America’s Christian heritage is interwoven with the birth and development of the nation. But, since the early part of the twentieth century, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have done everything within their power to deny Christianity’s influence upon the nation. These groups have covered-up the historical facts that clearly relate the influence America’s Founding Fathers accorded Christianity in the birth and development of the nation. However, the Journals of the Continental Congress record the influence Founders gave to the Christian faith. From 1775 to 1784, Congress issued sixteen spiritual proclamations calling upon the thirteen states to humble themselves, fast, pray, and give thanks to God. One of the most important of these proclamations was issued on October 26, 1781—following the surrender of the British Army under Lord Cornwallis, effectively bringing the American Revolution to an end.
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When Delaware framed its first constitution, McKean exercised significant influence upon its development. As his interests gravitated toward Philadelphia once again, he was commissioned Chief Justice of Pennsylvania on July 28, 1777, though he remained active in Delaware politics as well, and held offices in both states over the next six years (1777-1783). McKean also served briefly as President of Delaware (September 22, 1777 to October 20, 1777) and Governor of Pennsylvania, serving three terms from December 17, 1799 until December 20, 1808. Though his time in office as President of Congress was very brief, Thomas McKean had the privilege of occupying that office during one of the most important moments in American history.
From South Carolina and major victories there, the commander of southern British forces, General Charles Cornwallis, began to move northward. But, the tide of success began to shift in favor of American forces. Moving toward North Carolina, one wing of Cornwallis’ army was defeated in the October 7, 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain (fought just below the southern border of North Carolina, in South Carolina), and another wing of his army was defeated in the January 17, 1781 Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina.
Undaunted by his losses, Cornwallis set out in pursuit of the main southern army of Americans into North Carolina, which was under the command of General Nathanael Greene. Believing Greene supplied himself from resources in Virginia, Cornwallis crossed into Virginia, and being commanded by his superior to find a deep-water port where he could be resupplied, Cornwallis did so at Yorktown, Virginia.
While no attempt will be made to consider the members of Congress appointed to the committee to compose the fall thanksgiving proclamation, what may be noted is the date on the Journal entries related to this proclamation. Nearly a month and a half passes between the appointment of the committee and congressional approval for the proclamation.
Notice, that in the following excerpt Congress made attendance at a worship service an official act of Congress to “return thanks to Almighty God” for the victory at Yorktown. Though the attendance at Christian worship for the first inauguration of George Washington was also a matter of an official act of Congress in 1789, this official act in Congress on October 24, 1781 is among the very first acts in which Christian worship was made an official congressional act.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 1781
Resolved, That Congress will, at two o’clock this day, go in procession to the Dutch Lutheran church, and return thanks to Almighty God, for crowning the allied arms of the United States and France, with success, by the surrender of the whole British army under the command of the Earl of Cornwallis.
Because of the momentous events related to the siege and victory at Yorktown, the report of the committee charged with composing the fall thanksgiving day proclamation was delayed nearly six weeks. Two days after Congress worshipped together at the Dutch Lutheran church, it finally was submitted by the committee and adopted by Congress as a whole. It read:
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 1781
The committee, consisting of Mr. Witherspoon, Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Varnum, Mr. Sherman, appointed to prepare a recommendation for setting apart a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, reported the draught of a proclamation, which was agreed to as follows:
Whereas, it hath pleased Almighty God, the father of mercies, remarkably to assist and support the United States of America in their important struggle for liberty, against the long continued efforts of a powerful nation: it is the duty of all ranks to observe and thankfully acknowledge the interpositions of his Providence in their behalf. Through the whole of the contest, from its first rise to this time, the influence of divine Providence may be clearly perceived in many signal instances, of which we mention but a few.
In revealing the councils of our enemies, when the discoveries were seasonable and important, and the means seemingly inadequate or fortuitous; in preserving and even improving the union of the several states, on the breach of which our enemies placed their greatest dependence; in increasing the number, and adding to the zeal and attachment of the friends of Liberty; in granting remarkable deliverances, and blessing us with the most signal success, when affairs seemed to have the most discouraging appearance; in raising up for us a powerful and generous ally, in one of the first of the European powers; in confounding the councils of our enemies, and suffering them to pursue such measures as have most directly contributed to frustrate their own desires and expectations; above all, in making their extreme cruelty to the inhabitants of these states, when in their power, and their savage devastation of property, the very means of cementing our union, and adding vigor to every effort in opposition to them.
And as we cannot help leading the good people of these states to a retrospect on the events which have taken place since the beginning of the war, so we beg recommend in a particular manner that they may observe and acknowledge to their observation, the goodness of God in the year now drawing to a conclusion: in which
The Confederation of the United States has been completed in which there have been so many instances of prowess and success in our armies; particularly in the southern states, where, notwithstanding the difficulties with which they had to struggle, they have recovered the whole country which the enemy had overrun, leaving them only a post or two on or near the sea: in which we have been so powerfully and effectually assisted by our allies, while in all the conjunct operations the most perfect union and harmony has subsisted in the allied army: in which there has been so plentiful a harvest, and so great abundance of the fruits of the earth of every kind, as not only enables us easily to supply the wants of the army, but gives comfort and happiness to the whole people: and in which, after the success of our allies by sea, a General of the first Rank, with his whole army, has been captured by the allied forces under the direction of our Commander in Chief.
It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the 13th day of December next, to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day, with grateful hearts, to celebrate the praises of our gracious Benefactor; to confess our manifold sins; to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please Him to pardon our offenses, and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity; to prosper our husbandmen, and give success to all engaged in lawful commerce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counsellors, judgment and fortitude to our officers and soldiers; to protect and prosper our illustrious ally, and favor our united exertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honorable and lasting peace; to bless all seminaries of learning; and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas.
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the third President of the United States (1801–1809). At the beginning of the American Revolution, he served in the Continental Congress, representing Virginia and then served as a wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781). Contrary to liberal arguments, Thomas Jefferson was not a secularist. IndiviRead more...
The first presidential thanksgiving proclamation under the United States Constitution was the result of a long list of Christian influences upon the founding of America. Contrary to those who rob America of its true history, Thanksgiving, like the vast majority of American holidays, is the result of many Christian influences. First Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation In an attempt to diminish and deny Christians their due credit for having Read more...
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For nearly a century, America's Christian origin and the character of her Founding Fathers have been under attack from irreligious and Marxist nemeses. Pointing to half a dozen Founding Fathers (out of nearly 250), America's Marxist and irreligious adversaries allege prominent Founding Fathers sought to establish a purely irreligious or secular state. But in fact, Congress aggressively sought to ban irreligion (Journals of the Continental CongresRead more...
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No index entries found.
 “Thomas Mckean,” Wikipedia, October 3, 2017; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_McKean.
Dictionary of American biography, s.v. “Mckean, Thomas.”
Journals of the Continental Congress, 21:957-958.
Journals of the Continental Congress, 21:1071.
Journals of the Continental Congress, 21:1074-1076.