken horse.

When the ambulance came the young surgeon and the driver cursed softly at his
weight. There was no smell of whiskey to justify a transfer to the patrol wagon, so Stuffy
and his two dinners went to the hospital. There they stretched him on a bed and began to
test him for strange diseases, with the hope of getting a chance at some problem with the
bare steel.

And lo! an hour later another ambulance brought the Old Gentleman. And they laid
him on another bed and spoke of appendicitis, for he looked good for the bill.

But pretty soon one of the young doctors met one of the young nurses whose eyes he
liked, and stopped to chat with her about the cases.

“That nice old gentleman over there, now,” he said, “you wouldn’t think that was a
case of almost starvation. Proud old family, I guess. He told me he hadn’t eaten a thing
for three days.”




Liberty and Equal Opportunity

106

Excerpt from “The First Settlement of New England”

DANIEL WEBSTER

In 1820, the bicentennial of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Rock—well before
Thanksgiving became a national holiday—the great statesman, orator, and United States
Senator Daniel Webster (1782–1852) delivered this oration (excerpted) at the landing
site. In this speech, he performs his duty to “our ancestors and our posterity” and to
“this memorable spot” by paying homage to our Pilgrim fathers and to the blessings of
liberty and equality that Americans enjoy thanks to their legacy. His oration moves from
an attempt to articulate for the assembled the “genius of the place” to a discussion of our
system of government, and he concludes with a look into the future and a charge to future
generations.

Imagine yourself standing where Webster stood, now almost double his “a hundred
years hence.” Can you experience the “genius of the place” and appreciate what the
Pilgrims accomplished? What, exactly, does Webster praise in our form of government,
and how is it connected with the Pilgrims and their New England settlements? What is
the connection between the American laws about property and the practices of freedom
and equality—and between these and the slave trade? For what would Webster have us
be thankful today, and how should we express our gratitude?

Standing in relation to our ancestors and our posterity, we are assembled on this
memorable spot, to perform the duties which that relation and the present occasion
impose upon us. We have come to this Rock, to record here our homage for our Pilgrim
Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labors; our admiration of
their virtues; our veneration for their piety; and our attachment to those principles of civil
and religious liberty, which they encountered the dangers of the ocean, the storms of
heaven, the violence of savages, disease, exile, and famine, to enjoy and to establish. And
we would leave here, also, for the generations which are rising up rapidly to fill our
places, some proof that we have endeavored to transmit the great inheritance unimpaired;
that in our estimate of public principles and private virtue, in our veneration of religion
and piety, in our devotion to civil and religious liberty, in our regard for whatever
advances human knowledge or improves human happiness, we are not altogether
unworthy of our origin.

There is a local feeling connected with this occasion, too strong to be resisted; a sort
of genius of the place, which inspires and awes us. We feel that we are on the spot where
the first scene of our history was laid; where the hearths and altars of New England were
first placed; where Christianity, and civilization, and letters made their first lodgement, in
a vast extent of country, covered with a wilderness, and peopled by roving barbarians.
We are here, at the season of the year at which the event took place. The imagination
irresistibly and rapidly draws around us the principal features and the leading characters
in the original scene. We cast our eyes abroad on the ocean, and we see where the little
barque, with the interesting group upon its deck, made its slow progress to the shore. We
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look around us, and behold the hills and promontories where the anxious eyes of our
fathers first saw the places of habitation and of rest. We feel the cold which benumbed,
and listen to the winds which pierced them. Beneath us is the Rock, on which New
England received the feet of the Pilgrims. We seem even to behold them, as they struggle
with the elements, and, with toilsome efforts, gain the shore. We listen to the chiefs in
council; we see the unexampled exhibition of female fortitude and resignation; we hear
the whisperings of youthful impatience, and we see, what a painter of our own has also
represented by his pencil, chilled and shivering childhood, houseless, but for a mother’s
arms, couchless, but for a mother’s breast, till our own blood almost freezes. The mild
dignity of CARVER and of BRADFORD; the decisive and soldierlike air and manner of
STANDISH; the devout BREWSTER; the enterprising ALLERTON; the general firmness and
thoughtfulness of the whole band; their conscious joy for dangers escaped; their deep
solicitude about danger to come; their trust in Heaven; their high religious faith, full of
confidence and anticipation; all of these seem to belong to this place, and to be present
upon this occasion, to fill us with reverence and admiration . . .

The nature and constitution of society and government in this country are interesting
topics, to which I would devote what remains of the time allowed to this occasion. Of our
system of government the first thing to be said is, that it is really and practically a free
system. It originates entirely with the people and rests on no other foundation than their
assent. To judge of its actual operation, it is not enough to look merely at the form of its
construction. The practical character of government depends often on a variety of
considerations, besides the abstract frame of its constitutional organization. Among these
are the condition and tenure of property; the laws regulating its alienation and descent;
the presence or absence of a military power; an armed or unarmed yeomanry; the spirit of
the age, and the degree of general intelligence. In these respects it cannot be denied that
the circumstances of this country are most favorable to the hope of maintaining a
government of a great nation on principles entirely popular. In the absence of military
power, the nature of government must essentially depend on the manner in which
property is holden and distributed. There is a natural influence belonging to property,
whether it exists in many hands or few; and it is on the rights of property that both
despotism and unrestrained popular violence ordinarily commence their attacks. Our
ancestors began their system of government here under a condition of comparative
equality in regard to wealth, and their early laws were of a nature to favor and continue
this equality.

A republican form of government rests not more on political constitutions, than on
those laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property. Governments like
ours could not have been maintained, where property was holden according to the
principles of the feudal system; nor, on the other hand, could the feudal constitution
possibly exist with us. Our New England ancestors brought hither no great capitals from
Europe; and if they had, there was nothing productive in which they could have been
invested. They left behind them the whole feudal policy of the other continent. They
broke away at once from the system of military service established in the Dark Ages, and
which continues, down even to the present time, more or less to affect the condition of
property all over Europe. They came to a new country. There were, as yet, no lands
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yielding rent, and no tenants rendering service. The whole soil was unreclaimed from
barbarism. They were themselves, either from their original condition, or from the
necessity of their common interest, nearly on a general level in respect to property. Their
situation demanded a parcelling out and division of the lands, and it may be fairly said,
that this necessary act fixed the future frame and form of their government. The character
of their political institutions was determined by the fundamental laws respecting property.
The laws rendered estates divisible among sons and daughters. The right of
primogeniture, at first limited and curtailed, was afterwards abolished. The property was
all freehold. The entailment of estates, long trusts, and the other processes for fettering
and tying up inheritances, were not applicable to the condition of society, and seldom
made use of . . . .

I deem it my duty on this occasion to suggest, that the land is not yet wholly free from
the contamination of a traffic, at which every feeling of humanity must forever revolt,—I
mean the African slave trade. Neither public sentiment, nor the law, has hitherto been
able entirely to put an end to this odious and abominable trade. At the moment when God
in his mercy has blessed the Christian world with a universal peace, there is reason to
fear, that, to the disgrace of the Christian name and character, new efforts are making for
the extension of this trade by subjects and citizens of Christian states, in whose hearts
there dwell no sentiments of humanity or of justice, and over whom neither the fear of
God nor the fear of man exercises a control. In the sight of our law, the African slave
trader is a pirate and a felon; and in the sight of Heaven, an offender beyond the ordinary
depth of human guilt. There is no brighter page of our history, than that which records the
measures which have been adopted by the government at an early day, and at different
times since, for the suppression of this traffic; and I would call on all the true sons of
New England to cooperate with the laws of man, and the justice of Heaven. If there be,
within the extent of our knowledge or influence, any participation in this traffic, let us
pledge ourselves here, upon the rock of Plymouth, to extirpate and destroy it. It is not fit
that the land of the Pilgrims should bear the shame longer. I hear the sound of the
hammer, I see the smoke of the furnaces where manacles and fetters are still forged for
human limbs. I see the visages of those who by stealth and at midnight labor in this work
of hell, foul and dark, as may become the artificers of such instruments of misery and
torture. Let that spot be purified, or let it cease to be of New England. Let it be purified,
or let it be set aside from the Christian world; let it be put out of the circle of human
sympathies and human regards, and let civilized man henceforth have no communion
with it . . .

The hours of this day are rapidly flying, and this occasion will soon be passed.
Neither we nor our children can be expected to behold its return. They are in the distant
regions of futurity, they exist only in the all-creating power of God, who shall stand here
a hundred years hence, to trace, through us, their descent from the Pilgrims and to survey,
as we have now surveyed, the progress of their country, during the lapse of a century. We
would anticipate their concurrence with us in our sentiments of deep regard for our
common ancestors. We would anticipate and partake the pleasure with which they will
then recount the steps of New England’s advancement. On the morning of that day,
although it will not disturb us in our repose, the voice of acclamation and gratitude,
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commencing on the Rock of Plymouth, shall be transmitted through millions of the sons
of the Pilgrims, till it lose itself in the murmurs of the Pacific seas.

We would leave for consideration of those who shall then occupy our places, some
proof that we hold the blessings transmitted from our fathers in just estimation; some
proof of our attachment to the cause of good government, and of civil and religious
liberty; some proof of a sincere and ardent desire to promote every thing which may
enlarge the understandings and improve the hearts of men. And when, from the long
distance of a hundred years, they shall look back upon us, they shall know, at least, that
we possessed affections, which, running backward and warming with gratitude for what
our ancestors have done for our happiness, run forward also to our posterity, and meet
them with cordial salutation, ere yet they have arrived on the shore of Being.

Advance, then, ye future generations! We would hail you, as you rise in your long
succession, to fill the places which we now fill, and to taste the blessings of existence
where we are passing, and soon shall have passed, our own human duration. We bid you
welcome to this pleasant land of the fathers. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies
and the verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great inheritence
which we have enjoyed. We welcome you to the blessings of good government and
religious liberty. We welcome you to the treasures of science and the delights of learning.
We welcome you to the transcendent sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of kindred,
and parents, and children. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational
existence, the immortal hope of Christianity, and the light of everlasting Truth!


110

A New Pioneer

DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER

Daniel Webster asked his auditors to imagine themselves in the place of the Pilgrims two
hundred years before. In this story from 1940, for and about young schoolchildren,
Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879–1958)—American author, education reformer, and
activist—enables her readers to appreciate the immigrant experience in their own time.
The daughter of the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska, Fisher was a
contemporary of Willa Cather and took a PhD in Romance Languages from Columbia
University. She served as secretary of Horace Mann School in New York, and later as the
first female member of the Vermont Board of Education.

Magda, a newly arrived Jewish immigrant from Austria possessing an old-world
appearance and but a smattering of English, feels herself adjusting wonderfully to her
new country, even while her classmates regard her with hostility. Why does Magda write
her prayer for Thanksgiving, and for what does she give thanks? Why is she so pleased
with the day of Thanksgiving? How does she win over her bigoted classmates? Is it true
that immigrants are more able, and more likely, to appreciate the blessings of living in
America than are the native born? Why did your ancestors come to America? Why do
you stay? What is the meaning of the story’s title?

A new girl came into the Winthrop Avenue public school about the beginning of
November, and this is how she looked to the other boys and girls in the seventh grade.

She couldn’t understand English although she could read it enough to get her lessons.
(This was a small public school in a small inland American town where they seldom saw
any foreigners, and people who couldn’t speak English seemed outlandish.) She wore the
queerest-looking clothes you ever saw and clumping shoes and great thick woolen
stockings. (All the children in that town, as in most American towns, dressed exactly like
everybody else, because their mothers mostly bought their clothes at Benning and Davis’
department store on Main Street.)

Her hair wasn’t bobbed and curled, neither a long nor short bob; it looked as though
her folks hadn’t ever had enough sense to bob it. It was done up in two funny looking
pigtails. She had a queer expression on her face, like nothing anybody had ever seen—
kind of a smile and yet kind of offish. She couldn’t see the point of wise-cracks, but she
laughed over things that weren’t funny a bit, like the way a cheerleader waves his arms.

She got her lessons terribly well (the others thought somebody at home must help her
more than the teachers like), and she was the dumbest thing about games—didn’t even
know how to play duck on a rock or run sheep run. And, queerest of all, she wore aprons!
Can you beat it!

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That’s how she looked to the school. This is how the school looked to her. They had
come a long way, she and her grandfather, from the town in Austria where he had a shop
in which he repaired watches and clocks and sold trinkets the peasant boys bought for
their sweethearts.

Men in uniforms and big boots had come suddenly one day—it was in vacation, and
Magda was there—and had smashed in the windows of the shop and the showcase with
the pretty things in it and had thrown all the furniture from their home back of the shop
out into the street and made a bonfire of it.

Magda had been hiding in a corner and saw this; and now, after she had gone to sleep,
she sometimes saw it again and woke up with a scream, but Grandfather always came
quickly to say smilingly, “All right, Magda child. We’re safe in America with Uncle
Harry. Go to sleep again.”

He had said she must not tell anybody about that day. “We can do something better in
the New World than sow more hate,” he said seriously. She was to forget about it if she
could, and about the long journey afterward, when they were so frightened and had so
little to eat; and, worst of all, when the man in the uniform in New York thought for a
minute that something was wrong with their precious papers and they might have to go
back.

She tried not to think of it, but it was in the back of her mind as she went to school
every day, like the black cloth the jewelers put down on their counters to make their
pretty gold and silver things shine more. The American school (really a rather ugly old
brick building) was for Magda made of gold and silver, shining bright against what she
tried to forget.

How kind the teachers were! Why, they smiled at the children. And how free and safe
the children acted! Magda simply loved the sound of their chatter on the playground, loud
and gay and not afraid even when the teacher stepped out for something. She did wish
she could understand what they were saying.

She had studied English in her Austrian school, but this swift, birdlike twittering
didn’t sound a bit like the printed words on the page. Still, as the days went by she began
to catch a word here and there, short ones like “down” and “run” and “back.” And she
soon found what hurrah! means, for the Winthrop Avenue school made a specialty of
mass cheering, and every grade had a cheerleader, even the first graders.

Madga thought nearly everything in America was as odd and funny as it was nice.
But the cheerleaders were the funniest, with their bendings to one side and the other and
then jumping up straight in the air till both feet were off the ground. But she loved to yell,
“Hurrah!” too, although she couldn’t understand what they were cheering about.

It seemed to her that the English language was like a thick, heavy curtain hanging
down between her and her new schoolmates. At first she couldn’t see a thing through it.
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But little by little it began to have thinner spots in it. She could catch a glimpse here and
there of what they were saying when they sometimes stood in a group, looking at her and
talking among themselves. How splendid it would be, she thought, to have the curtain
down altogether so she could really understand what they were saying!

This is what they were saying—at least the six or seven girls who tagged after Betty
Woodworth. Most of the seventh graders were too busy studying and racing around at
recess time to pay much attention to the queer new girl. But some did. They used to say,
“My goodness, look at that dress! It looks like her grandmother’s—if she’s got one.”

“Of all the dumb clucks. She doesn’t know enough to play squat tag. My goodness,
the first graders can play tag.”

“My father told my mother this morning that he didn’t know why our country should
take in all the disagreeable folks that other countries can’t stand any more.”

“She’s Jewish. She must be. Everybody that comes from Europe now is Jewish. We
don’t want our town all filled up with Jews!”

“My uncle Peter saw where it said in the paper we ought to keep them out. We
haven’t got enough for ourselves as it is.”

Magda could just catch a word or two, “country” and “enough” and “uncle.” But it
wouldn’t be long now, she thought happily, till she could understand everything they said
and really belong to seventh grade.

About two weeks after Magda came to school Thanksgiving Day was due. She had
never heard of Thanksgiving Day, but since the story was all written out in her history
book she soon found out what it meant. She thought it was perfectly lovely!

She read the story of the Pilgrim Fathers and their long, hard trip across the ocean
(she knew something about that trip), and their terrible first winter, and the kind Indian
whose language they couldn’t understand, who taught them how to cultivate the fields,
and then—oh, it was poetry, just poetry, the setting aside of a day forever and forever,
every year, to be thankful that they could stay in America!

How could people (as some of the people who wrote the German textbooks did) say
that Americans didn’t care about anything but making money? Why, here, more than
three hundred years after that day, this whole school and every other school, everywhere
all over the country, were turning themselves upside down to celebrate with joy their
great-grandfathers’ having been brave enough to come to America and to stay here, even
though it was hard, instead of staying in Europe, where they had been so badly treated.
(Magda knew something about that, too.)

Everybody in school was to do something for the celebration. The first graders had
funny little Indian clothes, and they were going to pretend to show the second graders (in
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Puritan costumes) how to plant corn. Magda thought they were delightful, those darling
little things, being taught already to be thankful that they could go on living in America.

Some grades had songs; others were going to act in short plays. The children in
Magda’s own seventh grade, that she loved so, were going to speak pieces and sing. She
had an idea all her own, and because she couldn’t be sure of saying the right words in
English she wrote a note to the teacher about it.

She would like to write a thankful prayer (she could read English pretty well now)
and learn it by heart and say it, as her part of the celebration. The teacher, who was
terrifically busy with a bunch of boys who were to build a small “pretend” log cabin on
stage, nodded that it would be all right. So Magda went happily to write it and learn it by
heart.

“Kind of nervy, if you ask me, of that little Jew girl to horn in on our celebration,”
said Betty.

“Who asked her to come to America, anyhow?” said another.

“I thought Thanksgiving was for Americans!” said another.

Magda, listening hard, caught the word “Americans,” and her face lighted up. It
wouldn’t be long now, she thought, before she could understand them.

No, no, they weren’t specially bad children, no more than you or I—they had heard
older people talking like that—and they gabbled along, thoughtlessly, the way we are all
apt to repeat what we hear, without considering whether it is right or not.

On Thanksgiving Day a lot of those grownups whose talk Betty and her gang had
been repeating had come, as they always did, to the “exercises.” They sat in rows in the
assembly room, listening to the singing and acting of the children and saying, “the first
graders are too darling,” and “how time flies,” and “can you believe it that Betty is up to
my shoulder now? Seems like last week she was in the kindergarten.”

The tall principal stood at one side of the platform and read off the different numbers
from a list. By and by he said, “We shall now hear a prayer written by Magda Bensheim
and spoken by her. Madga has been in this country only five weeks and in our school
only three.”

Magda came out to the middle of the platform, a bright, striped apron over her thick
woolen dress, her braids tied with red ribbons. Her heart was beating fast. Her face was
shining and solemn.

She put her hands together and lifted them up over her head and said to God, “Oh,
thank you, thank you, dear God, for letting me come to America and nowhere else, when
Grandfather and I were driven from our home. I learn out of my history book that
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Americans all came to this country just how Grandfather and I come, because Europe
treat them wrong and bad. Every year they gather like this—to remember their brave
grandfathers who come here so long ago and stay on, although they had such hard times.

“American hearts are so faithful and true that they forget never how they were all
refugees, too, and must thankful be that from refugees they come to be American
citizens. So thanks to you, dear, dear God, for letting Grandfather and me come to live in
a country where they have this beautiful once-a-year Thanksgiving, for having come
afraid from Europe to be here free and safe. I, too, feel the same beautiful thank-you-God
that all Americans say here today.”

Magda did not know what is usually said in English at the end of a prayer so did not
say anything when she finished, just walked away back where the other girls of her class
were. But the principal said it for her—after he had given his nose a good blow and
wiped his eyes. He looked out over the people in the audience and said in a loud, strong
voice, “Amen! I say Amen, and so does everybody here, I know.”

And then—it was sort of queer to applaud a prayer—they all began to clap their
hands loudly.

Back in the seventh-grade room the teacher was saying, “Well, children, that’s all.
See you next Monday. Don’t eat too much turkey.” But Betty jumped up and said, “Wait
a minute, Miss Turner. Wait a minute, kids. I want to lead a cheer. All ready?

“Three cheers for Magda!

“Hip! Hip!” She leaned ’way over to one side and touched the floor, and they all
shouted, “Hurrah!”

She bent back to the other side. “Hurrah!” they shouted.

She jumped straight up till both feet were off the ground and clapped her hands over
her head, and “Hurrah!” they all shouted.

The wonderful moment had come. The curtain that had shut Magda off from her
schoolmates had gone. “Oh! Ach!” she cried, her eyes wide. “Why, I understand every
word. Yes, now I can understand American!”


115

Thanksgiving at the Polls

EDWARD EVERETT HALE

Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909), Unitarian minister, antislavery activist, and for a
time chaplain in the United States Senate, was also a prolific author of essays and
stories, many on American political subjects. He is best remembered for his story “The
Man without a Country” (1863). In this story from 1899, Hale explores the relation
between the holiday of Thanksgiving and the practice of generosity. But by building the
story around immigrants and polling-booths, Hale also invites us to think about
citizenship and the meaning of America, as well as our principles of freedom and equal
opportunity.

Why does Frederick Dane first move into the polling place? What moves him to
“extend the benefits of his new discovery”? What are the effects of his generosity on
those he brings “home” with him? How does he end up with so much abundance for
Thanksgiving, and why does he choose to share it beyond “his own” polling-booth? What
is the meaning of the fact that the same events are taking place in other polling-booths,
or of the final gathering in Faneuil Hall, with the Mayor in attendance? What is the
meaning of the story’s title (and especially “at” the polls)? What is the symbolic
significance of the fact that the gatherings occur in (at) polling-booths? What is the
significance of the fact that most of the characters who take up residence in the polling-
booths are wandering homeless immigrants? How is Thanksgiving connected to
American citizenship?

I.

Frederick Dane was on his way towards what he called his home. His home, alas, was but
an indifferent attic in one of the southern suburbs of Boston. He had been walking; but he
was now standing still, at the well-known corner of Massachusetts and Columbus
Avenues.

As often happens, Frederick Dane had an opportunity to wait at this corner a quarter
of an hour. As he looked around him on the silent houses, he could not but observe the
polling-booth, which a watchful city government had placed in the street, a few days
before, in preparation for the election which was to take place three weeks afterward.
Dane is of an inquiring temper, and seeing that the polling-booth had a door and the door
had a keyhole, he tried in the keyhole a steel key which he had picked up in Dock Square
the day before. Almost to his surprise, the key governed the lock at once, and he found
himself able to walk in.

He left the door wide open, and the gaslight streaming in revealed to him the aspect
of the cells arranged for Australian voting. The rails were all in their places, and the
election might take place the very next day. It instantly occurred to Dane that he might
save the five cents which otherwise he would have given to his masters of the street
railway, and be the next morning three miles nearer his work, if he spent the night in the
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polling-cabin. He looked around for a minute or two, and found some large rolls of street
posters, which had been left there by some disappointed canvasser the year before, and
which had accompanied one cell of the cabin in its travels. Dane is a prompt man, and, in
a minute more, he had locked the door behind him, had struck a wax taper which he had
in his cigar-box, had rolled the paper roll out on the floor, to serve as a pillow. In five
minutes more, covered with his heavy coat, he lay on the floor, sleeping as soundly as he
had slept the year before, when he found himself on the lee side of an iceberg under
Peary’s command.

This is perhaps unnecessary detail, by way of saying that this is the beginning of the
arrangement which a city, not very intelligent, will make in the next century for unsettled
people, whose own houses are not agreeable to them. There exist in Boston at this
moment three or four hundred of the polling-booths,—nice little houses, enough better
than most of the peasantry of most of Europe ever lived in. They are, alas, generally
packed up in lavender and laid away for ten months of the year. But in the twentieth
century we shall send them down to the shores of islands and other places where people
like to spend the summer, and we shall utilize them, not for the few hours of an election
only, but all the year round. This will not then be called “Nationalism,” it will be called
“Democracy;” and that is a very good name when it is applied to a very good thing.

Dane was an old soldier and an old seaman. He was not troubled by disagreeable
dreams, and in the morning, when the street-cars began to travel, he was awaked a little
after sunrise, by their clatter on the corner. He felt well satisfied with the success of his
experiment, and began on a forecast, which the reader shall follow for a few weeks,
which he thought, and thought rightly, would tend to his own convenience, possibly to
that of his friends.

Dane telegraphed down to the office that he should be detained an hour that morning,
went out to his home of the day before at Ashmont, paid his landlady her scot, brought in
with him his little possessions in a valise to the office, and did not appear at his new
home until after nightfall.

He was then able to establish himself on the basis which proved convenient
afterwards, and which it is worth while to explain to a world which is not too well
housed. The city had provided three or four chairs there, a stove, and two tables. Dane
had little literature, but, as he was in the literary line himself, he did not care for this so
much; men who write books are not commonly eager to read books which are worse than
their own. At a nine-cent window of a neighboring tinman’s he was able to buy himself
the few little necessities which he wanted for housekeeping. And not to detain the reader
too long upon merely fleshly arrangements, in the course of a couple of hours of Tuesday
evening and Wednesday evening, he had fitted up his convenient if not pretty bower with
all that man requires. It was easy to buy a mince pie or a cream cake, or a bit of boiled
ham or roast chicken, according as payday was near or distant. One is glad to have a
tablecloth. But if one have a large poster warning people, a year before, that they should
vote the Prohibition ticket, one’s conscience is not wounded if this poster, ink down,
takes the place which a tablecloth would have taken under other circumstances. If there is
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not much crockery to use, there is but little to wash. And, in short, as well trained a man
of the world as Dane had made himself thoroughly comfortable in his new quarters
before the week was over.

II.

At the beginning Frederick’s views were purely personal, or, as the preachers say, selfish.
Here was an empty house, three miles nearer his work than his hired attic was, and he had
taken possession. But conscience always asserts itself, and it was not long before he felt
that he ought to extend the benefits of this new discovery of his somewhat further. It
really was a satisfaction to what the pulpits call a “felt want” when as he came through
Massachusetts Avenue on Thursday evening, he met a boy and a girl, neither of them
more than ten years old, crying on the sidewalk. Dane is sympathetic and fond of
children. He stopped the little brats, and satisfied himself that neither had had any supper.
He could not understand a word of the language in which they spoke, nor could they
understand him. But kindness needs little spoken language; and accordingly Frederick led
them along to his cabin, and after waiting, as he always did, a minute or two, to be sure
that no one was in sight, he unlocked the door, and brought in his little companions.

It was clear enough that the children were such waifs and strays that nothing surprised
them, and they readily accepted the modest hospitalities of the position. Like all
masculine housekeepers, Frederick had provided three times as much food as he needed
for his own physical wants, so that it was not difficult to make these children happy with
the pieces of mince pie and lemon pie and cream cake and eclairs which were left from
his unknown festivals of the day before. Poor little things, they were both cold and tired,
and, before half an hour was over, they were snugly asleep on and under a pile of
Prohibition posters.

III.

Fortunately for Frederick Dane, for the nine years before he joined Peary, he had lived in
the city of Bagdad. He had there served as the English interpreter for the Caliph of that
city. The Caliph did most of his business at night, and was in the habit of taking Mr.
Dane with him on his evening excursions. In this way Mr. Dane had made the somewhat
intimate acquaintance of Mr. Jaffrey, the private secretary of the Caliph; and he had
indeed in his own employment for some time, a wide-awake black man, of the name of
Mezrour, who, for his “other place,” was engaged as a servant in the Caliph’s household.
Dane was thus not unfamiliar with the methods of unexpected evening visits; and it was
fortunate for him that he was so. The little children whom he had picked up, explained to
him, by pantomime which would have made the fortune of a ballet-girl, that they were
much more comfortable in their new home than they had been in any other, and that they
had no wish to leave it. But by various temptations addressed to them, in the form of
barley horses and dogs, and sticks of barber’s candy, Dane, who was of a romantic and
enterprising disposition, persuaded them to take him to some of their former haunts.

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These were mostly at the North End of Boston, and he soon found that he needed all
his recollections of Bagdad for the purpose of conducting any conversation with any of
the people they knew best. In a way, however, with a little broken Arabic, a little broken
Hebrew, a great deal of broken China, and many gesticulations, he made acquaintance
with two of their compatriots, who had, as it seemed, crossed the ocean with them in the
same steerage. That is to say, they either had or had not; but for many months Mr. Dane
was unable to discover which. Such as they were, however, they had been sleeping on the
outside of the upper attic of the house in Salutation Alley where these children had
lodged, or not lodged, as the case might be, during the last few days. When Mr. Dane saw
what were called their lodgings, he did not wonder that they had accepted pot-luck with
him.

It is necessary to explain all this, that the reader may understand why, on the first
night after the arrival of these two children, the population of the polling-booth was
enlarged by the presence of these two Hebrew compatriots. And, without further mystery,
it may be as well to state that all four were from a village about nine hundred and twenty-
three miles north of Odessa, in the southern part of Russia. They had emigrated in a
compulsory manner from that province, first on account of the utter failure of anything to
eat there; second, on account of a prejudice which the natives of that country had
contracted against the Hebrew race.

The two North End friends of little Ezra and Sarah readily accepted the invitation of
the two children to join in the College Settlement at the corner of the two avenues. The
rules of the institution proved attractive, and before a second week was well advanced ten
light excelsior mattresses were regularly rolled up every morning as the different inmates
went to their duties; while, as evening closed in, eight cheerful companions told stories
around the hospitable board.

IV.

It is no part of this little tale to follow, with Mr. Stevenson’s magic, or with that of the
Arabian Nights, the fortunes from day to day of the little circle. Enough that men of
Hebrew race do not prove lazy anywhere. Dane, certainly, gave them no bad example.
The children were at once entered in a neighboring school, where they showed the
quickness of their race. They had the advantage, when the week closed and began, that
they could attend the Sabbath school provided for them by the Hebrews on Saturday and
the several Sunday-schools of the Parker Memorial, the Berkeley Temple, and the other
churches of the neighborhood. The day before the election, Frederick Dane asked Oleg
and Vladimir to help him in bringing up some short boards, which they laid on the trusses
in the roof above them. On the little attic thus prepared, they stored their mattresses and
other personal effects before the great election of that year began. They had no intention
of interfering, even by a cup of cold coffee, with the great wave of righteous indignation
which, on that particular day of that particular year, “swept away, as by a great cosmic
tidal flood, the pretences and ambitions, etc., etc., etc.” These words are cited from
Frederick Dane’s editorial of the next morning, and were in fact used by him or by some
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of his friends, without variations, in all the cosmic changes of the elections of the next six
years.

V.

But so soon as this election was well over, the country and the city settled down, with
what Ransom used to call “amazin’” readiness to the new order, such as it was. Only the
people who “take up the streets” detached more men than ever to spoil the pavement. For
now a city election was approaching. And it might be that the pavers and ditchers and
shovellers and curbstone men and asphalt makers should vote wrong. Dane and his
settlement were well aware that after this election they would all have to move out from
their comfortable quarters. But, while they were in, they determined to prepare for a fit
Thanksgiving to God, and the country which makes provision so generous for those in
need. It is not every country, indeed, which provides four hundred empty houses, every
autumn, for the convenience of any unlodged night-editor with a skeleton key, who
comes along.

He explained to his companions that a great festival was near. They heard this with
joy. He explained that no work would be done that day,—not in any cigar-shop or
sweating-room. This also pleased them. He then, at some length, explained the necessity
of the sacrifice of turkeys on the occasion. He told briefly how Josselyn and the fathers
shot them as they passed through the sky. But he explained that now we shoot them, as
one makes money, not directly but indirectly. We shoot our turkeys, say, at shooting-
galleries. All this proved intelligible, and Frederick had no fear for turkeys.

As for Sarah and Ezra, he found that at Ezra’s boys’ club and at Sarah’s girls’ club,
and each of her Sabbath-school classes and Sunday-school classes, and at each of his, it
had been explained that on the day before Thanksgiving they must come with baskets to
places named, and carry home a Thanksgiving dinner.

These announcements were hailed with satisfaction by all to whom Dane addressed
them. Everything in the country was as strange to them as it would have been to an old
friend of mine, an inhabitant of the planet Mars. And they accepted the custom of this
holiday among the rest. Oddly enough, it proved that one or two of them were first-rate
shots, and, by attendance at different shooting-galleries, they brought in more than a
turkey apiece, as Governor Bradford’s men did in 1621. Many of them were at work in
large factories, where it was the custom of the house to give a roasted turkey and a pan of
cranberry sauce to each person who had been on the pay-list for three months. One or two
of them were errand men in the market, and it was the practice of the wholesale dealers
there, who at this season become to a certain extent retailers, to encourage these errand
men by presenting to each of them a turkey, which was promised in advance. As for Dane
himself, the proprietors of his journal always presented a turkey to each man on their
staff. And in looking forward to his Thanksgiving at the polls, he had expected to provide
a twenty-two pound gobbler which a friend in Vermont was keeping for him. It may
readily be imagined, then, that, when the day before Thanksgiving came, he was more
oppressed by an embarrassment of riches than by any difficulty on the debtor side of his
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account. He had twelve people to feed, himself included. There were the two children,
their eight friends, and a young Frenchman from Paris who, like all persons of that
nationality who are six months in this country, had found many enemies here. Dane had
invited him to dinner. He had arranged that there should be plates or saucers enough for
each person to have two. And now there was to be a chicken-pie from Obed Shalom,
some mince pies and Marlborough pies from the Union for Christian Work, a turkey at
each end of the board; and he found he should have left over, after the largest
computation for the appetites of the visitors, twenty-three pies of different structure, five
dishes of cranberry sauce, three or four boxes of raisins, two or three drums of figs, two
roasted geese and eleven turkeys. He counted all the turkeys as roasted, because he had
the promise of the keeper of the Montgomery House that he would roast for him all the
birds that were brought in to him before nine o’clock on Thanksgiving morning.

VI.

Having stated all this on a list carefully written, first in the English language and second
in the language of the Hebrews, Frederick called his fellow-lodgers together earlier than
usual on the evening before Thanksgiving Day. He explained to them, in the patois which
they used together, that it would be indecent for them to carry this supply of food farther
than next Monday for their own purposes. He told them that the occasion was one of
exuberant thanksgiving to the God of heaven. He showed them that they all had great
reason for thanksgiving. And, in short, he made three heads of a discourse which might
have been expanded by the most eloquent preacher in Boston the next day, and would
have well covered the twenty-five minutes which the regulation would have required for
a sermon. He then said that, as they had been favored with much more than they could
use for their own appetites, they must look up those who were not so well off as
themselves.

He was well pleased by finding that he was understood, and what he said was
received with applause in the various forms in which Southern Russia applauds on such
occasions. As for the two children, their eyes were wide open, and their mouths, and they
looked their wonder.

Frederick then proposed that two of their number should volunteer to open a rival
establishment at the polling-booth at the corner of Gates Street and Burgoyne Street, and
that the company should on the next day invite guests enough to make another table of
twelve. He proposed that the same course should be taken at the corner of Shapleigh and
Bowditch Streets, and yet again at the booth which is at the corner of Curtis Avenue and
Quincy Street. And he said that, as time would press upon them, they had better arrange
to carry a part at least of the stores to these places that evening. To this there was a
general assent. The company sat down to a hasty tea, administered much as the Israelites
took their last meal in Egypt; for every man had on his long frieze coat and his heavy
boots, and they were eager for the active work of Thanksgiving. For each the stewards
packed two turkeys in a basket, filled in as far as they could with other stores, and
Frederick headed his procession.

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It was then that he was to learn, for the first time, that he was not the only person in
Boston.

It was then that he found out that the revelation made to one man is frequently made
to many.

He found out that he was as wise as the next fellow, but was no wiser; was as good as
the next fellow, but was no better; and that, in short, he had no special patent upon his
own undertaking.

The little procession soon arrived at the corner of Shapleigh and Bowditch Streets.
Whoever had made the locks on the doors of the houses had been content to use the same
pattern for all. It proved, therefore, that the key of No. 237 answered for No. 238, and it
was not necessary to open the door with the “jimmy” which Simeon had under his ulster.

But on the other hand, to Frederick’s amazement, as he threw the door open, he found
a lighted room and a long table around which sat twelve men, guised or disguised in
much the same way as those whom he had brought with him. A few moments showed
that another leader of the people had discovered this vacant home a few weeks before,
and had established there another settlement of the un-homed. As it proved, this
gentleman was a Mashpee Indian. He was, in fact, the member of the House of
Representatives from the town of Mashpee for the next winter. Arriving in Boston to look
for lodgings, he, not unnaturally, met with a Mohawk, two Dacotahs, and a Cherokee,
who, for various errands, had come north and east. A similarity of color, not to say of
racial relations, had established a warm friendship among the five, and they had brought
together gradually twelve gentlemen of copper color, who had been residing in this
polling-booth since the second day after the general election. Their fortune had not been
unlike that of Frederick and his friends, and at this moment they were discussing the
methods by which they might distribute several brace of ducks which had been sent up
from Mashpee, a haunch of venison which had come down from above Machias, and
some wild turkeys which had arrived by express from the St. Regis Indians of Northern
New York. At the moment of the arrival of our friends, they were sending out two of
their number to find how they might best distribute thus their extra provender.

These two gladly joined in the little procession, and all went together to the corner of
Quincy Street and Curtis Avenue. There a similar revelation was made, only there was
some difficulty at first in any real mutual understanding. For here they met a dozen, more
or less, of French Canadians. These gentlemen had left their wives and their children in
the province of Quebec, and, finding themselves in Boston, had taken possession of the
polling-booth, where they were living much more comfortably than they would have
lived at home. They too had been well provided for Thanksgiving, both by their friends at
home and by their employers, and had been questioning as to the distribution which they
could make of their supplies. Reinforced by four of their number, the delegation in search
of hungry people was increased to fourteen in number, and with a certain curiosity, it
must be confessed, they went together to try their respective keys on No. 311.

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Opening this without so much as knocking at the door to know if here they might not
provide the “annex” or “tender” which they wished to establish, they found, it must be
confessed without any amazement or amusement, a company of Italians under the charge
of one Antonio Fero, who had also worked out the problem of cheap lodgings, and had
established themselves for some weeks here. These men also had been touched, either by
some priest’s voice or other divine word, with a sense of the duties of the occasion, and
were just looking round to know where they might spread their second table. Five of
them joined the fourteen, and the whole company, after a rapid conversation, agreed that
they would try No. 277 on the other side of the Avenue. And here their fortunes changed.

For here it proved that the “cops” on that beat, finding nights growing somewhat cold,
and that there was no provision made by the police commissioners for a club-room for
gentlemen of their profession, had themselves arranged in the polling-booth a convenient
place for the reading of the evening newspapers and for conference on their mutual
affairs. These “cops” were unmarried men, and did not much know where was the home
in which the governor requested them to spend their Thanksgiving. They had therefore
determined to spread their own table in their club-room, and this evening had been
making preparations for a picnic feast there at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, when they
should be relieved from their more pressing duties. They also had found the liberality of
each member of the force had brought in more than would be requisite, and were
considering the same subject which had oppressed the consciences of the leaders of the
other bands.

No one ever knew who made the great suggestion, but it is probable that it was one of
these officials, well acquainted with the charter of the city of Boston and with its
constitution and by-laws, who offered the proposal which was adopted. In the jealousy of
the fierce democracy of Boston in the year 1820, when the present city charter was made,
it reserved for itself permission to open Faneuil Hall at any time for a public meeting. It
proves now that whenever fifty citizens unite to ask for the use of the hall for such a
meeting, it must be given to them. At the time of which we are reading the mayor had to
preside at every such meeting. At the “Cops’” club it was highly determined that the
names of fifty citizens should at once be obtained, and that the Cradle of Liberty should
be secured for the general Thanksgiving.

It was wisely resolved that no public notice should be given of this in the journals. It
was well known that that many-eyed Argus called the press is very apt not to interfere
with that which is none of its business.

VII.

And thus it happened that, when Thanksgiving Day came, the worthy janitor of Faneuil
Hall sent down his assistant to open it, and that the assistant, who meant to dine at home,
found a good-natured friend from the country who took the keys and lighted the gas in his
place. Before the sun had set, Frederick Dane and Antonio Fero and Michael Chevalier
and the Honorable Mr. Walk-in-the-Water and Eben Kartschoff arrived with an express-
wagon driven by a stepson of P. Nolan. There is no difficulty at Faneuil Hall in bringing
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out a few trestles and as many boards as one wants for tables, for Faneuil Hall is a place
given to hospitality. And so, before six o’clock, the hour assigned for the extemporized
dinner, the tables were set with turkeys, with geese, with venison, with mallards and
plover, with quail and partridges, with cranberry and squash, and with dishes of Russia
and Italy and Greece and Bohemia, such as have no names. The Greeks brought fruits,
the Indians brought venison, the Italians brought red wine, the French brought walnuts
and chestnuts, and the good God sent a blessing. Almost every man found up either a
wife or a sweetheart or a daughter or a niece to come with him, and the feast went on to
the small hours of Friday. The Mayor came down on time, and being an accomplished
man, addressed them in English, in Latin, in Greek, in Hebrew, and in Tuscan. And it is
to be hoped that they understood him.

But no record has ever been made of the feast in any account-book on this side the
line. Yet there are those who have seen it, or something like it, with the eye of faith. And
when, a hundred years hence, some antiquary reads this story in a number of the “Omaha
Intelligencer,” which has escaped the detrition of the thirty-six thousand days and nights,
he will say,—

“Why, this was the beginning of what we do now! Only these people seem to have
taken care of strangers only one month in the twelve. Why did they not welcome all
strangers in like manner, until they had made them feel at home? These people, once a
year, seem to have fed the hungry. Would it not have been simpler for them to provide
that no man should ever be hungry? These people certainly thanked God to some purpose
once a year; how happy is the nation which has learned to thank him always!”


3
Discussion Guides

125

Discussion Guide for
Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

I. About the Author
II. Summary
III. Thinking about the Text
IV. Thinking with the Text



For any American, George Washington (1732–99) is—or ought to be—a man who needs
no introduction. Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the War of American
Independence (1775–83), president of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and
unanimously chosen to be the first president of the United States (1789–97), Washington
has long enjoyed the deserved reputation as the Father of his Country. Universally
admired for his courage, integrity, and judgment, Washington had great influence and
power as the nation’s first president. But ever mindful of the precedents that he would be
setting for future leadership, he took pains to cultivate practices and manners that would
stand the nation in good stead long after he was gone from the scene. Such considerations
appear evident in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789, Washington’s (and the
nation’s) first presidential proclamation, issued in the first year of his first term as
President of the United States.



In colonial times, Thanksgiving was a harvest festival, in which the colonists offered
thanks to God Almighty for a good harvest, sometimes by feasting, sometimes by fasting.
Such a holiday was celebrated already in the Spanish colony of Florida in the sixteenth
century, and in the British colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts in the seventeenth
century, most famously in 1621, when the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation celebrated
their first successful harvest in the company of some of the Native American tribesmen.
Thanksgiving became a regularly celebrated national holiday only during the Civil War,
when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of national Thanksgiving in 1863, and each
president since has annually issued Thanksgiving Day proclamations. The date for the
holiday was set as the fourth Thursday in November by an act of Congress only in 1941.

But the first day of national Thanksgiving was proclaimed by George Washington in the
first year of the new American republic, whose appearance on the world stage—after the
perilous Revolutionary War, the failure of the Articles of Confederation, and the
contentious Constitutional Convention—seemed little short of miraculous. Washington
spoke not of harvests but (mainly) of matters political.

The structure of his proclamation is straightforward. After the formal introductory
opening—“By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation.”—the
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three paragraphs deal in turn with the reasons President Washington is issuing the
proclamation, the things for which he recommends we give thanks to God, and the things
for which we should humbly offer God our prayers and supplications.



A. The Reasons for the Proclamation

1. What are the two reasons Washington gives for issuing the proclamation?
2. How are they related to each other? Which do you think is more important?
3. Why does Washington emphasize that he is only doing his duty and acceding to
Congress’s request?
4. Why does Congress ask him merely to “recommend” a day of public
thanksgiving and prayer?
5. To whom is the proclamation addressed? What does it recommend that they
do?


IN CONVERSATION

In this conversation, Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass discuss Washington’s Proclamation with
Diana Schaub, coeditor of What So Proudly We Hail, and Christopher DeMuth, distinguished
senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Diana Schaub: Washington first says that giving thanks is the duty of all nations,
so his proclamation is not exclusively American. Second, he says that he is
responding to the will of Congress: it is Congress who has made this request of
him. It is not an executive decree that Washington himself has come up with.

Christopher DeMuth: Washington was very conscious of the precedential value
of everything that he did. The important thing about these two reasons he gives is
this: he is being dutiful. He is not stepping out as the chief executive; he is not
bossing anyone around. In fact, he is pursuing this matter of great importance as a
duty as president, both because nations have a duty to give thanks and because
Congress has asked that he make this recommendation.

Diana Schaub: There is one new element, which is that Washington’s
proclamation is addressed directly to the people of the states, whereas the
previous proclamations of the Continental Congress were addressed simply to the
states themselves. In this proclamation, you can see a movement in the direction
of a more consolidated nation—a true union.

Leon Kass: Exactly. This is the first presidential proclamation to an entire nation,
recommending some activity on their part—but Washington only does this
because the representatives of those people have requested that he do so. To this

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he adds that the duty is a universal one. So it is a combination of the universal and
the particular, the national, just in the point of departure.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.


B. The Things for Which Thanks Should Be Given

1. Make a list of the several items in the proclamation (second paragraph) for
which thanks should be given. Do you see any order in the list?
2. Which items do you think are most important? To Washington? To us today?
3. To whom are thanks to be given? What view of the divine is operative here?
4. Are the “great and various favors which He hath been pleased to bestow on us”
personal and private or communal and public? What is the relation between
the private and public blessings?
5. What do you think of Washington’s language? Can you find in it echoes of the
Bible or of the Constitution? (Compare, for instance, the language of the final
paragraph to St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy, Chapter 2, or to Article I,
Section 8 of the Constitution.)


IN CONVERSATION

Amy Kass: Washington turns this celebration, which was a harvest festival to
begin with, into what is clearly a political holiday. And so our thanks are, first and
foremost, to God Almighty for blessing the nation and for the nation’s
establishment and perpetuation. And secondly, he turns the citizenry toward
thanking God for the blessings He has provided and will continue to provide. The
structure is past, present, and future.

Christopher DeMuth: This proclamation was issued after thirteen years of
intense activity: a war which looked like it was going to be lost from month to
month, the dissolution of the original constitution and the construction of the new
Constitution, and the creation of an entirely new political order. This was an
extraordinarily intense period, and to some extent everything was political. But, at
the end of it, with the new Constitution and the new president, everything had
fallen into place, and it seemed miraculous. When Washington says that we
should take this occasion of the harvest thanksgiving to give thanks for what is
more important to all of us, he is really speaking for the entire nation.

I find the language very interesting. He has some Biblical cadences, and he has
some constitutional cadences. His emphasis is very much on the great blessings of
this new constitutional order. He has very few references to things that are purely
private and personal, but every one of them is derivative of the Constitution: civil

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and political liberties, for example, or the progress of science. So the
proclamation is strongly political, but it came at a time that is probably the most
intensely political time of our whole history.

Amy Kass: And the very fact that Washington turns our attention to God and to
Providence makes this proclamation utterly enduring. In fact, it reflects the
insight of a wise man who once said: “No gods, no city.”

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.


C. The Things for Which We Should Pray

1. Make a list of the several items for which prayer should be made (third
paragraph). Do you see any order in the list?
2. Which items do you think are most important? To Washington? To us today?
3. Why does Washington begin with the prayer “to pardon our national and other
transgressions”? Which national transgressions might he have in mind?
4. What do you make of the double prayer “to promote the knowledge and
practice of true religion and virtue and the encrease of science among them
and Us” (emphasis added)? How does Washington see the relation between
religion and science?
5. What do you make of the qualification in the final prayer for temporal
prosperity: that it be (only) of “such a degree . . . as he alone knows to be
best”? Were you to pray for prosperity today, would you include such a
qualifying clause?


IN CONVERSATION

Diana Schaub: Most striking is the first thing Washington encourages us to pray
for. He says that our prayers should be “supplications to the great Lord and Ruler
of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” This
is an element that tends to drop out of presidential proclamations, though it is, of
course, present in Lincoln’s and in Adams’s. Indeed, John Adams actually called
for a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer—and he did this on two occasions,
which may have led Thomas Jefferson to abandon the tradition altogether when
he was president.

Leon Kass: The motion of the prayers begins with our transgressions, moves to
our duties, then asks that our government be, in fact, a blessing to all people.
Then it moves out to the sovereigns of other nations, and then to humankind
altogether to “promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and
the encrease of science . . . and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree

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of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.” I like this last touch very
much. It’s not a prayer for the maximum amount of increase of this or that, but
the recognition that even in our prayers we should understand the limitations of
what might be good for us, as opposed to what we might wish for.

Amy Kass: The suggestion is that God alone knows measure.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.


D. Washington’s Purposes

1. What does Washington hope the Proclamation will accomplish?
2. In both the paragraph about thanksgiving and the paragraph about prayers,
Washington speaks about the people uniting: “That we may then all unite in
rendering him our sincere and humble thanks”; “that we may then unite in
humbly offering our prayers and supplications.” What kind of unity is he
proposing for his fellow citizens? Why does Washington think it important?



Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation raises questions about the role of government
in our private and religious lives, about the place of religion and piety in the American
political order, about the connection between our public and our private—and between
our natural and our political—blessings. It also invites questions about the meaning of the
holiday of Thanksgiving and the role it should play in American life today.

A. Government, Private Life, and Religion

1. Should government in a free society be in the position of recommending a day
of service to God? Is Washington’s Proclamation a violation of the First
Amendment to the Constitution?
2. Can a governmental—or any other—proclamation such as this induce the
gratitude that it recommends? Or is genuine gratitude something that cannot
be willed? If so, can setting aside time for gratitude make room for its
expression?


IN CONVERSATION

Christopher DeMuth: I don’t think that it is too much of a stretch to see this
proclamation as an aspect of American exceptionalism. There are many great and
worthy nations, and Washington begins by saying that they all have the duty to

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give thanks, but this is the nation where the president is recognizing this duty and
recommending it to the people of his nation. And though many of the blessings
for which we are to give thanks were like manna from heaven—gifts directly
from God—many came in the form of God working through the agency of the
agents of the American Revolution for the past thirteen years.

Ours is a nation that created itself, more so than many other great nations. And in
that sense we as a nation have more to unite us and more to give thanks for. It is
not just that we are all on this same piece of geography or that we share common
blood or traditions, but that this nation is one that we created. We are not the only
nation that has a Thanksgiving, but I think it has an importance to Americans in
that it melds our personal lives and our national lives in a way that is fitting for a
nation with our peculiar history.

Amy Kass: It never would have occurred to me to think of this as an aspect of
American exceptionalism, but I think that makes sense. But, on the really basic
question of whether a government can exhort somebody to give thanks: you can
tell somebody to give thanks, just as we try to teach our children always to say
thank you, but genuine gratefulness is not something you can insist upon. It is
something that has to come from the heart. And for that reason, I think
Washington is very smart to say that he recommends this. The emphasis is on
recommendation, not on insistence.

Diana Schaub: It is not a command, it is a recommendation—or, as Lincoln says,
an “invitation.” But it is very important to extend that invitation and to provide
the occasion. When you provide the occasion in a public way like this, in a
communal way, it does help to draw that feeling forth.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.


B. Religion, Piety, and the American Political Order

1. What is the relation between the strength of the American nation and the spirit
of religion?
2. Can the United States of America do without a connection to something higher
than itself?

C. Public and Private Blessings

1. Thanksgiving was, to begin with, a holiday of the harvest, expressing thanks to
God for the bounty of nature. Washington’s Proclamation emphasizes mainly
the blessings of our political—constitutional—order. Is one more important
than the other? For which should we Americans today be most grateful?
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2. On what do our greatest blessings depend? God and nature? Human
enhancement of the gifts of nature and/or nature’s God? Fortune? Something
else?
3. To what extent are our private and personal blessings dependent on public and
political ones?
4. When we gather around our own Thanksgiving tables, for what are we inclined
to be most grateful? For private and personal goods and joys? For communal
and political benefits? For divine gifts?
5. For what should we give thanks this year, as American citizens? For what
should we be praying, as American citizens?


IN CONVERSATION

Christopher DeMuth: Thanksgiving is a time for pause. It is a sort of national
Sabbath. We gather in a home as a family, and we have a set meal—a meal that is
a kind of set menu that many people follow, and we give thanks.

When we look at Washington’s Proclamation, the emphasis is on giving thanks to
and for the nation, and there is very much a public character to that. But my own
Thanksgivings when I was a boy had no political or national components to them.
But even when it is focused on the personal, on the family, where we share our
family trials and tribulations and triumphs and talk about the day, Thanksgiving is
different from other such family meals because millions and millions of other
people are doing it at the same time. It does have this sacramental character in
that we are talking about the personal, but we are one of millions of small
platoons who are doing the same thing.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.


D. Thanksgiving and the National Calendar

1. What is special about Thanksgiving as a national holiday today? Is it a public
or a private and familial holiday?
2. What is the place of Thanksgiving on our national calendar? How does it
compare—in substance, tone, and manner of celebration—to the Fourth of
July?
3. How does Thanksgiving express American identity and American character?
4. What does Thanksgiving contribute to American identity and American
character?
5. Does our current mode of celebrating Thanksgiving—centered around huge
family feasts—fit the deeper meaning of the holiday? What could be added to
your own family celebration that might make the day more meaningful?
6. John Adams, who succeeded George Washington as president, recommended a
National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer rather than a Thanksgiving
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Proclamation. What do you think of this idea? Would a more somber fast add
something that is currently missing in our Thanksgiving rituals?
7. Can there be genuine thanksgiving on a purely secular foundation?
8. Can there be a solid and enduring political order on a purely secular
foundation?


IN CONVERSATION

Christopher DeMuth: I think Thanksgiving has gained importance because it is
more and more difficult to observe in the traditional manner. We live in an age of
bounty. We live in a world where there are football games and the Macy’s
Thanksgiving Day Parade, and some department stores now want to start Black
Friday on Thursday evening . . .

Diana Schaub: I think it is good to place the holiday in juxtaposition with the
Fourth of July. On the Fourth, we take credit for ourselves. We celebrate what we
did. On Thanksgiving, we place the credit elsewhere. We look higher.

Amy Kass: The Declaration of Independence ends with “and for the support of
this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence”—we
firmly rely on it!—“we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes,
and our sacred Honor.” Thanksgiving really turns this inside out. Thanksgiving is
very close to the Fourth of July, but in a certain way, it’s absolutely the opposite.
If the Fourth is about independence, Thanksgiving is really about dependence.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.




133

Discussion Guide for
“Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”

I. About the Author
II. Summary
III. Thinking about the Text
IV. Thinking with the Text



The life of O. Henry, like his much loved short stories, was filled with twists and
surprises. Born William Sydney Porter in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1862, O. Henry
later moved to Texas, where he worked as a ranch hand, bank teller, and journalist. In
1896 he was indicted for and convicted of embezzling funds from an Austin bank, and he
spent three years in prison. Prison turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for it was there
that he started to write short stories using the pseudonym by which he later became
famous. Released from prison in 1901, O. Henry moved to New York City, where he
lived for the last ten years of his life, continuing to write short stories, many of which,
like the one discussed here, were set in New York City. “Two Thanksgiving Day
Gentlemen,” like so many of O. Henry’s other stories, is rife with irony, mocking humor,
and his signature surprise—or as some have described them, “twisty”—endings. These
qualities make it difficult to say with certainty what O. Henry is up to: is he irreverently
satirizing the tradition of Thanksgiving, or is he, at the same time, showing us and
celebrating its redeeming essence?



The plot is fairly straight-forward, at least until O. Henry’s characteristic final twist. After
an opening editorial about President Theodore Roosevelt, Thanksgiving proclamations,
and the state of “tradition” in America, the story proper begins with Stuffy Pete, a
homeless man who occupies a bench in New York’s Union Square. There, as has
happened annually for nine years on Thanksgiving Day, he is met by an elderly
gentleman, who escorts him to a restaurant and treats him to a lavish dinner which the old
gentleman watches Stuffy Pete eat. But this year, while Stuffy is en route to his park
bench, he passes the mansion of two old ladies of an ancient family, who have their own
tradition of feasting the first hungry wayfarer that comes along after the clock strikes
noon. The servants of the elderly sisters take Stuffy Pete in and banquet him to a finish.
So he is well stuffed by the time he reaches his bench. When the old gentleman appears
as usual, Stuffy Pete doesn’t have the heart to disappoint the kindly old man, whose “eyes
were bright with the giving pleasure.” He goes with him to the traditional table at the
traditional restaurant, and—like a valiant knight—consumes a second huge Thanksgiving
Day meal. As soon as the men go their separate ways, Stuffy Pete, now dangerously
overstuffed, collapses and is taken by ambulance to the hospital. An hour later, the old
gentleman is brought in, and, as the story’s surprise final sentence tells us, he is
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discovered to be near starvation, not having had anything to eat for three days past.



“Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” is a story that links the spirit of giving and the
impulse to charity with the development of tradition and the holiday of Thanksgiving.
But the “twisty” ending shows us that good intentions may have bad consequences, and,
more specifically, that generous impulses toward our less fortunate fellow citizens do not
always yield genuine benefaction. Indeed, the ending seems to support the view—
encouraged by the narrator’s ironic and mocking tone throughout—that the entire story is
intended to expose the hollowness or foolishness of gentlemanly generosity, American
traditions, and the holiday of Thanksgiving in particular. Does a careful consideration of
the story support this conclusion? Or does the story, by means of irony, turn the reader
against himself and toward more elevated teachings about these important things?

A. The Characters

1. Describe Stuffy Pete and the “old gentleman” and also what you know about
their circumstances and their lives.
2. Can you explain why each one does what he does? On previous Thanksgiving
Days? On this one?
3. What do you think of their intentions? Their deeds? Their relation to each
other? Do you admire the old gentleman? Do you admire Stuffy Pete?
4. What might we criticize about the relationship between the old gentleman and
Stuffy Pete? About the way they shared (or, rather, didn’t share) a meal?
About the way they interacted with each other?


IN CONVERSATION

In this conversation, Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass discuss O. Henry’s story with Diana Schaub,
coeditor of What So Proudly We Hail, and Christopher DeMuth, distinguished senior fellow at the
Hudson Institute.

Christopher DeMuth: I would say their tradition is satirical, in the sense that it
is a twisted, reductionist form of the Thanksgiving tradition. There is bounteous
food, but the food, the biological feeding, is all there is. The bounty does not
represent any greater bounties or blessings. No families are present. The old
gentleman wishes that he had a son. We don’t know Stuffy Pete’s background,
but the people in the restaurant refer to him as a bum. There is no sharing between
them. There is only one formulaic sentence that the old gentleman and Stuffy Pete
recite.

In fact, there is so little sharing between them that the gentleman doesn’t even
realize that Stuffy Pete is stuffed. And we’ve been given a vivid account of his

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being stuffed—the buttons are flying off his coat like popcorn. Their
Thanksgiving has just been reduced to this eating ritual.

Diana Schaub: It does seem very odd. The old gentleman just watches Stuffy
Pete eat. They don’t dine together. There is no community.

Amy Kass: Unlike Chris, I think this is a wonderful tradition. Though this is
clearly not a model for what a philanthropist should do—it is not what we would
call “giving well and doing good”—it does seem that the story shows the peculiar
grace that attaches to tradition.

The giving is not just one way. Both men are made better by the tradition. Stuffy
Pete, who we have every reason to believe is homeless, or, as the men say, is a
bum, really does become a gentleman. And the old gentleman, who lives alone,
who has no family, who has no community—we see him happy. We see a smile
on his face, which is the only kind of communication over his meal with Stuffy
Pete.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.


B. Gentlemen

1. Who—what—is a “gentleman”? What defines a “gentleman”?
2. Why does O. Henry call his story “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”? In
what ways, if any, might both Stuffy Pete and the old man be regarded as
gentlemen?
3. Why does O. Henry call his story “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”? In
what ways, if any, does the holiday of Thanksgiving contribute to their
gentlemanliness? Has it made them better than they otherwise would be?


IN CONVERSATION

Christopher DeMuth: The title is important. One of the deepest things about this
story is that both the old gentleman and Stuffy Pete become true gentlemen. An
important aspect of being a gentleman is a desire to make the other person
comfortable, to put the other person at ease. And that is what motivates both of
our characters. Stuffy Pete is suffering to put the old gentleman, whom he hardly
knows, at ease. And the old gentleman is starving himself to put this person
whom he only sees once a year at ease and to make him happy. They really are
both quintessential gentlemen.

The twist comes in that by being gentlemen, they are actually hurting the other

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person. The scene of the second meal is torture. The old gentleman has gone
without food for three days. We are supposed to feel pain on both sides, caused
by the gentlemanliness of the other.

Leon Kass: We are struggling with the question of O. Henry’s ironies and his
mockery. Is the title ironic? Yes. They both become gentlemen, but
gentlemanship of this sort is catastrophic.

But despite the irony, there has been a kind of lifting up. The twist at the end
causes the reader to ask: “Can we look past the fact that both of the characters end
up in the hospital and say that, despite this, something beautiful happened here?”
I don’t know the answer, but I think that, by stripping down the story in this way,
O. Henry is asking us to consider what really is at the heart of Thanksgiving.
What is it that really matters? This particular year, thanks to the fact that he is
stuffed, Stuffy Pete has the chance to return the old gentleman’s kindness, at great
personal expense.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.


C. Tradition

1. What do you think of the “traditions” reported in the story? What are their
strengths and weaknesses?
2. Should either of the traditions reported—that of the two old ladies’ or that of
the old gentleman (and Stuffy Pete)—be attributed to American “git-up and
enterprise”? If not, how might you account for them?
3. Do you think better or worse of the old ladies or the old gentleman (and Stuffy
Pete) for establishing and keeping their respective traditions? How much does
your answer depend on the end of the story, with the harm suffered by both
men?

D. Thanksgiving

1. Is the restaurant meal a fitting celebration of Thanksgiving? Why or why not?
What elements are present, and what are lacking? Which are most important?
2. At the beginning of the story, the narrator asserts that Thanksgiving Day is the
one day celebrated by “all . . . Americans who are not self-made” (emphasis
added). What is the meaning of “self-made”? What does the narrator mean by
suggesting that this is a holiday for the “not self-made”?
3. Annually, the old gentleman (in the only words we hear him say) greets Stuffy
Pete in the same formulaic way: “Good morning. I am glad to perceive that
the vicissitudes of another year have spared you to move in health about the
beautiful world. For that blessing alone this day of thanksgiving is well
proclaimed to each of us. If you will come with me, my man, I will provide
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137

you with a dinner that should make your physical being accord with the
mental” (4). What understanding of Thanksgiving informs the old gentleman’s
remarks? Is it, in your opinion, the right understanding of the holiday and its
guiding spirit?
4. Does the story express the spirit of Thanksgiving as George Washington would
have us understand it? Why or why not?
5. Where is America in this story? Where are gratitude and prayer, or religion and
piety? Is this a purely secularized Thanksgiving Day celebration?
6. The story begins with a reference to the then president, Theodore Roosevelt,
whose own 1901 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation directed the holiday toward
generosity to one’s fellow man: “We can best prove our thankfulness to the
Almighty by the way in which we on this earth and at this time each of us
does his duty to his fellow man.” Are the citizens in the story confirming or
refuting Roosevelt’s view?


IN CONVERSATION

Diana Schaub: In certain ways, I’m baffled by this story, and I’m especially
baffled by the opening, which opens in a rather political way with a reference that
it is President Theodore Roosevelt who gives us this day. I actually went and
looked at Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, and it seems that he was
the first president to redirect the holiday away from giving thanks to God—
vertical charity—and instead directed us toward generosity to our fellow man.
Roosevelt declares, “We can best prove our thankfulness to the Almighty by the
way in which on this earth and at this time each of us does his duty to his fellow
men.” In a certain way, these citizens in the story are acting on that advice. They
look for the needy among them and feast them. But this act leads to a strangely
one-dimensional relationship between the individuals involved. In other words,
the problem with their tradition is that it’s a brand new tradition and, in fact, is a
violation of the original one.

Christopher DeMuth: The story begins with this mocking of President
Roosevelt. O. Henry is setting the stage. We may not remember who the Puritans
are, but I’m sure that if they tried it again, we could really lick ’em when they
showed up. O. Henry is making light of the tradition. It is not just that these men
are bizarre because they are not part of the actual, long-standing tradition. They
are not part of that tradition because they are not part of families. They do not
have homes.

Diana Schaub: O. Henry, in fact, offers the story as evidence to the Old World
that Americans can, through their own determination and enterprise, sort of “get
up a tradition” overnight.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.

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138



O. Henry’s story, like George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, invites attention
to larger issues: the meaning of Thanksgiving, its place in our national calendar, and its
role in expressing and shaping our national identity and national character; the best ways
of giving and receiving, and the place of philanthropy or charity in our public life; and
the importance of tradition, ritual, and religion for American civic life.

A. Thanksgiving and the National Calendar

1. What is special about Thanksgiving as a national holiday today? Is it a public
or a private and familial holiday?
2. What does or should Thanksgiving mean for people who are without families
or who are down and out?
3. What is the place of Thanksgiving on our national calendar? How does it
compare—in substance, tone, and manner of celebration—to the Fourth of
July?
4. How does Thanksgiving express American identity and American character?
5. What does Thanksgiving contribute to American identity and American
character?
6. What is the meaning of the Thanksgiving feast?
7. Does our current mode of celebrating Thanksgiving—centered around huge
family feasts—fit the deeper meaning of the holiday? What could be added to
your own family celebration that might make the day more meaningful?
8. Can we square the spirit of Thanksgiving and the spirit of “Black Friday,” the
fanatical shopping day “celebrated” on the day after Thanksgiving?

B. Giving and Receiving: The Place of Charity and Philanthropy in Public Life

1. What does it mean to give well? Does one give well if one’s gift does harm?
(For example: Does the “old gentleman” give well? Is his giving admirable?)
2. What does it mean to receive a gift well? Does one receive well if receiving
does harm? (For example: Does Stuffy Pete receive his gift well? Is the way in
which he received the old gentleman’s gift admirable?)
3. Is it better to give than to receive?
4. What is the proper response to a gift: admiration and appreciation of the
benevolent act itself? Gratitude for the specific benefit received? A desire or
felt duty to reciprocate? Something else?
5. How should we treat fellow citizens like Stuffy Pete—both on Thanksgiving
Day and during the rest of the year? Are good intentions enough? Or are good
deeds and, especially, good results the only true measures of philanthropic
action?
6. Which is more important: seeing someone’s problem and trying to solve it, or
seeing someone as a person and being present to him or her?
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139

7. Who and what should define what charity should give: the beneficent impulses
and notions of the donor, as experienced by the donor, or the needs and wishes
of the recipient, as enunciated by the recipient?


IN CONVERSATION

Amy Kass: The consequences of the meal are torture, but the scene itself is not.
O. Henry says that Stuffy Pete “rallied, like a true knight.” This is a man who
really did his duty, and he sees the beneficent happiness on the old gentleman’s
face. The old gentleman lives his life according to traditions—he has one for
winter, one for spring, one for summer, and one for fall. This is the only one that
has brought a smile to his face. There is something to be said for what happens
right there between them at the meal, regardless of what happens later.

Leon Kass: In years past, Stuffy Pete joints the old gentleman because he is
hungry. This time he goes not because he is hungry, but because it is tradition. He
has become a kind of valiant knight with a crown of laurels, as it is this occasion
where the generosity goes both ways. It is no longer just the donor and the
recipient, but Stuffy Pete is making it possible for the old man to enjoy his act of
generosity.

I grant that the consequences are bad, and so there is the question of whether
generosity that produces bad consequences is genuine generosity. But, you can
also turn that question around and say that the way you really can see what is in
the heart is by separating the generosity from its consequences. You try to see the
inner meaning of the deed as between these two people.

Christopher DeMuth: That’s a very convincing exegesis. Although they do not
have family, they do not have real homes, they do not have a lot of the things that
make Thanksgiving special to us, they are doing the best they can in their
circumstances. The fact that each of them is physically in extremis when they
meet and they don’t even recognize it.

Amy Kass: To call attention to their mutual neediness would really move us in a
very different direction. In a certain way, each of them rises to the occasion. They
rise above their own neediness.

Christopher DeMuth: I’ll grant you this: if they had communicated and Stuffy
Pete had told the old gentleman that he was stuffed, that he had just eaten a big
Thanksgiving meal, the old gentleman would have been devastated. It would have
been terrible news to him.

For more discussion on this question,
watch the video online.


PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS
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140

C. Tradition, Ritual, and Religion and American Civic Life

1. How important are traditions and rituals for American civic life? Which
traditions and rituals are most important, and why?
2. How do we keep our rituals and traditions from losing their meaning?
3. What is the relation between the strength of the American polity and the spirit
of religion?
4. Can the United States of America do without the disposition to gratitude and
prayer? Without a connection to something higher than itself?


141

About the Cover

Born in a log cabin in rural
Pennsylvania to English immigrant
farmers William Brownscombe and
Elvira Kennedy, a direct descendant
of an original Mayflower passenger,
Jennie Augusta Brownscombe
(1850–1936) was raised on a farm
throughout her youth. Upon her
father’s death in 1868, she began
selling illustrations to books and
magazines as a means to support
herself.

Brownscombe attended the Cooper
Institute School of Design for
Women and the National Academy of Design in New York City. She traveled widely and
held exhibitions in cities across Europe and America, and her work was widely reprinted
for greeting and Christmas cards, calendars, and magazine illustrations. She became a
popular artist known for depictions of rural life and images from her childhood, as
evidenced in the painting The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth (1914). The log cabin
pictured in the right background of the scene, for example, is not historically accurate,
but rather incorporates elements of her own rustic upbringing into the work. Further
creative liberties include the Native American headdresses in the scene, which are more
characteristic of the Midwestern Sioux tribes than the coastal Wampanoag of
Massachusetts. The painting, an oil on canvas, became nationally familiar after it was
reprinted in a 1914 issue of Life.

Examining the painting in all its details, describe the scene before you, with special
attention to the human community (communities) and their relation to the natural world
(land, water, mountain, sky). To what places in the painting is your gaze directed, and
how are they related? What idea or mood does this painting convey? How does it relate to
your our idea of what Thanksgiving is all about?






Jennie August Brownscombe
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914


142

Acknowledgments

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following authors and publishers for permission
to reprint previously published materials. Thanks are also due to Barrett Bowdre, Alyssa
Penick, Stephen Wu, and Cheryl Miller for their assistance.

Alcott, Louisa May. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving.” In The St. Nicolas Anthology,
Henry Steele Commager, ed. ACLS Humanities E-Book, 464–75.

Bradford, William. Excerpt from Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647: The Complete
Text. Alfred A. Knopf, 1952, 58–63, 89–90, 131–32.

Ceasar, James W. “No Thanks to Gratitude.” Policy Review 170. December 2011.
Reprinted by permission of the author.

Child, Lydia Maria. “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day.” In
Flowers for Children II (For Children from Four to Six Years Old). New York: C.S.
Francis, 1844. Online text available through the American Academy of Poets,
www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/21977.

Fisher, Dorothy Canfield. “A New Pioneer.” In The Harvest Feast: Stories of
Thanksgiving Yesterday and Today, compiled by Wilhelmina Harper and illustrated
by W.T. Mars. New York: Dutton, 1965, 182–91.

Guest, Edgar A. “Thanksgiving.” In Just Folks. Chicago: The Riley & Lee Co., 1917,
161–62.

Hale, Edward Everett. “Thanksgiving at the Polls.” In The Brick Moon, and Other
Stories. 1899, 327–45.

Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell. Excerpt from Northwood: Life North and South, showing the
true character of both, 5
th
edition. New York: H. Long & Brother, 1852, 65–68.

—. “Our National Thanksgiving.” In Godey’s Magazine, Volume 57. Ed. Louis Antoine
Godey and Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. Philadelphia: Louis A. Godey, 1858, 463.

—. Letter to President Abraham Lincoln, September 28, 1863. Abraham Lincoln Papers
at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center,
Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. Available at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-
bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28d2669900%29%29.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving.” In The Snow-Image and Other
Twice-Told Tales. Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1853, 213–20.

Henry, O. “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen.” In The Complete Works of O. Henry.
Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1953.
Acknowledgments
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143

Hughes, Langston. “Those Who Have No Turkey.” In Monthly (December 1918), a
publication of Central High School, Cleveland, Ohio. Held in the archives of the
Western Reserve Historical Society of Cleveland, Ohio. Reprinted in The Collected
Works of Langston Hughes, Vol. 15, The Short Stories, R. Baxter Miller, ed.
Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2002. 386–90.

Jewett, Sarah Orne. “The Lost Turkey.” In Youth’s Companion (76: 609-610), November
27, 1902, with an illustration by S. Werner. Reprinted in Uncollected Stories of Sarah
Orne Jewett, Richard Cary, ed. Waterville, ME: Colby College Press, 1971, 378–83.

—. “The Night Before Thanksgiving.” In The Queen’s Twin and Other Stories. Boston:
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1899, 223–32.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day, 1863.” October 3, 1863.
Available at www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=69900.

London, Jack. “Thanksgiving on Slav Creek.” Harper’s Bazaar 33. November 24, 1900,
1879.

Menéndez, Ana. American Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes. The
Library of America: 2007, 706–10. Originally published in U.S. Society & Values 9.4
(July 2004). Copyright © 2004 Ana Menéndez. Reprinted by permission of the
author. Available online at www.loa.org/images/pdf/Menendez_Thanksgiving.pdf.

Minot, Susan. “Thanksgiving Day.” In Grand Street, Spring 1984, 44–53. Reprinted by
permission of the author.

Obama, Barack. “Presidential Proclamation—Thanksgiving Day, 2011.” November 16,
2011. Available at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/16/presidential-
proclamation-thanksgiving-day-2011.

Reagan, Ronald. “Proclamation 5844—Thanksgiving Day, 1988.” August 4, 1988.
Available at www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=36206.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown.” In Oldtown Folks.
Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1869, 336–53.

Washington, George. “Thanksgiving Proclamation.” 1789. Available online at
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gwhtml/gw004.html.

Webster, Daniel. “Discourse Delivered at Plymouth, December 20, 1822 in
Commemoration of the First Settlement of New-England.” Boston: Wells and Lily,
1825, 8–75.

Whittier, John Greenleaf. “For an Autumn Festival.” In The writings of John Greenleaf
Whittier, Volume 4. New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1888–89, 164.
Acknowledgments
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144

—. “The Corn Song.” In The writings of John Greenleaf Whittier, Volume 4. New York:
Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1888–89, 313.

THE MEANING OF THANKSGIVING DAY
The American Calendar
Amy A. Kass | Leon R. Kass

A Project of WhatSoProudlyWeHail.org

For additional materials and opportunities for comment, readers are invited to visit our website: www.whatsoproudlywehail.org.

org . NW Tenth Floor Washington. DC 20036 WhatSoProudlyWeHail. 1914 Design by Jessica Cantelon What So Proudly We Hail 1150 17th Street. The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth. editorial matter by What So Proudly We Hail Cover: Jennie Augusta Brownscombe.Copyright © 2012.

“Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”* Liberty and Equal Opportunity Daniel Webster. Letter to President Abraham Lincoln* Abraham Lincoln. “The Night Before Thanksgiving”* O. “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving” Edgar Albert Guest.Table of Contents * Suitable for students. “Thanksgiving Day” * Nathaniel Hawthorne. Excerpt from Northwood Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. “Our National Thanksgiving”* Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown” * Jack London. THANKSGIVING: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving Day* William Bradford. Thanksgiving Proclamation* Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. Ceaser. Modern Thanksgiving Proclamations* James W. grades 5–8 1. PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS: THE THINGS FOR WHICH WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL Harvest John Greenleaf Whittier. “The Lost Turkey”* Langston Hughes. “Thanksgiving Day” Ana Menéndez. “Celebrations of Thanksgiving: Cuban Seasonings” Prosperity Harriet Beecher Stowe. Thanksgiving Proclamation* Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. “Those Who Have No Turkey”* Neighborliness and Hospitality Sarah Orne Jewett. Henry. “For an Autumn Festival” John Greenleaf Whittier. Excerpt from “The First Settlement of New England” 2 6 11 13 17 18 20 22 25 29 31 33 48 49 54 56 64 68 76 83 90 96 100 106 . “Thanksgiving” * Susan Minot. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” * Lydia Maria Child. “Thanksgiving on Slav Creek”* Sarah Orne Jewett. Excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation George Washington. “The Corn Song” * Hearth and Home Louisa May Alcott. Excerpt from “No Thanks to Gratitude” 2.

“Thanksgiving at the Polls” 3.Dorothy Canfield Fisher. “A New Pioneer”* Edward Everett Hale. DISCUSSION GUIDES Discussion Guide for George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation Discussion Guide for “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” About the Cover Acknowledgments 110 115 125 133 141 142 .

Thanksgiving: An American Holiday .1.

1 Thanksgiving: An American Holiday .

when about fifty Pilgrims joined with nearly a hundred Pokanoket Indians—including the tribe’s chief. most famously in 1621. English colonists in Jamestown.The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving Thanksgiving is a venerable and much beloved American holiday. After two months of weathering choppy seas. the Pilgrims had left England aboard the Mayflower the previous August. landing at Cape Cod. English settlers in Maine united with Abnaki Indians for a harvest feast. in which they “Covenant[ed] and Combine[d] [them] selves together into a Civil Body Politic. The Early Colonists’ Thanksgiving In May of 1541. and the settlement at Berkeley Hundred—along with its thanksgiving tradition—was abandoned for some time. on November 11. Virginia decreed that the day of their arrival “shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God. The holiday became fixed to the fourth Thursday in November by an act of the United States Congress in 1941. WhatSoProudlyWeHail. providing the surviving colonists with much-needed food after a severe winter and disastrous drought. French Huguenot colonists at Fort Caroline. In colonial times it was primarily a harvest holiday. 2 .whatsoproudlywehail. Spanish explorers under Francisco Vásquez de Coronado camped on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon (near modern-day Amarillo. English settlers at Berkeley Hundred. Nearly a quarter-century later. Massachusetts. sometimes by fasting. when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of national Thanksgiving in 1863. however. the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact. and in the British colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts in the seventeenth century. available at www. Thanksgiving became a regularly celebrated national holiday only during the Civil War. 3 The Mayflower Compact. In the late summer of 1607. when the Pilgrims at Plymouth. While still aboard ship. or Massasoit. forced the colonists to take refuge in Jamestown.org/history-by-era/government-and-civics/essays/history-thanksgiving-holiday.gilderlehrman. for [their] better ordering and preservation.2 Desiring to separate from the Church of England and set up their own government. the most famous early American thanksgiving celebration occurred at Plymouth Plantation in the fall of 1621. 2 As different accounts refer to the Indians either as Pokanoket or as Wampanoag. pursuant to their charter. Florida set aside a day for solemn praise and thanksgiving in June 1564. Virginia held a jubilant day of thanksgiving when fresh supply ships arrived.”3 1 The Indian Massacre of 1622. In 1619. sometimes by feasting. Ousamequin—for a three-day-long harvest festival. Catherine Clinton. www. “A History of the Thanksgiving Holiday. in which the colonists offered thanks for a good harvest.org. they reached the New World. Massachusetts celebrated their first successful harvest in the company of some of the Native American tribesmen. Three years later.” Gilder Lehrman Institute. it is helpful to point out that the former were a smaller tribe within the Wampanoag Nation.org/curriculum/themeaning-of-america/mayflower-compact. A holiday was already celebrated in the Spanish colony of Florida in the sixteenth century. Texas) and joined together in a celebration of thanksgiving.”1 Of course.

1622. Edward Winslow describes the festivities: Our harvest being gotten in. inadequate housing. served the company almost a week. Mourt’s Relation. based on facsimile edition of the original 1622 edition.The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving Day ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ On December 18. Congress “recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these United States to set apart Thursday. Of Plymouth Plantation. with updated spelling provided by Caleb Johnson and paragraphing by the 1969 Dwight Heath version. amongst other recreations. Edward Winslow. At which time. our governor sent four men on fowling. They four in one day killed as much fowl as. for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise. and the new colonists settled in for a harsh winter. Vol. which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor.edu/plymouth/mourt6. the eighteenth Day of December next. the Mayflower docked at Plymouth Rock on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. They spent their first few months in the New World aboard the ship. with a little help beside. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us. 3 .” 6 Near the end of the Revolutionary War—after the British House of Commons had voted to end the war in America. In the Proclamation.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/thanksgiving/. and upon the captain and others. 7 “Founders Give Thanks. teaching them what to farm and how to hunt local animals and providing the colonists with needed supplies when their stores were low.5 An American Holiday Although the colonists set aside other days for thanksgiving. 1646. famously. available at GoogleBooks. and. but before the formal signing of the Treaty of Paris—the Congress proclaimed another “day of solemn Thanksgiving to God for all his mercies. 6 National Historical Society.uiuc. The Native Americans helped the colonists adapt to the New World. available at www. his firsthand account of the colony at Plymouth Rock. 6. Shortly after moving to land in March 1621.histarch. In the fall. www. More than half died. that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. a “great store of wild Turkies. the Pilgrims met an English-speaking Patuxet Indian named Tisquantum (“Squanto”) who served as a guide and translator for the Englishmen and the local Pokanoket tribe. with some ninety men. victims of poor nutrition. 557. to celebrate their successful harvest.”4 Writing in Mourt’s Relation. whom for three days we entertained and feasted. the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was issued by the Continental Congress following the Colonial victories over British General John Burgoyne in the Battles of Saratoga. many of the Indians coming amongst us. after sending out parties to explore the area. vegetables. The Journal of American History. we exercised our arms.”7 4 5 William Bradford.” Library of Congress.html. and disease. yet by the goodness of God. and they went out and killed five deer.” In November 1777. clams. we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. these were much more somber affairs than the harvest festival we now think of as America’s “first Thanksgiving. and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit.loc. the Pilgrims hosted the Native Americans for a feast of lobsters. see below.

Thanksgiving Proclamation. however. to the efforts of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. addressing notes to at least six different presidents. Thanksgiving Proclamation.whatsoproudlywehail. while dealing with us in anger for our sins. recommended a “National Day of Humiliation. By 1855. Fasting. WhatSoProudlyWeHail. congressmen. took place on November 26.org. In September 1863. year after year sending letters to governors. particularly in New England. At the encouragement of the House of Representatives.”10 After the Civil War Following the Civil War. thus beginning the Thanksgiving Day tradition of charity. www. continued to have annual observances of thanksgiving. 1789. Festivals in honor of the Pilgrims became popular. Territories such as California and Oregon even proclaimed the holiday before being recognized as states. see below. Costumed parades were held in different cities. see below.” rather than a thanksgiving day. See Thanksgiving Day Proclamations. The editor of the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book and famous author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb. President Washington proclaimed a day to be devoted to “public thanksgiving and prayer. and Prayer. 4 . Hale published an editorial once again urging President Lincoln to proclaim a national Thanksgiving Day. hath nevertheless remembered mercy” and to “fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it. Washington’s successor. Northwood. and to the White House. senators. there wasn’t another national Thanksgiving Day until Abraham Lincoln proclaimed one in 1863 to celebrate the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg—an act we owe. as an occasion to incorporate newcomers into American customs. 1789–2011. On October 3—the same date on which Washington had offered his Thanksgiving Proclamation—Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving Day would be observed on the last Thursday in November. fourteen states recognized the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. in part. with two others celebrating the holiday on the third Thursday.org/curriculum/the-american-calendar/thanksgiving-day-proclamations-1789present. Writing in the midst of the Civil War.” and sent money to supply debtors in prison with provisions. Lincoln urged Americans to remember the “gracious gifts of the Most High God. the religious nature of the holiday had melded with the civic. and in 1921 Gimbels 8 9 George Washington. By the early twentieth century. who. 1863. and it acquired a new purpose.8 Washington’s proclamation. 1789.THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The first Thanksgiving Day celebrated under the new Constitution. while Thomas Jefferson opposed the proclamation of both thanksgiving and fast days as counter to the separation of church and state. 10 Abraham Lincoln. as did the ubiquitous grade-school Pilgrims-andIndians pageants. She campaigned to make the day a national holiday.9 Although many states. did not result in a new holiday: John Adams.” Hale had devoted an entire chapter to the importance of Thanksgiving traditions in her 1827 novel. the first year of George Washington’s presidency. the once solemn day of Thanksgiving became a celebratory holiday to rival the Pilgrims’ harvest festival in Plymouth.

National Archives . In 1939.” The Senate then passed an amendment “making the fourth Thursday in November a legal holiday” (to avoid the trouble caused by the occasional fifth Thursday in November). To settle the matter. yet it is celebrated quietly. with festive meals prepared at home and shared with family and friends. Football soon became its own Thanksgiving Day tradition. President Franklin D. He differed with his predecessors. the concerns with getting and spending are set aside. bringing the famous Uncle Sam balloon to the streets of Manhattan. 11 “Congress Establishes Thanksgiving. Congress established the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday. 5 . however.The Origins and Traditions of Thanksgiving Day ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Department Store sponsored a Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia. 1789–2011. WhatSoProudlyWeHail.” when the shopping season for Christmas opens with a vengeance at midnight. In 1938. the House of Representatives passed a motion declaring “the last Thursday in November a legal holiday.gov/legislative/features/thanksgiving/.org. and the entire nation. On October 6. in which—in addition to officially announcing the day—he offers his own ideas about the holiday.” Center for Legislative Archives. by declaring that the holiday would be celebrated on the secondto-last Thursday of November.archives. Macy’s did the same for New York. since that year the last Thursday was on November 30 and retailers were concerned that the late date would not leave enough time for Christmas shopping. There is another tradition associated with the holiday: Every year since 1863. www. Roosevelt joined the continuous line of presidents since Lincoln to offer a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. 12 See Thanksgiving Day Proclamations. known as “Black Friday. 1941.11 Today. Roosevelt’s change was met with a storm of protest. The remarkable Thanksgiving mood and activity are highlighted by the contrast with the day after Thanksgiving. 1941. privately. The busy streets of the city are quiet. www.12 Perusing these proclamations is an interesting and illuminating way of discovering the evolving idea of the meaning of the holiday and the things for which Americans—or at least their leaders—believe we should be grateful.org/curriculum/the-american-calendar/thanksgiving-day-proclamations-1789present. and sixteen states refused to accept the president’s proclamation and continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of the month. every president since Abraham Lincoln has issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. household by household in the year’s colorful autumn of the year. and President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26.whatsoproudlywehail. with many college teams choosing to play their big games on the holiday. Thanksgiving is perhaps our most beloved national holiday. establishes and perpetuates its own traditions of celebrating the bounties of nature and of expressing gratitude.

they put to sea again with a prosperous wind. and for the buckling of the main beam. . of the unexpected and marvelous first harvest the following year.Excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation WILLIAM BRADFORD William Bradford (1590–1657). they were encountered many times with cross winds and met with many fierce storms with which the ship was shroudly1 shaken. there was a great iron screw the passengers brought out of Holland. and one of the main beams in the midships was bowed and cracked. . These troubles being blown over. which put them in some fear that the ship could not be able to perform the voyage. which would raise the 1 An old form of shrewdly in its original meaning wickedly. who became the long-term governor of the Plymouth colony. So some of the chief of the company. first. their transatlantic voyage. But in examining of all opinions. and rather to return than to cast themselves into a desperate and inevitable peril. After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather for a season. having brought the account of the colony up to date through 1646. the master and others affirmed they knew the ship to be strong and firm under water. a member of the English Puritan sect that had left England for more tolerant Holland. . kept a journal of the group’s experiences in Holland.” Can you appreciate why the arriving Puritans were inclined to praise God and to thank Him for His “loving kindness” to them? Would your faith and gratitude be confirmed by the surprising harvest the following summer? Of their Voyage. fain would they do what could be done for their wages’ sake (being now near half the seas over) and on the other hand they were loath to hazard their lives too desperately. many were afflicted with seasickness. and the early years of the settlement at Plymouth. and now all being compact together in one ship. they entered into serious consultation with the master and other officers of the ship. which continued divers days together. Imagine yourself aboard ship. and her upper works made very leaky. according to the usual manner. 6 . Bradford. And truly there was great distraction and difference of opinion amongst the mariners themselves. of the end of the voyage of the Mayflower and the landing of the Pilgrims on Cape Cod in the autumn of 1620. second. perceiving the mariners to fear the sufficiency of the ship as appeared by their mutterings. how would you feel about your new “home”? Bradford suggests that they could be sustained only by “the Spirit of God and His grace. In these two excerpts Bradford tells. was one of the Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower to set up a colony in the New World. from which he eventually published Of Plymouth Plantation in 1650. and. What emotions loom large? How do you react to the sight of land? Given Bradford’s description of what the Puritans faced on land. and how they Passed the Sea. to consider in time of the danger. which was some encouragement unto them. and of their Safe Arrival at Cape Cod September 6 [1620?] . as the days go by and the stormy sea continues to threaten. yet.

no sexual connotation. the which being made and certainly known to be it. Howland. that he had rather remain twenty years on his way by land than pass by sea to any place in a short time. they were not a little joyful. 7 . merry. set firm in the lower deck and otherways bound. But here I cannot but stay and make a pause. rose to be one of the leading men of the Colony. Excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ beam into his place. In sundry of these storms the winds were so fierce and the seas so high. their proper element. the which being done. and they were so far entangled therewith as they conceived themselves in great danger. they would caulk them as well as they could. he would make it sufficient. as they could not bear a knot of sail. but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard and ran out at length. Yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water. and the wind shrinking upon them withal. But to omit other things (that I may be brief) after long beating at sea they fell with that land which is called Cape Cod. and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again and his life saved. with a seele4 of the ship.William Bradford. . as by God’s good providence they did. and so I think will the reader. a youth. too. a servant of Governor Carver. yet there would otherwise be no great danger. so tedious and dreadful was the same unto him. thrown into sea. But after they had sailed that course about half the day. 4 Roll or pitch. they fell among dangerous shoals and roaring breakers. After some deliberation had amongst themselves and with the master of the ship. and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof. servant to Samuel Fuller. as they thus lay at hull in a mighty storm. In all this voyage there died but one of the passengers. if they did not overpress her with sails. yet he lived many years after and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth. which was William Butten. and stand half amazed at this poor people’s present condition. and a sea of troubles before in their preparation 2 3 To heave or lay-to under very short sail and drift with the wind. . but were forced to hull2 for divers days together. And no marvel if they were thus joyful. coming upon some occasion above the gratings was. Being thus passed the vast ocean. Lively. . again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth. a lusty3 young man called John Howland. as he affirmed. they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean. Being thus arrived in a good harbor. when they drew near the coast. And though he was something ill with it. they tacked about and resolved to stand for the southward (the wind and weather being fair) to find some place about Hudson’s River for their habitation. And the next day they got into the Cape Harbor where they rid in safety. seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on the coast of his own Italy. and brought safe to land. And in one of them. So they committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed. they resolved to bear up again for the Cape and thought themselves happy to get out of those dangers before night overtook them. the carpenter and master affirmed that with a post put under it. when he well considers the same. and though with the working of the ship they would not long keep staunch. And as for the decks and upper works.

for the season was such as he would not stir from thence till a safe harbor was discovered by them. “Let them therefore praise the Lord. dangerous to travel to known places. their soul was overwhelmed in them. go up to the top of Pisgah5 to view from this wilderness a more goodly country to feed their hopes. much more to search an unknown coast. full of woods and thickets. but they had little power to help them or themselves.” etc. and that victuals consumed apace but he must and would keep sufficient for themselves and their return. the affections and love of their brethren at Leyden was cordial and entire towards them. what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness. and the whole country. A small open boat propelled by oars or sails and used chiefly in shallow waters. and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity. And for the season it was winter. Yea. and found no city to dwell in. . ” [The First Thanksgiving]7 5 6 A Biblical reference. 8 . 7 This passage records an event that took place a few weeks after those of the first passage. when they met with them (as after will appear) were readier to fill their sides full of arrows than otherwise. to seek for succour. a high place or ridge. It is recorded in Scripture as a mercy to the Apostle and his shipwrecked company. For summer being done. and were ready to perish in this wilderness. no houses or much less town to repair to. shew how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. but these savage barbarians. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way. there was the mighty ocean which they had passed and was now as a main bar and gulf to separate them from all the civil parts of the world. and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent. it is true. though the actual date of this first thanksgiving festival is nowhere related. . and subject to cruel and fierce storms. fall [sic] of wild beasts and wild men—and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not. indeed. Let them confess before the Lord His loving-kindness and His wonderful works before the sons of men. and they could not but be very small. they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies. If they looked behind them. where they would be. Besides. let them which have been redeemed of the Lord. it was muttered by some that if they got not a place in time.” “Yea. that the barbarians showed them no small kindness in refreshing them. represented a wild and savage hue. but they cried unto the Lord. both hungry and thirsty. What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: “Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean. Let it also be considered what weak hopes of supply and succour they left behind them. It is true. and he might go without danger. that might bear up their minds in this sad condition and trials they were under. but what heard they daily from the master and company? But that with speed they should look out a place (with their shallop6) where they would be. as it were. they would turn them and their goods ashore and leave them. at some near distance. Neither could they. because He is good: and His mercies endure forever. all things stand upon them with a weatherbeaten face. If it be said they had a ship to succour them. for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to the heavens) they could have little solace or content in respect of any outward objects.THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ (as may be remembered by that which went before). .

till about the middle of July. Knopf edition. And thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways. to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer. about cod and bass and other fish.g.. part whereof was never recovered. [May–July 1623]8 I may not here omit how. the 18th of September they sent out their shallop to the Massachusetts. 79 as of 1622. “the Pilgrims never had a regular fall Thanksgiving Day. had appointed it for another use. the Lord seemed to blast. a people to the eastward which used to come in harvest time and take away their corn. Upon which they set apart a solemn day of humiliation. the moisture whereof helped it much. They returned in safety and brought home a good quantity of beaver. Some scholars (e. besides venison. wishing they had been there seated. The people were much afraid of the Tarentines. and found kind entertainment. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad. Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person. The which they performed. All the summer there was no want. both to their own and the Indians’ admiration that lived 8 This last paragraph comes much later in Bradford’s account. of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). as winter approached.” The thanksgiving day to which it refers is most likely not the same one that he recounts in the previous passage. etc. 102. to all posterity. etc. According to the Alfred A. But it seems the Lord. who assigns to all men the bounds of their habitations. and also for thanksgiving as occasion shall be o ffered.. with ten men and Squanto for their guide and interpreter. and made report of the place. drew his pen across it and noted beneath: ‘This is to be here rased out and is to be placed on page 103 where it is inserted. And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys. 1623. 1636 (Plymouth Colony Records XI 18) allows the Governor and Assistants ‘to command solemn days of humiliation by fasting. It was ‘overslipped in its place.’ noted Bradford. William DeLoss Love in The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England) argue that this thanksgiving celebration was observed on July 30. As the editors of this edition of Bradford’s work note. By a great drought which continued from the third week in May. and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter. or now since harvest. but discovering his error before completing the passage. and take away the same. notwithstand[ing] all their great pains and industry. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer. and to bless their outgoings and incomings. They began now to gather in the small harvest they had. of which every family had their portion. Yet at length it began to languish sore. Excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ After this. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England.’” 9 . and some of the drier grounds were parched like withered hay. A law of 15 Nov.William Bradford. who at first wrote most of it on the verso of fol. and many times kill their persons. others were exercised in fishing. of which they took good store. in this great distress. of which they took many. and now began to come in store of fowl. insomuch as the corn began to wither away though it was set with fish. to discover and view that Bay and trade with the natives. Indian corn to that proportion. without any rain and with great heat for the most part. it “is written on the verse of fol. being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. and to threaten further and more sore famine unto them. and the great hopes of a large crop. for which let His holy name have the praise forever. which were not feigned but true reports.

and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits. and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen. in time convenient. For which mercy. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence. yet toward evening it began to overcast. and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked and therewith. they also set apart a day of thanksgiving. For all the morning. it was clear weather and very hot.THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ amongst them. 10 . and greatest part of the day. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers. through His blessing. caused a fruitful and liberal harvest. to their no small comfort and rejoicing. and made the Indians astonished to behold. as was wonderful to see. with interchange of fair warm weather as.

for the great degree of tranquillity. for the signal and manifold mercies. What reasons does Washington give for issuing this proclamation? What. for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation. which we have since enjoyed. and the means we have of 1 For more questions. are the blessings for which the earliest citizens of the United States should have been grateful? For what things should they humbly offer God their prayers and supplications? What does Washington hope to accomplish with this Proclamation? For what things should a modern-day proclamation recommend giving thanks? Does Washington’s Proclamation violate the principle of the separation of church and state? Conversely. especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. But ever mindful of the precedents that he would be setting for future leadership. A Proclamation. union.Thanksgiving Proclamation GEORGE WASHINGTON Universally admired for his courage. see the Discussion Guide below. which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war. to be grateful for his benefits. Such considerations appear evident in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks. and judgment. and plenty. he took pains to cultivate practices and manners that would stand the nation in good stead long after he was gone from the scene. for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed. for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness. or that will be. can the United States—or any nation—survive and flourish without a connection to something higher than itself or without acknowledging its dependence on a higher power?1 By the President of the United States of America. according to the Proclamation. that is. who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was. and particularly the national One now lately instituted. to obey his will. George Washington (1732–99) had great influence and power as the nation’s first president (1789–97). and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God. integrity. issued in the first year of his first term. We also invite you to visit our website to view a video model conversation about this selection. Washington’s (and the nation’s) first presidential proclamation. day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being. 11 .” Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th. Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God. and the favorable interpositions of his providence. and humbly to implore his protection and favor.

and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. to enable us all. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions. peace. whether in public or private stations. and the encrease of science among them and Us. to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually. to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government. discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. to render our national government a blessing to all the People. 12 . and concord. just and constitutional laws. by constantly being a government of wise.

as white as snow. and the labor of preparing the entertainment was. Romilly. the influential American editor. to Mrs. who presided the department of the tea pot. moral. and covered with a cloth as white as snow. all excellent. like the Fourth of July. explains to a skeptical Englishman. Mr. is the reason for a day of public Thanksgiving in New England? Why does he believe that it should be celebrated nationally. publishing a book of poems in 1823 and assuming the editorship of Ladies’ Magazine in 1828. Love. What does it indicate about the special place of Thanksgiving in this home? What. and had prepared them now in the same manner. if they could. wheat bread. Young hyson is considered high quality. The supper consisted of every luxury the season afforded. till Mrs. author (she wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). and would assume a leading role in the establishment of Vassar College. and none seemed necessary. The best of young hyson. She would go on to edit Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1837. Hale took up a literary career. was dispensed around by the fair hand of Sophia. so proud was she to show Sidney [her son. 1 A Chinese tea. 13 . a religious. according to the Squire. The large table was set forth. a New Hampshire farmer. and after Squire Romilly had fervently besought a blessing. Two or three kinds of pies. No domestics appeared. that it drew encomiums from the Englishman. or political holiday? How might a national celebration of Thanksgiving “be a grand spectacle of moral power and human happiness. as many kinds of cake. Widowed in 1822 with five children to support. These selections trace the (finally successful) campaign that Hale waged over many years to establish Thanksgiving as a national American holiday. with pickles and preserves.Excerpt from Northwood SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE This excerpt. At length all was pronounced ready. such as the world has never yet witnessed”? The supper was now in active preparation. is the first of three selections from the writings of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788–1879). according to Squire Romilly. and butter so yellow and sweet. and urging them to eat and make out a supper. supplied the place of cold duty. Describe the scene and mood in the house. Northwood. First came fried chicken floating in gravy. which would become the most widely circulated women’s magazine in the country. Squire Romilly. returned home after a long absence] her cookery. taken from the 1852 edition of her popular 1827 novel. the meaning of the New England Thanksgiving holiday. warm hearted love. Frankford.1 with cream and loaf sugar. then broiled ham. Romilly colored with pleasure while she told him she made it herself. they took their seats. Lucy placed all in order. and she tried to recollect the savory dishes he used to like. In this literary selection. and observed by all of the people? Is Thanksgiving. and cranberry sauce—the last particularly for Sidney—furnished forth the feast. while Sophia assisted her mother to bring in the various dishes. her mother being fully employed in helping her guests to the viands. a pleasure which she would not have relinquished to have been made an empress. and champion of education for women.

and Sidney could not have come home at a more welcome season.” “But there is some reason for the custom—is there not?” inquired the Englishman. half sitting. was now installed on the wide sofa. “Do you. Romilly.” While he spoke. was obliged to beg he would defer finishing his meal till the next morning.” said Squire Romilly. He was just in that stage of convalescence when the appetite demands its arrearages with such imperious calls. Frankford. and appointed by the Governor of the State. “for you know. “the physician forbade your making a full meal till you could walk a mile before taking it. and I should be loath to have the dinner of any one at my table abridged.” replied his father. that the whole mind is absorbed in the desire of satisfying its cravings. indeed. showed a heightened color. or listen to voices whose soft tones. and inquired the cause of the Thanksgiving he had heard mentioned. (or settle) drawn up to the fire. till Sidney. but our evening’s entertainment will be different. “No. He did honor to every dish on the table. he directed a glance towards Silas.THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Sidney’s feelings were too much occupied to allow any great appetite for mere corporeal food.” A wink from Mrs. “still have your plum pudding and pumpkin pies as in former times?” “O yes.” added he. who evidently pitied the embarrassment of Silas. he addressed Squire Romilly. Sidney observed it. But Frankford was as hungry as fasting and fever could make him. and his black eyes were involuntarily cast down. who they feared would exert himself too much. Mr. and they soon obeyed her example of rising from the table. “Is it a festival of your church?” said he. whose cheeks. it is a festival of the people. and asked his father if there was to be any peculiarity in the approaching festival. Mr. and all the pillows to be found in the house as bethought were gathered for him to nestle in. when calling him son or brother made every fibre of his heart thrill with rapture. fearing he would injure himself by eating to excess. “our dinner will be the same. laughing. It is our Thanksgiving. “I hope you will exert yourself to -morrow. prevented further inquiries or explanations. half reclining. It will.” said he. be a day of joy to us. When he was fairly arranged like a Turk on his divan. 14 . fresh as they were. He wanted every moment to gaze on the loved faces smiling around him.” “If that be the case. Frankford.

and nearly without food. “I do. should be considered a national festival.” “Well. and autumn is the time when the overflowing garners of America call for this expression of joyful gratitude.” “If they had no food they must have fasted without that formality. “Not yet. It is the hidden manna. Frankford.” “I see no particular reason for such an observance. and so the fast was changed into a Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving. but to convert the necessity into a voluntary and religious act of homage to the Supreme Ruler they worshiped and trusted.” said Frankford.” replied the Squire. our Yankees seldom do what they cannot justify by reasons of some sort. like the Fourth of July. and observed by all our people. said to have originated in a providential manner. however. and that. as a 15 . must have been of the most glowing kind. a vessel from London arrived laden with provisions. and such enthusiasm actually sustains nature. the colony was reduced to a state of destitution. The faith that could thus turn to God in the extremity of physical want. Excerpt from Northwood ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Certainly. which are based on the acknowledgment that God is our Lord. “It is considered as an appropriate tribute of gratitude to God to set apart one day of Thanksgiving in each year. “Soon after the settlement of Boston.” Mr. In this strait the pious leaders of the pilgrim band appointed a solemn and general fast.” remarked Frankford. “True. Frankford smiled rather incredulously.Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. “This custom of a public Thanksgiving is. The Squire saw the smile. and so the festival has been continued to the present day?” “Not with any purpose of celebrating that event. while he went on. that was wise. We have too few holidays. “We want it as the exponent of our Republican institutions. how long did the fast continue?” “It never began.” “Is Thanksgiving Day universally observed in America?” inquired Mr.” replied the Squire. but took no heed.” returned the Squire.” “I hope it strengthened them: pray. but I trust it will become so.” “Indeed! Why not? “On the very morning of the appointed day. shows their sagacity as well as piety.

it will be a grand spectacle of moral power and human happiness.THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ nation. throughout all the states and territories. But to return to our Thanksgiving festival.” “I thought you had no national religion. we derive our privileges and blessings from Him. You will hear this doctrine set forth in the sermon to-morrow. Our people do not need compulsion to support the gospel. When it shall be observed.” “No established religion you mean. such as the world has never yet witnessed.” 16 . on the same day.

when the noise and tumult of worldiness may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children.” Hale offers the reasons for and benefits of having a national day of thanksgiving. Private bliss and public wealth.” and drink. Immortal Praise. o’erflowing stores. All the plenty summer pours. the pledge of renewed love to the Union. 17 . These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage to the popular heart. its editor Sarah Josepha Buell Hale appeals directly. by sending good gifts to the poor. will greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling. Then the last Thursday in November will soon become the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world. and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart. the glad greetings of family reunion. this year on the twenty-fifth day of this month. as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze. prosperity.” which indicates the things for which we should offer “grateful vows and solemn praise. and which. from this time forth. Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action. This truly American Festival falls. Let this day. for a national day of Thanksgiving.” or that the last Thursday in November “will become a day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world”? What is the connection between giving thanks and acts of charity? Between both and national unity and harmony? What is the relation between the hymn and Hale’s argument for nationalizing the holiday? Is Thanksgiving Day a religious or political holiday? “All the blessings of the fields. in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine giver of all our blessings. this time in her own name. and health. will this year be adopted by all—that THE LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the DAY OF NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people.” We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different States—as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years. and to each other. Autumn’s rich. After opening with two stanzas of the Protestant hymn “Praise to God. and if rightly managed.Our National Thanksgiving SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE In this 1858 editorial from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Let the people of all the States and Territories sit down together to the “feast of fat things. make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing. Peace. and of peace and good-will to all men. we hope. All the stores the garden yields. Pure religion’s holier beams— Lord. for one day. for these our souls shall raise Grateful vows and solemn praise. and doing those deeds of charity that will. Knowledge with its gladdening streams. be the grand THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation. What are those reasons and benefits? Why does she say that Thanksgiving Day would be (is) a “truly American Festival.

as Editress of the “Lady’s Book. while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and—as I trust—even to the President of our Republic. What does it say about the United States that a private citizen or journalist.Letter to President Abraham Lincoln SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE In this letter. 18 . have nobly aided to bring about the desired Thanksgiving Union. and that several times Hale refers to the proposed holiday as a “Union Festival” or a “Union Thanksgiving. Sarah Josepha Buell Hale takes her campaign on behalf of a national Thanksgiving holiday directly to the President of the United States. This subject is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival. Two of these letters.— Permit me. both during and after the conflict? In what mood. and for what blessings. 1863. Hale had been campaigning for this holiday for many years. and. can have such influence and prevail in the end? Readers will note that the letter was written at the height of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln responded by issuing the presidential proclamation (see next selection) for the first of what has become 150 years of unbroken celebrations of Thanksgiving as an official national American holiday. written on September 28. as her letter indicates. Enclosed are three papers (being printed these are easily read) which will make the idea and its progress clear and show also the popularity of the plan. 28th 1863. Sir. You may have observed that. uniformly the most kind approval. of some importance. for some years past. dedicated to some worthy cause. From the recipients I have received. Sept. it now needs National recognition and authoritive [sic] fixation. and our Missionaries to the heathen—and commanders in the Navy. Five days later.” Why might she be making this presidential appeal in the midst of the Civil War? Why might she hope that her appeal could now be successful? What might a day of national and Union thanksgiving do for the nation. only. For the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea in the “Lady’s Book. she had by the end lined up powerful support for the cause. could one give thanks to God during that horrendous war? Philadelphia. both gentlemen as you will see.” and placed the papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories—also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad. one from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan are enclosed.” to request a few minutes of your precious time. an American custom and institution. there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day. in all the States. to become permanently.

it has ocurred [sic] to me that a proclamation from the President of the United States would be the best. S. by statute. An immediate proclamation would be necessary. as Thanksgiving Day. Flag—could he not. Wm. as this way would require years to be realized. Excuse the liberty I have taken With profound respect Yrs truly Sarah Josepha Hale. appointing the last Thursday in November (which falls this year on the 26th) as the National Thanksgiving for all those classes of people who are under the National Government particularly. so as to reach all the States in season for State appointments. and commending this Union Thanksgiving to each State Executive: thus. annually. Hon. Seward. Editress of the “Ladys Book” 19 . and requested him to confer with President Lincoln on this subject[. H. inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus the great Union Festival of America would be established. make it obligatory on the Governor to appoint the last Thursday of November. surest and most fitting method of National appointment.] As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories. by the noble example and action of the President of the United States. Now the purpose of this letter is to entreat President Lincoln to put forth his Proclamation. with right as well as duty. also to anticipate the early appointments by Governors. the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.Sarah Josepha Buell Hale.—or. issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States. also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. Letter to President Abraham Lincoln ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ But I find there are obstacles not possible to be overcome without legislative aid— that each State should. I have written to my friend.

statesmanship. How does his beginning capture the audience’s sympathy? What. are the blessings for which he believes that thanksgiving is in order. and the battlefield. which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come. the country may be permitted to “expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom”? What is his understanding of “the Most High God. and “our sins”? Imagining yourself a Confederate auditor of this proclamation. have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow. order has been maintained. and harmony has prevailed everywhere. or the ship. not long after the battle of Gettysburg and several other Union successes seemed to have turned the tide toward a Union victory. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity. in the midst of the Civil War. the siege.Thanksgiving Proclamation ABRAHAM LINCOLN As noted above. in order to discern what Lincoln is hoping to teach the nation. the shuttle. and generosity of soul that distinguished the sixteenth President of the United States.” His relation to the United States. as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals. despite the human “waste” of the war. others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. Read the proclamation slowly. 20 . while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression. would you be inclined to accept the invitation and recommendation Lincoln offers in the long fifth paragraph to “my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States”? Is Lincoln’s case for “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father” still persuasive today? The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties. the laws have been respected and obeyed. the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements. paragraph by paragraph and line by line. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp. rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor. except in the theater of military conflict. peace has been preserved with all nations. this modest presidential proclamation displays the extraordinary understanding. and the country. is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) issued this proclamation for a day of national thanksgiving in 1863. and the mines. Like so many of his famous speeches. even “in the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity”? Why does he believe that. exactly.

A. or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged. with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience. to the full enjoyment of peace. harmony. this 3d day of October. Thanksgiving Proclamation ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. tranquillity. and union. hath nevertheless remembered mercy. while dealing with us in anger for our sins. mourners. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly. and gratefully acknowledged. who. as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States. and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth. 1863. Done at the city of Washington. to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. reverently.Abraham Lincoln. ABRAHAM LINCOLN. and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands. as with one heart and one voice. D. commend to His tender care all those who have become widows. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also. orphans. by the whole American people. 21 . and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it.

In fact. all the presidential Thanksgiving proclamations from Washington (and especially Lincoln) to the present day. we present here two recent proclamations. Thanksgiving Day summons every American to pause in the midst of activity. thanksgiving. both with each other and with those of Presidents Washington and Lincoln. George Washington. one from 1988 by President Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) and one from 2011 by President Barack Obama (b. is thanksgiving being recommended? Which one comes closer to your own understanding of the meaning of the National Day of Thanksgiving? I. issued the first national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation under the Constitution and recommended to the American people that they “be devoted to the service of that great and glorious Being. one could learn a lot about the changing opinions and sentiments of our nation by reading. and concord. the first President of these United States. Compare these two proclamations. who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was. The celebration of Thanksgiving Day is one of our Nation’s most venerable and cherished traditions. Today. that is. in total and in every particular. and contrition. on the forgiveness and forbearance of the Almighty. to give simple and humble thanks to God. we are again called to gratitude. What is the tone. 1961). President Grover Cleveland called for “prayers and song of praise” that would render to God the appreciation of the American people for His mercy and for the abundant harvests and rich rewards He had bestowed upon our Nation through the labor of its farmers.” not merely for continued blessings on our own land but on all rulers and nations that they might know “good government. To enable readers to experience some of these changes. however necessary and valuable. and tradesmen. and for what. cognizant of our American heritage of freedom and opportunity. above.” He called upon them to raise “prayers and supplications to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations. in order. Almost 200 years ago.Modern Thanksgiving Proclamations RONALD REAGAN AND BARACK OBAMA A president’s speech or declaration reflects and reveals the mind and heart of the president who makes it. The images of the Thanksgiving celebrations at America’s earliest settlement—of Pilgrim and Iroquois Confederacy assembled in festive friendship—resonate with even greater power in our 22 .” A century ago. peace. This gracious gratitude is the service of which Washington spoke. shopkeepers. Both of these Proclamations included something else as well: a recognition of our shortcomings and transgressions and our dependence. It is a service that opens our hearts to one another as members of a single family gathered around the bounteous table of God’s Creation. or that will be. mood. and spirit of each proclamation? To whom. It also tells us something about the spirit of the times and the beliefs of the nation to which it is addressed.

and creed on the face of the Earth now inhabit this land. We take this time to remember the ways that the First Americans have enriched our Nation’s heritage.Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. with the psalmist of old: O give thanks to the Lord. Let us join then. The blessings that are ours must be understood as the gift of a loving God Whose greatest gift is healing. I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of August. and today we renew our gratitude to all American Indians and Alaska Natives. under the best and worst of conditions. and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirteenth. The wonder of our agricultural abundance must be recalled as the work of farmers who. let us take time both to remember the sacrifices that have made this harvest possible and the needs of those who do not fully partake of its benefits. culture. The observance recalls the celebration of an autumn harvest centuries ago. Though our traditions have evolved. and neighbors to celebrate. In Witness Whereof. when the Wampanoag tribe joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony to share in the fruits of a bountiful season. People from every race. When President George 23 . RONALD REAGAN II. from their generosity centuries ago to the everyday contributions they make to all facets of American life. sing praises to Him. and prosperity that has always been the spirit of the New World. do hereby proclaim Thursday. let us set aside our daily concerns and give thanks for the providence bestowed upon us. as a National Day of thanksgiving. Their presence illuminates the basic yearning for freedom. Tell of all His wonderful works! Glory in His holy name. In this year when we as a people enjoy the fruits of economic growth and international cooperation. Thanksgiving Day brings us closer to our loved ones and invites us to reflect on the blessings that enrich our lives. in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-eight. The gratitude that fills our being must be tempered with compassion for the needy. President of the United States of America. Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Now. Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him. One of our Nation’s oldest and most cherished traditions. The feast honored the Wampanoag for generously extending their knowledge of local game and agriculture to the Pilgrims. Modern Thanksgiving Proclamations ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ own day. and I call upon the citizens of this great Nation to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us. Ronald Reagan. November 24. I. family. peace. As we come together with friends. call on His name. Therefore. 1988. give their all to raise food upon the land. the spirit of grace and humility at the heart of Thanksgiving has persisted through every chapter of our story.

Now. or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors—to give thanks for all we have received in the past year. I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of November. community centers. Decades later. President Abraham Lincoln looked to the divine to protect those who had known the worst of civil war. let us rededicate ourselves to our friends and fellow citizens in need of a helping hand. 2011. and to share our bounty with others. places of worship. and union. As we gather in our communities and in our homes. I encourage the people of the United States to come together—whether in our homes. I. In Witness Whereof.THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Washington proclaimed our country’s first Thanksgiving. tranquility. as a National Day of Thanksgiving. let us offer gratitude to our men and women in uniform for their many sacrifices. Therefore. to express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own. Today. in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven. President of the United States of America. around the table or near the hearth. harmony.” In times of adversity and times of plenty. and to restore the Nation “to the full enjoyment of peace. do hereby proclaim Thursday. and keep in our thoughts the families who save an empty seat at the table for a loved one stationed in harm’s way. And as members of our American family make do with less. November 24. and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth. we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us. BARACK OBAMA 24 . he praised a generous and knowing God for shepherding our young Republic through its uncertain beginnings. we have lifted our hearts by giving humble thanks for the blessings we have received and for those who bring meaning to our lives. Barack Obama. and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come. by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Before Lincoln. from John Kennedy’s declaration in 1963: Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings—let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals—and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world . On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God. Adams. . The obligation to display gratitude is recognized by a statute. . is America’s civic expression of gratitude appropriate today? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of the opposing positions mentioned in the last paragraph in this selection? The virtue of gratitude enjoys a special status in American public life. The opening phrase of Washington’s first proclamation in 1789 reads: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God. and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace. enacted in 1941.Excerpt from “No Thanks to Gratitude” JAMES W. . that establishes an official national holiday of Thanksgiving. He has written widely on American political thought. unbroken from Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863. The statute codified a long practice. In this excerpt from an essay on the importance of gratitude for civic memory and national attachment (2011). Ceaser examines the relationship among politics. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. . a free expression of the heart—be commanded or made into an obligation? To whom. Presidents Washington. but the practice ended with Madison. 25 . in some instances at the urging of Congress. CEASER James W. that the expression of gratitude to God for our national blessings was originally at the core of the whole exercise. and Madison proclaimed thanksgiving days. raising questions as to the true nature of the day and where it fits in our constitutional republic. and Thanksgiving Day. not at all untypical. justice. and campaigns. to obey his will. and for what. and humbly to implore his protection and favor. political institutions. History makes clear. however. where he has taught since 1976. Ceaser is the Harry F. What is gratitude? How might it be important for American citizenship and American public life? Can gratitude—which is. . to be grateful for his benefits. the holiday has no direct religious connection. of a presidential declaration fixing each year a day of thanksgiving. and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist. Under the terms of the statute.” A sense of the religious character of these proclamations can be gleaned from a passage. religion. however defined.

and the connection of Thanksgiving to public expressions of gratitude to God requires us to ask in what measure government has an interest in cultivating the religious aspect of gratitude. as neither holiday is officially designated as religious. others from an understanding of what they think the Constitution. Adams. “a day of national thanksgiving. Still. established by statute in 1952. and Madison made no mention of the Pilgrims. in light of the public benefits of religion. the tradition continues. who twice agreed to declare a day of thanksgiving. through their public officials. any mention of religious gratitude under the cover of public authority should be discouraged or banned. In this vein. they [official expressions of religious gratitude] imply a religious agency. The wall of separation of religion and politics can never be high enough. Different answers have been given to these questions. it is more often celebrated as “Thanksgiving Day” than. 26 . (It is another matter for the National Day of Prayer. making no part of the trust delegated to political rulers. where the religious aspect is integral to the statute. where there was no violation of constitutional principle. the earliest holidays proclaimed by Washington. Many have taken the opposite view. For those who are unfriendly to religion. .THANKSGIVING DAY: AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The religious dimension of this day of gratitude has for quite some time now been supplemented (or tamed) by tying the holiday into a day of memory of the Pilgrims and their encounter with the Indians. some dispute about Thanksgiving continues. however. was both permissible and.) Still. or a liberal political system. in JFK’s words. and in what measure a religious people. and the dates they selected bore no special connection to the harvest (some were in the winter and the spring). In a later reflection he commented: “Altho’ recommendations only. allows. this practice is generally seen as a natural and fitting expression of the spirit of the people.” The legal standing of the holiday of Thanksgiving (and for that matter Christmas) is not an issue today. For most people of faith. may give thanks to God. good policy. . George Washington believed that governmental encouragement of religion. for it is clear that custom connects it to religion. . evidently had doubts about his action and probably let the practice lapse because of them. James Madison. some out of animosity for religion.” Indeed.

Public and Private Blessings: The Things for Which We Should Be Grateful .

Harvest .

to begin with. a festival of the harvest. the shrine Of fruitful Ceres. and manhood’s toil are still honored among us. nature. does he seek to awaken our thanksgivings? How does this gratitude differ from the pagan worship of the earth goddess and sky god? The Persian’s flowery gifts. And we. and golden corn! 29 . sky. to-day. and flower.” Here. are honored yet. have come to own again The blessings of the summer hours.” and what is her relation to “our Father’s hand”? Why does the poet say that “the bounty overruns our due. earning him the moniker “America’s finest religious poet. filled and running o’er With fruit. Is this a song of praise to nature (earth. The woven wreaths of oak and pine Are dust along the Isthmian shore. amidst our flowers And fruits.For an Autumn Festival JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER Thanksgiving was. as we are summoned to acknowledge the blessings born of earth.” and what should be our response to this unmerited plenty? The poet credits sunshine and rain. The early and the latter rain. And manhood’s toil. sun. and rain. But beauty hath its homage still. but he also credits our God-given power to transform the rugged soil. And woman’s grace and household skill. This harvest hymn was written in 1859 by Massachusetts Quaker poet and ardent abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–92) for exercises at the Congregational Church as part of the annual fair of the Amesbury and Salisbury Agricultural and Horticultural Society.” and our “brave and generous lives” that warm the cold and inhospitable world around us. or rain). “Freedom’s arm” that “can change a rocky soil to gold. charm no more. he begins by pointing out that. To see our Father’s hand once more Reverse for us the plenteous horn Of autumn. and to whom. Whittier. with gratitude expressed for the bounty of nature. What is “Nature’s bloodless triumph”? Who is “our common mother. finally. beauty. or to the power of human beings? For what. who grew up on a New England farm and had little formal education. was heavily influenced by his pious upbringing. sun. woman’s grace and household skill. And nature holds us still in debt. although the pagan earth-worshipping festivals of Persia and Greece have long since disappeared. to God.

Her lap is full of goodly things. gifts with rain and sunshine sent The bounty overruns our due. Who murmurs at his lot to-day? Who scorns his native fruit and bloom? Or sighs for dainties far away. awake again Thanksgivings for the golden hours. We murmur.— That brave and generous lives can warm A clime with northern ices cold. Like Ruth. wreathed with flowers And piled with fruits. Beside the bounteous board of home? Thank Heaven. Her brow is bright with autumn leaves. Once more with harvest-song and shout Is Nature’s bloodless triumph told. instead. Our common mother rests and sings. God gives us with our rugged soil The power to make it Eden-fair. that Freedom’s arm Can change a rocky soil to gold. We choose the shadow. We shut our eyes. but the corn-ears fill. The early and the latter rain! 30 . but the sun That casts it shines behind us still. the flowers bloom on. The fullness shames our discontent.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Once more the liberal year laughs out O’er richer stores than gems or gold. favors every year made new! Oh. Oh. And richer fruits to crown our toil Than summer-wedded islands bear. among her garnered sheaves. And let these altars.

Beneath the sun of May. And waved in hot midsummer’s noon Its soft and yellow hair. And bear the treasure home. Fair hands the broken grain shall sift. There. for his golden corn. glean The apple from the pine. Give to the worm the orchard’s fruit. Our wealth of golden corn! Let earth withhold her goodly root. Its harvest-time has come. We better love the hardy gift Our rugged vales bestow. exulting. the Native American crop.The Corn Song JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER In this poem from 1850. And knead its meal of gold. The wheat-field to the fly: But let the good old crop adorn The hills our fathers trod. and the grape of the vine? To whom is thanks due for corn: Those who plowed the earth and chased away the robber crows? “The kindly earth”? “Our farmer girls”? Or God? Why might the blessing of corn have been the most fundamental reason for Thanksgiving? Might it still be so today. Let mildew blight the rye. John Greenleaf Whittier pays special homage to corn. richer than the fabled gift Apollo showered of old. All through the long. whether we know it or not? If not. Still let us. with autumn’s moonlit eves. While on the hills the sun and showers Of changeful April played. We dropped the seed o’er hill and plain. By homespun beauty poured! Where’er the wide old kitchen hearth Sends up its smoky curls. Through vales of grass and meads of flowers Our ploughs their furrows made. bright days of June Its leaves grew green and fair. what are you first thankful for instead? Heap high the farmer’s wintry hoard! Heap high the golden corn! No richer gift has Autumn poured From out her lavish horn! Let other lands. Give us the bowl of samp and milk. Let vapid idlers loll in silk Around their costly board. Send up our thanks to God! . the orange. And now. Who will not thank the kindly earth. Have you every stopped to think about the glory that is corn? Why is it singled out for special praise? How does it differ from the apple. Whose folly laughs to scorn The blessing of our hardy grain. The orange from its glossy green. To cheer us when the storm shall drift Our harvest-fields with snow. The cluster from the vine. And frightened from our sprouting grain The robber crows away. And bless our farmer girls? Then shame on all the proud and vain. 31 We pluck away the frosted leaves.

Hearth and Home .

and corn. lived Farmer Bassett. for the wide acres of wood. and Rhody went as fast as their hands. and suck the rosy apple he had no teeth to bite. Four young girls stood at the long dresser. onions. Henry David Thoreau. for in the great fireplace roared a cheerful fire. like a round. the crops were in. Farmer Bassett. and clothed the flock. juicy hams. and Nathaniel Hawthorne—Alcott turned to the practical aspects of life and living after a utopian commune her father founded collapsed. on the crane hung steaming kettles. Two small boys sat on the wooden settle shelling corn for popping. and barn. busily chopping meat. and picking out the biggest nuts from the goodly store their own hands had gathered in October. then subsided to kick and crow contentedly. based on remembrances of her own childhood. A white-headed baby lay in the old blue cradle that had rocked six other babies. but rich in land and love. warmed. and the tongues of Tilly. while mutual patience. and courage made the old farmhouse a very happy home. How do you account for the “mutual patience. is it that makes a house a home? Why are the children so eager to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner? How well did they do? For what is this family grateful? What do you think of the way they express their gratitude? Sixty years ago. were “chorin’ ’round” outside. corn. and hunters flourished. and bin were overflowing with the harvest that rewarded the summer’s hard work. now and then lifting his head to look out. affection. full moon. and dried venison—for in those days deer still haunted the deep forests. and slicing apples.An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving LOUISA MAY ALCOTT This story from 1881 by the beloved New England author of Little Women. buttery. The big kitchen was a jolly place just now. when all food was raised in the fields around the house and cooked in the hearth that kept the house warm. with a houseful of sturdy sons and daughters growing up about him. pounding spice. up aloft from the beams shone crook-necked squashes. November had come. affection. up among the New Hampshire hills. and Eph. for Thanksgiving was at hand. She often focuses on themes of domestic living and family life. the oldest boy. and all must be in order for that time-honored day. exactly. Louisa May Alcott (1832–88) presents a picture of a nineteenth-century Thanksgiving in a farming family in New Hampshire before there were stoves and supermarkets. and pasture land fed. 33 . Prue. They were poor in money. Savory smells were in the air. and courage [that] made the old farm-house a very happy home”? What. Roxy. and down among the red embers copper saucepans simmered. The daughter of Boston transcendentalist Bronson Alcott—whose social circle included Ralph Waldo Emerson. all suggestive of some approaching feast. on the walls hung garlands of dried apples.

I’m sorry Gran’ma is sick. and have games. coast. Prue kept time with the chopper.” confided Seth to Sol. as she rounded off the last loaf of brown bread which was to feed the hungry mouths that seldom tasted any other. who were regular little romps. so I shall have plenty of room when the nice things come. so we can clear away for dinner jest as soon as I clap my bread into the oven. and did so now with a will.” said quiet Prue.” “I like to see all the cousins and aunts. running to the door. and the twins sliced away at the apples till their little brown arms ached. bustled buxom Mrs. swim. and sing. as she gave a vigorous stir to the great kettle of cider apple-sauce. “Sakes alive. the oldest girl. and not a grain must be wasted. I should be worn to a thread-paper with all this extra work atop of my winter weavin’ and spinnin’. so we can’t go there as usual. “I don’t care a mite for all that. I didn’t take but one bowl of hasty pudding this morning. Bassett. 34 . Pa told him to bring a dezzen oranges. if they warn’t too high!” shouted Sol and Seth. who loved her own cozy nooks like a cat.” called Mrs. and it does take a sight of victuals to fill all these hungry stomicks.” cried the twins. fly ’round and get your chores done. from table to hearth. “Only one more day and then it will be the time to eat. flushed and floury. Bassett presently.” answered Solomon. girls?” asked Tilly. “I do like to begin seasonable and have things to my mind. gloating like a young ogre over the little pig that lay near by. while the girls smacked their lips at the thought of this rare treat. was grinding briskly at the mortar. “No need of my starvin’ beforehand. “Come. as he cracked a large hazel-nut as easily as a squirrel. I always have room enough. and could run. girls.” laughed their mother. “Here’s a man comin’ up the hill lively!” “Guess it’s Gad Hopkins. I don’t. pausing to take a sniff at the spicy pestle.” said the good woman. boys! It’s a marcy it don’t come but once a yea r. Tilly. but I like to mess ’round here. as if getting ready for a new cargo. and cast a glance of housewifely pride at the fine array of pies set forth on the buttery shelves. warm and comfortable at home. “It will be kind of lonesome with only our own folks. and shout as well as their brothers. but busy and blithe as the queen bee of this busy little hive should be. “I think it’s real fun to have Thanksgiving at home. and I’d like to have Thanksgiving every day. and Baby threw his apple overboard. It will be so nice to eat dinner together. a red-cheeked. Thanksgivin’ dinners can’t be drove.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ To and fro. don’t you. black-eyed lass of fourteen. as she plunged her plump arms into the long bread trough and began to knead the dough as if a famine were at hand. ready for roasting. for spices were costly. for all knew how to work.

as she has before. and the children left their work to help her get ready. and don’t let nothin’ happen while Mother’s away. and Mrs. and crying. stopped him as he passed. Not a child complained after that. and the baby done up like a small bale of blankets. Chadwick. “Tilly. Bassett was waiting. so keep snug and be good. anxiety. and whatever you do. haste. the bread was in the oven.” said Mrs. I depend on you. He knew no more. dears. or he wouldn’t get home till night. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ But all were doomed to disappointment.” said Mr. or you’ll have them down sick. and there were no railroads in those parts to whisk people to and fro like magic. Hitch up. for there’s a storm brewin’. don’t let the boys get at the mince-pies. saying it looked like snow and he must be jogging. who threw himself off his horse and hurried up to Mr. forgetful of the flour on her arms and the oven waiting for its most important batch. “Now. but pulling off her apron as she went in. Eldad. Bassett. I couldn’t cook nor eat no way now. The man said old Mr. and if that blessed woman gets better sudden. and I’ll give you a dinner you won’t forget in a hurry. Bassett. my darter. as he turned up the collar of his rough coat and put on his blue mittens. wasting not a minute in tears and lamentations. but it can’t be helped. Pa will come to-morrer anyway. with her camlet cloak on. because Gran’ma lived twenty miles away. heating the footstone. Bassett. I shall come back the minute I can leave Mother. and I’ll be ready in less’n no time. bringing moccasins. down to Keene. with the much-desired fruit. put extry comfortables on the beds to-night. It was a stranger. with her head in a sad jumble of bread. Bassett her mother was failin’ fast. “I’m dreadful sorry. you must look after the cattle like a man and keep up the fires.” said Mrs. and neither the children nor dumb critters must suffer. turkey. while the old mare shook her bells as if she preferred a trip to Keene to hauling wood all day. with a sob for the good old mother who had made it for her. as she tied on her brown silk pumpkin-hood.” 35 . we’ll have cause for thanksgivin’. and told him to tell Mrs.Louisa May Alcott. Have the baked beans and Injun-puddin’ for dinner. and she’d better come today. A few words told the story. Bassett in the yard. the wind is so searchin’ up chamber. and cider apple-sauce. “Mother’s wuss! I know she is!” out ran the good woman. with some brief message that made the farmer drop his ax and look so sober that his wife guessed at once some bad news had come. use your jedgment. and getting ready for a long drive. sorrow. By the time the old yellow sleigh was at the door. mingling their grief for “Gran’ma” with regrets for the lost dinner. “We must go right off. and having delivered his errand he rode away. but ran about helpfully. for it was not Gad. Eph.

Tilly got them a good dinner. learning in the best manner the use of the heads and hands with which they were to make their own way in the world. good-bye!” called the children. all working happily together with no wages but love. as a Christmas present to Ma. on the little board they had themselves at one corner of the dresser. The little girls chattered like magpies over their dolls and the new bed-spread they were planning to make. the sixteen-year-old boy. At sunset the boys went out to feed the cattle. “Read out a piece. they made a pretty picture. and had rough and tumble games over Bose. Tilly and Prue sang. bring in heaps of wood. but ruled her family in the good old-fashioned way. the sisters knitting. as Mrs. and began to order about the younger girls. and lock up for the night. for in the kitchen stood the big and little wheels.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Yes’m. for Eph loved reading. who popped corn and whittled boats on the hearth. immediately put on his biggest boots. these rosy boys and girls. They soon forgot poor Granny. and warm in-doors. and so the afternoon wore pleasantly away. lay on the braided mat. the brothers with books or games. Eph kept up a glorious fire. and Bose. and a doughnut all ’round as a treat. for the little daughters were Mrs.” said Tilly from Mother’s chair. and each day brought its stint of work to the daughters. luxuriously warming his old legs. and Sol and Seth never failed to play a few games of Morris with barley corns. and the stout boys helped their father. gay. Bassett’s only maids. and found it great fun to keep house all alone. Eph. Then they sat before the fire. as they stepped to and fro. as the lonely farm-house seldom had visitors after dark. Tilly tied on her mother’s bunch of keys. with gusts of wind. and when it was over the two elder girls went to their spinning. who hoped to be as thrifty as their mother. assumed a sober. with the rustic toys or tasks which most children nowadays would find very poor or tiresome. There were no servants. while Roxy and Rhody dressed corn-cob dolls in the settle corner. leaving a stream of directions behind her. But the children were busy. drawing out the smoothly twisted threads to the musical hum of the great spinning wheels. Bassett was packed into the sleigh and driven away. drolly like his father’s. 36 . responsible manner and surveyed his little responsibilities with a paternal air. and superintended the small boys. rolled up the sleeves of her homespun gown. for Mother seldom left home. The girls got the simple supper of brown bread and milk. all white dimity stars on a blue calico ground. where she sat in state. The boys roared at Eph’s jokes. baked apples. and baskets of wool rolls ready to be twisted into yarn for the winter’s knitting. and never minded the rising gale nor the whirling white storm outside. finishing off the sixth woolen sock she had knit that month. Thus employed. in their homespun suits. who didn’t mind them in the least. The few flakes that caused the farmer to predict bad weather soon increased to a regular snowstorm. the brindled mastiff. yes’m—good-bye. for up among the hills winter came early and lingered long.

but here’s a bit you may like. like a queen. Lady Matildy promised solemnly. with her head leaning back on those papers. where she was drowsily cuddled with Rhody. and sat down in that chair. if any one was ha’sh to Tilly.” commanded Roxy. and fired up and stood before his sister. “Yes. The boy did his part then. No one knows this but you. But we are children and know nothing. and he says. Seth planted himself before Tilly. 37 . all of a sudden. bridling and tossing her curly head as she fancied the Lady Matilda might have done. and a private resolve that Seth should have the largest piece of pie at dinner next day. as reward for his chivalry. and knew the story by heart. and I can go without fear. says he. but he was to seem a traitor. a long time ago. they are hidden in the old leathern chair where I sit. and Lord Bassett. he wasn’t afraid to die. but it’s nice to know we were somebody two or three hundred years ago. and it is cowardly of you to try to fight us with oaths and drawn swords!’” As Eph quoted from the book.” answered Eph. “I reckon she was scared. for he didn’t know.” said Tilly. and her father was carried away a prisoner and sent off to the Tower. since it’s about our folks. and I can not take them with me. as he flourished it valiantly: “Why didn’t the boy take his father’s sword and lay about him? I would. with a pat on the yellow head. Lord Bassett was a true friend to him. Sit down and hear the rest of it. Pa’s great-great-great grandpa. “Don’t read the queer words. I always like to hear about the Lady Matildy I was named for. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “It’s the old history book. he had just time to call his girl to him and say: ‘I may be going to my death. she just called her brother. so when he heard one day. as bold as a lion: ‘If my lord had told us where the papers be. and you must guard them till I come or send you a safe messenger to take them away. turning the yellow page to look at a picture of two quaintly dressed children in some ancient castle. saying. but I won’t betray my master.’ You see. with the long poker in his hand. Tell it. when Charles the First was in prison. He’s only a farmer now. plunging into his story without delay. and couldn’t do anything. we would die before we would betray him.” began Eph. “Well. read that. ’cause we don’t understand ’em.Louisa May Alcott. beaming with pride. that soldiers were at the castle gate to carry him off. for she was named for this ancestress.” “But she didn’t cry. Promise me to be brave and silent. “The lord had some papers that would have hung a lot of people if the king’s enemies got hold of ’em. though. from the cradle.” “You bantam! He was only a bit of a boy. and the words were hardly out of her mouth when the men came in. There is no time to burn the papers. when the men came swearin’ in and asked her if she knew anything about it.” commanded Tilly. and waited while the soldiers hunted the house over for ’em: wasn’t that a smart girl?” cried Tilly.

bright sister very much. eagerly. She knew the ring. I know. As if he felt the need of unusual vigilance. and the name keeps in the family. where some of the Bassetts came along with the Pilgrims. I think you’d do the settin’ part best. At last. half reading. Pa says. and the servants all ran away. but they said they should come again. Then the poor children were in a sad plight. old Bose lay down on the mat before the door. but Rupert. so faithful Matildy was full of trouble. I guess. Till would fight like a wild cat. He was very proud of that faithful girl. with her brother by her. word came that the king was dead and his friends banished out of England. She was ‘a pious maid. When the moon-faced clock behind the door struck nine. all alone in the great room. who admired her bold. nor the storm that raged without.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Well.” “Our Tilly would have been as brave. you are so patient. and she looks like the old picter down to Gran’ma’s. she looked at him sharply. whereat Tilly pulled his hair. “Well. and no one could get her away. Eph?” cried Prue. The servants thought the fright had hurt her wits. and the story ended with a general frolic. If any late wanderer had looked in at midnight.” continued Eph. and pussy had the warm hearth all to herself. Prue. but she can’t hold her tongue worth a cent. he would have seen the fire blazing up again. and hardly dared to leave the room where the chair stood. and while the man answered all about her father and the king. even over here. leaving only one faithful old man to help them.’ Off came the disguise. that she often got up and went to see that all was safe. come to take them with him out of England. till one day a man came with her father’s ring and told her to give up the secret. with no one to help her bear her secret. crept into her own nest. and in the cheerful glow the old 38 . and I will not answer till you pull off the false beard you wear.” “But the father did come?” cried Roxy.” answered Eph. for there was something strange about the man: ‘Sir. stood by her and never was afraid of her queer ways. half telling. and no good news of her father. Then she stood up and said. but would not tell until she had asked many questions.’ the book says. in a tremble. the men went off after turning the castle out of window. Tilly tucked up the children under the “extry comfortables. I doubt you in spite of the ring. All day she sat there. so as to be very sure.” and having kissed them all around. the boy. “You’ll see. don’t she. and often spent the long evenings reading the Bible. for the old chair still stands in the castle. guarding the papers. “Matilda was sure he would. and Matilda found it was my lord himself. never minding the little drifts of snow that sifted in upon her coverlet between the shingles of the roof. as Mother did. so she sat on in the big chair. for they had no mother. and at night her sleep was so full of fear about it. and let her be. that I may see your face and know if you are my father’s friend or foe.

so we won’t have dinner till late. “I can roast a turkey and make a pudding as well as anybody. but she didn’t expect us to have a real Thanksgiving dinner. because she won’t be here to cook it. in an awe-stricken tone. “Don’t we always do it Sundays and Thanksgivings? Wouldn’t Ma wish the chi ldren kept safe and warm anyhow? Can I get up a nice dinner with four rascals under my feet all the time? Come. Ma didn’t tell us to. yes!” cried all the boys. as she sat bolt upright beside the spinning wheel. Ma said I was to use my judgment about things. “let’s have a dinner anyway. and I won’t have them pickin’ ’round when we get things fixed. have what we liked. suddenly realizing the novelty of the task she had undertaken. it still snowed. Eph was off to the barn. that will be real genteel and give us plenty of time. The pies are all ready. and I’m going to.Louisa May Alcott. and bound to enjoy to the utmost her brief authority. and the earthen bowls stood empty. and be lively about it. burning to distinguish herself. and if we can’t boil vegetables and so on. “You will see what I can do. “Ma said. All you children have got to do is to keep out of the way. you’ll have to do as I tell you. which. with an air of deep interest. Ma won’t care.” cried Tilly.” added Tilly. plum-puddin’ and mincepie. now. I wish you’d put a fire in the best room. we don’t deserve any dinner. We shall want the settin’-room for the table. and went down with cheeks glowing like winter apples. guarding the children while they slept. and let Prue and me work. and we don’t know how. broke the ice in their jugs. “I don’t know about that. as the pewter spoons stopped clattering.” “Pa is coming to-night. “Now about dinner. “Should you darst to try?” said Rhody. “Yes. and Tilly soon had a great kettle of mush ready. so the little ones can play in there.” began cautious Eph who felt that this invasion of the sacred best parlor was a daring step. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ cat blinking her yellow eyes. doubtfully. if you want roast turkey and onions.” commanded Tilly. and the good victuals will spoil if they ain’t eaten right up. after a brisk scrub and scramble into their clothes. When they woke. but up the little Bassetts jumped. I guess. “Did you ever roast a turkey?” asked Roxy.” 39 . like early birds. bound to make her short reign a brilliant one. like some sort of household goblin.” began Prue. with milk warm from the cows made a wholesome breakfast for the seven hearty children.” said the young housekeeper. Eph.

“Well. will please ’em. The young folks delightedly trooped away to destroy the order of that prim apartment with housekeeping under the black horse-hair sofa.” Prue said. but it’s the stuffin’ that troubles me. so we won’t stop to warm it up. pots. lingered over his chores in the barn as long as possible. and an Indian war-dance all over the well-waxed furniture. and as soon as the breakfast-things were out of the way. which gave the effect of a distracted rainbow: This sampler neat was worked by me. nor what sort of yarbs to put in. for he won’t have had any very nice victuals if Gran’ma is so sick. one ornamented with a pink mourner under a blue weeping-willow. and left the girls in peace. There’s beans for Eph. Eph. we’ll have dinner at five. and I don’t mind saying to you I’m dreadful dubersome about the turkey. “horseback-riders” on the arms of the best rocking chair. for it ought to bile all day. sister. that Eph gave in. patting her departed pet with an air of mingled affection and appetite. he likes cold pork. put on their largest aprons. dishes. and he’s so awful big.” “I ain’t! I fed him all summer. They were handy girls. I’m so patient and stiddy. I’m kind of afraid of him. for there’s lots to do. though they had never heard of a cooking school. while I get ready.” laughed Prue. Pa will be here by that time. laughing good-naturedly.” 40 . Now Tilly and Prue were in their glory. I’ll get the puddin’ off my mind fust. she says. and he never gobbled at me.” said Tilly. and pans they could find. so she took a cheerful view of things. and knew nothing of embroidery beyond the samplers which hung framed in the parlor. and be so surprised to find us all ready. each word being done in a different color.” said Tilly. the other with this pleasing verse. and see that the spit is clean. and roasting is as easy as can be. finding the society of peaceful sheep and cows more to his mind than that of two excited sisters. Ma always likes to have me. and got out all the spoons. “doughnuts and cheese. “I don’t know how much I want. In my twelfth year. with apple-pie and cider. “so as to have everything handy. Prudence B.” answered Prue.” “It’s all ready but the stuffing. importantly. for the responsibility of this great undertaking did not rest upon her. they prepared for a grand cooking time. Put the big kettle on. and. “I shall give the children a piece at noon” (Tilly meant luncheon). poor old chap. and her suggestion was so irresistible.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Tilly spoke with such spirit. “I know. devoutly hoping that nothing serious would happen to punish such audacity. I can baste first -rate. Both rolled up their sleeves. I feel real mean to be thinking of gobbling him. tramped away to heat up the best room. “Now. rubbing her round elbows as she eyed the immense fowl laid out on a platter before her. never touched a piano. if he is coming to-night.

I should feel as if I was roasting the baby. looking so pink and pretty it certainly did seem cruel to eat him. and proudly watched it bobbing about before she put the cover on and left it to its fate. at least. diving into the mess. and then we are sure to be right. from which hung the iron tea-kettle and three-legged pot. “It doesn’t smell just right. glancing toward the buttery where piggy hung. I know.” commanded Tilly.” answered Tilly. for the garret was darkish. not baked in ovens. all sorts of spice. Away trotted Prue. Tilly popped it into the pot. as the cellar was full. for she had seen her mother do it so many times. but trying to show her knowledge of “yarbs. to be sure she got the right ones. “Shall we roast the little pig. you run and get some. but I forget whether it is spearmint. here. Happily unconscious of these mistakes. The best is up garret. too? I think he’d look nice with a necklace of sausages. that seemed aching for food. as Ma fixed him at Christmas. it looked very easy. It took a long time to get all the vegetables ready. Meantime Tilly attacked the plum-pudding.” answered Prue. a good deal scorched. and tied it in the cloth so tightly that it had no room to swell. while I mash the bread. but in her haste she got catnip and wormwood. and sewed it up with the blue yarn.” or.Louisa May Alcott.” she said. as she filled the empty stomach. well satisfied with her work. if the bag did not burst and spoil it all.” “Ma puts in some kind of mint. I guess we’ll put both in. But she forgot both sugar and salt. so it would come out as heavy as lead and as hard as a cannon-ball. she pounded up the herbs and scattered the mixture with a liberal hand into the bowl. which happened to be handy. and cried when he was killed. So in went suet and fruit. that everything smelt of them. “I couldn’t do it. with its black hooks. was cooking in the lean-to. for in those days meat was roasted as it should be. but she set him by till his hour came. and Prue’s little nose was so full of the smell of the onions she had been peeling. when she had got her bread well soaked for stuffing. in a tone of doubt. and brandy instead of wine. Eph helped. elated with their success.” said Tilly. and the cranberry-sauce. “Sage and onions and apple-sauce go with goose. or pennyroyal. peppermint. 41 . She forgot to tie down his legs and wings. and by noon all was ready for cooking. “I can’t remember what flavorin’ Ma puts in. but I can’t feel sure of anything but pepper and salt for a turkey. then she settled the long spit in the grooves made for it in the tall andirons. She felt pretty sure of coming out right. and put the dripping-pan underneath. for. the girls thought they would have every sort. but I suppose it will when it is cooked. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Prue obediently tugged away at the crane. I loved that little pig.” asked Prue. of their names. “Seems to me it’s sweet majoram or summer savory. Eager to be of use.

bent on having her dinner look well. to come bursting in.” roared Seth. the bear! Eph. where the great wheel turned and splashed so merrily in the summer-time. It was not at all the sort of table we see now. “Down in the holler. The short afternoon had passed so quickly that twilight had come before they knew it. get the gun! He’s coming. while Prue and I set the table and get out the best chiny. Nuts and apples at the corners gave an air. on went the round hoods. and now. Out came the rough sleds. with its green-handled knives. while Rhody hid in Prue’s skirts. with his eyes as big as saucers. and the place of honor was left in the middle for the oranges yet to come. all screaming at once: “The bear. which they did in a somewhat incoherent manner. and away trudged the four younger Bassetts. he’s coming!” Eph had dropped his fiddle. and piped out: “His great paws kept clawing at us. I wish Ma could see how well we can do it.” began Tilly. its red-and-white china. to disport themselves in the snow.” quavered Roxy. when a loud howling startled both girls. as they looked out through the gathering dusk. and two-pronged steel forks. and sent them flying to the window. red cloaks. The cloth was coarse. scoured till they shone. and a brown jug for the cider. they had watched and watched while it bleached in the green meadow.” said Tilly. “Pretty nice. and moccasins. old hats. I think. “Now you all go and coast. and Sol mourned bitterly over the little pig that was not to be served up. set the table and made all ready to dish up the dinner when that exciting moment came. and doughnuts and cheese vanished in such quantities that Tilly feared no one would have an appetite for her sumptuous dinner. and pewter platters. and got down his gun before the girls could calm the children enough to tell their story. but would look very plain and countrified to us. we heard a growl. “I see him fust lookin’ over the wall.” began Sol. coastin’. The boys assured her they would be starving by five o’clock. eager to get his share of honor. out of which their mother wove the linen. They had no napkins and little silver. clinging to Tilly. when they paused to admire the general effect. after a short rest. and the little maids had seen the blue-eyed flax grow.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Luncheon was a lively meal. “Awful big and shaggy. and I was so scared my legs would hardly go.” 42 . “Don’t it look beautiful?” said Prue. Eph took his fiddle and scraped away to his heart’s content in the parlor. no matter what its other failings might be. but white as snow. they saw four small black figures tearing up the road. but the best tankard and Ma’s few wedding-spoons were set forth in state. with mugs and spoons to match. while the girls. and try the ice down by the old mill.

who had climbed to the top of the dresser as a good perch from which to view the approaching fray.” cried both little girls. and was at her brother’s side by the time the bear was near enough to be dangerous. All had seen bears. and stopped now and then as if to rest and shake himself. who stood erect to receive her. haw!” that startled the children more than the report of a gun. boys. and he came growlin’ after us. I’ll shoot him as soon as he comes. and the small boys cheered from their dusty refuge among the pumpkins. Tilly flew for the ax. 43 . Eph. I’ll get a better shot then” answered the boy. now “browning beautiful. flying upstairs to hide under their mother’s bed. “Fire. He was growling horribly. anxious to kill his first bear in style and alone.Louisa May Alcott. while Prue covered her ears to shut out the bang. “No danger of that.” said Eph. and he’ll eat every one of us if he gets in. and if I should miss.” as she expressed it. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “We ran away as fast as we could go. He stood on his hind legs. don’t let him eat us. “It’s Gad Hopkins. “There he is! Fire away. for suddenly Tilly threw down the ax. for these hardy boys loved to hunt and prided themselves on the number of wild animals and birds they could shoot in a year. tryin’ to fool us!” cried Eph.” continued Sol. and all who saw it stood amazed. But Tilly boldly stood at the open window. while his growlings changed to a loud “Haw. a girl’s help didn’t count. Prue retired to the hearth as if bent on dying at her post rather than desert the turkey. and seemed to sniff with relish the savory odors that poured out of the window. “Oh. and ran straight into the arms of the bear. He’s awful hungry. and don’t miss!” cried Seth. flung open the door. looking about him for a safe retreat. ready to lend a hand if the enemy proved too much for Eph. “Get the ax. you little geese. Eph!” cried Tilly. Get out o f the way. and even brave Eph felt that the big brown beast slowly trotting up the dooryard was an unusually formidable specimen. “Wait till he rears again. But a very singular thing happened next.” and Eph raised the window to get good aim. firmly. hastily following Sol. but none had ever come so near before. much disgusted at the loss of his prey. Tilly. as their surest shelter. stand ready to keep him off while I load again.

They were just struggling to get the pudding out of the cloth when Roxy called out: “Here’s Pa!” “There’s folks with him. “You’d have had a warm welcome if we hadn’t found you out. and Pa will be along soon. I couldn’t think of victuals when I expected to be eaten alive myself. and the spirits of the younger ones were revived by sucks from the one orange which passed from hand to hand with great rapidity while the older girls dished up the dinner. he rather crestfallen and Gad in high glee. no ways. coming out to shake hands with the young giant. Prue screamed. though. and come along till I see the children playin’ in the holler. You did it well.” and Gad took a hearty kiss from the rosy cheeks of his “little sweetheart.” and Gad haw-hawed again. but they run like partridges.” said Eph.” as he called her. and the old horse went home while I was floundering in a drift. Gad. sence the horse and sleigh have gone ahead empty I’ve done my arrant and had my joke. I can’t help it. and all the rest joined in. “Wal. I reckon. My folks will think I’m dead ef I don’t get along home. I jest meant to give ’em a little scare.” answered Gad. so good-humor was restored.” said Eph. trying to escape. “Well. Tilly laughed. and I kep’ up the joke to see how Eph would like this sort of company. I’d have put a bullet through you in a jiffy. “Come in and set up to dinner with us. Tilly.” cried Tilly. as he pushed back the robe and settled his fur cap more becomingly. could I?” pleaded poor Prue. while the other drew a dozen oranges from some deep pocket in the buffalo-skin coat. and fired them into the kitchen with such good aim that Eph ducked. still held fast in one shaggy arm of the bear. 44 . you see I got upsot over yonder. how could you scare us so?” laughed Tilly. “Couldn’t. and I advise you not to try it again in a hurry. who was only a year or two older than himself. Prue and I have done it all ourselves.” added Rhody. or you’ll get shot. as the flurry subsided and she remembered her dinner. and the kettles have biled over so the pies I put to warm are all ashes!” scolded Tilly. “My sakes alive—the turkey is all burnt one side. “I ain’t afeared—your sharp eyes found me out: and ef you run into a bear’s arms you must expect a hug. as they parted. so I tied on the buffalers to tote ’em easy.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Oh. His own cheeks tingled with the smart slap she gave him as she ran away. “I should have known you in a minute if I hadn’t been asleep when the girls squalled. who had tumbled into the cradle when the rain of oranges began. now I want my pay. calling out that she hated bears and would bring her ax next time. old chap. and Sol and Seth came down much quicker than they went up.

” said Sol.” shouted Seth. and Tilly and Prue were so elated by the commendation of Ma and the aunts.” said Eph. “Ain’t Gran’ma dead at all?” asked Sol. Mother was sittin’ up as chirk as you please. and oranges were oddly mixed. he got the message all wrong. in which bears. and don’t I hope it will turn out good!” exclaimed Tilly. full of dismay at such an ending of their festival. Bassett paused for want of breath. the mourners are uncommonly jolly. “It looks like a semintary. and Cousin Hetty—and there’s Mose and Amos. pigs. no! It was all a mistake of old Mr. briskl y finishing the tale when Mrs. and she wanted me to come down to-day. and when Mrs. and send us down in a hurry. “What in the world put it into your head we was comin’. aunts. to keep the house quiet for her. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Lots of ’em! I see two big sleighs chock full. and in came Father. This startling suggestion made Tilly.” cried Prue. 45 . Prue. Great satisfaction was expressed by all. in a solemn tone. “Bless your heart. and Eph hasten to look out. that they set forth their dinner. looking about him. pies. and set you to gittin’ up such a supper?” asked Mr. my patience! Ain’t I glad I got dinner. and dreadful sorry you didn’t all come. in the midst of the kissing and hand-shaking.” said Aunt Cinthy. “If that is a funeral. He’s as deaf as an adder. Guess Gran’ma’s dead and come up to be buried here. dryly. certain sure. Baby. sure everything was perfect. Tilly modestly began to tell. Bassett. well pleased and much surprised at the plentiful table.” “So. while the twins pranced with delight. Mother. your Pa fetched us all up to spend the evenin’. as merry voices and loud laughter broke the white silence without. as she recognized one familiar face after another. “Oh. and cousins. and all much surprised to find such a festive welcome awaiting them. to jedge by the looks of things. I do declare. Chadwick’s. Brooks told him Mother was mendin’ fast. and we are goin’ to have a jolly time on’t. peering through the dusk. “I see Aunt Cinthy. all in great spirits.Louisa May Alcott. and give you a taste of the fun. Pa’s bringin’ ’em all home to have some fun here. but the others broke in and sang her praises in a sort of chorus. and the small boys roared: “Hooray for Pa! Hooray for Thanksgivin’!” The cheer was answered heartily. and give it to the fust person passin’ in such a way as to scare me ’most to death.

” declared Aunt Cinthy.” and other lively games soon set everyone bubbling over with jollity. finished the evening. with her mouth full of the fragrant vegetable she praised. whatever made you put wormwood and catnip in your stuffin’?” demanded Ma. “Tilly Bassett. and Mrs. my dears. which caused Pa to kiss her on the spot.” “Come. But Tilly and Prue were much depressed. and after a grand kissing all round. Bassett said soberly. and all fell upon the pies. for the turkey was all right. “Blind-man’s bluff. All the vegetables is well done. chat and singing. and give thanks where thanks is due. and then away they went. and a candle on each side. Mr. for she felt her shake. When the good-nights were over. we have special cause to be thankful that the sorrow we expected was changed into joy. trying not to be severe. Mose and Tilly covered themselves with glory by the vigor with which they kept it up. Mr. which were perfect. heeling and toeing. “I never see onions cooked better. and the dinner a credit to you. for the first person who tasted the stuffing (it was big Cousin Mose. cutting pigeon-wings. for all the rest were laughing. till fat Aunt Cinthy fell into a chair.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ But when the eating began. old and young fell into their places for a dance. then their pride got a fall. The pudding was an utter failure in spite of the blazing brandy in which it lay—as hard and heavy as one of the stone balls on Squire Dunkin’s great gate. nobly taking all the blame. and all sat quietly in the fire-light. and taking their steps in a way that would convulse modern children with their new-fangled romps called dancing.” Then Tilly set out the light-stand with the big Bible on it. It was s peedily whisked out of sight. Prue put her arm round Tilly and whispered tenderly. breathlessly declaring that a very little of such exercise was enough for a woman of her “heft. smiling as they listened with happy hearts to the sweet old words that fit all times and seasons so beautifully. and Tilly looked ready to cry. When the jingle of the last bell had died away.” said Prue. Bassett at the top. and was sure she was crying: 46 . Philander. as they stood together on the hearth: “Children.” Apples and cider. so we’ll read a chapter ’fore we go to bed. the twins at the bottom. and the children in bed.” “Hunt the slipper. which it did the moment wraps were off. and that made it harder to bear) nearly choked over the bitter morsel. and when Eph struck up “Money Musk” on his fiddle. the guests drove away in the clear moonlight which came out to cheer their long drive. and declare that it didn’t do a mite of harm. “I did it. and didn’t recover their spirits till dinner was over and the evening fun well under way. All down the long kitchen they stood.

silence reigned.” explained Tilly. or the soft scurry of mice in the buttery. when I told them.” answered two meek voices. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Don’t mind about the old stuffin’ and puddin’. and Mrs. but don’t care enough to cry. Here a smart rap on the wall of the next room caused a sudden lull in the fun. and after a few irrepressible giggles. I thought it was a bullet.” “Yes’m. taking their part in this old-fashioned Thanksgiving.” The laughter Tilly was trying to smother broke out then. Prue could not help joining her. I’m laughing to think how Gad fooled Eph and I found him out. Bassett’s voice was heard. I thought Mose and Amos would have died over it. It was real mean to frighten the little ones so. “Girls. “I was mad about the mistakes. broken only by an occasional snore from the boys. deary—nobody cared. and scrabbled into the cradle as fast as I could. or you’ll wake the baby. when she got her breath. even before she knew the cause of the merriment. and Ma said we really did do surprisin’ well for such young girls. go to sleep immediate. and was so infectious. it was so funny. 47 .” laughed Prue. saying warningly. as Tilly gave a growl.Louisa May Alcott. “I was so scared that when the first orange hit me.

Over the river and through the wood. she founded a children’s periodical. To Grandfather’s house we go. and the prominent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. To have a first-rate play— Hear the bells ring “Ting-a-ling-ding!” Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day! Over the river and through the wood Trot fast. This famous poem. In 1826. journalist. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow. to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner at their grandparents’ home. a Harvard Divinity School professor and Unitarian minister. scholar. written in 1844. my dapple-gray! Spring over the ground. over the river and through the wood. And straight through the barn-yard gate! We seem to go Extremely slow— It is so hard to wait! Over the river and through the wood— Now Grandmother’s cap I spy! Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie! 48 . Juvenile Miscellany. describes. how the wind does blow! It stings the toes And bites the nose.” and how are they related? What role do memory and the repetitions of tradition play in the delights of this holiday? How does the structure of the poem convey those delights? Over the river and through the wood. Imagining yourself in their place. the journey and eager anticipation of children traveling once again. and would advocate all her life for the abolition of slavery. Like a hunting hound! For this is Thanksgiving Day. in stages. Over the river and through the wood. what do you think makes the journey and the day so special? For what things do the children sing “hurrah. Born to an abolitionist family. and activist.Thanksgiving Day LYDIA MARIA CHILD Lydia Maria Child (1802–80) was an American novelist. Over the river and through the wood— Oh. she was influenced by the anti-slavery beliefs of her brother. As over the ground we go.

John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) remains one of our most profound students of the American soul—in all its mystery and complexity. The gathering and mood of John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving are. so that it looked like the head of an iron statue. There was also a daughter of sixteen. from his own forge. This disturbing story. formerly an apprentice of the blacksmith. who had been bred at college. and who seemed more like an own son of John Inglefield than did the pale and slender student. The vacant chair at John Inglefield’s right hand was in memory of his wife. would it have been better had she not come at all? What does Hawthorne mean when he says her presence produced “one of those intervals when sorrow vanishes in its own depth of shadow. is no exception. as Inglefield’s wayward daughter Prudence comes to join the hearth she had not long ago abandoned. people in troubled families often experience this holiday with added tension and mixed emotions. whom death had snatched from him since the previous Thanksgiving. at first glance. their shadows danced on the wall behind them. a far cry from those most of us associate with this holiday—although. but now his journeyman. Hawthorne provides us with opportunities to see most deeply into the highs and lows of the human condition. the bereaved husband had himself set the chair in its place next his 49 . all aglow. Never one to cover up the faces of evil and darkness. as both wrestle with the penchant for wickedness. The only other person at the fireside was Robert Moore. At John Inglefield’s right hand was an empty chair. A. the blacksmith. reddening his rough visage. the fire threw its strongest light on his massive and sturdy frame. who all sat quietly. and was now a student of theology at Andover. The other places round the hearth were filled by the members of the family. and in the manner she does? Given the fact and the way that Prudence leaves. and on Thanksgiving Day? Why does she leave so abruptly. Only these four had kept New England’s festival beneath that roof. A. Being the central figure of the domestic circle. whom nobody could look at without thinking of a rose-bud almost blossomed. among those who had been keeping festival at his board. there is finally not much to be thankful about? On the evening of Thanksgiving day. One of the group was John Inglefield’s son. published in 1852 under a pseudonym (“Rev. Why does she return. and that our abundance and our family ties cannot be taken for granted? Or is Hawthorne (or perhaps only Rev. in a world of sin and separation. sat in his elbowchair. John Inglefield. With a feeling that few would have looked for in his rough nature. and joy starts forth in transitory brightness”? Is this “transitory joy” at hearth and home what this holiday is really all about? Is thanksgiving truer and deeper when we recognize that the blessings of hearth and home are in fact impermanent. Royce”). Royce) suggesting that. So too do the events of the evening reflect this. and with its features rudely fashioned on his own anvil. especially as it is influenced by the tensions between freedom and piety. with a semblance of fantastic merriment. truth to tell. while.

he was still a clergyman. but I have come back to spend the evening with you. If her cheek might otherwise have been pale. as a brother should.” said he. but she has been gone from us these four months. “You ate your Thanksgiving dinner without me. But there was another grief which he would fain have torn from his heart. 50 . for. which she took off.” “I know it. I know it. my eyes were so dazzled by the fire-light. that she seemed to be sitting in this very chair!” By this time the other members of the family had begun to recover from their surprise. “Here I am. The latch of the inner door was lifted by some familiar hand. she approached. If she had spent the many months of her absence in guilt and infamy. glancing sideways at her. Within the past year another member of his household had gone from him. as if it had been reserved on purpose for her. yet not entirely like a brother. and a young girl came in. father. She wore the same neat and maidenly attire which she had been accustomed to put on when the household work was over for the day.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ own. “You are welcome home. And to John Inglefield she was the very image of his buried wife. Yet they kept no vacant chair for her. when I first came in. He advanced and held out his hand affectionately. father. he could not speak unkindly to his sinful child. her own self. the outer door was opened. and a light footstep came along the passage. nor vision of their vivid recollections. Prudence. and speaking to a child of sin.” Yes. and returned while the blaze was quivering upwards from the same brands that were burning at her departure.” said she. with all his kindness. and her hair was parted from her brow. as if he deemed it possible that the cold grave might send back its tenant to the cheerful fireside. nor yet could he take her to his bosom. but Prudence. Therefore. at last. and laid on the table beneath the looking-glass. such as he remembered her on the first Thanksgiving which they had passed under their own roof. and became sensible that it was no ghost from the grave. Her brother was the next that greeted her. She could not have looked less altered. after gazing a moment at the fireside circle. though naturally a stern and rugged man. Thus did he cherish the grief that was dear to him. yet they seemed to have left no traces on her gentle aspect. and often did his eye glance thitherward. “Your mother would have rejoiced to see you. but not to the grave. or.” replied Prudence. quickly. yet the glow of the fire suffused it with a healthful bloom. While John Inglefield and his family were sitting round the hearth with the shadows dancing behind them on the wall. since that could never be. had she merely stepped away from her father’s fireside for half an hour. or for his own remembrance. wearing a cloak and hood. have buried it too deep for others to behold. and took the seat at John Inglefield’s right hand. and his voice faltered. in the simple and modest fashion that became her best of all. Then. at least for that one evening. “And yet. it was Prudence Inglefield.

in time for me to bid you a last farewell. even from childhood. “You must look your last at me by the light of this fire. Robert!” said she. Springing forward. “There. as she withdrew her hand. so that his features could be discerned only by the flickering shadow of the profile upon the wall. and by a dread that Prudence was too much changed to respond to her affection. or that her own purity would be felt as a reproach by the lost one. brother. with his face averted.—no. over 51 . may I see all of them—yours and all—beyond the grave!” A shadow flitted across the girl’s countenance. “you must not give me too warm a welcome. At first she was restrained by mingled grief and shame. Your bosom must not be pressed to mine!” Mary shuddered and stood still. Robert. In a few weeks. for she felt that something darker than the grave was between Prudence and herself. There is not one of these beloved faces that I shall ever hope to behold again on this earth. Meanwhile Prudence threw her eyes around the room. I am to sail as a missionary to the far islands of the Pacific. as she listened to the familiar voice. “I rejoice that a merciful Providence hath turned your steps homeward. in search of one who had not yet bidden her welcome. O. and was standing near the door. sister. where they had grown up together. “No. “won’t you shake hands with your old friend?” Robert Moore held back for a moment. though they seemed so near each other in the light of their father’s hearth.Nathaniel Hawthorne. But Prudence called to him. longing to fling herself upon her bosom. earnestly. with a warning gesture. like a spell. and held out both her hands.” While this was passing. my sister. while the face grew more and more familiar. that she had a faculty.” cried she. but with a bewitching pathos interfused among her merriest words and deeds. gladsome in her general mood. the twin-girl—the rosebud that had grown on the same stem with the castaway—stood gazing at her sister. and overcame his pride and resentment. having exchanged greetings with each member of the family. seized her hand.” said she.” said he.” answered she. smiling sadly. Mary. “The grave is very dark. “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Sister Prudence. however.” And now. of throwing her own feelings. in a cheerful and kindly tone: “Come. She was naturally a girl of quick and tender sensibilities. At that very instant. He had withdrawn from his seat by the fireside. she forgot everything save that Prudence had come back. he rushed towards Prudence. she would have clasped her in a close embrace. But. there. Prudence again seated herself in the chair at John Inglefield’s right hand. “do not you touch me. but affection struggled powerfully. too. so that the tendrils of their hearts might intertwine again. withdrawing her hand somewhat hastily from his grasp. Prudence started from her chair. and pressed it to his bosom. It was remarked of her.

so did she appear this evening.” cried John Inglefield. “Prudence. or take his curse with you!” For an instant Prudence lingered and looked back into the fire-lighted room. “stay and be your father’s blessing. in the surprise and bewilderment of her return. Her friends. between wrath and sorrow. Sin and evil passions glowed through its comeliness. as it grew warm and merry within him. with sweet maiden coquetry. As Prudence passed out of the door. half smiled upon and half discouraged him. father. and wrought a horrible deformity. a smile gleamed in her eyes. at their surprise and grief. but by the Thanksgiving fireside they felt only that their own Prudence had come back to them. It seems as if she ought to be here now.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ her companions. “you have made your old father happy again. But we miss your mother sadly. and Prudence vanished into the outer darkness. Such as she had been in her days of innocence. the rosebud. And as for Robert Moore. as he took the cup from her hand. When the clock struck eight. perhaps. or that she had forfeited any of her claims to their affection. Mary. and joy starts forth in transitory brightness. But her face was so changed that they hardly recognized it. The fiend prevailed. but heard the sound of wheels rattling over the frozen ground. In short. When the family rushed to the door. almost forgot that she had ever left them. and flung back her hand with a gesture of farewell. even. Prudence poured out her father’s customary draught of herb tea. In the morning. It was now the hour for domestic worship. But while the family were making preparations for this duty. child!” said John Inglefield. she turned towards them. “God bless you. or never. and was lifting the latch of the door. he laughed till the room rang again. The grave young minister became as frolicsome as a school-boy. he gazed at Prudence with the bashful earnestness of love new-born. forgot that her twinblossom had ever been torn from the stem. once or twice. and were thankful.” replied Prudence. they suddenly perceived that Prudence had put on her cloak and hood. too. while her countenance wore almost the expression as if she were struggling with a fiend. 52 . “Daughter. Prudence! where are you going?” cried they all. which had been steeping by the fireside ever since twilight. with one voice. it was one of those intervals when sorrow vanishes in its own depth of shadow. while she. who had power to seize his victim even within the hallowed precincts of her father’s hearth. as of triumphant mockery. Prudence. sadly. John Inglefield’s rough visage brightened with the glow of his heart. yet seemed startled by the echo of his own mirth.” “Now. they could see nothing. and trampled in the dust. they might have looked at her with altered eyes.

they hear her voice. Her visit to the Thanksgiving fireside was the realization of one of those waking dreams in which the guilty soul will sometimes stray back to its innocence. perhaps. The same dark power that drew Prudence Inglefield from her father’s hearth—the same in its nature. Yet this was Prudence Inglefield. 53 . there was one whose dissolute mirth seemed inconsistent with any sympathy for pure affections. “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ That same night. at the holiest moment. and for the joys and griefs which are hallowed by them. though heightened then to a dread necessity—would snatch a guilty soul from the gate of heaven. and make its sin and its punishment alike eternal. among the painted beauties at the theatre of a neighboring city. But Sin.Nathaniel Hawthorne. alas! is careful of her bond-slaves. and are constrained to go whither she summons them.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door And under the old roof we gather once more Just as we did when the youngsters were small.Thanksgiving EDGAR ALBERT GUEST Edgar Guest (1881–1959). An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they Are growin’ more beautiful day after day. “We’ve come for a time to be just what we are”? What will enable him to “put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers”? Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice. but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there. It also speaks poignantly about home as a place that appears to remain the same despite the passage of time. today little known or read. Buildin’ the old family circle again. but still Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will. Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer. Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best. was a prolific. An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice. that’s all. Mother’s a little bit grayer. Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men. Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer. 54 . this poem (1917) speaks about Thanksgiving as a singular day of homecoming. Out of the sham of the cities afar We’ve come for a time to be just what we are. can you say what he most likes about Thanksgiving? What does he mean by saying. Home from the east land an’ home from the west. Just for awhile at the end of the year. An immigrant to the United States when he was ten. Oh. and popular American poet in the first half of the twentieth century. How old is the speaker in the poem? Why does he comment so often about what is “old”? Gathering evidence from each stanza. Guest started writing at age fourteen for the Detroit Free Press as a police reporter and then composer of daily rhymes. Here we are back at the table again Tellin’ our stories as women an’ men. Like Hawthorne’s story but with a completely different flavor. British-born. which eventually became so popular that they were nationally syndicated. Father’s a little bit older. Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank. Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank. much beloved by American readers (and known as “the People’s Poet”) for his optimistic and sentimental verse.

Edgar Albert Guest. 55 . See the old faces unblemished by wrong. Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song. “Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Give me the end of the year an’ its fun When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done. Let me sit down with the ones I love best. See the old table with all of its chairs An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers. Bring all the wanderers home to the nest.

Thanksgiving Day
SUSAN MINOT
Not all homecomings for Thanksgiving are as cheerful as the one envisioned in the previous poem by Edgar Guest. This story from 1984 is the work of Susan Minot (b. 1956), who started her literary career writing short stories in the New Yorker and Grand Street magazine. A recipient of the O. Henry Prize for short fiction, she has also published four novels. In this story, she raises questions about how to celebrate the holiday when your parents or grandparents who have traditionally hosted Thanksgiving are no longer able to do so. What is the mood in the old Vincent home? Is this a close family? Compare and contrast the words and deeds of the adults and the children. Is the Thanksgiving spirit alive here? Why or why not? In many families, Thanksgiving is a matter of tradition: should the Vincent family tradition continue? Gus and Rosie Vincent waited for their six children to crawl out of the station wagon and then slammed the doors. The Vincents were always the first to arrive. They would pull up to the house in Motley, Massachusetts, where their father grew up, and crunch across the gravel, and in the doorway was Ma with her dark blue dress pleated from collar to waist and they would give her kisses, then file in to dump their coats in the coatroom and right away the first thing would be the smell of Pa’s cigar. He waited in the other room. Every Thanksgiving they descended upon him and every year it was the same. The three girls wore matching plaid skirts with plaid suspender straps. Caitlin and Sophie, who looked alike, had on hair bands of the same material. Delilah, the youngest daughter, was darker, with a short pixie. She said it wasn’t fair she didn’t have long hair too. The three boys came after, Gus and Sherman, and Chickie, in grey flannels. Chickie’s were shorts, since he was the baby. For Sophie, the best thing was getting to see the cousins, especially the other Vincents. Bit, the only girl cousin, was Sophie’s age, ten. And Churly was the oldest of everybody; he was fourteen. Churly and Bit arrived with Uncle Charles and Aunt Ginny. Sophie hesitated because sometimes you didn’t give them a kiss. On Aunt Ginny’s cardigan was the turkey pin she wore every year. The other cousins were the Smalls. Aunt Fran used to be a Vincent before she married Uncle Thomas. They had three boys. The oldest was Teever Small, who drooled. Once everyone was there, the children had to put their coats on for the annual picture. Bit had a white rabbit muff that Teever Small grabbed at, trying to flirt. “That’s enough of that,” said his father, but Bit had already snatched it back. Sophie felt how soft the fur was, thinking about the dead rabbit; the muff was in the shape of a rabbit too. The grownups shuffled everybody around, then stood beside Sophie’s father, who had the camera.

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Susan Minot, “Thanksgiving Day”
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They crossed their arms against the cold, talking to one another and watching to make sure the kids didn’t move. “I’ll be doggone,” said Uncle Thomas. Sophie stared at his bow tie. “Will you look at that.” “A bunch of young ladies and young gentlemen,” said Aunt Fran, smacking her orange lips. She had white hair like Ma’s, except hers was short. “Knock it off, Churly,” Uncle Charles said. Sophie turned around. Churly was smirking. He had a head shaped like a wooden golf club, with his long neck, and a crew cut like the other boys. Sohpie looked back at the house and saw Ma inside, watching through the French doors. After the picture was taken, Rosie Vincent told her children to say hello to Livia, and the cousins tagged along. The hall to the kitchen was dark, the floor with a sheen from the glow at the end. The kitchen was pale grey, with no lights on, and a white enamel table in the middle. Livia gave them pinched kisses, her eyes darting around the room, checking on food, on the children. She was huge and huffing in her white uniform. The kitchen smelled of Worcestershire sauce and turkey. “Are you behaving yourselves now?” She held up a shiny wooden spoon. When she was cooking, everything on Livia sweated, the steam rising behind her from the pots on the stove. “Not me,” Churly said. “I always try to be as naughty as possible.” Caitlin laughed while Sophie looked at Livia’s face, which meant business. Livia sat down, “Now what are the seven blessed sacraments?” she asked, addressing Gus and Rosie’s children—Catholic, thanks to their mother. Livia tipped one ear forward the way Sophie had seen the priest do in confession. Sophie fingered a tin Jell-O mold shaped like a fish, and Catilin busied herself by tucking in Sherman’s shirttails. No one answered. Livia rattled them off herself, slicing apples so the blade came right to her thumb without even looking. The cousins drifted off into the pantry as Livia thought up new questions — all having to do with catechism. The dining-room table has already been set. The cranberry sauce had a spoon sticking out. Bit stole some mint wafers, reaching past the blue water goblets into the middle of the table, and gave one to Sophie. “It’s okay,” said Bit, noticing Sophie’s expression. “I saw that,” Churly said from the doorway. Sophie blushed. He came in and whispered, “All right, you guys . . .” and she saw how his eyes were like those light-blue paperweights that had white lines of glass streaked from the middle. He leaned past them and plucked a candy of the cut-glass boat. “Delish,” he said. “Don’t mind if I do.” In the living room, the grown-ups stood stirring drinks at the red-leather bar stand; then they sat down. Sophie’s mother was the only one without a Scotch or a Dubonnet. 57

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS
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There was nothing to do while the grown-ups talked except to look around at each tiny thing. Three walls were covered with books, and over the mantelpiece was a portrait of Dr. Vincent, so dark and shiny that the lights reflected off it. One side of the room was all French windows, with dead vines at the edges. The windows overlooked the lawn. Beside the fireplace was a child’s rocking chair with a red back, an antique. Gus had gotten to it first and was sitting there, holding onto his ankles, next to Ma’s place on the sofa. They had the hard kind of sofas with wooden arms and wood in a curve along the back. You could tell it was Ma’s place because of the brown smudge on the ceiling from her cigarette smoke. The girls examined their grandmother. Her shoes, the pair her granddaughters liked the best, were pale lavender with pink trim and flat bows, her fancy shoes. “Gussie,” said Aunt Fran, the one person in the world who called Sophie’s father that. She said it as if it tasted bad. “How’d you like the game?” The last time they had seen each other was at the Harvard halftime in October when they were stretching their legs under the bleachers. Gus, with his children, said, “Good day to you,” as if he saw his sister every day, which he didn’t, each walking in the opposite direction. The grown-ups talked about the sports the boys were playing. “Churly’s on the debating team,” said Uncle Charles. He was the oldest Vincent son. “I certainly am,” said Churly, the only one of the children taking up a seat. “Anyone want to argue?” Under a lamp was a picture of Ma before she married. She was holding a plume of roses at her waist; her chin to the side, her dark eyes and dark hair swept up. The grown-ups were talking about the woman next door who died after she cut her finger on a splinter from a Christmas-tree ornament. Ma said how appropriate it was that a pheasant appeared out of the woods at Mr. Granger’s funeral. “But she was the one who loved to shoot,” said Aunt Fran with her Adam’s apple thrust out. “Terrible story about their son,” said Sophie’s mother. Her thumb rubbed her knuckle while the conversation continued. They talked without looking at each other, their chairs all facing in. Aunt Fran addressed her remarks to the one spot in the room where no one sat or stood. She and Uncle Thomas were having a pond dug in the back of their house and by mistake the workers had struck a pipe. Aunt Fran and Uncle Thomas told the story at the same time, interrupting each other.

58

Susan Minot, “Thanksgiving Day”
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Uncle Charles said, “It’s like a zoo at my house.” When he made jokes, he barely cracked a smile. Bit was lucky, she got to have a pony and three dogs and sheep. “Our sheep just stand there in the rain,” said Churly. Uncle Charles said the chickens hated him. And now they had a turtle, with a chain attached to the loop on its shell so it wouldn’t run away. It chooses to sleep where I’m accustomed to park my car,” he said. “A what?” said Pa, angry at having to strain. “Turtle,” yelled Uncle Charles. “Where’s our turtle soup then?” said Pa and some of the family chuckled. Sophie didn’t think he was kidding. He sat there still as a statue, his hands gripping the mahogany claws of his chair. Caitlin was up at the bar with Churly, pouring a ginger ale. Sophie got Bit and Delilah to go to the owl room, and the boys followed. There were glass owls and a hollow brass owl with a hinge so its head lifted off, two china owls with flowers, owl engravings, and a needlepoint of an owl that Caitlin had done from a kit. They had a game they played by closing their eyes and then going to nose to nose with someone and saying, “One, two, three, Owl-lee, Owl-lee,” and opening their eye, imitating an owl. Delilah and Sherman were playing it. Stretching down the corridor were group silhouettes of Vincent ancestors, black cutouts of children with ringlets, holding hoops, or men with bearded profiles. There were Pa’s team pictures from Noble & Greenough and his class pictures from Harvard. All the faces in the photographs had straight noses and white eyeballs and hide-grey complexions. In one, Pa lay on his side, lengthwise, in front of everyone else. Sophie tried to match him with the Pa back in the living room. You never saw Pa smile, that was common knowledge, except in one picture that Vincents had at home, of Pa with the Senator. His job had been to write speeches, and according to Sophie’s mother, he got a dollar a year to do it. In the picture, his grin is closed, like a clown’s. There was Pa in an army uniform—but Sophie knew that story of that. Pa missed the war, sailing to France on the exact day Armistice was declared. At the end of the hall, Sophie came to the picture of Pa’s brother, the famous doctor who discovered the cure for a disease whose name she could never remember. He had died a long time ago. When they drifted back into the living room, Uncle Charles was recalling when the lawn froze and they could skate over the sunken garden. “Not true,” said Pa, gurgling. “My lawn was never an ice rink.” “Sure,” said Sophie’s father. “Everything was frozen solid.” Pa said, “Never happened in my lifetime.” 59

Granpa?” shouted Aunt Fran. they had everything on them already. The towels she used were so stiff it was like drying your hands with paper. she stood for a moment in the hall between the Chinese portraits and listened to the clatter behind her. Sophie went up close to study one Indian picture—you could see the tongue of the snake and the man’s pink fingernails and even the horse’s white eyelashes. her mother’s voice saying something quietly to the little table. the knives clinking on the china.” demanded Pa. A drawer in one of the side tables was always kept pulled out — a red velvet slab with rows of arrowheads. With her perfectly calm face.” said Ma. and Caitlin and Churly. “What’d he steal?” Ma said. ma said. “They’ve started reshingling the house in North Eden. This year Sophie got to sit at the big table. Bit said she was glad to stay at the children’s table where she wouldn’t have to use good manners. “Yummy. “Ma. “I do remember it. Half-frowning.” His voice was squeaky. You must be losing your memory. Aunt Fran’s hooting. bringing it up with a flourish.” he said. “Who is?” asked Churly. “He’s a crook. Pa looked down at the food in front of him. Everyone at the table used loud voices—family behavior. She swing a silver ladle over his turkey. Sophie came back as Aunt Fran was saying.” She looked at Pa and said gently. In the bathroom was the same brown soap shaped like an owl.” The children’s table was wobbly. Sophie could tell Uncle Charles from his whine.” “Nonsense.” said Ma to her knife and fork.” “Now stop that. even creamed onions. Ma said they used one cat hair at a time to paint it.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Uncle Charles clamped on his pipe with his back teeth. “I never went anywhere. “It was when you were away. lifting her chin. too. yes. he regarded her. the hollow echo from the high ceilings.” The Vincents went to Maine every summer. “Never mind. ones that Pa had found on Boxed Island in 60 . whether you liked them or not.” she said in a booming voice. brightening. Pa. When Sophie went out to go to the bathroom. When the plates came. and her grandmother was the slow voice enunciating each word the way old people do because they’re tired of talking. “Gravy. So Churly asked. “Oh yes it did.

” said Sophie’s mother. Ma said. Aunt Fran said. Mrs. Sometimes Ma and Pa were like ghosts. . “Don’t touch that. Down at her end. “How’d it burn down?” Churly asked eagerly. the old house. as white as the rest of his face.” “It must have been quite a view.” said Ma. “You finish. Ma pulled some empty dishes over the tablecloth toward her. “We tore down the piazza. or snapping out a light and vanishing. 61 .” said Pa. He didn’t look at her. Lothrop said they’d have the Herreshoff teas on that porch. Sophie felt herself flushing. Uncle Thomas shouted.” Her napkin bloomed like a white flower when she let go of it on the table. or at the platter. then glanced over at the table to see what else to take. Sophie was surprised he was listening. In the daytime.Susan Minot.” Pa glared at her. “It—was—torn—down. yes. One time.” said his wife.” Ma’s nod was meant to end the discussion. His bottom lip drooped.” said Ma. You played Kick-the-Can on the sloping lawn after supper. When Churly was it. they saw Ma on her balcony with her hair all down.” “The correct term. falling down her arms like a white shawl. “That’s right. “It’s where you’d sit with your beaux.” “Yes. His long neck went up and his ears stuck out. Sophie’s mother pushed her chair back. “is piazza.” she said. Sophie would let herself get caught. Pa said. playing spy.” His shoulders were round and low and his chin hovered inches above his plate. Aunt Fran was wondering wehtehr there didn’t used to be a porch around the house at Cassett Harbor. She stood up and carried some things to the sideboard. . Ma’s hair would be twisted into a knot at the back. but stared at the middle of the table. “Thanksgiving Day” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Maine. “I thought it burned down. “The remainder was torn down. You’d see them pass behind a window in their house. “Let me . “I think you’re done. “How’d it burn down?” Churly asked.” he said. She piled small dishes on the turkey platter in front of Pa and went to lift it.

. Sophie and Caitlin watched Churly tell Livia. “What kind of pies do we have?” Each year they had the same: apple. .” The little table fell quiet. .” Aunt Ginny asked. He’ll be wanting his . No one could hear what she said. Pa. “Bunch of idiots. Ma sat back down. Her gaze drifted off and she turned her mammoth back to them. a silver bowl holding light-brown-sugar rocks.” “Damn Livia’s pies. . Pa growled. Newspaper. Going to knock it off like a bullhorn. Ma and Aunt Fran came down from upstairs where they had taken Pa. . “Why won’t you go shoot yourself?” In the kitchen. On the tray were miniature blue enamel cups. “Everything all right?” bellowed Uncle Thomas. Ma went down and whispered into Pa’s ear. and chocolate mints in tissue paper envelopes. .” He didn’t move. She fidgeted with pans and finally set them in the sink. “Only occasionally you will disguise a voyage and cancel all that crap. His wife scowled at him. “I’ve been eating goddamned custard all Monday. slow voice. . kept on sudsing things in the sink. Caitlin and Sophie started to take their plates. but Pa answered in a loud.” said Pa. then cigar.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “I’m not through.” “No dessert for you. mince and pumpkin. As they ate their pie and ice cream. Churly?” Churly nodded. She was frowning. “Now. “I wouldn’t set foot in there to piss. 62 . “I want to pick. “We’ve got Livia’s pies coming. Pa?” Uncle Charles asked. .” he said.” said Pa Vincent. “Your grandfather just needs his nap.” said Aunt Fran.” said Livia. . “You ready for dessert there.” but they couldn’t hear what. . the grown-ups were serving coffee. Everyone began saying which kind they wanted. In the living room. Pa kept mumbling. . then looked to see what Pa would do next. but their mother gave them a stay-put look and made several quick trips through the swinging door.” Uncle Thomas looked perky. She studied the children’s faces to see if they understood this. “I’m all ready for dessert.

Ma stared at it. “Was Pa mad at us?” she asked. The chair went on rocking. So she reached out one lavender shoe to still it. “Fine. “Fine. all at once aware of himself. waiting for something to happen. stiff.” He jiggled the change in his pocket. Sherman was in the rocking chair at her feet. super. Caitlin glared at her. “but you arranged it so beautifully. Delilah. dear. half-laughing. Her expression was matter-of-fact.” He was over by the window. surprised. “Yes.” she said. “he wasn’t mad at me. Uncle Thomas said. “Hah. Rocking empty. and did just that. “Actually. “Thanksgiving Day” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Ma took her place on the sofa. Sophie looked up at Churly and noticed his ear sticking out and all his features flattened out. Ma sipped at the rim of her cup. Looking at Delilah.” Rosie handed her a cup with a tiny gold spoon placed on the saucer. He got up.” Sophie’s father said. Gus Vincent touched the curtain with one finger and gazed out.” Aunt Ginny looked up. 63 . “You can thank Livia for that. her arm draped across her mother’s knee.” Ma set down her saucer. and scurried himself to his mother. “Super meal. felt brave. it meant something to her.” she said. Rosie busily poured more coffee. Delou.” The grown-ups exchanged looks and for a moment there was no sound except for Sherman creaking in the rocking chair at Ma’s feet. “The turkey was delicious.Susan Minot.” Ma folded her hands. Virginia. “He didn’t know what he was saying. lurching to and fro. I don’t think I’ve ever arranged anything beautifully in my whole life. “Oh shut up. “He was not mad at you.” said Rosie Vincent. Ma said.” said Uncle Charles. into a mask.” shouted Uncle Charles.

assimilated. Thanksgiving. The daughter of Cuban exiles. are immigrants—or children of immigrants—who live between the culture of their homeland and the culture of their new home to which they are. Tansgibin was celebrated. yucca. we went about transforming it with the religious zeal of people finding themselves suddenly. he’s in all the sauces”) in terms of food. In the early years. we filled our plates with food that was strenuously—almost comically—Cuban: black beans and rice. Today you can buy a strange chemical syrup in bottles labeled “mojo”—of which the best one can say about it is that it’s another sad example of the banality of exile. 1970) shows the way a Cuban immigrant family dealt with this cultural “doubleness” around the peculiarly American holiday of Thanksgiving. and has worked as a columnist for the Miami Herald. 64 . And if we were a bit embarrassed at not having invented it ourselves. At the center of the party was. in our own small context. the men would drive out to Homestead to pick out a live pig for slaughter. seemed the perfect holiday. The day before. and a 50-pound pig roasting in the backyard seemed perfectly natural. split down its rib cage (a process I never witnessed). and heirs to a long kitchen tradition that expressed everything from annoyance (“You’re making my life a yogurt”) to ubiquity (“Like parsley. as were all major holidays in Cuba. fried plantains. with roasted pork.Celebrations of Thanksgiving: Cuban Seasonings ANA MENÉNDEZ Many Americans today. written in 2004 by Los Angeles-born Cuban American novelist and journalist Ana Menéndez (b. of course. The marinade. secure in our culinary superiority. the mojo. the pig. This story. This was a time when the family was closest and largest. earning a Pushcart Prize. and laid out over newspapers and a large tray in the kitchen to marinate. when my parents still dreamt of returning to their island. sooner or later. Back then we didn’t know enough to know we were being ethnic. no less than in times past. What was the original attitude of the Menéndez family toward Thanksgiving? Why did they strive to transform the holiday and give it a Cuban flavor? How successful was this effort at transformation? What happened over the years to this family and its Thanksgiving traditions—and was it inevitable? What do you make of the author’s prayer at the last Thanksgiving she recounts? Has the holiday served to make these immigrants more American? More grateful? We called it “Tansgibin” and to celebrate. still bound by common memories and hopes. This was simply the kind of food we ate. woefully. Menéndez has written four books of fiction. much less trendy. was the most important part of the equation and families lived and died by their mojo recipes. far from home. The pig was then cleaned.

I had not yet discovered M. the night-long mojo bath. As a girl. And it makes up in exuberance for whatever it lacks in subtlety. When this didn’t seem quite enough to rid the poor turkey of its inherent blandness. But a wall had been breached. The problem was eventually resolved by treating the bird exactly as if it were a pig. perhaps dried oregano. several heads of garlic are peeled and then mashed with a little salt (to keep them from jumping) in a large mortar. The men—shirtless and drinking beer as they told jokes and reminisced—tended to the roasting from morning until evening. the men would dig a hole in the backyard. but rather a place of warmth and sustenance.K. Fisher. I myself introduced a stuffing recipe (albeit composed of figs and prosciutto) that to my current dismay became a classic. It was pronounced inedible. I was so addicted to the salty mojo that I often would sneak down to the kitchen and scoop up dripping fingerfuls of the stuff from the wells of the pig’s open ribs. In went the garlic and the sour orange. it was prefigured by food. This is blended well and the whole thing poured over the pig. and set the pig to roasting over a grill. And besides. at any rate. Cranberry sauce followed. Soon began the rumblings about pork being unhealthy. 65 . but in the Cuba of my parents’ memories. an American food writer. there was much confusion over how to cook this new beast. I don’t remember when exactly. someone 23 Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908–92). the pig was covered and left on the table all night. But change. The following day.23 and at any rate. and finally through misunderstandings and the pressures of a life that became more hurried and graceless by the day. If one is marinating pork. came gradually. covered with banana leaves. In the years before concern over food poisoning. I had already begun to develop an annoyance with my family’s narrow culinary tastes—which to me signaled a more generalized lack of curiosity about the wider world.Ana Menéndez . the garlic goes into a blender along with fresh sour orange juice. It had every aspect of ritual. warm days in Miami. as well as dress rehearsal—for come Christmas Eve the whole thing would be repeated with far more ceremony and purpose. I do recall that at the time. and therefore large quantities are called for.F. as I remember all women’s efforts in the kitchen. Cumin might be added. always inevitable and irrevocable. The rest of the meal was up to the women and the day was a whirlwind of pots and rice makers and sizzling sazón (seasonings) and smells and the “hish hish” of the pressure cooker hurrying along its charge of black beans. Those were happy days. and later foil. And so came the turkey. and perhaps I’m one of the few women of my generation who does not consider the kitchen a chore or an affront to my independence. A whole pig seemed suddenly an embarrassing extravagance. I remember that soon after that first turkey appeared. It was a happy. light a fire. I wasn’t old enough to understand that a hungry man has no reason to play games with his palate. the family was shrinking: first through sicknesses and then death. colored as they were by the brief honeyed hour of childhood. First. and then of yucca. I had been mildly relieved. bantering gathering. These were long. One year someone brought a pumpkin pie from Publix. “Celebrations of Thanksgiving: Cuban Seasonings” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Mojo is not complicated to make. As usual. and when I look back on them now I have a strange sense of them having taken place not in America. a desperate and futile grasping after the old days.

Disaster. I realized. “You have nothing to be thankful for?” my mother asked.” my father said through clenched teeth. my parents. Sometimes it is another occasion to see the larger family. angrily. My sister still claims it as her favorite holiday. But somehow I’ve always found myself in the city on Thanksgiving. that it tasted just like roast pork. my father refused. I’ve only been back for one or two Christmas Eve celebrations. The celebrations wax and wane. for the first time in memory.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ came up with the idea of poking small incisions right into the meat and stuffing them with slivered garlic. and her sister. My sister was in Aruba with her boyfriend. We gathered. was mostly averted. None of us knew it then. I do remember that the rest of the meal passed in awkward silence. It was on one such Thanksgiving that I overheard my father’s mother ask him. and I immediately put the line into a story. But the turkey was delicious. writing what would become my first book. “Plenty. my mother is expecting me in Cárdenas . a final act of forgetting which my father could not stomach on Tansgibin. In the silence. When it came time to say grace. Occasionally we can still muster large crowds. but she had already begun the long decline into the forgetting illness that would eventually finish tearing apart the family as she babbled quietly in a corner. though we haven’t had pork for years now. My husband was in Iraq. Probably I expressed an ironic thanks for family and asked that there be peace in the world. as was her sister’s. and also to witness the ravages. even if the past few years she’s used the occasion to leave town. in this way. And to compliment the cook one said. 66 . “Tell me. My grandmother’s husband was dead. not at a massive folding table in the porch. “Is this Tia Cuca’s house? I have to return home. have we been in this country a long time?” I was in the library of my parents’ home. my mother’s mother. The old women eyed each other nervously. with a pang of nostalgia that surprises me still. covering the war. .” I moved away from Miami almost 10 years ago. There was war within and war without and there is a lot about that Thanksgiving that I wish could have been different. And my other grandmother had been temporarily shut in a nursing home. but around the regular dining room table at my parent’s home. .” This last Thanksgiving was the smallest on record. the one agnostic among us began to pray. It was just me. I’ve forgotten the smirking details. “This tastes just like roast pork.

Prosperity

How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
In this selection from her partially autobiographical and partially fictional account of “New England in its seed-bed,” before the hot suns of modern progress had developed its sprouting germs” (published in 1869), Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–96), author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), remembers, perhaps with some embellishment, what Thanksgiving was like in her childhood, when the family gathered in the home of her grandmother for “the king and high priest of all festivals.” The general scene—like Stowe’s account itself—is filled with energy, exuberance, merriment, joy, and good will, as the family’s prosperity and abundance of food and good cheer are shared with all around. Collecting concrete examples from the story, can you say what kind of prosperity is to be found at Oldtown? Is Thanksgiving in Oldtown a departure from, or a fulfillment of, the religious teachings and political aspirations of their Puritan ancestors: “to form a state of society of such equality of conditions, and to make the means of securing the goods of life so free to all, that everybody should find abundant employment for his faculties in a prosperous seeking of his fortunes”? How does the combination of abundance of food, charitable concern for the needy, and lively music and dancing contribute to the creation of community? Is there anything spiritual or religious in the Oldtown Thanksgiving? On the whole, about this time in our life we were a reasonably happy set of children. The Thanksgiving festival of that year is particularly impressed on my mind as a white day. Are there any of my readers who do not know what Thanksgiving day is to a child? Then let them go back with me, and recall the image of it as we kept it in Oldtown. People have often supposed, because the Puritans founded a society where there were no professed public amusements, that therefore there was no fun going on in the ancient land of Israel, and that there were no cakes and ale, because they were virtuous. They were never more mistaken in their lives. There was an abundance of sober, wellconsidered merriment; and the hinges of life were well oiled with that sort of secret humor which to this day gives the raciness to real Yankee wit. Besides this, we must remember that life itself is the greatest possible amusement to people who really believe they can do much with it,—who have that intense sense of what can be brought to pass by human effort, that was characteristic of the New England colonies. To such it is not exactly proper to say that life is an amusement, but it certainly is an engrossing interest that takes the place of all amusements. . . . Our good Puritan fathers intended to form a state of society of such equality of conditions, and to make the means of securing the goods of life so free to all, that everybody should find abundant employment for his faculties in a prosperous seeking of 68

Harriet Beecher Stowe, “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown”
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his fortunes. Hence, while they forbade theatres, operas, and dances, they made a state of unparalleled peace and prosperity, where one could go to sleep at all hours of day or night with the house door wide open, without bolt or bar, yet without apprehension of any to molest or make afraid. There were, however, some few national fêtes:—Election day, when the Governor took his seat with pomp and rejoicing, and all the housewives outdid themselves in election cake, and one or two training days, when all the children were refreshed, and our military ardor quickened, by the roll of drums, and the flash of steel bayonets, and marchings and evolutions,—sometimes ending in that sublimest of military operations, a sham fight, in which nobody was killed. The Fourth of July took high rank, after the Declaration of Independence; but the king and high priest of all festivals was the autumn Thanksgiving. When the apples were all gathered and the cider was all made, and the yellow pumpkins were rolled in from many a hill in billows of gold, and the corn was husked, and the labors of the season were done, and the warm, late days of Indian Summer came in, dreamy and calm and still, with just frost enough to crisp the ground of a morning, but with warm trances of benignant, sunny hours at noon, there came over the community a sort of genial repose of spirit,—a sense of something accomplished, and of a new golden mark made in advance on the calendar of life,—and the deacon began to say to the minister, of a Sunday, “I suppose it’s about time for the Thanksgiving proclamation. . . .” We also felt its approach in all departments of the household,—the conversation at this time beginning to turn on high and solemn culinary mysteries and receipts of wondrous power and virtue. New modes of elaborating squash pies and quince tarts were now ofttimes carefully discussed at the evening fireside by Aunt Lois and Aunt Keziah, and notes seriously compared with the experiences of certain other Aunties of high repute in such matters. I noticed that on these occasions their voices often fell into mysterious whispers, and that receipts of especial power and sanctity were communicated in tones so low as entirely to escape the vulgar ear. I still remember the solemn shake of the head with which my Aunt Lois conveyed to Miss Mehitable Rossiter the critical properties of mace, in relation to its powers of producing in corn fritters a suggestive resemblance to oysters. As ours was an oyster-getting district, and as that charming bivalve was perfectly easy to come at, the interest of such an imitation can be accounted for only by the fondness of the human mind for works of art. For as much as a week beforehand, “we children” were employed in chopping mince for pies to a most wearisome fineness, and in pounding cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in a great lignum-vitæ mortar; and the sound of this pounding and chopping re-echoed through all the rafters of the old house with a hearty and vigorous cheer, most refreshing to our spirits. In those days there were none of the thousand ameliorations of the labors of housekeeping which have since arisen,—no ground and prepared spices and sweet herbs; everything came into our hands in the rough, and in bulk, and the reducing of it into a 69

cutting of citron. There were signs of richness all around us. slicing of candied orange-peel. announced that the washing was to be got out of the way before daylight. . and the thunder of the poundingbarrel. and when the minister read therefrom. and walked to church with alacrity. came at last the naming of the eventful day. the jolly old oven roared and crackled in great volcanic billows of flame. a preternatural stir below stairs. during all these days. his great heart being once warmed up. The cheering anticipation sustained us through what seemed to us the long waste of the sermon and prayers. and by the broad seal of the State affixed thereto. till butteries and dressers and shelves and pantries were literally crowded with a jostling abundance. by reason of its mighty size. In the very watches of the night preceding Monday morning. like a ray of sunshine through a garden of flowers. Thanksgiving now was dawning! We children poked one another. the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. after the Governor’s proclamation had been read. as the congregation broke up and dispersed. Then. filled with gorgeous and vague expectations. and fairly giggled with unreproved delight as we listened to the crackle of the slowly unfolding document. so as to give “ample scope and room enough” for the more pleasing duties of the season. after a solemn enumeration of the benefits which the Commonwealth had that year received at the hands of Divine Providence. That great sheet of paper impressed us as something supernatural. Yet all these were only dawnings and intimations of what was coming during the week of real preparation.—the whole house rippled with a general movement of complacency. “By his Excellency. In the corner of the great kitchen. the imposing heraldic words.” And then. and. which we were required to wash and dry and pound and sift. before it became fit for use. Even the very salt that we used in cooking was rock-salt. . And now came on the week in earnest. and a satisfied smile of pleased expectation might be seen gleaming on the faces of all the young people. which went in raw and came out cooked.—stoning of raisins. and then. at the end of all.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ state for use was deemed one of the appropriate labors of childhood. . but those that were supposed to usher in the great Thanksgiving festival were always entered into with enthusiasm. snapping and gurgling as if the old fellow entered with joyful sympathy into the frolic of the hour. he brooded over successive generations of pies and cakes. 70 . The glories of that proclamation! We knew beforehand the Sunday it was to be read. and when at last the auspicious moment approached. “God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. all went their several ways with schemes of mirth and feasting in their heads.—when the last quaver of the last hymn had died out.” our mirth was with difficulty repressed by admonitory glances from our sympathetic elders. a Proclamation. At other times of the year we sometimes murmured at these labors.

” “How many times must I tell you. and the pies baked at Thanksgiving often came out fresh and good with the violets of April.” Besides these offerings to the poor. were at a height above any ordinary state of mind. and we certainly did our part to keep the ball rolling. Moreover. . . And it was understood that in the evening the minister and his lady would look in upon us. with Deacon Badger’s dutiful compliments. and old Obscue and his wife. because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works. for the poor shall never cease from out of the land. frozen solid. that everybody should be in a hurry.— they moved about the house rapt in a species of prophetic frenzy. whom a full experience of her bountiful habits led to expect something at her hand at this time of the year. as I have before remarked. preparatory to the festival. bore down upon her with such strings of quotations from the Old Testament that she was utterly routed. roosting around our doors. “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ A great cold northern chamber. to eat the Thanksgiving dinner. were gone through with. the handsomest turkey of the flock was sent. and thus well preserved in their icy fetters. to read your Bible?” was my grandmother’s rejoinder.Harriet Beecher Stowe.—so at least we children understood it. . all the female part of my grandmother’s household. . my grandmother’s kitchen at this time began to be haunted by those occasional hangers-on and retainers. generally received a seed-cake and a word of acknowledgment from the minister’s lady. dressed in first-rate style. was fitted up to be the storehouse of these surplus treasures. from thy poor brother. . All the tribes of the Badger family were to come back home to the old house. “Now. when all the chopping and pounding and baking and brewing. to the minister. where the sun never shone. That’s just mother’s way. nor shut thy hand. who were happy to accompany black Cæsar on this errand. she always keeps a whole generation at her heels. During this eventful preparation week. they formed a great repository for all the winter months. at last. and the whole tribe down. together with some of the select aristocracy of Oldtown. Well. . Thou shalt surely give him. the eventful day dawned. Lois. of uncertain fortunes. Aunt Lois never had a hearty conviction of the propriety of these arrangements. . till we give ’em something. who had a prodigious verbal memory.” says my Aunt Lois. and thy heart shall not be grieved when thou givest to him. 71 . thou shalt not harden thy heart. “I s’pose we’ve got to have Betty Poganut and Sally Wonsamug. and everything in the house should be turned bottom upwards with enthusiasm. There. and ice and frost reigned with undisputed sway. but my grandmother. . and where in winter the snow sifted in at the window-cracks. . It seemed to be considered a necessary feature of such festivals. and we children. with all the relations of every degree. and loud over the sound of pounding and chopping in the kitchen could be heard the voice of her quotations: “If there be among you a poor man in any of the gates of the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

nor that Uncle Bill should start a full-fledged romp among the girls and children. which had been heaped up unsparingly since morning. and backed up the devotional habits of good housewives. as all the aunties and uncles and cousins came pouring in. in a somewhat more secular vein of thought than was deemed exactly appropriate to the Lord’s day. and with bits of home news. which might possibly be overdoing in the ovens at home. of serious and discreet demeanor. while the dinner was being set on the long table in the neighboring kitchen. when the good man got carried away by the enthusiasm of his subject to extend these exercises beyond a certain length. looking at one another’s bonnets and dresses. 72 . whom the Cambridge college authorities released. and kindly neighborhood gossip. The best room on this occasion was thrown wide open. that. where a family never sits. especially with the young cousins of the feminine gender. that all the nice old aunties should bring their knitting-work and sit gently trotting their needles around the fire. if a God-fearing house-matron. But it is to be confessed. assisted at this operation. it was not held to be a violation of the precept. and mingling their comments on the morning sermon with various opinions on the new millinery outfits. as they did all the other youngsters of the land for Thanksgiving day. every year. according to the terms of the proclamation. away at the temple of the Lord. so the old fellow generally managed to bring things out exactly right. by the capital care which he took of whatever was committed to his capacious bosom. having a tender reference to the turkeys and chickens and chicken pies. made a breezy stir among them all. and the state of things in society generally. this marvel was effected in our best room. in which the minister was expected to express his views freely concerning the politics of the country. and from listening to the Thanksgiving sermon. and blushed redder than his own fires. But your old brick oven was a true Puritan institution. everything was so contrived that not a soul in the house should be kept from the morning service of Thanksgiving in the church. and which therefore has not in its walls one particle of the genial vitality which comes from the in-dwelling of human beings. and its habitual coldness had been warmed by the burning down of a great stack of hickory logs. Uncle Bill. What chitterings and chatterings there were all over the house. exchanged between good wives. taking off their things. Although all servile labor and vain recreation on this day were by law forbidden. should come home and find her pie-crust either burned or underdone by his over or under zeal. But on Thanksgiving day. A truly well-bred oven would have been ashamed of himself all his days. at least.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Great as the preparations were for the dinner. anxious glances. Certain of the good elderly female relatives. we children rushed home to see the great feast of the year spread. It takes some hours to get a room warn. When sermons and prayers were all over. sometimes indicated a weakness of the flesh.

and closed all with the application of a time-honored text. and then the endless array of pies. going over and touching upon the various events which had happened.” This we all united in singing to the venerable tune of St. and even we children turned from the profusion offered to us. “He bids us make his glories known. When all was over. and which. who united in it with even more zeal than the younger part of the community. Which in our younger years we saw. an air which. and gave a tribute to his memory. And they again to theirs. “Let children hear the mighty deeds Which God performed of old. “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ But who shall do justice to the dinner. my grandfather rose at the head of the table. That they may ne’er forget his works. and describe the turkey. and a fine venerable picture he made as he stood there. He spoke of my father’s death. and wondered what was the matter that we could eat no more. and all showed that cheerful ability to despatch the provisions which was the ruling spirit of the hour. with all that endless variety of vegetables which the American soil and climate have contributed to the table. and chicken pies. while. His works of power and grace. That generations yet unborn May teach them to their heirs. he called their attention to a recital of the mercies of God in his dealings with their family. calm face. and chickens. till human nature was actually bewildered and overpowered by the tempting variety. by its multiplicity of quavers and inflections gave the greatest possible scope to the cracked and trembling voices of the ancients. “Thus shall they learn in God alone Their hope securely stands. expressing the hope that as years passed by we might “so number our days as to apply our hearts unto wisdom”. “Our lips shall tell them to our sons. his silver hair flowing in curls down each side of his clear. in conformity to the old Puritan custom. But practise his commands. and then he gave out that psalm which in those days might be called the national hymn of the Puritans. without regard to the French doctrine of courses. 73 . And we’ll convey his wonders down Through every rising race. It was a sort of family history. After the meat came the plum-puddings.Harriet Beecher Stowe. Martin’s. the reader will perceive. And which our fathers told. were all piled together in jovial abundance upon the smoking board? There was much carving and laughing and talking and eating.

to relieve ourselves with a game of “blind-man’s-buff. and with his spindleshanks trimly incased in the smoothest of black silk stockings. as he sat with his eyes closed. stationing himself a little in the rear of my Uncle Fliakim. and the elder women began to blush and 1 A small New World blackbird. if they or their parents could not recall a time in New England when in all the large towns dancing assemblies used to be statedly held. beating time with head and hand. weird voice that he must have learned from the wintry winds that usually piped around the corners of the old house. in that high. must have perceived the exquisite satisfaction which he derived from this mode of expressing himself. crept gradually upwards among the elders. outdid himself on this occasion in singing counter. her broad. with such a killing facility that all the younger part of the audience were nearly dead with suppressed laughter. began to tell one another how they had danced with their sweethearts in good old days gone by. we youngsters. But any one who looked at him. Aunt Lois. 74 . in short. I know not. till the elders. Of course the dances in those days were of a strictly moral nature. . who never shut her eyes a moment on any occasion. discerned this from a distant part of the room. as the wave of joyousness crept up higher and higher round her. who stood keeping time with their heads and feet. .” while the elderly women washed up the dishes and got the house in order. looking for all the world just like an alert and spirited black cricket. and exploded my grandmother like a full-charged arsenal of indignation. taking advantage of the fact that the eyes of all his elders were devotionally closed. under the supervision of Uncle Bill. and walked over the farm and talked of the crops. And now. respectable old church-members brought their children. which. and the corners of her own mouth were observed to twitch in such a suspicious manner that the whole moral force of her admonition was destroyed. As it was. and stayed to watch an amusement in which they no longer actively partook. She might as well have shaken it at a bobolink1 tilting on a clover-top. No one looked on with a more placid and patronizing smile than Dr. tumbled into the best room. she stood. performed an exact imitation of his counter. the presence of the minister and his lady was held not to be in the slightest degree incompatible with this amusement. and. at which the minister and his lady. In fact. The very thought of one of the round dances of modern times would have sent Lady Lothrop behind her big fan in helpless confusion. furbished up in a new crisp black suit. at this time.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Uncle Fliakim Sheril. . it is a certain fact that at Oldtown. the dinner being cleared away. Lothrop and his lady. . I much regret to be obliged to state that my graceless Uncle Bill. and in vain endeavored to stop it by vigorously shaking her head at the offender. always gave an approving attendance. commencing first with the children and young people. and the men-folks went out to the barn to look at the cattle. . I appeal to many of my readers. pleased face radiant with satisfaction. Uncle Bill was Aunt Lois’s weak point. with every limb of his body. and where all the decorous. already excited to a tumult of laughter. . Whenever or wherever it was that the idea of the sinfulness of dancing arose in New England. though never uniting in the dance. as one after another began joining the exercise.

she “put through” with a sturdy energy befitting a daughter of the Puritans. “they’re all at it so hearty.Harriet Beecher Stowe. I don’t see why I shouldn’t try it myself. amid screams of laughter from all the younger members of the company. But I assure you my grandmother was not a woman to be laughed at. Readytohalt all dance together in the Pilgrim’s Progress?”—and the minister in his ample flowing wig. for what wellregulated village would think of carrying festivities beyond that hour? And so ended our Thanksgiving at Oldtown. for whatever she once set on foot. the whole scene dissolved and melted. “Didn’t Mr. “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ bridle. and boast of steps that they could take in their youth till the music finally subdued them. and into the dance they went. “Why shouldn’t I dance?” she said.” And into the Virginia reel she went. well!” quoth my grandmother. 75 . Despondency and Miss Muchafraid and Mr. gave to my grandmother a solemn twinkle of approbation. As nine o’clock struck. and my lady in her stiff brocade. when she arrived red and resplendent at the bottom of the set. “Well.

the “prosperity” in this tale exists mainly as a hope—in keeping with the root meaning of the word. if you love me. Mum’s the worse. “Don’t make a noise. insistently. “But I say you must. And don’t make any noise. Our fortune’s made if you will only hurry!” Nella Tichborne was now wide awake.” 76 . Can you imagine what the experience must have been like for these three? What enabled them to bear the brutal conditions? For what purpose do they want to find gold? What would be their ultimate “prosperity”? What is the significance of the uninvited guest who suddenly appears at the end? What makes this story a tale of “true Thanksgiving”? She woke up with a start.” “But I don’t want to get up. as evidenced in his well-known novels like Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906). Nella and George Tichborne have left their home “down in the States” and come to the Yukon territory in search of gold. Her husband was speaking in a low voice. rumored to be a place where anyone might strike it rich. an Indian woman. Jack London (1876–1916) participated in the Yukon Gold Rush of 1897. striving vainly to lapse back into the comfortable drowse. Like them. Get up Nella. Dress at once.” he added. and she thrust her feet out with a shiver upon the cold cabin floor.Thanksgiving on Slav Creek JACK LONDON In contrast to the previous story. and dress. do hurry. “What is it?” she asked. as well as in his stories like “To Build a Fire” (1908) and “Thanksgiving on Slav Creek” (1900). But the only gold he brought back was an experience that he would mine for gems of literature for much of his writing life. Quick. “What is it?” “’Ssh!” he sibilated. they brave the darkness and the freezing cold to beat out “the stampede” of fortune hunters rushing to stake a prospecting claim on Slav Creek. all of which draw on the places he saw and the people he met during those simultaneously hope-filled and brutal times in the Northwestern Yukon territory. what with the suppressed excitement in his whispers. “Get up. (Latin: pro + spes. Accompanied by Ikeesh. In this story.” “But what is it?” “Be quiet. Hurry! Oh.” she objected. but come along. Get up. “Come. hope) “according to hope”—as the main characters hopefully prospect (“look forward”: pro + specere) for gold. petulantly.

77 . Nella—” “Yes?” “Do be quick. There’s a stampede on. I won’t move an inch until you tell me. “Oh. Tichborne?” she asked. Cabin windows were flashing into light. George. She would like to be in on it. “Oh.” He stepped across to the other end of the cabin where a blanket partitioned the room into two. the time. in which she was entertaining George Tichborne and Nella. Nella. down the hill into sleeping Dawson. And did you remember the baking-powder?” They crunched rapidly through the snow. Nobody knows. and called Ikeesh. Here the trail dropped abruptly over the bank and crossed the packed ice of the Yukon to the farther shore.” “And the gold-pan? And the axe?” “Yes. The man groaned. after all. the precious time. The dogs were beginning to howl and the doors to slam. “What um matter. George! Have you got the frying-pan?” “Yes. Hurry up and dress.” “What um time?” “Twelve o’clock. The frost is sixty-five below. though this was her cabin. The Indian woman was already awake. By the time they reached the Barracks the whole town was aroar behind them.Jack London. But Dawson was not sleeping. Light stampeding packs were on their backs. “’Ssh!” he cautioned. no. “Thanksgiving at Slav Creek” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Now.” She capped the ultimatum by sitting back on the edge of the bunk. and the barest necessaries for a camp in the polar frost. you’re losing! Didn’t I tell you our fortune was made? Do hurry! It’s a tip. Stampede. Rich creek.” Five minutes later the cabin door opened and they passed out. I know. and ever and anon the mumble of voices drifted to them through the darkness. containing a fur robe each. Her husband was up on his Bonanza claim. ’Ssh! Put on warm clothes. Midnight. And oh. It’s the coldest yet. yes. A secret. Don’t make any noise. Plenty gold. “Um Nella sick?” “No. I’m going to call Ikeesh.

But just then a flaming ribbon rose athwart the sky. “We will never make it! No. straining mightily with the endeavor. These were followed by others. Brrr!” Hardly were the trio reunited when two black forms plumped into their midst from above. one by one. At last.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ George Tichborne swore softly and to himself. And now those behind began to pass them. Nella! Hurry!” He seized her hand and strove to drag her along. “Are you hurt? Where are you?” “All right! Coming!” she answered. and falling over the wildly piled ice. but the majority scorning the conventional locomotion and peregrinating along on every other portion of their anatomies but their feet. “Oh. Nella looked back at the fifty stampeders behind and laughed halfhysterically. with Nella and Ikeesh. cheerily. stumbling. and as far as they could see it was cumbered with shadowy forms. the very first. in desperation. “Only the snow’s all down my back and melting. The trail ahead lighted up. Ikeesh grunted encouragement and took her other hand. “Where’s the trail?” the cry went up. “Nella! Nella! Where are you?” He was falling over the great ice-blocks and groping his away to her as best he could. But none the less the vague forms from the rear continued to steadily overtake and pass them. and. and everybody’s in it. George Tichborne found it. Finally. “It’s the one chance we’ve been waiting for so long. they’re all behind us.” he whispered to her. slipping. Think of it if we fail!” “Oh! Oh!” She gasped and tottered. and as there was not a breath of wind. Sure to be a big stampede now. some arriving decorously. as they swung south on the smoother trailer which ran along under the shadow of the bluffs. all toiling in one direction. But hurry up. But in the darkness they lost it repeatedly. and she was dizzy with the unwonted speed. And thereat all fell to seeking for the path across the river. never!” There was a sharp pain in her side. “At least we’re at the head of the bunch. spilling pulsating fire over the face of the night. the way was easier. 78 . and we’ll make it yet!” “George!” A frightened wail punctured the still air and died away as Nella slipped on the icy footing and shot down the twenty-foot embankment into the pit of darkness beneath. but aloud: “It’s leaked out somehow. They also had stampeding packs on their backs and a great haste in their hearts. he lighted a candle. led the way. Her husband gritted his teeth and plunged savagely on.

Sometimes the voices of Ikeesh and her husband came to her faintly. Come on! Come on! We’ll be in at the finish yet. and she was not. though he feared that the mistake had occurred too late in the night to have led enough on the wild-goose chase up Swede Creek. “Thanksgiving at Slav Creek” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Hours which were as centuries passed. But ere the darkness fell. and poured the sunshine back and forth from hand to hand. till he ran after her and forced her to stop. The fresh signs of the stampede were so many and so various that he knew Ikeesh had spoken true. Nella persisted in walking on. and laughed. and between the two eternities.Jack London. 79 . So she wandered off to the old home down in the States. The stars paled and dimmed. ever falling.” “Um no Slav Creek. laconically. Ikeesh drew up to Tichborne and pointed to the loom of the mountains above the west shore of the river. her whole soul narrowing down to the one mechanical function of walking. To-morrow there would be no record of the sounds. She was no longer Nella Tichborne. and ever lifting anon. her limbs seemed to have become great pendulums of time. a woman. for a rhythm is not receptive to sound. The night seemed without end to Nella. “Um Slav Creek.” he replied. The two eternities. and two hours later. which had driven them poleward after the yellow gold! The old home which it was their one aim to redeem! But she forgot all this. which it was her task to hold apart. and the darkness which is of the dawn fell upon the earth. She so stolidly reiterated that Slav Creek lay farther to the south that he believed. Ever lifting. but she did not know. and ahead of no end of those that passed us!” He cut across a five-mile flat into the south-west. and joyed in the warm sunshine—the old home. and sat under the great trees. “Slav Creek. she pulsed in vast rhythmical movement. but as a rhythm she no longer existed. the aurora-borealis shrouded its fires. but she did not heed. but a rhythm—that was all. and babbled. entered the wood-hidden mouth of Slav Creek. “and the rest followed his trail like sheep. had rushed together. pointing whither the trail led. “No. ever lifting.” he exulted. but in her semi-conscious condition she really did not hear. “Somebody went astray in the dark. She was obedient. a rhythm. the old mortgaged home. And before and behind glimmered two eternities. with gray dawn creeping over the landscape. ever falling. “Um Swede Creek?” she asked. heedless of his outcries. How warm it was! Was there ever the like? Tichborne conferred with Ikeesh.” He came suddenly to a stop. Slav Creek—” She turned and pointed into the darkness five degrees to the south. Gradually her consciousness seemed to leave her.

” he called to his wife. “How much farther do the stakes run?” Tichborne asked of a man limping down the trail. and now and again. This is Slav Creek. do we go north to lift the mortgage. and she was aware of a great full pain in her 80 . the mortgage shall be lifted. and crossing the divide and tapping Slav Creek in the hundred-and-eighties. “But you’d better hurry. eh?” “Reckon you’ve ’bout hit it on the head. The interminable night was gone—spent where or how she could not say—and day broke upon her with a blinding flash. “Five-hundred-foot claims—ten to the mile—about eight miles yet. Even the man and the Indian women grew weary and panted. They passed many men—the successful ones—rolled in their furs by the side of the trail. “But there were about ten more behind me: so I guess they’ve run it up to 189.” the other assured him. “Um much tired.” Tichborne calculated aloud.” Tichborne glanced helplessly at Ikeesh. stopping to pound the aching muscles of his legs. it gave a cheerier aspect to things. Day has come. to-morrow. “I staked 179. rubbed with snow the tip of the nose and the stretched skin of the cheek-bones. Ikeesh kept a jealous eye on Nella’s face. Look about you. Bime-by make camp. and she opened her eyes with a start. um be all right. they traveled up the frozen bed of the creek. Both her companions were limping pitifully.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Oh. Everything was strange and unreal. I promise you—George and I both promise you. but though there was no warmth in its rays. “I met the first one that succeeded in crossing over. At eleven o’clock the sun rose in the south east.” Frozen to death! The phrase served to rouse Nella from her maze of memory visions.” They hastened on for five miles more. stake to stake. or cooking and warming themselves over crackling fires of dry spruce. and that he knew himself five frozen to death on the divide. He said the trail was lined with people teetotally played out. Nella. when it turned white. the claims stretched in an unbroken line. We are sure to get a claim. Her glimmering senses came back to her. and still.” she commented. She looked about. “But they’re having a terrible time” he shouted back as he went on his way. Half the stampede went wrong up Swede Creek—that’s the next one to this—but they’re onto themselves now. Even now. “it’s all right.” the man answered. stumbling blindly at his heels. principal and interest. “But um be all right bime-by. and behold the day is Thanksgiving day!” She turned a blank face upon him.” “And this is 107. “Yes. Hour after hour. when they came to the first white-blazed trees and fresh-planted stakes of the newly located claims. dryly.

and struck her harsh blows upon her body. and warmed his hands by the fire. For Ikeesh knew the way of the cold. He leaped up and down and about like a boy. and her knees trembled and knocked together with weakness. So Nella has lapses and cruel awakenings till the whole thing seemed a hideous nightmare. she saw him slashing the bark from a standing tree. but Ikeesh pushed her away and set her to work gathering dry wood. and Ikeesh was stirring a batter of flour and water and boiling coffee. “We’ve struck it at last. and shook her. and she saw his face and beard a mass of bristling ice. Nella!” he cried. it seemed—she heard George cry aloud joyfully. and her brows and lashes long and white. during which she toiled mechanically and unknowing. the memory of the old home was strong upon her. But at other times. and was able to look about her. and the difficulty of drawing them apart from each other whenever she closed her eyes. what must it be on bed-rock?” “Tell you what—” They turned their heads. Occasionally Tichborne made excursions to one side or the other in search of the claim-stakes. which were not always posted in the creek-bed. To her surprise. with her husband as Virgil. “Thanksgiving at Slav Creek” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ own limbs. “The home is safe! If that is a surface indication. and there were several small nuggets besides. and that a five-minute rest without fire meant death. the trees became glibbering shades. George ran up with a gold-pan of gravel which he had got from the creek bottom through an air-hole. And Nella felt the weight on her own lashes. and the mortgage nerved her on. and when she next found herself she was in the furs by a big fire. but Ikeesh struck her a stinging blow across the mouth. Nella felt much better after her rest.Jack London. This latter she found worse than the agony of the overused muscles. Again came a long lapse. At last! She sank down into the snow. but Ikeesh dragged her afoot again. The streak of black sand on the bottom was specked with yellow grains of glistening gold. and leading her from circle to circle of the damned. when she was dimly conscious. Her husband turned his head. 81 . The double excessive demand of the toil and the frost had burned up all the fuel of her body. Nella came back angrily to her feet. long time afterward—ages afterward. for all his weary body. A man had crawled up to the fire unobserved in their excitement. When he had panned it out he brought the prospect over to her. and looking at him as though from a great distance. A long. and she felt cold and faint with hunger. Sometimes. startled. and Slav Creek turned to an Inferno. for a quivering nausea came upon her. Ikeesh’s mouth was likewise matted with frost. and writing on the white surface with a lead-pencil. At such times Nella dropped down to rest.

She seized his hand impulsively and pressed it. and Tichborne lending a hand. but a vision of the old home. “Tell you what—” she heard the new-comer begin.” Ikeesh stopped from her cooking. “judging from indications. Sure! But I got in on it. came into her eyes. “Say. and she dropped off to sleep without hearing “what. tell you what!” “A true Thanksgiving. “it’s the richest creek in Alaska and the Northwest. you people are located on the richest run of the creek. Sure!” He sat down uninvited. . Nella.” 82 .PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Tell you what. too. .” George Tichborne passed her a tin plate of flapjacks swimming in bacon grease and a great mug of piping black coffee. and tried to unfasten his ice-bound moccasins. warm in the sunshine.” he glowed. “Tell you what. you betcher life I did! Got lost on Swede Creek.” the sufferer went on. and her eyes grew luminously soft . I broke through the ice up here a piece and wet my feet. and hit across the divide. . while they worked over him. unconcernedly. Say! No end of frozen men on that trail. But I got in on it. I kind of think they’re freezing. they cut off the newcomer’s moccasins and socks and rubbed his white feet till the glow of life returned.

after the death of Jones’s son (and Sarah’s husband). you’ve got it!” she cried. but Mrs. In this story. but she hovered near the table and cast many a loving glance at her son’s distress.” she ventured. timidly. joyfully. Who or what is most responsible for effecting the reconciliation: the doctor with his speech to farmer Jones.” She looked the prouder because he could not see 83 . “Yes. a woman and a boy. you see here. “There. Jones’s welcoming of her grandson? Was this all just the work of chance. She had been a quick scholar herself. novelist and short story writer Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909) explores the connection between doing good for others and prospering oneself. One often hears of the sorrows of hens that have hatched ducks. for example. her later offer of hospitality. was busy getting supper. or was there some mysterious power working its way through the unintended acts of generosity? Where. or Mrs. Johnny. and set a determined elbow on either side of his slate like buttresses for failing energy. a sad-looking. as well as the relationship between material wealth and some richer prosperity. as her eager eye found its way through a queer maze of stumbling figures. Jones’s willingness to drop off the mail. Johnny’s wishful (mis)taking of the turkey. as he figured away with new hopefulness. that’s all right. pretty woman. mother!” and he held up his slate. Now you’ve got the right idea. “Yes. does true prosperity lie? Does wealth need to become benefaction for the wealthy to prosper? For what sort of prosperity do we most wish to give thanks? There were only two persons in the kitchen. a rupture has occurred between old farmer Jones and his daughter-in-law Sarah and grandson Johnny. “If I didn’t know ’twas best for you to puzzle ’em out alone I’d—” “If I can only do this one!” said Johnny. leaving the former embittered and the latter impoverished. according to this story. Jewett was raised in South Berwick. Sarah Jones knew the more painful solicitudes of the duck—the swimming bird who must see her feathered darling balked and landlocked upon the shore. who had spread his school-books on the table by the window.The Lost Turkey SARAH ORNE JEWETT In this story from 1902. in a dreamy tone. you won’t have so much trouble again. Maine and was profoundly influenced by her experiences observing local farmers and fishermen. The arithmetic was wide open above the slate at an early page of fractions. Sarah’s remorse for her part in the rupture. “I thought they looked easy. and such sums were as easy as plain knitting. as well as her New England coastal upbringing. elements of which are visible in her writing. the storekeeper who asks Jones to deliver mail to Johnny. The boy’s mother.

manly look. I ain’t hurt. the boy thought she had burned her hand at the oven. “Fred Hollis says they’re goin’ to have a lot of folks from out West at his house to spend Thanksgiving. she could see a great patch on the elbow next her. I am afraid I ain’t goin’ to have anything nice to give you. as she reminded her affectionate heart. Johnny was now plunged in deep reflection. The news of their poverty was harder to bear at this hungry moment than if it were after supper. I was only thinking o’ your Thanksgiving day. Johnny had shown first-rate pluck and courage. “How good my supper’s goin’ to taste!” exclaimed the boy. good cake. “Why don’t we keep turkeys ourselves. “Mother. and always got the highest prices. and his face almost for the first time took on a serious. and had been pleasant. and I can’t go in debt to buy.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ her as she stood over him. But I’ll make you a nice. and I’ve known him to raise a flock of sixty. bitterly. “Now you won’t find the rest of them so hard.” “We did keep them. mother?” Johnny demanded.” he said. and I’m owin’ four dollars yet.” she said. We’ve got to do with what there is in the house.” Mrs.” “Ain’t we goin’ to have any turkey?” inquired Johnny. “what is it makes us feel so poor? Is it because my father died?” “Yes. but having to pay for shingling the house has taken every mite o’ money I had. all through this great emergency. I hoped to have some kind of a treat. The boy’s clothes were faded and outgrown.” said Sarah Jones. “There’s lots of people that don’t have turkeys. I ain’t got ’em. instead of before it. She stood still in the middle of the floor. nor any chicken. “Lots of folks do. and her eyes were filled with tears.” she urged. Your Grandma Jones was luckier than anybody. and then we could have one whenever we wanted it. and a quick flush of color came into her face. either. Johnny. I heard to-day that even your grandfather would have to buy. and his stockings below his short trousers were darned half-way down 84 . ruefully.” Johnny could not bring himself to smile or treat so grave a subject lightly. dear. “No.” she said. “No. If I begin to get in debt I can’t ever get out again. you know.” There was a silence. seeing his troubled face. Jones sighed. “Cake alone ain’t enough for dinner!” he said to himself. but something has ailed the chicks of late years. by way of consolation as she saw his disappointed face. too. “No. looking at him. as she turned away and stooped down to open the oven door.

and kissed him quite unexpectedly. But they pressed it too far when my heart was ’most broken. “Your grandpa and grandma don’t like me. a timid. as everybody said. I want the table for supper. reproaching herself. and an inner pocket was filled with money that had been paid him for some pine timber. I should have had patience with them. affectionate woman. and there was a lawsuit between them. Johnny’s face was bright and handsome.” she continued. but the sky was already gray with the promise of more. and the mother’s heart knew a sudden pain. “I belong to you and father most. and standing before Johnny. “Come. “The Lost Turkey” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ the leg. The boy’s face did not change. It was three miles from the village to his farm. and I said things I wish now I hadn’t said and reproached ’em as I shouldn’t now. and his wife. presently. They’d lost their only son. ’twas like having an enemy come among ’em. real Thanksgiving weather. The loss of his son had seemed harder to him than it might have seemed to most men. and the nearer hills were black and dismal. and I refused ’em. as if even the thick fur of pine-trees that covered them could hardly keep the world from freezing.” she said to him. he looked away.” and the mother took a step nearer. The mountains on the far horizon looked blue and cold. questioning look. she ought not to have told him. trying to speak as if there were nothing the matter. and he went right against their wishes.Sarah Orne Jewett. who feared and obeyed him in all things.” he said. anyway. and why you’re so poor. He was a very stern-looking person as he sat in the old armchair by the stove. believed as he did. If they had you I don’t know but they’d give you every single thing you want. he had almost resented it. So that’s why we don’t speak together. When your father died they came and offered to take you and bring you up. there had been some business to do with men whom he met there. His grandfather had the same slow. with great effort. that they were unjustly 85 . *** It was. losing o’ your father. and then he took his pencil again and made some marks on his slate as if he were going on with his figuring. I said I could get along. Old Mr. don’t I? I don’t care if there ain’t a turkey just this once. “I’d rather live with you. dear. Johnny was nothing but a boy. Whatever cheerfulness had been his in early life was all gone now. and he had spent nearly the whole afternoon in Barton’s store. set way of behaving. I see now ’twas hard for the old folks. One could believe that he was possessed of authority as well as wealth. They didn’t want your father to marry when he did. ’Twas chiefly because your Grandfather Jones and my father had quarreled. There was not quite snow enough for sleighing. and that he had kept his mind upon a grudge for years together. but she could hardly bear his honest. Jones was one of the last to untie his horse and start toward home. put away your books now.

yes. Why don’t you let bygones be bygones?” “You can’t make believe if the right feelings aren’t there. but no worse than common. That’s a nice boy growing up. and he’s got a good mother. I’ve seen you through a good many troubles. Seems hard. You never showed her any great kindness. but—” And at this point the doctor moved impatiently away. The good old doctor had come into the store late in the afternoon to wait for the mailcarrier. “If you are alluding to my family.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ treated in the matter of happiness. “You don’t understand nothin’ at all about it. The store was full of neighbors now. I wish there was peace amongst us.” The doctor sighed as he looked over his shoulder and saw Henry Jones’s stolid face. who was due at five o’clock. too. in a low voice. who had seen the mail-carrier arrive.” he heard the old farmer complaining to a fresh arrival. You know I mean your good as much as hers.” “Now. She probably feels the same way now. I thought the other day that she was drooping from being so much alone.” said the doctor.” said Henry Jones. but ’tis one o’ them Vermont turkeys. and saw him lift the great turkey with evident pride because it was the best and largest to be bought that year. “How’s your wife getting on?” he asked. She turned on you that day just as any creature will that fights for her young. the doctor could not help wondering what Johnny and his mother would feast upon. and only got your pay for it. and was told that she was still ailing. and poorer in the power of using things to make either themselves or other people happy. You must put your pride in your pocket and go and tell her you’re sorry and want her to come right home and bring Johnny and spend the winter. You took the wrong way to do the right thing. and before I die I want to see you through this biggest one. and there’s nobody but wife and me to set down to it. “you know that we went to school together and have always been friendly.” he began. You’ve got a better teacher in your district this year than there is in theirs. “I don’t see what I can do. Henry. dolefully. kindly. first time I ever done such a thing. “She needs somebody there while you are away at work. “Yes.” he added. “I want to have a talk with you some of these days. Each year found them better off in this world’s goods. 86 . I don’t know’s ’twill equal those we’ve been accustomed to. pleasantly. “You need a younger woman there to help her.” The old man shook his head. and yet you wanted to rob her of all she had to live for. and a very handsome one.” said the doctor. I can only say that that woman my son married has expressed her feelings once for all. “I had to buy a turkey for Thanksgivin’ this year. Henry. I had to buy a turkey. and from brooding over the past.

It was beginning to snow hard.—and there was now an unexpected twinge in the old man’s heart.” If Henry Jones had heard the roar of laughter in the store a moment after he had shut the door behind him. his heart was beating ridiculously fast. perfectly unconscious of such an involuntary benefaction. As for Johnny. Johnny reached up. “There’s something there in the wagon for your folks. He drove away up the road in grim fury. his face shone with joy as he dumped the great bird on the kitchen floor and bade his mother look. ’Tis for your grandson. blew forward out of sight and got under the buffalo-robe. A certain pride and stiffness of demeanor stood the old man in good stead. “You’re goin’ right by. “The Lost Turkey” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ There was a good deal of cheerfulness in the store—jokes and laughter and humorous questioning of newcomers. which was blowing in the wind. and the young horse was in a hurry to get home. The busy storekeeper and postmaster was not averse to taking his part in these mild festivities of Thanksgiving eve. made a manful effort to master the weight of it and get it over the tail-board. and as warm as a furry squirrel with his good supper of bread and butter and milk and gingerbread. “’Twas my grandpa out there. while Johnny was dumb with astonishment at this unexpected appearance.Sarah Orne Jewett. Just as the reluctant messenger came to a cold-looking little house by the roadside Johnny himself came out to shut the gate. sir. an’ I’m goin’ to close early. in a businesslike tone. “You just give a call as you go by. that copy of the paper might have been dropped at once and lain under the fresh-fallen snow until spring. and seeing nothing but the great turkey. and then went triumphantly through the swinging gate as his grandfather. Jones approached to take his evening mail of the weekly newspaper and a circular or two he found another small budget pressed into his hand. boldly. “That you. But the horse would not stand. and he did not look back again at the boy.” said the storekeeper. I expect you’ll be willin’ to leave it. John?” said the old farmer.—Johnny and his mother sat far back in the church. Now. passed rattling up the road trying to hold the colt as best he might. Perhaps he should meet some one to whom he could depute the unwelcome errand. and he said he’d brought something for my folks. but he was very angry indeed as he put the great turkey into his wagon and the mail-matter beside it. The postmaster was in a hurry to get it to you. He was bareheaded. It’s one the doctor sends him. Johnny. He’ll want his little paper to read to-morrow. an’ they’ll come right out. For years the two had never been so near together. but with no unkindness.” he added. But the doctor’s words could not be put out of mind. The turkey soon joggled and bumped from its safe place under the seat to the very back of the farm wagon. which had been in the corner. and his own conscience became more and more disturbed. ain’t we goin’ to have a turkey for Thanksgivin’!” 87 . but he looked very small and thin as his grandfather caught sight of him. while the newspaper. As Mr.

his mother sat down in the little rocking-chair and began to cry. and we thank you very much for the turkey.” 88 . “I guess I’ll drive back. there was a loud knocking at the kitchen door. “I’ll have ye a good cup o’ tea. well under the seat. Many times the old man reproached his own want of spirit in not going back along the road.” said old Mr. I don’t care much whether we have a turkey or not. “Why. The road’s rough enough. Henry. I counted on your bringin’ it. looking very cold and deeply troubled. but this colt is dreadful restless.” The lantern-light shone on her face. or leave the horse so they could have stolen anything out?” asked Mrs. going home from meeting. “I certain would if I had an ybody to go with me. I’ve got the stuffing all made a’ready. ’stead of to-morrow. and we won’t mind about the turkey more than we can help. and she hopes you and my grandpa will stop. I thought when you let Asa go off to-day. and the great snow-storm raged about their warm house. doubtfully. or whether it was the natural workings of a slow conscience. and by contrast he thought of the little boy’s cheerful chirp and hearty “Thank you!” as he took the paper. as nice a gobbler as we ever raised ourselves. adding her mite of trouble to their general feeling of despair. She’d be real glad to have you. “Are you my grandma?” demanded Johnny. Jones. eager face. very early. “I feel too lame to go afoot. either!” he grumbled. We don’t seem to have as much to be thankful for as some folks. and on getting it all prepared to roast to-morrow. He could not manage to tell his wife about stopping to leave the mail. faster and faster. I can’t do as I used to. Whether it was what the doctor had said.” “There. but I can’t see how that turkey jolted out. “Mother sent her best respects.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Whereupon. Jones saw how old and pitiful she looked.” he said. and Mr. you’d be liable to need him. there was a queer disturbance in his mind. Jones opened it she found a boy standing there with a happy. *** “I certain sure put it into the wagon.” she mourned.” They passed a solemn evening together. “I certain sure put it in with my own hands. I guess we’ve got to let it go and trust to Providence. I couldn’t get out and leave him to pick the turkey up if I saw it laying right in the road. to Johnny’s despair and complete surprise. When Mrs. I have to divide up my work. “There.” said his wife. But the snow was falling like a blizzard. Jones to his wife. you ain’t so young as you used to be. and eat dinner. who had come out through the long shed to the barn to hold the lantern.” “Did you pass anybody on the road. *** In the morning. as he looked out of the door.

“Come right in. The boy was their very own. and stood in the doorway behind his wife. She must have meant what she said. And when Henry Jones saw her lead him to the fire. aren’t you glad this turkey didn’t wander in the wet grass and die when it was a chick?” 89 . “I’ll put the colt in and take him back myself. but the true Thanksgiving feast that year was the feast of happiness in all their hearts. It’s the handsomest one mother ever had in the house. she cried like everything about it. as he leaned back in his chair. “O my!” exclaimed Johnny early that afternoon. he was so excited with his errand. it was already in the oven at that moment. right out of your wagon. who had heard the message with astonished ears. “That one you brought last night. when an old man like him had taken the first one.Sarah Orne Jewett. soon as day broke!” When Johnny’s mother saw the old man and the little boy plowing along in the old sleigh.” The child’s voice faltered. he turned away and looked out of the window.” she said to herself. he must have started early. Henry Jones. and so spent with his eager journey through the deep snow. give him some warm breakfast before he goes back. and saw how they were talking and even laughing together. and begin to cry. she thanked Heaven for this sudden blessing. As for the lost turkey. dear!” cried the grandmother.” said Johnny. and then with a sob take the little fellow right into her arms and hug him. too. “Where’d you get your turkey. “Grandma. sir? I’d like to know!” “Why. with his spectacles on his forehead like a lighthouse. grateful enough for the sight of him. “The Lost Turkey” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “What’s all this?” demanded Mr. “There. to start him up here like that. “I wa’n’t going to be slow about taking the next step.” said the grandfather.

sometimes called the Day of Big Dinners. What was the experience like? Why is the story called “Those Who Have No Turkey”? How should our knowledge of the existence of such people influence the way we celebrate Thanksgiving? The way we live the rest of the year? How can the wealthy best show their gratitude? A stretch of farmland. Here. One went to a farm down in the southern part of Ohio with her husband and tilled the soil for a living. the sound of many whistles and the shrill shriek of the brakes. Diane looked out of the auto window and enjoyed the ride. from rural downstate Ohio. Crane had not been to visit her relative for some years. he moved with his mother and grandmother half a dozen times before finally settling in Cleveland. and so eager to invite him and his family? Imagine yourself as an invisible guest at the Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Ruth’s. for the first time in her life in a large city. What is the difference between the life or outlook of Diane’s mother (Mrs. that Diane got her first view of Cleveland. a bundle under her arm and a shawl over her shoulder. gray in the dawning. fifteen-year-old Diane Jordan stepped to the platform. long lines of freight cars. Diane’s mother.Those Who Have No Turkey LANGSTON HUGHES This story by celebrated African American poet and short-story writer Langston Hughes (1902–67). Jordan) and that of her sister Ruth (Mrs. Ohio. One big puff. and the long limited came to a stop. Crane)? What do you think is responsible for that difference: is it the contrast between country and city life and customs. Distressed over discovering that the local newsboy and his family could not afford turkey for Thanksgiving. Of course. young Diane Jordan. written in 1918 when he was still in high school. Diane impulsively invites him and his entire family to share the festive meal at her aunt’s home. The Jordan family and the Crane family were in no wise alike. Samuel P. or is it something else? Why is Diane so interested in Tubby Sweeny. Hughes himself did not grow up in material comfort or stability. after his parents separated. It was early Thanksgiving morning.” told the girl that she had arrived at the end of her journey. a final jolt. as the two sisters had married into vastly different positions in life. and her activities in the country. for Mrs. a flash of blue lake water. comes to spend Thanksgiving with her wealthy aunt Ruth (her mother’s sister) and her two daughters (Diane’s cousins) in a prosperous part of Cleveland. with the sleepy voice of the porter calling “Cleveland. Their crops were usually 90 . Clasping her old traveling bag in one hand. After many kisses and exclamations of welcome they guided the rather dazed little country girl out to their big limousine and whirled away uptown. while Aunt Ruth asked about her only sister. raises the disturbing possibility that prosperity may in fact be the enemy of gratitude and thanksgiving. her two cousins with Aunt Ruth were at the station to meet her.

Crane. in the country. Well. “Paper. However.” she said. after an hour or so of this indoor splendor and her doll-like cousins. a hardy child of the out-of-doors. “You’re in a hurry to get home and eat some turkey. “’cause Pa told me to bring him a city paper. just out!” He reminded Diane of little brother at home. generoushearted countryfolk. but be that as it may. but their mode of living remained that of simple. she gained an enviable social position. so different from her rural home. she had always intended to have her niece. She had walked a block or two.” replied the little urchin. aren’t you?” 91 . Samuel P. one had a whole farm to play in. tomboyish. The whisper of gossips said that she loved his money and not the man. In the country she always helped her mother cook. I’ll take them. Diane. Mr. Diane.” urged the little newsie. “All right. busy with her social duties. Crane died four years after their marriage. Mrs. seldom saw her country sister. Crane. The scene was interesting.” “I’ve only got two left and if you take ’em both you’ll be sure and get the best one.” she agreed. but here they seemed to hire folks to do the work. unsophisticated Diane Jordan seated in a richly lined limousine between the stylishly clad daughters of Mrs. Why. when she reached a corner where two car lines crossed and many autos were passing in all directions. “Extra papers. Soon the big auto rolled up a cement driveway and stopped under the porte cochere of the largest house Diane had ever seen. visit in the city. anxious to sell out. a wealthy banker. It is useless to attempt to describe Diane’s feelings upon entering this mansion. “What kind o’ paper you got?” asked the girl. so finding the space between the house and the fence too small. give me the best one. She marveled at its size. so she leaned against a lamppost and watched the city people go by until her attention was attracted to a small red-haired boy yelling at the top of his voice. she lived in one of the finest houses on upper Euclid Avenue and sent her daughter to an exclusive private school. So that accounts for the presence of countrified. but on the farm clothes are not of the latest fashion. lady?” Perhaps he called her lady because her dresses were unusually long for a girl of fifteen. stopping now and then to stare at some strange new object.Langston Hughes. “Well. Her gaze must have attracted his attention for he demanded. but since her two children had spent a summer on the farm. Diane pondered. city people were queer. “Press or News. “Those Who Have No Turkey” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ good and they did well. Diane’s adventurous feet led her to examine the neighborhood. as no one but a Dickens could do it. but here the houses took up all the room. grew a bit tired and decided to inspect the yard since Aunt Ruth would not let her help get dinner. Even their yards were not the same. Once in a while the scent of turkey floated in from the kitchen. The other girl married Samuel Crane. but the inside was still more wonderful.

All the people in the country had one. She had never heard of anybody having nothing for dinner except the poor war-stricken Belgians. she had never known anybody to be without a turkey on Thanksgiving Day except once when her Uncle Si said that he was “just durned tired of having what other folks had.” “Oh-o—.” she thought. Truly. city ways were strange! Why.” he replied proudly. Diane was not very sure about how much a dollar fifty-four cents would buy. and that was because the Germans had eaten up everything. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before and he had sold papers in the streets since the age of three. I kin get a dandy dinner with this.” so his wife cooked two ducks and a chicken instead of the usual fowl. “We ain’t got nothin’ yet. then?” Diane said. Surely Aunt Ruth would not mind. The girl could not imagine anyone not having turkey for Thanksgiving. you’re going to have duck for dinner. either. looking down at the ragged little boy. Perhaps this boy’s mother intended to have duck. “Ma’s able to cook now.” “Well. “Well.” he said. Suddenly a big thought came to her. “and we won’t have much if dere’s not enough pennies in my pocket to get somethin’. isn’t it?” her voice suggested. “Why then. he added. “Want to help me count my change?” He had a dollar fifty-four cents. “Poor little boy. She would ask the little boy and his mother to her aunt’s house for dinner. “Naw.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Turkey! What do yuh mean?” asked the boy to whom the word was but a name. especially for a Thanksgiving meal. In the country they always had lots of extra company at the Thanksgiving table. “Naw. “Gee.” However. He promised to come at three. the lure of unknown turkey being too much for the little fellow. it must be chicken. we ain’t got no chicken.” he said.” This answer was surprising to Diane.” he replied. The newsie was rather puzzled at the strange girl’s generosity. Finally Diane forced him to accept her invitation. we ain’t got no duck.” said Diane. what in the world have you got?” she demanded of this peculiar boy who had neither turkey.” she repeated. My mother’s sick. “We ain’t got no turkey. “Are you going to buy something?” “Sure I am. nor chicken for dinner on Thanksgiving. It took her a long time to comprehend. and looking up into Diane’s sympathetic face. 92 . “Oh. duck.

“I mean I don’t live there but I am staying there now and you and your mother can come down today for dinner. They expressed a marvelous joy and delight over the turkey. spoke English well. who thought it would be great fun to have such queer company. And as for the plum pudding and large. mischievous hands that kept Mrs. who did not understand the invitation at all but came only because her son insisted. Diane went back to the great house without a doubt in the world but that her aunt would be “tickled to death” to have extra company for dinner. They were of foreign extraction and none of them.” Off he ran down the street to deliver the invitation. although she thought the washing unnecessary.” he replied. S’long. as they had never even tasted that fowl before.” said the boy. tell me your name. About three o’clock the family came. no words in the world could express their feelings! But when they had finished.” What were two sisters added to a dinner party? Why. the elderly lady finally consented. her mother’s table at home could feed twenty at once.” “Tubby Sweeny.” she demanded. “bring him with you. their stomachs were as tight as kettledrums from very fullness. but the young Sweenys—they ate and jabbered to their hearts’ content. if necessary. Indeed. “Oh. Crane had been worried about her niece for the last twenty minutes and when she learned of the invitation. “Now.” Diane pointed to the large house not far away. the 93 . too. too. and from Diane. baby with big black eyes and tiny. the small twin sisters.” he continued. she hoped that he had no more relatives. round pies. “and we’ll sure be there.” murmured Diane. They always wanted to touch something and babies quite often break things! During dinner the quiet little mother did not talk much. They never sterilized visitors at her house. “Down there. However. Crane’s nerves on edge. Diane was satisfied. and the baby resembled a pert little cherub like those painted around Madonna’s pictures. except Tubby. “Those Who Have No Turkey” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ “Where do you live?” he asked skeptically. wash their face and hands thoroughly before entering the drawing room. when they came. “so I can tell Aunt Ruth who’s coming. There was the weak little mother. and the cute. after many hugs and kisses and tearful entreaties from her two daughters.” Howeve r. who declared she would not eat unless the newsboy and his family could eat. bring them along.” “But I got two sisters. “And I got a little brother. Mrs. that august lady was too shocked for words. I like babies.Langston Hughes. “Well. but none too fat. She gave one of the maids instructions to have every one of the guests. At first she hotly refused to admit the coming guests to her home.

she told her mother all about it and ended her story with “Well.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ tired-looking woman who held the babe would have made a wonderful model if some artist wished to paint “A Madonna of the Poor.” After the ice cream had been eaten and each one of the children had a handful of nuts. After the door had closed upon the departing Sweeny party. The woman thanked them very sincerely for the grand dinner and each one of the little Sweenys kissed Diane and would have kissed the others too. I never knew before that there are people in the world who have no turkey on Thanksgiving. Mrs.” 94 . the little mother said that they must go. Ma. but the Cranes refused to go through the ordeal as they said kissing breeds germs. Crane declared: “Those people were the strangest dinner guests I have ever entertained!” And when Diane got back to the farm. Crane’s relief. much to Mrs.

Neighborliness and Hospitality .

those two relentless enemies of the poor. she only needed the kitchen and a tiny bedroom that led out of it.The Night Before Thanksgiving SARAH ORNE JEWETT This selection. explores the blessings of neighborliness and hospitality. There had been a time. At last sickness and age had come hand in hand. and together they had wasted her strength and substance. Describe in detail the plight of Mrs. given and received. and there was something appealing even 96 . no!” as they groaned in the late autumn winds. and the time for her departure now seems imminent. Mary Ann Robb. is sadly contemplating her situation on the night before Thanksgiving.” Her thought proves father to the deed. For a while she managed to get on. Robb to give up her home and to enter the town poorhouse. a woman who formerly had delighted in bringing aid and sustenance to the poor. Robb found it too large for herself alone. and be done with it. Her nearest neighbor. She begins to think of an orphan boy (Johnny Harris) whom she had once cared for in his time of great need: “Poor Johnny Harris. The people whom she cared for most happened to be poor. with a debt to carry and her bare land. Why does her nearest neighbor want to remove her? What is the significance of the gleam of light? Why does remembering her previous assistance to Johnny Harris lift her spirits? Why does Johnny Harris return? Can neighborly gifts given or received ever be forgotten? How can they be properly “repaid”? What is their connection to Thanksgiving and to giving thanks? I. if he’s alive. when Mrs. but now she was left. but at last it began to be whispered about that there was no use for any one so proud. Robb had better go to the poorhouse before winter. dark little house that stood humbly by the roadside under some tall elms. old Mrs. but almost a man’s work outside in her piece of garden ground. with the low garret overhead. after she was left alone. and the house ill-provisioned to stand the siege of time. The very elms overhead seemed to say. and Mrs. There was a sad heart in the low-storied. At this terrible suggestion her brave heart seemed to stand still. “Oh. perhaps he’s thinkin’ o’ me. But as she looks out her window at the sunset. John Marder. and there still remained the best room and a bedroom. In this story (1899) by Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909). it was easier for the whole town to care for her than for a few neighbors. like the next one. She had always been looked up to by her neighbors as being independent. as Harris arrives to produce a most splendid and heartwarming Thanksgiving. Small as her house was. has been leading a group of townspeople who are trying to force Mrs. She was strong enough not only to do a woman’s work inside her house. old Mrs. Robb could help those who were poorer than herself. lame-footed and lamehanded. a sudden gleam of light induces a ray of hope. Robb. and she could no longer go into their households to make herself of use.

But John Mander was waiting impatiently to get her tiny farm into his own hands. brown and wind-swept and crossed by icy ditches. too. One lovely gleam shot swift as an arrow and brightened a far cold hillside where it fell. spite o’ what anybody said. It seemed to her as if before this. but sometimes when they come they seem to be full of shadows. Mother Robb.—there. in all the troubles that she had known and carried. Some one has said that anniversaries are days to make other people happy in. I kept him that year after he got hurt. but something chilled her very heart now. with a horrible shrinking and dread at the thought of being asked. that inalienable right which ought to lighten the saddest heart. and as she looked out hopelessly across the gray fields. I don’t think he was doin’ very well when I heard. Once she had been full of love for such days. I should have a good home for him to come to. She looked anxiously down the road. ‘I sha’n’t come back till I get rich. He often reproached her for being too generous to worthless people in the past and coming to be a charge to others now. left an orphan and distressed. there was a sudden gleam of light far away on the low hills beyond. There’s poor Ezra Blake. so pleasant and boyish. if she could only die in her own house and not suffer the pain of homelessness and dependence! It was just at sunset. after he cleared her wood lot to pay himself back. and pretended that there was still a debt. but I couldn’t see the poor boy in want. to join in some Thanksgiving feast. it’s most four years ago now. Robb’s pale. worried face at the window. he had advanced some money upon it in her extremity. He would plough over the graves in the field corner and fell the great elms. II.’ says he. “The Night Before Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ to the strange passer-by in the look of the little gray house. and the power of giving joy to others. Old John Mander scolded. and waited now like a spider for his poor prey. whether at home or abroad. and at the same moment a sudden gleam of hope brightened the winter landscape of her heart. the deaf one. an’ he helped me what little he could. sometimes even this seems to be withdrawn.Sarah Orne Jewett. but there was nobody coming with gifts in hand. He said I was the only mother he’d ever had. “There was Johnny Harris. and he had said more than once that it was the only sensible thing. the most indifferent sympathy. I always thought if he got sick or anything. there had always been some hope to hold: as if she had never looked poverty full in the face and seen its cold and pitiless look before. with Mrs. Across the frozen road she looked eastward over a great stretch of cold meadow land.’ an’ then he’d look at me an’ laugh. Oh. So poor old Mary Ann Robb sat at her window on the afternoon before Thanksgiving and felt herself poor and sorrowful indeed. out of pity.—he won’t have any place to welcome him.” said Mary Ann Robb softly. ‘I’m goin’ out West.” 97 . He wa’n’t one that liked to write. Her nearest neighbor had been foremost of those who wished her to go to the town farm. “He was a soldier’s son. the clouds opened in the west and let the sunshine through.

but at least she could have the luxury of a fire. It seemed only a moment before there was a loud knocking.” she said once. and she sat alone thinking in the dark. as lonely people do.” she said. but Mary Ann Robb waked up frightened and bewildered. Robb’s own. what is it?” she faltered. “Come. “It’ll get me good an’ warm. “It’s a cold night. as she found her crutch and went to the door. stepping back as he came in. and laid her head back drowsily in the old rocking-chair.” 98 . She had a feeling that it was her last night at home. “They’d be sorry I ain’t got nob ody to come.” And she drew a little nearer to the fire. in spite of herself. Yet it was not so dark as it had been in her sad heart. She was only conscious of her one great fear. and dropping her crutch. I’m dreadful glad they don’t know.” The snow clicked faster and faster against the window. and somebody lifted the latch of the door. instead of fearing. There was a tall man. and burst into tears. still talking to herself. and with strange recklessness began to fill the stove as she used to do in better days. and she had burnt it most thankfully.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The light faded out of doors. let me in!” he said gayly. “Be I dreamin’? I was a-dreamin’ about— Oh.” It was dark now out of doors. and the great elms creaked in the rising wind overhead. an’ no supper the night afore Thanksgivin’. Robb’s troubles stood before her.” she said. The fire shone bright through the front of the stove and made a little light in the room. and a curious feeling of nearness and expectancy made her feel not so much light-hearted as light-headed. and. perhaps he’s thinkin’ o’ me. “They’ve come to take me to the poorhouse!” she said. and again Mrs. It was beginning to snow. and there were tiny clicks against the window. “There’s lots of folks I love. there! What was I a-sayin’? ’Tain’t true! No! I’ve made some kind of a mistake. III. “Poor Johnny Harris. A dead limb of one of the old trees had fallen that autumn. She still sat by the window. You didn’t expect me. if he’s alive. not John Mander. did you. poor firewood as it might be. There was only a small armful left. hoping now. who seemed to fill the narrow doorway. It’s comin’ on to storm. “Who’s there?” she called. “I feel just as if somethin’ was goin’ to happen. it was Mrs. “an’ I’ll go to bed early. Mother Robb?” “Dear me.

and they sat down to supper together. turning toward him with touching patience. an’ I wanted to tell you the best when I came. He left her in the rocking-chair and came and went in his old boyish way. Why. It was better than any dream. no use to complain o’ the worst. they must get good fires started in both the cold bedrooms. Had not she a house for John to come to? Were not her old chairs and tables in their places still? And he remembered everything. as if she were a girl. There’s all sorts o’ things out here in the wagon. but she must not fret. “What are you talking about?” said John Harris.” It was not the keeper of the poorhouse. just as they used to do when he was a homeless orphan boy.Sarah Orne Jewett. it was the night before Thanksgiving. and this was the end of a great year. “No. Mother Robb didn’t seem to be ready for company from out West! The great. cheerful fellow hurried about the tiny house. they must find the pound of tea among all the other bundles. She could not be kinder now than she was then. “The Night Before Thanksgiving” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Yes. I wa’n’t goin’ to write no foolish letters.” John repeated. whom nobody else wanted in winter weather while he was crippled and could not work. but luck had come at last. indeed. The man by the door took one step forward and put his arm round her and kissed her. He had found plenty of hard times.” he blustered. Mother Robb. sir. and this was the man who kept the poorhouse. “No. “Sit down. and kissed her as they stood before the fire. they might have given her notice. Why. Mother Robb!” She looked at him again and nodded. don’t cry so.” she said. “You ain’t goin’ to make me feel like a stranger? I’ve come all the way from Dakota to spend Thanksgivin’. She felt now as if her heart was going to break with joy. but she did not even try to speak. forgetting everything but hospitality. The poor soul could say nothing. but she looked so poor and old! He saw her taste her cup of tea and set it down again with a trembling hand and a look at him. bringing in the store of gifts and provisions. He was afraid he should cry himself when he found out how bad things had been. if I come and surprised you. Don’t you remember I always said I should come?” It was John Harris. “You’ll have to give me a little time. and the little old woman limped after him. I thought you’d have a great laugh. If I’d been notified I wouldn’t have kept you waiting a minute this stormy night. They must cook the beef-steak for supper right away. “No. He had struck luck. I wanted to come myself. He laughed and talked. wiping his eyes and trying to laugh. and she would go without complaint. I couldn’t seem to write letters. 99 . an’ a man to help get ’em in. and a happy guest had come. There was a good hot supper ready. and went out to send away the man to bring a wagonful of wood from John Mander’s.” and he told it while she cooked the supper. and came in himself laden with pieces of the nearest fence to keep the fire going in the mean time. “And you’re going to have everything you need to make you comfortable long’s you live.

Why does Stuffy Pete go? Why does the old gentleman invite him? Would you consider either of them a good neighbor? What is the meaning of the story’s title? In what ways. 100 . anyhow. Every Thanksgiving for the past nine years. a homeless man. but don’t just remember who they were. that sounds more familiar. The last Thursday in November is the only day in the year on which it recognizes the part of America lying across the ferries. Lots of us have had to come down to hens since the Turkey Trust got its work in. despite the outcome. It is the one day that is purely American. he goes with the old gentleman to eat his traditional dinner. exclusively American. Yes. Stuffy Pete. who casts an ironic and irreverent eye on Thanksgiving Day—perhaps on institutionalized ritual altogether. might both Stuffy Pete and the old man be regarded as “gentlemen”? Does the outcome of the story vindicate the narrator’s seeming irreverence for tradition and for gentlemanliness? Or has there been.Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen O. Stuffy is interrupted on his way to the park when “two old ladies of ancient family” invite him into their home and serve him a meal more sumptuous than his traditional fare. however. even our most beloved holidays can be depressing. if any. Stuffy is already stuffed to the gills. By the time he meets the old gentleman at the familiar bench. a day of celebration. Henry (pseudonym for William Sydney Porter [1862–1910]). 1 For more questions. and not only to the benefactor. We hear some talk of the Puritans. These issues are humorously but powerfully raised in this short story (1905) by O. Plymouth Rocks? Well. There is one day when all we Americans who are not selfmade go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. an expression of true neighborliness and the spirit of Thanksgiving?1 There is one day that is ours. But somebody in Washington is leaking out advance information to ’em about these Thanksgiving proclamations. orders up a sumptuous dinner. has been summoned from his bench in New York’s Union Square by an “Old Gentleman. and sits by watching Stuffy eat. President Roosevelt gives it to us. Yet hospitable and neighborly acts in their direction can be costly. The story concludes with one of O. Bless the day. Nonetheless. The big city east of the cranberry bogs had made Thanksgiving Day an institution. This year. if they try to land again. HENRY For those who are down and out or who live alone. We also invite you to visit our website to view a video model conversation about this selection. Bet we can lick ’em. Henry’s famous “twisty” endings.” who takes him to a restaurant. And now for the story which is to prove to you that we have traditions on this side of the ocean that are becoming older at a much rapider rate than those of England are— thanks to our git-up and enterprise. see the Discussion Guide below.

Certainly Pete was not hungry. But to-day Stuffy Pete’s appearance at the annual trysting place seemed to have been rather the result of habit than of the yearly hunger which. in which lived two old ladies of ancient family and a reverence for traditions. at the walk opposite the fountain. That was a thing that the Old Gentleman was trying to make a tradition of. carrying fine snowflakes. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had taken his seat there promptly at one o’clock. and had led him to a restaurant and watched him eat a big dinner. His breath came in short wheezes. beginning with oysters and ending with plum pudding. afflicts the poor at such extended intervals. Wherefore he sat. With a tremendous effort he moved his head slowly to the left. The meal had been an unexpected one. strewing the earth around him. as the philanthropists seem to think. and banquet him to a finish. For Stuffy Pete was overcharged with the caloric produced by a super-bountiful dinner. a senatorial roll of adipose tissue denied a fashionable set to his upturned coat collar. and the seneschals gathered him in and upheld the custom of the castle. and his breath ceased. “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Stuffy Pete took his seat on the third bench to the right as you enter Union Square from the east. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years the Old Gentleman had come there and found Stuffy Pete on his bench. and the rough-shod ends of his short legs wriggled and rustled on the gravel. One of their traditional habits was to station a servant at the postern gate with orders to admit the first hungry wayfarer that came along after the hour of noon had struck. Buttons that had been sewed upon his clothes by kind Salvation fingers a week before flew like popcorn. but the November breeze. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had found Stuffy there. Stuffy Pete happened to pass by on his way to the park. gorged. and nine years is not so bad. The Old Gentleman was a stanch American patriot. He had just come from a feast that had left him of his powers barely those of respiration and locomotion. After Stuffy Pete had gazed straight before him for ten minutes he was conscious of a desire for a more varied field of vision. He was passing a redbrick mansion near the beginning of Fifth Avenue.O. They do those things in England unconsciously. and considered himself a pioneer in American 101 . and believed that Thanksgiving Day was declared solely for Washington Square. and equally on the other side. Ragged he was. and gazed upon the world with after-dinner contempt. And then his eyes bulged out fearfully. brought him only a grateful coolness. For every time he had done so things had happened to him—Charles Dickensy things that swelled his waistcoat above his heart. They even denied the existence of New York. But this is a young country. and including (it seemed to him) all the roast turkey and baked potatoes and chicken salad and squash pie and ice cream in the world. Henry. For the Old Gentleman was coming across Fourth Avenue toward his bench. His eyes were like two pale gooseberries firmly imbedded in a swollen and gravy-smeared mask of putty. with a split shirt front open to the wishbone.

toward the Institution that he was rearing. Nothing could be compared with them except the Declaration of Independence. But the Old Gentleman had no relatives. He was dressed all in black. He would have flown. “Good morning. In the spring he walked in the Easter parade. my man. Stuffy had always wondered why the Old Gentleman spoke his speech rather sadly.” That is what the Old Gentleman said every time. knobby cane with the crooked handle. and say: “In memory of my father. speaking of a butterfly. But the Old Gentleman shivered a little and turned his back to the wind. Or cleaning the streets. His hair was whiter and thinner than it had been last year.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ tradition. the ornithoptera amphrisius. 102 . The fine snow almost sizzled when it fell upon his perspiring brow. that a Custom was not impossible to New Y—ahem!— America. In the autumn he fed Stuffy a dinner. at least. A son who would come there after he was gone—a son who would stand proud and strong before some subsequent Stuffy. Always before they had been music in Stuffy’s ears. the annual feeding of Stuffy Pete was nothing national in its character. He lived in rented rooms in one of the decayed old family brownstone mansions in one of the quiet streets east of the park. Something like collecting the weekly dimes in industrial insurance. and wore the old-fashioned kind of glasses that won’t stay on our nose.” Then it would be an Institution. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years. It was almost feudal. but all the skill of Santos-Dumont could not have separated him from his bench. If you will come with me. He did not know that it was because he was wishing every time that he had a son to succeed him. straight and stately. “I am glad to perceive that the vicissitudes of another year have spared you to move in health about the beautiful world. But now he looked up at the Old Gentleman’s face with tearful agony in his own. that he hoped to find some day. The words themselves almost formed an Institution. and he seemed to make more use of his big. As his established benefactor came up Stuffy wheezed and shuddered like some woman’s over-fat pug when a street dog bristles up at him. Well had the myrmidons of the two old ladies done their work. These were the Old Gentleman’s occupations. The Old Gentleman was thin and tall and sixty. and sat in a wicker armchair.” said the Old Gentleman. In the winter he raised fuchsias in a little conservatory the size of a steamer trunk. I will provide you with a dinner that should make your physical being accord with the mental. In order to become picturesque we must keep on doing one thing for a long time without ever letting it get away from us. But it was a step. For that blessing alone this day of thanksgiving is well proclaimed to each of us. In the summer he lived at a farmhouse in the New Jersey hills. Truly. It showed. The Old Gentleman moved. such as the Magna Charta or jam for breakfast was in England.

His Thanksgiving appetite was not his own. and his linen was beautiful and white. The waiters heaped the table with holiday food—and Stuffy. “Thankee kindly. America is free. Turkey.” said a waiter. and to the table where the feast had always occurred. but in order to establish tradition some one must be a repetend—a repeating decimal. The heroes are not all heroes of steel and gold. soups. “Thankee. Gorged nearly to the uttermost when he entered the restaurant. sir.” The Old Gentleman sat across the table glowing like a smoked pearl at his cornerstone of future ancient Tradition. The Old Gentleman’s eyes were bright with the giving-pleasure. In an hour Stuffy leaned back with a battle won. “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Stuffy Pete looked up at him for a half minute. and as the Old Gentleman had heard the sounds nine times before.O. to this kind old gentleman who had preëmpted it. the smell of food had almost caused him to lose his honor as a gentleman. No more valiant hero ever fought his way through the ranks of an enemy. 103 . A waiter turned him about like a top. They were recognized. chops. disappeared before him as fast as they could be served. and pointed him toward the door. with a sign that was mistaken for hunger’s expression. Speech was intended. The Old Gentleman led his annual protégé southward to the restaurant. pies. See one here that wielded only weapons of iron. “dat blows dat same bum to a meal every Thanksgiving. badly silvered. leaving three nickels for the waiter.30 in silver change.” he puffed like a leaky steampipe. “thankee kindly for a hearty meal. raised knife and fork and carved for himself a crown of imperishable bay.” Then he arose heavily with glazed eyes and started toward the kitchen. The Old Gentleman carefully counted out $1. I’m very hungry. but his little black necktie was in as jaunty a bow as ever. He saw the look of beneficent happiness on the Old Gentleman’s face—a happier look than even the fuchsias and the ornithoptera amphrisius had ever brought to it—and he had not the heart to see it wane.” The coma of repletion had not prevented from entering Stuffy’s mind the conviction that he was the basis of an Institution. but he rallied like a true knight. and tin. sir. sir. and much obliged. he rightly construed them into Stuffy’s old formula of acceptance. vegetables. “Here comes de old guy. stewing and helpless in his own selfpity. it belonged by all the sacred rights of established custom. His face was getting more lined each year. Henry. And then Stuffy made a noise that sounded like peas bubbling in a pot. if not by the actual Statute of Limitations. I’ll go with ye. True. and his gray mustache was curled gracefully at the ends.

“you wouldn’t think that was a case of almost starvation. There was no smell of whiskey to justify a transfer to the patrol wagon. for he looked good for the bill.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ They parted as they did each year at the door. I guess. Then he seemed to puff out his rags as an owl puffs out his feathers. But pretty soon one of the young doctors met one of the young nurses whose eyes he liked. When the ambulance came the young surgeon and the driver cursed softly at his weight. There they stretched him on a bed and began to test him for strange diseases. And lo! an hour later another ambulance brought the Old Gentleman. “That nice old gentleman over there. the Old Gentleman going south. He told me he hadn’t eaten a thing for three days. so Stuffy and his two dinners went to the hospital. Around the first corner Stuffy turned. And they laid him on another bed and spoke of appendicitis.” he said. and stopped to chat with her about the cases.” 104 . Stuffy north. Proud old family. and fell to the sidewalk like a sunstricken horse. and stood for one minute. now. with the hope of getting a chance at some problem with the bare steel.

Liberty and Equal Opportunity .

we are not altogether unworthy of our origin. in our devotion to civil and religious liberty. In this speech. We have come to this Rock. covered with a wilderness. to enjoy and to establish. our sympathy in their sufferings. in a vast extent of country. and United States Senator Daniel Webster (1782–1852) delivered this oration (excerpted) at the landing site. made its slow progress to the shore. with the interesting group upon its deck. our gratitude for their labors. where Christianity. too strong to be resisted. And we would leave here. does Webster praise in our form of government. which inspires and awes us. We cast our eyes abroad on the ocean. we are assembled on this memorable spot. There is a local feeling connected with this occasion. now almost double his “a hundred years hence. and we see where the little barque. the storms of heaven. His oration moves from an attempt to articulate for the assembled the “genius of the place” to a discussion of our system of government. disease. We are here. We 106 . which they encountered the dangers of the ocean. The imagination irresistibly and rapidly draws around us the principal features and the leading characters in the original scene. Imagine yourself standing where Webster stood. also.” Can you experience the “genius of the place” and appreciate what the Pilgrims accomplished? What. our veneration for their piety. our admiration of their virtues. where the hearths and altars of New England were first placed. and peopled by roving barbarians. and how is it connected with the Pilgrims and their New England settlements? What is the connection between the American laws about property and the practices of freedom and equality—and between these and the slave trade? For what would Webster have us be thankful today. in our veneration of religion and piety. the violence of savages. for the generations which are rising up rapidly to fill our places. and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty. to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers. and letters made their first lodgement. and how should we express our gratitude? Standing in relation to our ancestors and our posterity. exile. the bicentennial of the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Rock—well before Thanksgiving became a national holiday—the great statesman. We feel that we are on the spot where the first scene of our history was laid. and civilization. to perform the duties which that relation and the present occasion impose upon us. exactly. and famine. he performs his duty to “our ancestors and our posterity” and to “this memorable spot” by paying homage to our Pilgrim fathers and to the blessings of liberty and equality that Americans enjoy thanks to their legacy. and he concludes with a look into the future and a charge to future generations. orator. at the season of the year at which the event took place.Excerpt from “The First Settlement of New England” DANIEL WEBSTER In 1820. in our regard for whatever advances human knowledge or improves human happiness. a sort of genius of the place. some proof that we have endeavored to transmit the great inheritance unimpaired. that in our estimate of public principles and private virtue.

Among these are the condition and tenure of property. To judge of its actual operation. There is a natural influence belonging to property. In the absence of military power. nor. it is not enough to look merely at the form of its construction. Our New England ancestors brought hither no great capitals from Europe. and it is on the rights of property that both despotism and unrestrained popular violence ordinarily commence their attacks. We seem even to behold them. In these respects it cannot be denied that the circumstances of this country are most favorable to the hope of maintaining a government of a great nation on principles entirely popular. The mild dignity of CARVER and of BRADFORD. to fill us with reverence and admiration . couchless. and. . Our ancestors began their system of government here under a condition of comparative equality in regard to wealth. the devout BREWSTER. their trust in Heaven. and their early laws were of a nature to favor and continue this equality. the presence or absence of a military power. down even to the present time. till our own blood almost freezes. Excerpt from “The First Settlement of New England” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ look around us. the general firmness and thoughtfulness of the whole band. the enterprising ALLERTON. with toilsome efforts. their conscious joy for dangers escaped. .Daniel Webster. and behold the hills and promontories where the anxious eyes of our fathers first saw the places of habitation and of rest. whether it exists in many hands or few. and if they had. The practical character of government depends often on a variety of considerations. They broke away at once from the system of military service established in the Dark Ages. They left behind them the whole feudal policy of the other continent. There were. We feel the cold which benumbed. and the degree of general intelligence. their deep solicitude about danger to come. what a painter of our own has also represented by his pencil. could the feudal constitution possibly exist with us. gain the shore. Beneath us is the Rock. and which continues. the spirit of the age. but for a mother’s breast. as yet. but for a mother’s arms. and listen to the winds which pierced them. that it is really and practically a free system. on the other hand. than on those laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property. the nature of government must essentially depend on the manner in which property is holden and distributed. full of confidence and anticipation. and we see. where property was holden according to the principles of the feudal system. chilled and shivering childhood. They came to a new country. the laws regulating its alienation and descent. all of these seem to belong to this place. as they struggle with the elements. to which I would devote what remains of the time allowed to this occasion. and to be present upon this occasion. A republican form of government rests not more on political constitutions. more or less to affect the condition of property all over Europe. we hear the whisperings of youthful impatience. the decisive and soldierlike air and manner of STANDISH. an armed or unarmed yeomanry. Of our system of government the first thing to be said is. We listen to the chiefs in council. The nature and constitution of society and government in this country are interesting topics. It originates entirely with the people and rests on no other foundation than their assent. on which New England received the feet of the Pilgrims. houseless. their high religious faith. besides the abstract frame of its constitutional organization. we see the unexampled exhibition of female fortitude and resignation. there was nothing productive in which they could have been invested. no lands 107 . Governments like ours could not have been maintained.

Neither public sentiment. and this occasion will soon be passed. . foul and dark. to the disgrace of the Christian name and character. and in the sight of Heaven. nor the law. and the justice of Heaven. or from the necessity of their common interest. new efforts are making for the extension of this trade by subjects and citizens of Christian states. as may become the artificers of such instruments of misery and torture. At the moment when God in his mercy has blessed the Christian world with a universal peace. and seldom made use of . In the sight of our law. There is no brighter page of our history. and I would call on all the true sons of New England to cooperate with the laws of man. or let it be set aside from the Christian world. within the extent of our knowledge or influence. . I hear the sound of the hammer. nearly on a general level in respect to property. . let us pledge ourselves here. Their situation demanded a parcelling out and division of the lands. The laws rendered estates divisible among sons and daughters. any participation in this traffic. to extirpate and destroy it. . as we have now surveyed. The entailment of estates. let it be put out of the circle of human sympathies and human regards. and the other processes for fettering and tying up inheritances. the voice of acclamation and gratitude. either from their original condition. If there be. The hours of this day are rapidly flying. than that which records the measures which have been adopted by the government at an early day. at which every feeling of humanity must forever revolt. through us. for the suppression of this traffic. or let it cease to be of New England. to trace. they exist only in the all-creating power of God. during the lapse of a century. We would anticipate their concurrence with us in our sentiments of deep regard for our common ancestors. their descent from the Pilgrims and to survey. On the morning of that day. Neither we nor our children can be expected to behold its return. that the land is not yet wholly free from the contamination of a traffic. They were themselves. The right of primogeniture. the African slave trader is a pirate and a felon. They are in the distant regions of futurity. and no tenants rendering service. I see the visages of those who by stealth and at midnight labor in this work of hell. who shall stand here a hundred years hence. there is reason to fear. It is not fit that the land of the Pilgrims should bear the shame longer. at first limited and curtailed. in whose hearts there dwell no sentiments of humanity or of justice.—I mean the African slave trade. We would anticipate and partake the pleasure with which they will then recount the steps of New England’s advancement. although it will not disturb us in our repose. was afterwards abolished. that this necessary act fixed the future frame and form of their government. and over whom neither the fear of God nor the fear of man exercises a control. the progress of their country. I deem it my duty on this occasion to suggest. The character of their political institutions was determined by the fundamental laws respecting property. . an offender beyond the ordinary depth of human guilt.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ yielding rent. 108 . upon the rock of Plymouth. Let it be purified. and at different times since. Let that spot be purified. The whole soil was unreclaimed from barbarism. has hitherto been able entirely to put an end to this odious and abominable trade. that. The property was all freehold. I see the smoke of the furnaces where manacles and fetters are still forged for human limbs. and it may be fairly said. were not applicable to the condition of society. long trusts. and let civilized man henceforth have no communion with it .

We welcome you to the treasures of science and the delights of learning. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies and the verdant fields of New England. We welcome you to the blessings of good government and religious liberty. they shall look back upon us. till it lose itself in the murmurs of the Pacific seas. as you rise in your long succession. and the light of everlasting Truth! 109 . to fill the places which we now fill. that we possessed affections. the immortal hope of Christianity. and children.Daniel Webster. from the long distance of a hundred years. and parents. Advance. We welcome you to the transcendent sweets of domestic life. some proof that we hold the blessings transmitted from our fathers in just estimation. and soon shall have passed. run forward also to our posterity. running backward and warming with gratitude for what our ancestors have done for our happiness. at least. to the happiness of kindred. shall be transmitted through millions of the sons of the Pilgrims. then. We bid you welcome to this pleasant land of the fathers. which. some proof of a sincere and ardent desire to promote every thing which may enlarge the understandings and improve the hearts of men. We would leave for consideration of those who shall then occupy our places. And when. they shall know. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational existence. Excerpt from “The First Settlement of New England” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ commencing on the Rock of Plymouth. our own human duration. ere yet they have arrived on the shore of Being. and meet them with cordial salutation. ye future generations! We would hail you. We greet your accession to the great inheritence which we have enjoyed. and to taste the blessings of existence where we are passing. and of civil and religious liberty. some proof of our attachment to the cause of good government.

Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879–1958)—American author. to appreciate the blessings of living in America than are the native born? Why did your ancestors come to America? Why do you stay? What is the meaning of the story’s title? A new girl came into the Winthrop Avenue public school about the beginning of November. dressed exactly like everybody else. feels herself adjusting wonderfully to her new country. She got her lessons terribly well (the others thought somebody at home must help her more than the teachers like). it looked as though her folks hadn’t ever had enough sense to bob it. and this is how she looked to the other boys and girls in the seventh grade. She couldn’t see the point of wise-cracks. It was done up in two funny looking pigtails. In this story from 1940. like nothing anybody had ever seen — kind of a smile and yet kind of offish. and activist—enables her readers to appreciate the immigrant experience in their own time. Fisher was a contemporary of Willa Cather and took a PhD in Romance Languages from Columbia University. The daughter of the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska. (This was a small public school in a small inland American town where they seldom saw any foreigners. She served as secretary of Horace Mann School in New York. even while her classmates regard her with hostility. neither a long nor short bob. for and about young schoolchildren. She couldn’t understand English although she could read it enough to get her lessons.) Her hair wasn’t bobbed and curled. but she laughed over things that weren’t funny a bit. like the way a cheerleader waves his arms. education reformer. queerest of all. as in most American towns.) She wore the queerest-looking clothes you ever saw and clumping shoes and great thick woolen stockings. She had a queer expression on her face. and for what does she give thanks? Why is she so pleased with the day of Thanksgiving? How does she win over her bigoted classmates? Is it true that immigrants are more able. and later as the first female member of the Vermont Board of Education. and people who couldn’t speak English seemed outlandish. and more likely. Magda. And. she wore aprons! Can you beat it! 110 . (All the children in that town. and she was the dumbest thing about games—didn’t even know how to play duck on a rock or run sheep run. because their mothers mostly bought their clothes at Benning and Davis’ department store on Main Street.A New Pioneer DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER Daniel Webster asked his auditors to imagine themselves in the place of the Pilgrims two hundred years before. a newly arrived Jewish immigrant from Austria possessing an old-world appearance and but a smattering of English. Why does Magda write her prayer for Thanksgiving.

“All right. This is how the school looked to her.” And she soon found what hurrah! means. as the days went by she began to catch a word here and there. but Grandfather always came quickly to say smilingly. she and her grandfather. Magda had been hiding in a corner and saw this. for the Winthrop Avenue school made a specialty of mass cheering. she sometimes saw it again and woke up with a scream. Magda child. We’re safe in America with Uncle Harry. 111 . Go to sleep again. Still. although she couldn’t understand what they were cheering about. but it was in the back of her mind as she went to school every day. She tried not to think of it.” He had said she must not tell anybody about that day. How kind the teachers were! Why. and. from the town in Austria where he had a shop in which he repaired watches and clocks and sold trinkets the peasant boys bought for their sweethearts. She was to forget about it if she could. Madga thought nearly everything in America was as odd and funny as it was nice.Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It seemed to her that the English language was like a thick. Men in uniforms and big boots had come suddenly one day—it was in vacation. shining bright against what she tried to forget. “We can do something bette r in the New World than sow more hate. And how free and safe the children acted! Magda simply loved the sound of their chatter on the playground. But the cheerleaders were the funniest. She had studied English in her Austrian school. She did wish she could understand what they were saying. even the first graders. they smiled at the children. heavy curtain hanging down between her and her new schoolmates. and about the long journey afterward. loud and gay and not afraid even when the teacher stepped out for something. when they were so frightened and had so little to eat. but this swift. They had come a long way. The American school (really a rather ugly old brick building) was for Magda made of gold and silver. But she loved to yell. “A New Pioneer” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ That’s how she looked to the school. and Magda was there—and had smashed in the windows of the shop and the showcase with the pretty things in it and had thrown all the furniture from their home back of the shop out into the street and made a bonfire of it. after she had gone to sleep. when the man in the uniform in New York thought for a minute that something was wrong with their precious papers and they might have to go back. with their bendings to one side and the other and then jumping up straight in the air till both feet were off the ground. and now. and every grade had a cheerleader.” he said seriously. At first she couldn’t see a thing through it. “Hurrah!” too. short ones like “down” and “run” and “back. birdlike twittering didn’t sound a bit like the printed words on the page. like the black cloth the jewelers put down on their counters to make their pretty gold and silver things shine more. worst of all.

this whole school and every other school. But some did. where they had been so badly treated.” Magda could just catch a word or two. too. We haven’t got enough for ourselves as it is. instead of staying in Europe.” “My father told my mother this morning that he didn’t know why our country should take in all the disagreeable folks that other countries can’t stand any more. just poetry.” “She’s Jewish. she thought. here. more than three hundred years after that day. and then—oh. My goodness. were turning themselves upside down to celebrate with joy their great-grandfathers’ having been brave enough to come to America and to stay here. About two weeks after Magda came to school Thanksgiving Day was due. “My goodness.) Everybody in school was to do something for the celebration. looking at her and talking among themselves. How splendid it would be. to be thankful that they could stay in America! How could people (as some of the people who wrote the German textbooks did) say that Americans didn’t care about anything but making money? Why. but since the story was all written out in her history book she soon found out what it meant. who taught them how to cultivate the fields. hard trip across the ocean (she knew something about that trip). to have the curtain down altogether so she could really understand what they were saying! This is what they were saying—at least the six or seven girls who tagged after Betty Woodworth. Everybody that comes from Europe now is Jewish. she thought happily. She thought it was perfectly lovely! She read the story of the Pilgrim Fathers and their long. She could catch a glimpse here and there of what they were saying when they sometimes stood in a group. look at that dress! It looks like her grandmother’s—if she’s got one. the setting aside of a day forever and forever. and their terrible first winter. even though it was hard. the first graders can play tag. She doesn’t know enough to play squat tag. She had never heard of Thanksgiving Day. everywhere all over the country. “country” and “enough” and “uncle. We don’t want our town all filled up with Jews!” “My uncle Peter saw where it said in the paper we ought to keep them out. and they were going to pretend to show the second graders (in 112 . it was poetry. Most of the seventh graders were too busy studying and racing around at recess time to pay much attention to the queer new girl. The first graders had funny little Indian clothes. She must be.” “Of all the dumb clucks. They used to say. every year.” But it wouldn’t be long now. and the kind Indian whose language they couldn’t understand.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ But little by little it began to have thinner spots in it. till she could understand everything they said and really belong to seventh grade. (Magda knew something about that.

and because she couldn’t be sure of saying the right words in English she wrote a note to the teacher about it. listening to the singing and acting of the children and saying. Madga has been in this country only five weeks and in our school only three. “A New Pioneer” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Puritan costumes) how to plant corn. Magda thought they were delightful. thoughtlessly. I learn out of my history book that 113 . she thought.” and her face lighted up. a bright. no more than you or I—they had heard older people talking like that—and they gabbled along. when Grandfather and I were driven from our home. striped apron over her thick woolen dress. “We shall now hear a prayer written by Magda Bensheim and spoken by her.” and “how time flies. “Kind of nervy. they weren’t specially bad children. were going to speak pieces and sing.” and “can you believe it that Betty is up to my shoulder now? Seems like last week she was in the kindergarten.” said Betty.” Magda came out to the middle of the platform. She put her hands together and lifted them up over her head and said to God. Some grades had songs. The children in Magda’s own seventh grade. “I thought Thanksgiving was for Americans!” said another. of that little Jew girl to horn in on our celebration. So Magda went happily to write it and learn it by heart. Her face was shining and solemn. She would like to write a thankful prayer (she could read English pretty well now) and learn it by heart and say it. anyhow?” said another. “the first graders are too darling.” The tall principal stood at one side of the platform and read off the different numbers from a list. “Oh. It wouldn’t be long now. before she could understand them.” They sat in rows in the assembly room. thank you. to the “exercises. as her part of the celebration. as they always did. “Who asked her to come to America. others were going to act in short plays. the way we are all apt to repeat what we hear. caught the word “Americans. No. On Thanksgiving Day a lot of those grownups whose talk Betty and her gang had been repeating had come. nodded that it would be all right. thank you. those darling little things. She had an idea all her own. who was terrifically busy with a bunch of boys who were to build a small “pretend” log cabin on stage.Dorothy Canfield Fisher. being taught already to be thankful that they could go on living in America. no. that she loved so. for letting me come to America and nowhere else. dear God. Magda. her braids tied with red ribbons. By and by he said. if you ask me. The teacher. Her heart was beating fast. without considering whether it is right or not. listening hard.

kids. So thanks to you. “Hurrah!” they shouted. because Europe treat them wrong and bad. I. Miss Turner. I want to lead a cheer. and “Hurrah!” they all shouted. and so does everybody here. children.” Magda did not know what is usually said in English at the end of a prayer so did not say anything when she finished. and must thankful be that from refugees they come to be American citizens. “Well. just walked away back where the other girls of her class were. The wonderful moment had come. that’s all. strong voice. now I can understand American!” 114 . too. dear. Don’t eat too much turkey. Wait a minute. too. “Amen! I say Amen. her eyes wide. for having come afraid from Europe to be here free and safe. But the principal said it for her—after he had given his nose a good blow and wiped his eyes. Every year they gather like this—to remember their brave grandfathers who come here so long ago and stay on. He looked out over the people in the audience and said in a loud. See you next Monday. although they had such hard times. I understand every word. “Wait a minute.” But Betty jumped up and said.” And then—it was sort of queer to applaud a prayer—they all began to clap their hands loudly. I know. Back in the seventh-grade room the teacher was saying. “American hearts are so faithful and true that they forget never how they were all refugees. “Hurrah!” She bent back to the other side. The curtain that had shut Magda off from her schoolmates had gone. “Oh! Ach!” she cried. dear God. Yes. for letting Grandfather and me come to live in a country where they have this beautiful once-a-year Thanksgiving. She jumped straight up till both feet were off the ground and clapped her hands over her head. All ready? “Three cheers for Magda! “Hip! Hip!” She leaned ’way over to one side and touched the floor. and they all shouted.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Americans all came to this country just how Grandfather and I come. feel the same beautiful thank-you-God that all Americans say here today. “Why.

if he spent the night in the 115 .Thanksgiving at the Polls EDWARD EVERETT HALE Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909). and be the next morning three miles nearer his work. he tried in the keyhole a steel key which he had picked up in Dock Square the day before. It instantly occurred to Dane that he might save the five cents which otherwise he would have given to his masters of the street railway. As often happens. with the Mayor in attendance? What is the meaning of the story’s title (and especially “ at” the polls)? What is the symbolic significance of the fact that the gatherings occur in (at) polling-booths? What is the significance of the fact that most of the characters who take up residence in the pollingbooths are wandering homeless immigrants? How is Thanksgiving connected to American citizenship? I. he could not but observe the polling-booth. but he was now standing still. His home. Frederick Dane was on his way towards what he called his home. The rails were all in their places. and for a time chaplain in the United States Senate. He had been walking. in preparation for the election which was to take place three weeks afterward. He left the door wide open. Dane is of an inquiring temper. Almost to his surprise. alas. or of the final gathering in Faneuil Hall. and seeing that the polling-booth had a door and the door had a keyhole. at the well-known corner of Massachusetts and Columbus Avenues. and why does he choose to share it beyond “his own” polling-booth? What is the meaning of the fact that the same events are taking place in other polling-booths. which a watchful city government had placed in the street. Hale also invites us to think about citizenship and the meaning of America. a few days before. was also a prolific author of essays and stories. and the gaslight streaming in revealed to him the aspect of the cells arranged for Australian voting. Frederick Dane had an opportunity to wait at this corner a quarter of an hour. He is best remembered for his story “The Man without a Country” (1863). As he looked around him on the silent houses. Unitarian minister. Hale explores the relation between the holiday of Thanksgiving and the practice of generosity. was but an indifferent attic in one of the southern suburbs of Boston. and he found himself able to walk in. the key governed the lock at once. many on American political subjects. Why does Frederick Dane first move into the polling place? What moves him to “extend the benefits of his new discovery”? What are the effects of his generosity on those he brings “home” with him? How does he end up with so much abundance for Thanksgiving. antislavery activist. and the election might take place the very next day. In this story from 1899. as well as our principles of freedom and equal opportunity. But by building the story around immigrants and polling-booths.

takes the place which a tablecloth would have taken under other circumstances. and which it is worth while to explain to a world which is not too well housed. The city had provided three or four chairs there. brought in with him his little possessions in a valise to the office. by way of saying that this is the beginning of the arrangement which a city. They are. but. but all the year round. And not to detain the reader too long upon merely fleshly arrangements. and thought rightly. when the street-cars began to travel. It was easy to buy a mince pie or a cream cake. men who write books are not commonly eager to read books which are worse than their own. Dane had little literature. would tend to his own convenience. One is glad to have a tablecloth. He was then able to establish himself on the basis which proved convenient afterwards. There exist in Boston at this moment three or four hundred of the polling-booths. he had locked the door behind him. At a nine-cent window of a neighboring tinman’s he was able to buy himself the few little necessities which he wanted for housekeeping. he lay on the floor. and which had accompanied one cell of the cabin in its travels. had struck a wax taper which he had in his cigar-box.” and that is a very good name when it is applied to a very good thing.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ polling-cabin. in a minute more. he did not care for this so much.—nice little houses. whose own houses are not agreeable to them. This will not then be called “Nationalism. and in the morning. when he found himself on the lee side of an iceberg under Peary’s command. a stove. and. will make in the next century for unsettled people. by their clatter on the corner. enough better than most of the peasantry of most of Europe ever lived in. which had been left there by some disappointed canvasser the year before. he had fitted up his convenient if not pretty bower with all that man requires. Dane was an old soldier and an old seaman. as he was in the literary line himself. ink down. had rolled the paper roll out on the floor. Dane telegraphed down to the office that he should be detained an hour that morning. But if one have a large poster warning people. he was awaked a little after sunrise. and began on a forecast. in the course of a couple of hours of Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening. paid his landlady her scot. He felt well satisfied with the success of his experiment. which he thought. not for the few hours of an election only. to serve as a pillow. In five minutes more. alas. He looked around for a minute or two. He was not troubled by disagreeable dreams. But in the twentieth century we shall send them down to the shores of islands and other places where people like to spend the summer.” it will be called “Democracy. and two tables. went out to his home of the day before at Ashmont. one’s conscience is not wounded if this poster. This is perhaps unnecessary detail. that they should vote the Prohibition ticket. generally packed up in lavender and laid away for ten months of the year. If there is 116 . covered with his heavy coat. sleeping as soundly as he had slept the year before. which the reader shall follow for a few weeks. not very intelligent. and we shall utilize them. according as payday was near or distant. possibly to that of his friends. a year before. and found some large rolls of street posters. Dane is a prompt man. or a bit of boiled ham or roast chicken. and did not appear at his new home until after nightfall.

persuaded them to take him to some of their former haunts. The Caliph did most of his business at night. by pantomime which would have made the fortune of a ballet-girl. and he had taken possession. Here was an empty house. Dane with him on his evening excursions. for his “other place. who. But conscience always asserts itself. he unlocked the door. Dane was thus not unfamiliar with the methods of unexpected evening visits. The little children whom he had picked up. Like all masculine housekeepers. Poor little things. in the form of barley horses and dogs. and accordingly Frederick led them along to his cabin. It really was a satisfaction to what the pulpits call a “felt want” when as he came through Massachusetts Avenue on Thursday evening. Frederick had provided three times as much food as he needed for his own physical wants. He had there served as the English interpreter for the Caliph of that city. as well trained a man of the world as Dane had made himself thoroughly comfortable in his new quarters before the week was over. to be sure that no one was in sight. as the preachers say. that they were much more comfortable in their new home than they had been in any other. Jaffrey. And. they were snugly asleep on and under a pile of Prohibition posters. neither of them more than ten years old. But kindness needs little spoken language. Dane. of the name of Mezrour. But by various temptations addressed to them. there is but little to wash. It was clear enough that the children were such waifs and strays that nothing surprised them. and brought in his little companions. and satisfied himself that neither had had any supper. for the nine years before he joined Peary. who was of a romantic and enterprising disposition. so that it was not difficult to make these children happy with the pieces of mince pie and lemon pie and cream cake and eclairs which were left from his unknown festivals of the day before. selfish. crying on the sidewalk. “Thanksgiving at the Polls” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ not much crockery to use. before half an hour was over. II. and he had indeed in his own employment for some time. or. as he always did. and it was fortunate for him that he was so. and was in the habit of taking Mr. explained to him. he had lived in the city of Bagdad. Dane is sympathetic and fond of children. he met a boy and a girl. nor could they understand him. He stopped the little brats. III. and. a minute or two. and that they had no wish to leave it. At the beginning Frederick’s views were purely personal. 117 . In this way Mr. and it was not long before he felt that he ought to extend the benefits of this new discovery of his somewhat further. and they readily accepted the modest hospitalities of the position. Dane had made the somewhat intimate acquaintance of Mr. the private secretary of the Caliph. they were both cold and tired. and after waiting.Edward Everett Hale.” was engaged as a servant in the Caliph’s household. Fortunately for Frederick Dane. He could not understand a word of the language in which they spoke. in short. a wide-awake black man. three miles nearer his work than his hired attic was. and sticks of barber’s candy.

first on account of the utter failure of anything to eat there. The day before the election. even by a cup of cold coffee. as it seemed. Dane saw what were called their lodgings. the fortunes from day to day of the little circle. And. It is no part of this little tale to follow. “swept away. with the great wave of righteous indignation which. crossed the ocean with them in the same steerage. IV. a little broken Hebrew. They had no intention of interfering. that the reader may understand why. gave them no bad example. etc. without further mystery. in the southern part of Russia. or with that of the Arabian Nights. a great deal of broken China. eight cheerful companions told stories around the hospitable board. which they laid on the trusses in the roof above them. In a way. second. The rules of the institution proved attractive. they had been sleeping on the outside of the upper attic of the house in Salutation Alley where these children had lodged. the pretences and ambitions. They had the advantage. with Mr. etc. but for many months Mr. they either had or had not. on the first night after the arrival of these two children. Dane was unable to discover which. that they could attend the Sabbath school provided for them by the Hebrews on Saturday and the several Sunday-schools of the Parker Memorial. while. with a little broken Arabic. certainly. he did not wonder that they had accepted pot-luck with him. Stevenson’s magic. or not lodged. The two North End friends of little Ezra and Sarah readily accepted the invitation of the two children to join in the College Settlement at the corner of the two avenues. who had. and many gesticulations. and the other churches of the neighborhood. it may be as well to state that all four were from a village about nine hundred and twentythree miles north of Odessa. Enough that men of Hebrew race do not prove lazy anywhere. as the case might be. where they showed the quickness of their race. as by a great cosmic tidal flood. the population of the polling-booth was enlarged by the presence of these two Hebrew compatriots. and were in fact used by him or by some 118 . however. during the last few days.” These words are cited from Frederick Dane’s editorial of the next morning. The children were at once entered in a neighboring school. he made acquaintance with two of their compatriots. they stored their mattresses and other personal effects before the great election of that year began. and he soon found that he needed all his recollections of Bagdad for the purpose of conducting any conversation with any of the people they knew best. when the week closed and began. Such as they were. On the little attic thus prepared. It is necessary to explain all this. Frederick Dane asked Oleg and Vladimir to help him in bringing up some short boards. the Berkeley Temple. They had emigrated in a compulsory manner from that province.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ These were mostly at the North End of Boston. on that particular day of that particular year.. on account of a prejudice which the natives of that country had contracted against the Hebrew race. That is to say. as evening closed in. etc. When Mr. and before a second week was well advanced ten light excelsior mattresses were regularly rolled up every morning as the different inmates went to their duties. however. Dane..

they determined to prepare for a fit Thanksgiving to God. It is not every country. and. Dane and his settlement were well aware that after this election they would all have to move out from their comfortable quarters. which provides four hundred empty houses. explained the necessity of the sacrifice of turkeys on the occasion. an inhabitant of the planet Mars. and Frederick had no fear for turkeys. as one makes money. These announcements were hailed with satisfaction by all to whom Dane addressed them. not directly but indirectly. when the day before Thanksgiving came. it had been explained that on the day before Thanksgiving they must come with baskets to places named. But. which was promised in advance. and it was the practice of the wholesale dealers there. it proved that one or two of them were first-rate shots. It may readily be imagined. Everything in the country was as strange to them as it would have been to an old friend of mine. As for Dane himself. say. that. And it might be that the pavers and ditchers and shovellers and curbstone men and asphalt makers should vote wrong. the proprietors of his journal always presented a turkey to each man on their staff. as Governor Bradford’s men did in 1621. where it was the custom of the house to give a roasted turkey and a pan of cranberry sauce to each person who had been on the pay-list for three months. This also pleased them. He explained to his companions that a great festival was near. for the convenience of any unlodged night-editor with a skeleton key. One or two of them were errand men in the market. V. while they were in. in all the cosmic changes of the elections of the next six years. He told briefly how Josselyn and the fathers shot them as they passed through the sky. by attendance at different shooting-galleries. who at this season become to a certain extent retailers. at shootinggalleries. he had expected to provide a twenty-two pound gobbler which a friend in Vermont was keeping for him. to encourage these errand men by presenting to each of them a turkey. every autumn. And in looking forward to his Thanksgiving at the polls. He then. But he explained that now we shoot them. and at each of his. he found that at Ezra’s boys’ club and at Sarah’s girls’ club. they brought in more than a turkey apiece. They heard this with joy. We shoot our turkeys. indeed. But so soon as this election was well over. without variations. the country and the city settled down. then. All this proved intelligible. Oddly enough. He explained that no work would be done that day. and the country which makes provision so generous for those in need. who comes along. and each of her Sabbath-school classes and Sunday-school classes.—not in any cigar-shop or sweating-room. Only the people who “take up the streets” detached more men than ever to spoil the pavement. and carry home a Thanksgiving dinner. As for Sarah and Ezra. such as it was. he was more oppressed by an embarrassment of riches than by any difficulty on the debtor side of his 119 . Many of them were at work in large factories. at some length.Edward Everett Hale. For now a city election was approaching. with what Ransom used to call “amazin’” readiness to the new order. And they accepted the custom of this holiday among the rest. “Thanksgiving at the Polls” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ of his friends.

To this there was a general assent. himself included. He had twelve people to feed. VI. three or four boxes of raisins. and Frederick headed his procession. For each the stewards packed two turkeys in a basket. He showed them that they all had great reason for thanksgiving. and he found he should have left over. And.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ account. some mince pies and Marlborough pies from the Union for Christian Work. Frederick called his fellow-lodgers together earlier than usual on the evening before Thanksgiving Day. and they were eager for the active work of Thanksgiving. two or three drums of figs. their eyes were wide open. and that the company should on the next day invite guests enough to make another table of twelve. had found many enemies here. And now there was to be a chicken-pie from Obed Shalom. and they looked their wonder. as time would press upon them. as they had been favored with much more than they could use for their own appetites. And he said that. for every man had on his long frieze coat and his heavy boots. 120 . two roasted geese and eleven turkeys. There were the two children. He told them that the occasion was one of exuberant thanksgiving to the God of heaven. a turkey at each end of the board. The company sat down to a hasty tea. twenty-three pies of different structure. he made three heads of a discourse which might have been expanded by the most eloquent preacher in Boston the next day. and what he said was received with applause in the various forms in which Southern Russia applauds on such occasions. they must look up those who were not so well off as themselves. five dishes of cranberry sauce. As for the two children. and yet again at the booth which is at the corner of Curtis Avenue and Quincy Street. their eight friends. administered much as the Israelites took their last meal in Egypt. because he had the promise of the keeper of the Montgomery House that he would roast for him all the birds that were brought in to him before nine o’clock on Thanksgiving morning. that it would be indecent for them to carry this supply of food farther than next Monday for their own purposes. He proposed that the same course should be taken at the corner of Shapleigh and Bowditch Streets. He was well pleased by finding that he was understood. He explained to them. and a young Frenchman from Paris who. and their mouths. and would have well covered the twenty-five minutes which the regulation would have required for a sermon. in short. Dane had invited him to dinner. like all persons of that nationality who are six months in this country. in the patois which they used together. He had arranged that there should be plates or saucers enough for each person to have two. He counted all the turkeys as roasted. Having stated all this on a list carefully written. they had better arrange to carry a part at least of the stores to these places that evening. after the largest computation for the appetites of the visitors. filled in as far as they could with other stores. He then said that. first in the English language and second in the language of the Hebrews. Frederick then proposed that two of their number should volunteer to open a rival establishment at the polling-booth at the corner of Gates Street and Burgoyne Street.

Their fortune had not been unlike that of Frederick and his friends. Arriving in Boston to look for lodgings. therefore. it must be confessed. and at this moment they were discussing the methods by which they might distribute several brace of ducks which had been sent up from Mashpee. He was. who. a haunch of venison which had come down from above Machias. At the moment of the arrival of our friends. A few moments showed that another leader of the people had discovered this vacant home a few weeks before. Reinforced by four of their number. and it was not necessary to open the door with the “jimmy” which Simeon had under his ulster. 121 . Regis Indians of Northern New York. As it proved. not unnaturally. as he threw the door open. 238. in fact. finding themselves in Boston. 311.Edward Everett Hale. the delegation in search of hungry people was increased to fourteen in number. The little procession soon arrived at the corner of Shapleigh and Bowditch Streets. He found out that he was as wise as the next fellow. had established a warm friendship among the five. But on the other hand. of French Canadians. more or less. and with a certain curiosity. this gentleman was a Mashpee Indian. There a similar revelation was made. two Dacotahs. he. and. and that. and some wild turkeys which had arrived by express from the St. in short. they were sending out two of their number to find how they might best distribute thus their extra provender. for the first time. but was no better. they went together to try their respective keys on No. and had been questioning as to the distribution which they could make of their supplies. guised or disguised in much the same way as those whom he had brought with him. It proved. that the key of No. both by their friends at home and by their employers. the member of the House of Representatives from the town of Mashpee for the next winter. to Frederick’s amazement. It was then that he found out that the revelation made to one man is frequently made to many. met with a Mohawk. 237 answered for No. They too had been well provided for Thanksgiving. had come north and east. and a Cherokee. had taken possession of the polling-booth. who had been residing in this polling-booth since the second day after the general election. that he was not the only person in Boston. and they had brought together gradually twelve gentlemen of copper color. was as good as the next fellow. A similarity of color. he found a lighted room and a long table around which sat twelve men. For here they met a dozen. but was no wiser. These two gladly joined in the little procession. Whoever had made the locks on the doors of the houses had been content to use the same pattern for all. These gentlemen had left their wives and their children in the province of Quebec. for various errands. “Thanksgiving at the Polls” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ It was then that he was to learn. and had established there another settlement of the un-homed. not to say of racial relations. where they were living much more comfortably than they would have lived at home. he had no special patent upon his own undertaking. and all went together to the corner of Quincy Street and Curtis Avenue. only there was some difficulty at first in any real mutual understanding.

agreed that they would try No. Frederick Dane and Antonio Fero and Michael Chevalier and the Honorable Mr. they found. And here their fortunes changed. it must be given to them. Walk-in-the-Water and Eben Kartschoff arrived with an expresswagon driven by a stepson of P. when the present city charter was made. who had also worked out the problem of cheap lodgings. it reserved for itself permission to open Faneuil Hall at any time for a public meeting. and that there was no provision made by the police commissioners for a club-room for gentlemen of their profession. At the time of which we are reading the mayor had to preside at every such meeting. found a good-natured friend from the country who took the keys and lighted the gas in his place. VII. They also had found the liberality of each member of the force had brought in more than would be requisite. well acquainted with the charter of the city of Boston and with its constitution and by-laws. but it is probable that it was one of these officials. either by some priest’s voice or other divine word. It was well known that that many-eyed Argus called the press is very apt not to interfere with that which is none of its business. And thus it happened that. finding nights growing somewhat cold. Before the sun had set. These “cops” were unmarried men. They had therefore determined to spread their own table in their club-room. with a sense of the duties of the occasion.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Opening this without so much as knocking at the door to know if here they might not provide the “annex” or “tender” which they wished to establish. No one ever knew who made the great suggestion. and were just looking round to know where they might spread their second table. For here it proved that the “cops” on that beat. At the “Cops’” club it was highly determined that the names of fifty citizens should at once be obtained. 277 on the other side of the Avenue. had themselves arranged in the polling-booth a convenient place for the reading of the evening newspapers and for conference on their mutual affairs. It was wisely resolved that no public notice should be given of this in the journals. These men also had been touched. the worthy janitor of Faneuil Hall sent down his assistant to open it. and that the Cradle of Liberty should be secured for the general Thanksgiving. and had established themselves for some weeks here. it must be confessed without any amazement or amusement. and were considering the same subject which had oppressed the consciences of the leaders of the other bands. and did not much know where was the home in which the governor requested them to spend their Thanksgiving. Five of them joined the fourteen. and that the assistant. who offered the proposal which was adopted. after a rapid conversation. Nolan. In the jealousy of the fierce democracy of Boston in the year 1820. It proves now that whenever fifty citizens unite to ask for the use of the hall for such a meeting. who meant to dine at home. when Thanksgiving Day came. when they should be relieved from their more pressing duties. a company of Italians under the charge of one Antonio Fero. and this evening had been making preparations for a picnic feast there at midnight on Thanksgiving Day. There is no difficulty at Faneuil Hall in bringing 122 . and the whole company.

some antiquary reads this story in a number of the “Omaha Intelligencer. in Greek. with mallards and plover. seem to have fed the hungry. once a year. And it is to be hoped that they understood him. in Latin. the French brought walnuts and chestnuts. in Hebrew. until they had made them feel at home? These people. addressed them in English.— “Why. or something like it. Would it not have been simpler for them to provide that no man should ever be hungry? These people certainly thanked God to some purpose once a year. with venison. how happy is the nation which has learned to thank him always!” 123 . he will say. and with dishes of Russia and Italy and Greece and Bohemia. the Indians brought venison. and the good God sent a blessing. and the feast went on to the small hours of Friday. a hundred years hence. the hour assigned for the extemporized dinner. Why did they not welcome all strangers in like manner. Almost every man found up either a wife or a sweetheart or a daughter or a niece to come with him. and in Tuscan. Yet there are those who have seen it. And so. such as have no names. the Italians brought red wine. with the eye of faith. And when. But no record has ever been made of the feast in any account-book on this side the line. this was the beginning of what we do now! Only these people seem to have taken care of strangers only one month in the twelve. for Faneuil Hall is a place given to hospitality.” which has escaped the detrition of the thirty-six thousand days and nights. with cranberry and squash. with quail and partridges. The Greeks brought fruits. The Mayor came down on time. “Thanksgiving at the Polls” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ out a few trestles and as many boards as one wants for tables. before six o’clock. with geese.Edward Everett Hale. the tables were set with turkeys. and being an accomplished man.

3 Discussion Guides .

and each president since has annually issued Thanksgiving Day proclamations. Thanksgiving became a regularly celebrated national holiday only during the Civil War. issued in the first year of his first term as President of the United States. sometimes by fasting. Thanksgiving was a harvest festival. The date for the holiday was set as the fourth Thursday in November by an act of Congress only in 1941. Washington’s (and the nation’s) first presidential proclamation. integrity. But ever mindful of the precedents that he would be setting for future leadership. and judgment. whose appearance on the world stage—after the perilous Revolutionary War. most famously in 1621.”—the 125 . III. sometimes by feasting. IV. About the Author Summary Thinking about the Text Thinking with the Text For any American. and unanimously chosen to be the first president of the United States (1789–97). Such a holiday was celebrated already in the Spanish colony of Florida in the sixteenth century. The structure of his proclamation is straightforward. in which the colonists offered thanks to God Almighty for a good harvest. president of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. George Washington (1732–99) is—or ought to be—a man who needs no introduction. when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of national Thanksgiving in 1863. Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the War of American Independence (1775–83). Washington has long enjoyed the deserved reputation as the Father of his Country. when the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation celebrated their first successful harvest in the company of some of the Native American tribesmen. Universally admired for his courage. Such considerations appear evident in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789. A Proclamation. and in the British colonies of Virginia and Massachusetts in the seventeenth century. II.Discussion Guide for Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation I. and the contentious Constitutional Convention—seemed little short of miraculous. After the formal introductory opening—“By the President of the United States of America. he took pains to cultivate practices and manners that would stand the nation in good stead long after he was gone from the scene. Washington spoke not of harvests but (mainly) of matters political. Washington had great influence and power as the nation’s first president. the failure of the Articles of Confederation. But the first day of national Thanksgiving was proclaimed by George Washington in the first year of the new American republic. In colonial times.

It is not an executive decree that Washington himself has come up with. He is not stepping out as the chief executive. you can see a movement in the direction of a more consolidated nation—a true union. so his proclamation is not exclusively American. In this proclamation. Second. How are they related to each other? Which do you think is more important? 3. Leon Kass: Exactly. and the things for which we should humbly offer God our prayers and supplications. In fact. distinguished senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. What are the two reasons Washington gives for issuing the proclamation? 2. both because nations have a duty to give thanks and because Congress has asked that he make this recommendation. and Christopher DeMuth. Christopher DeMuth: Washington was very conscious of the precedential value of everything that he did. whereas the previous proclamations of the Continental Congress were addressed simply to the states themselves. which is that Washington’s proclamation is addressed directly to the people of the states. The important thing about these two reasons he gives is this: he is being dutiful. The Reasons for the Proclamation 1. This is the first presidential proclamation to an entire nation. Kass and Leon R. he is pursuing this matter of great importance as a duty as president. he says that he is responding to the will of Congress: it is Congress who has made this request of him. Kass discuss Washington’s Proclamation with Diana Schaub. the things for which he recommends we give thanks to God. Amy A. recommending some activity on their part—but Washington only does this because the representatives of those people have requested that he do so. Why does Washington emphasize that he is only doing his duty and acceding to Congress’s request? 4. A. To whom is the proclamation addressed? What does it recommend that they do? IN CONVERSATION In this conversation. To this 126 . coeditor of What So Proudly We Hail.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ three paragraphs deal in turn with the reasons President Washington is issuing the proclamation. Why does Congress ask him merely to “recommend” a day of public thanksgiving and prayer? 5. Diana Schaub: Washington first says that giving thanks is the duty of all nations. he is not bossing anyone around. Diana Schaub: There is one new element.

and he has some constitutional cadences. He has some Biblical cadences. He has very few references to things that are purely private and personal. But.Discussion Guide. watch the video online. and future. Christopher DeMuth: This proclamation was issued after thirteen years of intense activity: a war which looked like it was going to be lost from month to month. B. The Things for Which Thanks Should Be Given 1. Do you see any order in the list? 2. present. and it seemed miraculous. Are the “great and various favors which He hath been pleased to bestow on us” personal and private or communal and public? What is the relation between the private and public blessings? 5. for instance. Section 8 of the Constitution. just in the point of departure. or to Article I. What do you think of Washington’s language? Can you find in it echo es of the Bible or of the Constitution? (Compare. So it is a combination of the universal and the particular. with the new Constitution and the new president. This was an extraordinarily intense period. The structure is past. into what is clearly a political holiday. the language of the final paragraph to St. he turns the citizenry toward thanking God for the blessings He has provided and will continue to provide. Chapter 2. For more discussion on this question. When Washington says that we should take this occasion of the harvest thanksgiving to give thanks for what is more important to all of us. Which items do you think are most important? To Washington? To us today? 3. and to some extent everything was political. I find the language very interesting. the dissolution of the original constitution and the construction of the new Constitution. which was a harvest festival to begin with. And secondly. Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ he adds that the duty is a universal one. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy. To whom are thanks to be given? What view of the divine is operative here? 4. the national. And so our thanks are. to God Almighty for blessing the nation and for the nation’s establishment and perpetuation. at the end of it.) IN CONVERSATION Amy Kass: Washington turns this celebration. he is really speaking for the entire nation. but every one of them is derivative of the Constitution: civil 127 . and the creation of an entirely new political order. His emphasis is very much on the great blessings of this new constitutional order. first and foremost. Make a list of the several items in the proclamation (second paragraph) for which thanks should be given. everything had fallen into place.

or the progress of science. . and then to humankind altogether to “promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue. John Adams actually called for a day of humiliation. Amy Kass: And the very fact that Washington turns our attention to God and to Providence makes this proclamation utterly enduring. Leon Kass: The motion of the prayers begins with our transgressions. present in Lincoln’s and in Adams’s. . would you include such a qualifying clause? IN CONVERSATION Diana Schaub: Most striking is the first thing Washington encourages us to pray for. He says that our prayers should be “supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions. fasting. a blessing to all people. which may have led Thomas Jefferson to abandon the tradition altogether when he was president.” For more discussion on this question. The Things for Which We Should Pray 1. What do you make of the double prayer “to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue and the encrease of science among them and Us” (emphasis added)? How does Washington see the relation between religion and science? 5. in fact. and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree 128 . though it is. watch the video online.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ and political liberties. then asks that our government be. In fact. as he alone knows to be best”? Were you to pray for prosperity today. and the encrease of science . of course. Then it moves out to the sovereigns of other nations. for example. Why does Washington begin with the prayer “to pardon our national and other transgressions”? Which national transgressions might he have in mind? 4. moves to our duties. C. Make a list of the several items for which prayer should be made (third paragraph). no city. and prayer—and he did this on two occasions.” This is an element that tends to drop out of presidential proclamations. Which items do you think are most important? To Washington? To us today? 3. So the proclamation is strongly political. it reflects the insight of a wise man who once said: “No gods. Indeed. but it came at a time that is probably the most intensely political time of our whole history. . . What do you make of the qualification in the final prayer for temporal prosperity: that it be (only) of “such a degree . Do you see any order in the list? 2.

and Religion 1. Amy Kass: The suggestion is that God alone knows measure.” What kind of unity is he proposing for his fellow citizens? Why does Washington think it important? Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation raises questions about the role of government in our private and religious lives. A. but the recognition that even in our prayers we should understand the limitations of what might be good for us. Private Life. and Washington begins by saying that they all have the duty to 129 . can setting aside time for gratitude make room for its expression? IN CONVERSATION Christopher DeMuth: I don’t think that it is too much of a stretch to see this proclamation as an aspect of American exceptionalism. Government. Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. There are many great and worthy nations. Should government in a free society be in the position of recommending a day of service to God? Is Washington’s Proclamation a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution? 2. In both the paragraph about thanksgiving and the paragraph about prayers.Discussion Guide. about the connection between our public and our private—and between our natural and our political—blessings. D.” I like this last touch very much. Washington’s Purposes 1. Washington speaks about the people uniting: “That we may then all unite in rendering him our sincere and humble thanks”. as opposed to what we might wish for. “that we may then unite in humbly offering our prayers and supplications. Can a governmental—or any other—proclamation such as this induce the gratitude that it recommends? Or is genuine gratitude something that cannot be willed? If so. about the place of religion and piety in the American political order. watch the video online. What does Washington hope the Proclamation will accomplish? 2. For more discussion on this question. It also invites questions about the meaning of the holiday of Thanksgiving and the role it should play in American life today. It’s not a prayer for the maximum amount of increase of this or that.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ give thanks. in a communal way. not on insistence. but this is the nation where the president is recognizing this duty and recommending it to the people of his nation. on the really basic question of whether a government can exhort somebody to give thanks: you can tell somebody to give thanks. it is a recommendation—or. to begin with. Ours is a nation that created itself. Thanksgiving was. It is not just that we are all on this same piece of geography or that we share common blood or traditions. B. Public and Private Blessings 1. Amy Kass: It never would have occurred to me to think of this as an aspect of American exceptionalism. For more discussion on this question. watch the video online. Diana Schaub: It is not a command. just as we try to teach our children always to say thank you. And for that reason. and the American Political Order 1. it does help to draw that feeling forth. Religion. And in that sense we as a nation have more to unite us and more to give thanks for. It is something that has to come from the heart. Piety. but genuine gratefulness is not something you can insist upon.” But it is very important to extend that invitation and to provide the occasion. I think Washington is very smart to say that he recommends this. What is the relation between the strength of the American nation and the spirit of religion? 2. The emphasis is on recommendation. as Lincoln says. Washington’s Proclamation emphasizes mainly the blessings of our political—constitutional—order. We are not the only nation that has a Thanksgiving. And though many of the blessings for which we are to give thanks were like manna from heaven—gifts directly from God—many came in the form of God working through the agency of the agents of the American Revolution for the past thirteen years. more so than many other great nations. but I think that makes sense. Is one more important than the other? For which should we Americans today be most grateful? 130 . an “invitation. but I think it has an importance to Americans in that it melds our personal lives and our national lives in a way that is fitting for a nation with our peculiar history. a holiday of the harvest. Can the United States of America do without a connection to something higher than itself? C. When you provide the occasion in a public way like this. expressing thanks to God for the bounty of nature. but that this nation is one that we created. But.

When we gather around our own Thanksgiving tables. tone. for what are we inclined to be most grateful? For private and personal goods and joys? For communal and political benefits? For divine gifts? 5. who succeeded George Washington as president. the emphasis is on giving thanks to and for the nation. John Adams. What is special about Thanksgiving as a national holiday today? Is it a public or a private and familial holiday? 2. But even when it is focused on the personal. and there is very much a public character to that. recommended a National Day of Humiliation. It is a sort of national Sabbath. but we are one of millions of small platoons who are doing the same thing. on the family. What is the place of Thanksgiving on our national calendar? How does it compare—in substance. and manner of celebration—to the Fourth of July? 3. We gather in a home as a family. How does Thanksgiving express American identity and American character? 4. Thanksgiving is different from other such family meals because millions and millions of other people are doing it at the same time. To what extent are our private and personal blessings dependent on public and political ones? 4. and we give thanks. Thanksgiving and the National Calendar 1. What does Thanksgiving contribute to American identity and American character? 5. watch the video online. On what do our greatest blessings depend? God and nature? Human enhancement of the gifts of nature and/or nature’s God? Fortune? Something else? 3. where we share our family trials and tribulations and triumphs and talk about the day.Discussion Guide. and Prayer rather than a Thanksgiving 131 . as American citizens? IN CONVERSATION Christopher DeMuth: Thanksgiving is a time for pause. For what should we give thanks this year. But my own Thanksgivings when I was a boy had no political or national components to them. For more discussion on this question. and we have a set meal—a meal that is a kind of set menu that many people follow. Fasting. as American citizens? For what should we be praying. Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 2. D. Does our current mode of celebrating Thanksgiving—centered around huge family feasts—fit the deeper meaning of the holiday? What could be added to your own family celebration that might make the day more meaningful? 6. It does have this sacramental character in that we are talking about the personal. When we look at Washington’s Proclamation.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Proclamation. . Can there be genuine thanksgiving on a purely secular foundation? 8. On the Fourth. 132 . we place the credit elsewhere. we take credit for ourselves. We celebrate what we did. Diana Schaub: I think it is good to place the holiday in juxtaposition with the Fourth of July. What do you think of this idea? Would a more somber fast add something that is currently missing in our Thanksgiving rituals? 7. For more discussion on this question. We live in an age of bounty. Thanksgiving is very close to the Fourth of July. Thanksgiving is really about dependence. and some department stores now want to start Black Friday on Thursday evening . If the Fourth is about independence. it’s absolutely the opposite. Amy Kass: The Declaration of Independence ends with “and for the support of this Declaration. We look higher. our Fortunes. and our sacred Honor. On Thanksgiving. We live in a world where there are football games and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. watch the video online. . Can there be a solid and enduring political order on a purely secular foundation? IN CONVERSATION Christopher DeMuth: I think Thanksgiving has gained importance because it is more and more difficult to observe in the traditional manner. but in a certain way.” Thanksgiving really turns this inside out. with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence”—we firmly rely on it!—“we mutually pledge to each other our Lives.

and journalist. was filled with twists and surprises.Discussion Guide for “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” I. Born William Sydney Porter in Greensboro. IV. As soon as the men go their separate ways. The servants of the elderly sisters take Stuffy Pete in and banquet him to a finish. as the story’s surprise final sentence tells us. for it was there that he started to write short stories using the pseudonym by which he later became famous.” He goes with him to the traditional table at the traditional restaurant. who have their own tradition of feasting the first hungry wayfarer that comes along after the clock strikes noon. a homeless man who occupies a bench in New York’s Union Square. while Stuffy is en route to his park bench. were set in New York City. II. So he is well stuffed by the time he reaches his bench. like the one discussed here. mocking humor. at the same time. bank teller. and he spent three years in prison. in 1862. he is 133 . In 1896 he was indicted for and convicted of embezzling funds from an Austin bank. Henry. and his signature surprise—or as some have described them. About the Author Summary Thinking about the Text Thinking with the Text The life of O. collapses and is taken by ambulance to the hospital. North Carolina. whose “eyes were bright with the giving pleasure. the old gentleman is brought in. and. After an opening editorial about President Theodore Roosevelt. or is he.” like so many of O. Henry moved to New York City. O. showing us and celebrating its redeeming essence? The plot is fairly straight-forward. “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen. as has happened annually for nine years on Thanksgiving Day. where he worked as a ranch hand. But this year. Henry’s other stories. “twisty”—endings. now dangerously overstuffed. like his much loved short stories. many of which. he is met by an elderly gentleman. Stuffy Pete doesn’t have the heart to disappoint the kindly old man. III. where he lived for the last ten years of his life. Prison turned out to be a blessing in disguise. and the state of “tradition” in America. Henry is up to: is he irreverently satirizing the tradition of Thanksgiving. An hour later. O. who escorts him to a restaurant and treats him to a lavish dinner which the old gentleman watches Stuffy Pete eat. the story proper begins with Stuffy Pete. Thanksgiving proclamations. at least until O. These qualities make it difficult to say with certainty what O. Henry later moved to Texas. he passes the mansion of two old ladies of an ancient family. Stuffy Pete. Released from prison in 1901. is rife with irony. and—like a valiant knight—consumes a second huge Thanksgiving Day meal. When the old gentleman appears as usual. Henry’s characteristic final twist. There. continuing to write short stories.

but the people in the restaurant refer to him as a bum. and Christopher DeMuth. Indeed. is all there is. reductionist form of the Thanksgiving tradition. The bounty does not represent any greater bounties or blessings. What do you think of their intentions? Their deeds? Their relation to each other? Do you admire the old gentleman? Do you admire Stuffy Pete? 4. There is bounteous food. in the sense that it is a twisted. The old gentleman wishes that he had a son. And we’ve been given a vivid account of his 134 . American traditions. Christopher DeMuth: I would say their tradition is satirical. Describe Stuffy Pete and the “old gentleman” and also what you know about their circumstances and their lives. but the food. distinguished senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Kass and Leon R. Kass discuss O. No families are present. rather. We don’t know Stuffy Pete’s background. didn’t share) a meal? About the way they interacted with each other? IN CONVERSATION In this conversation. coeditor of What So Proudly We Hail. What might we criticize about the relationship between the old gentleman and Stuffy Pete? About the way they shared (or. the ending seems to support the view— encouraged by the narrator’s ironic and mocking tone throughout—that the entire story is intended to expose the hollowness or foolishness of gentlemanly generosity. But the “twisty” ending shows us that good intentions may have bad consequences. Henry’s story with Diana Schaub. not having had anything to eat for three days past. by means of irony. Does a careful consideration of the story support this conclusion? Or does the story. there is so little sharing between them that the gentleman doesn’t even realize that Stuffy Pete is stuffed. There is only one formulaic sentence that the old gentleman and Stuffy Pete recite. Amy A. 2. more specifically. There is no sharing between them. the biological feeding. The Characters 1.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ discovered to be near starvation. and. turn the reader against himself and toward more elevated teachings about these important things? A. Can you explain why each one does what he does? On previous Thanksgiving Days? On this one? 3. In fact. that generous impulses toward our less fortunate fellow citizens do not always yield genuine benefaction. “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” is a story that links the spirit of giving and the impulse to charity with the development of tradition and the holiday of Thanksgiving. and the holiday of Thanksgiving in particular.

Stuffy Pete. Why does O. B. if any. Stuffy Pete is suffering to put the old gentleman. I think this is a wonderful tradition. Who—what—is a “gentleman”? What defines a “gentleman”? 2. One of the deepest things about this story is that both the old gentleman and Stuffy Pete become true gentlemen. The twist comes in that by being gentlemen. Henry. And that is what motivates both of our characters. really does become a gentleman. They really are both quintessential gentlemen. There is no community. or. watch the video online. An important aspect of being a gentleman is a desire to make the other person comfortable. O.Discussion Guide. Henry call his story “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”? In what ways. Both men are made better by the tradition. Though this is clearly not a model for what a philanthropist should do—it is not what we would call “giving well and doing good”—it does seem that the story shows the peculiar grace that attaches to tradition. We see a smile on his face. who we have every reason to believe is homeless. is a bum. Amy Kass: Unlike Chris. if any. Gentlemen 1. The old gentleman just watches Stuffy Pete eat. does the holiday of Thanksgiving contribute to their gentlemanliness? Has it made them better than they otherwise would be? IN CONVERSATION Christopher DeMuth: The title is important. who has no family. For more discussion on this question. as the men say. who has no community—we see him happy. which is the only kind of communication over his meal with Stuffy Pete. And the old gentleman. might both Stuffy Pete and the old man be regarded as gentlemen? 3. Why does O. Henry call his story “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”? In what ways. “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ being stuffed—the buttons are flying off his coat like popcorn. Diana Schaub: It does seem very odd. whom he hardly knows. They don’t dine together. they are actually hurting the other 135 . Their Thanksgiving has just been reduced to this eating ritual. who lives alone. to put the other person at ease. The giving is not just one way. at ease. And the old gentleman is starving himself to put this person whom he only sees once a year at ease and to make him happy.

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person. The scene of the second meal is torture. The old gentleman has gone without food for three days. We are supposed to feel pain on both sides, caused by the gentlemanliness of the other. Leon Kass: We are struggling with the question of O. Henry’s ironies and his mockery. Is the title ironic? Yes. They both become gentlemen, but gentlemanship of this sort is catastrophic. But despite the irony, there has been a kind of lifting up. The twist at the end causes the reader to ask: “Can we look past the fact that both of the characters end up in the hospital and say that, despite this, something beautiful happened here?” I don’t know the answer, but I think that, by stripping down the story in this way, O. Henry is asking us to consider what really is at the heart of Thanksgiving. What is it that really matters? This particular year, thanks to the fact that he is stuffed, Stuffy Pete has the chance to return the old gentleman’s kindness, at great personal expense.
For more discussion on this question, watch the video online.

C. Tradition 1. What do you think of the “traditions” reported in the story? What are their strengths and weaknesses? 2. Should either of the traditions reported—that of the two old ladies’ or that of the old gentleman (and Stuffy Pete)—be attributed to American “git-up and enterprise”? If not, how might you account for them? 3. Do you think better or worse of the old ladies or the old gentleman (and Stuffy Pete) for establishing and keeping their respective traditions? How much does your answer depend on the end of the story, with the harm suffered by both men? D. Thanksgiving 1. Is the restaurant meal a fitting celebration of Thanksgiving? Why or why not? What elements are present, and what are lacking? Which are most important? 2. At the beginning of the story, the narrator asserts that Thanksgiving Day is the one day celebrated by “all . . . Americans who are not self-made” (emphasis added). What is the meaning of “self-made”? What does the narrator mean by suggesting that this is a holiday for the “not self-made”? 3. Annually, the old gentleman (in the only words we hear him say) greets Stuffy Pete in the same formulaic way: “Good morning. I am glad to perceive that the vicissitudes of another year have spared you to move in health about the beautiful world. For that blessing alone this day of thanksgiving is well proclaimed to each of us. If you will come with me, my man, I will provide 136

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you with a dinner that should make your physical being accord with the mental” (4). What understanding of Thanksgiving informs the old gentleman’s remarks? Is it, in your opinion, the right understanding of the holiday and its guiding spirit? 4. Does the story express the spirit of Thanksgiving as George Washington would have us understand it? Why or why not? 5. Where is America in this story? Where are gratitude and prayer, or religion and piety? Is this a purely secularized Thanksgiving Day celebration? 6. The story begins with a reference to the then president, Theodore Roosevelt, whose own 1901 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation directed the holiday toward generosity to one’s fellow man: “We can best prove our thankfulness to the Almighty by the way in which we on this earth and at this time each of us does his duty to his fellow man.” Are the citizens in the story confirming or refuting Roosevelt’s view?

IN CONVERSATION Diana Schaub: In certain ways, I’m baffled by this story, and I’m especially baffled by the opening, which opens in a rather political way with a reference that it is President Theodore Roosevelt who gives us this day. I actually went and looked at Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, and it seems that he was the first president to redirect the holiday away from giving thanks to God— vertical charity—and instead directed us toward generosity to our fellow man. Roosevelt declares, “We can best prove our thankfulness to the Almighty by the way in which on this earth and at this time each of us does his duty to his fellow men.” In a certain way, these citizens in the story are acting on that advice. The y look for the needy among them and feast them. But this act leads to a strangely one-dimensional relationship between the individuals involved. In other words, the problem with their tradition is that it’s a brand new tradition and, in fact, is a violation of the original one. Christopher DeMuth: The story begins with this mocking of President Roosevelt. O. Henry is setting the stage. We may not remember who the Puritans are, but I’m sure that if they tried it again, we could really lick ’em when they showed up. O. Henry is making light of the tradition. It is not just that these men are bizarre because they are not part of the actual, long-standing tradition. They are not part of that tradition because they are not part of families. They do not have homes. Diana Schaub: O. Henry, in fact, offers the story as evidence to the Old World that Americans can, through their own determination and enterprise, sort of “get up a tradition” overnight.
For more discussion on this question, watch the video online.

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O. Henry’s story, like George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, invites attention to larger issues: the meaning of Thanksgiving, its place in our national calendar, and its role in expressing and shaping our national identity and national character; the best ways of giving and receiving, and the place of philanthropy or charity in our public life; and the importance of tradition, ritual, and religion for American civic life. A. Thanksgiving and the National Calendar 1. What is special about Thanksgiving as a national holiday today? Is it a public or a private and familial holiday? 2. What does or should Thanksgiving mean for people who are without families or who are down and out? 3. What is the place of Thanksgiving on our national calendar? How does it compare—in substance, tone, and manner of celebration—to the Fourth of July? 4. How does Thanksgiving express American identity and American character? 5. What does Thanksgiving contribute to American identity and American character? 6. What is the meaning of the Thanksgiving feast? 7. Does our current mode of celebrating Thanksgiving—centered around huge family feasts—fit the deeper meaning of the holiday? What could be added to your own family celebration that might make the day more meaningful? 8. Can we square the spirit of Thanksgiving and the spirit of “Black Friday,” the fanatical shopping day “celebrated” on the day after Thanksgiving? B. Giving and Receiving: The Place of Charity and Philanthropy in Public Life 1. What does it mean to give well? Does one give well if one’s gift does harm? (For example: Does the “old gentleman” give well? Is his giving admirable?) 2. What does it mean to receive a gift well? Does one receive well if receiving does harm? (For example: Does Stuffy Pete receive his gift well? Is the way in which he received the old gentleman’s gift admirable?) 3. Is it better to give than to receive? 4. What is the proper response to a gift: admiration and appreciation of the benevolent act itself? Gratitude for the specific benefit received? A desire or felt duty to reciprocate? Something else? 5. How should we treat fellow citizens like Stuffy Pete—both on Thanksgiving Day and during the rest of the year? Are good intentions enough? Or are good deeds and, especially, good results the only true measures of philanthropic action? 6. Which is more important: seeing someone’s problem and trying to solve it, or seeing someone as a person and being present to him or her?

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You try to see the inner meaning of the deed as between these two people. you can also turn that question around and say that the way you really can see what is in the heart is by separating the generosity from its consequences. and so there is the question of whether generosity that produces bad consequences is genuine generosity. Leon Kass: In years past. as experienced by the donor. watch the video online. Henry. In a certain way. Although they do not have family. O. There is something to be said for what happens right there between them at the meal. or the needs and wishes of the recipient. Amy Kass: To call attention to their mutual neediness would really move us in a very different direction. they do not have real homes. but because it is tradition. but the scene itself is not. Christopher DeMuth: I’ll grant you this: if they had communicated and Stuffy Pete had told the old gentleman that he was stuffed. He has become a kind of valiant knight with a crown of laurels. as enunciated by the recipient? IN CONVERSATION Amy Kass: The consequences of the meal are torture. It would have been terrible news to him. The old gentleman lives his life according to traditions—he has one for winter. I grant that the consequences are bad. that he had just eaten a big Thanksgiving meal. O. “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 7. They rise above their own neediness. like a true knight. and he sees the beneficent happiness on the old gentleman’s face. each of them rises to the occasion. one for summer. The fact that each of them is physically in extremis when they meet and they don’t even recognize it.Discussion Guide. one for spring. This time he goes not because he is hungry. But. 139 . Stuffy Pete joints the old gentleman because he is hungry.” This is a man who really did his duty. Henry says that Stuffy Pete “rallied. Who and what should define what charity should give: the beneficent impulses and notions of the donor. and one for fall. This is the only one that has brought a smile to his face. For more discussion on this question. regardless of what happens later. they do not have a lot of the things that make Thanksgiving special to us. they are doing the best they can in their circumstances. the old gentleman would have been devastated. Christopher DeMuth: That’s a very convincing exegesis. It is no longer just the donor and the recipient. as it is this occasion where the generosity goes both ways. but Stuffy Pete is making it possible for the old man to enjoy his act of generosity.

How important are traditions and rituals for American civic life? Which traditions and rituals are most important. How do we keep our rituals and traditions from losing their meaning? 3. and Religion and American Civic Life 1. Ritual. What is the relation between the strength of the American polity and the spirit of religion? 4.PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BLESSINGS ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ C. and why? 2. Can the United States of America do without the disposition to gratitude and prayer? Without a connection to something higher than itself? 140 . Tradition.

Upon her father’s death in 1868. as evidenced in the painting The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth (1914). The painting. and her work was widely reprinted for greeting and Christmas cards.About the Cover Born in a log cabin in rural Pennsylvania to English immigrant farmers William Brownscombe and Elvira Kennedy. Brownscombe attended the Cooper Institute School of Design for Women and the National Academy of Design in New York City. a direct descendant of an original Mayflower passenger. and magazine illustrations. for example. water. mountain. with special attention to the human community (communities) and their relation to the natural world (land. She became a popular artist known for depictions of rural life and images from her childhood. became nationally familiar after it was reprinted in a 1914 issue of Life. Further creative liberties include the Native American headdresses in the scene. and how are they related? What idea or mood does this painting convey? How does it relate to your our idea of what Thanksgiving is all about? Jennie August Brownscombe The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth. The log cabin pictured in the right background of the scene. is not historically accurate. sky). calendars. To what places in the painting is your gaze directed. Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1850–1936) was raised on a farm throughout her youth. but rather incorporates elements of her own rustic upbringing into the work. She traveled widely and held exhibitions in cities across Europe and America. an oil on canvas. Examining the painting in all its details. 1914 141 . describe the scene before you. which are more characteristic of the Midwestern Sioux tribes than the coastal Wampanoag of Massachusetts. she began selling illustrations to books and magazines as a means to support herself.

“Thanksgiving. 1863.” In The Complete Works of O. O.” In The Harvest Feast: Stories of Thanksgiving Yesterday and Today. Henry. 161–62. 89–90.” In Godey’s Magazine. Hawthorne. Henry Steele Commager. September 28. Ed. 1844. 464–75. www. and Cheryl Miller for their assistance. Alfred A. William. Excerpt from Of Plymouth Plantation. showing the true character of both. Hale. 58–63.” In Just Folks. Philadelphia: Louis A. Sarah Josepha Buell.” In The Snow-Image and Other Twice-Told Tales. Knox College. 182–91. 463. ed. Guest. 142 . Alcott.” In Flowers for Children II (For Children from Four to Six Years Old). Mars. 1899. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center. 1620–1647: The Complete Text. Garden City. 1852. Nicolas Anthology. 131–32. 5th edition..” In The St. “Thanksgiving at the Polls. Letter to President Abraham Lincoln. “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving. 213–20. Knopf. 1952. Nathaniel. Available at http://memory. Ceasar. “No Thanks to Gratitude. Galesburg. Louisa May. Volume 57. Edward Everett. ACLS Humanities E-Book.org/viewmedia. “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day. NY: Doubleday & Co. 1953. Louis Antoine Godey and Sarah Josepha Buell Hale. Francis.php/prmMID/21977. Long & Brother. Hale. Godey.T. Reed.loc. New York: C. Chicago: The Riley & Lee Co. Lydia Maria. —. Thanks are also due to Barrett Bowdre.Acknowledgments Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following authors and publishers for permission to reprint previously published materials.S.poets. “A New Pioneer. Excerpt from Northwood: Life North and South. Boston: Ticknor. “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving. Henry. and Fields. Alyssa Penick. 1853. Bradford. “Our National Thanksgiving. 1917. Illinois. “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen. Fisher. James W. and Other Stories. Child. Edgar A.. 327–45.” In The Brick Moon. compiled by Wilhelmina Harper and illustrated by W.” Policy Review 170. 65–68. New York: Dutton. 1965.gov/cgibin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28d2669900%29%29. Stephen Wu. Online text available through the American Academy of Poets. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. 1858. Reprinted by permission of the author. Dorothy Canfield. December 2011. —. New York: H.

” October 3. ed. 1822 in Commemoration of the First Settlement of New-England. “Discourse Delivered at Plymouth. Available online at www.edu/ws/?pid=36206. Available at www.loc. Ronald. John Greenleaf. R. Reprinted by permission of the author. Cleveland. Menéndez. Barack. Werner. Daniel. November 24. American Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes. ed.” In Monthly (December 1918). Minot. Ana. 1971.” In Youth’s Companion (76: 609-610).” In Oldtown Folks. “Thanksgiving on Slav Creek. Boston: Houghton. Harriet Beecher. 143 .whitehouse.S. “How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown.ucsb. “The Night Before Thanksgiving.presidency. London. 1863. a publication of Central High School. 1899. 706–10. Stowe. 386–90. Susan. 164. Whittier.pdf. 336–53. “For an Autumn Festival.html. Held in the archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society of Cleveland. “Proclamation 5844—Thanksgiving Day. November 27.” Harper’s Bazaar 33. 8–75. George. —. 1825.edu/ws/?pid=69900. Boston: Fields. “Proclamation 106—Thanksgiving Day. The Short Stories. Ohio. Available at www.” 1789. “The Lost Turkey. with an illustration by S. 1888–89.. Osgood.” In The Queen’s Twin and Other Stories. Mifflin & Co. 1900. Washington.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/16/presidentialproclamation-thanksgiving-day-2011. “Presidential Proclamation—Thanksgiving Day.ucsb. Webster. December 20. Columbia. 2011.” November 16. Langston. 1988. “Thanksgiving Day. Spring 1984. ME: Colby College Press. 1863. Reprinted by permission of the author.Acknowledgments ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Hughes. Originally published in U. Volume 4. The Library of America: 2007. 1988. Available online at http://memory. 44–53. Obama.” August 4. 2002. 378–83. & Co. Lincoln. Baxter Miller. Reprinted in Uncollected Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett.loa. MO: University of Missouri Press.” In The writings of John Greenleaf Whittier.” Boston: Wells and Lily.” In Grand Street. Jewett.presidency. Reprinted in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Richard Cary. 223–32. Available at www. 2011. 15. Waterville. “Those Who Have No Turkey. New York: Houghton. Reagan. Mifflin and Company. “Thanksgiving Proclamation. Ohio. Society & Values 9.gov/ammem/gwhtml/gw004.4 (July 2004). Copyright © 2004 Ana Menéndez. 1869. 1902.org/images/pdf/Menendez_Thanksgiving. Vol. 1879. Jack. Sarah Orne.. Abraham.

Volume 4. 144 . Mifflin and Company. 313. 1888–89. New York: Houghton.” In The writings of John Greenleaf Whittier.Acknowledgments ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ —. “The Corn Song.