Thanksgiving And The Meaning Of America


I think it’s better for us to spend this time with family that we may not always have throughout the year discussing the true meaning of Thanksgiving. The best way to do that is to go back and look at the history. For your consideration is an excerpt from The Christian Life and Character… in which I include a narrative description of the landing at Plymouth Rock and an interesting poem by Mrs. Sigourney about that event from the early 19th century. What strikes me about the poem is that she sees a threat in the lure of luxury that makes Americans forget their humble beginnings. If materialism was a problem in the early 1800’s how much more so today.

On the 22d of December, 1620, the Puritans, one hundred and one in number, landed from the Mayflower, and planted their feet on the Rock of Plymouth, and began a new era in the history of the world. The day and the rock became canonized in American history, and emblems of the grandest Christian ideas and associations. The first act of the Puritans, after landing, was to kneel down and offer their thanksgiving to God, and by a solemn act of prayer, and in the name and for the sake of Christ, to take possession of the continent. They thus repeated the Christian consecration which Columbus, more than a century before, had given to the New World, and so twice in the most formal and solemn manner was it devoted to Christ and Christian civilization. The seed thus planted bore an abundant harvest of Christian fruits, which have blessed the nation and enriched the world. How significant and sublime the lessons that gather round and flow from Plymouth Rock! How does it speak for God and of God! How grandly does it proclaim the Christian faith and fruits of those great and good men who, in prayer and faith, planted a Christian empire in the New World, and started a Christian nation on a noble career of progress and greatness!


Mrs. Sigourney’s Poetry on the Pilgrims

“And can ye deem it strange

That from their planting such a branch should bloom

As nations envy? Should a germ embalm’d

Wit prayer’s pure tear-drops stike no deeper root


Than that which mad Ambition’s hand doth strew

Upon the winds to reap the winds again?

Hid by its Veil of water from the hand

Of greedy Europe, their bold vine spread forth

In giant strength.


“Its early cluster, crush’d

In England’s wine-press, gave the tyrant host

A draught of deadly wine. O ye who boast

In your free veins the blood of sire like these,

Lose not their lineaments. Should Mammon cling

Too close around your heart—or wealth beget

That bloated luxury which eats the core

From manly virtue—or the tempting world

Make faint the Christian purpose in your soul—

Turn ye to Plymouth’s beach; and, on that rock,

Kneel in their footprints, and renew the vow

They breathed to God.”


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