Judith Sargent Murray Society
JSM's dates: 1751-1820

Gleaner LX

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This excerpt from Judith Sargent Murray's essay appeared in her 1798 book The Gleaner.


The Gleaner. No. LX.

Thanksgiving Day is, in our country, a munificent festival. It hath, in every view, its beauty and its propriety — all orders, and every description of people, assemble, to offer up their general acknowledgments, and devout orisons to the Parent of the universe. The week, on which this jubilee is appointed, is devoted to the most benevolent purposes — to the recognition of the claims of the unfortunate, to the implanting, in the bosom of the orphan, the bud of hope, and to the making the widow’s heart sing for joy. See the thronged streets — crowds of destitute persons assert their accustomed prerogative — they pass on to the dwellings of affluence — the season, habit, and the feelings, consequent thereon, conspire to render liberality still more liberal. Every present want is supplied, generosity is constituted almoner, a face of hilarity displaces that anxiety, which naturally clouds the brow of suffering poverty; they return to their now joyful retreats — they smile over the sudden plenty — their hearts overflow with gratitude — their spirits are attuned to praise — their dispositions are in unison with their fellow citizens — they chant the song of thanksgiving — they join in grateful prostrations to the God of their life; and, the expectation of this Thanksgiving Day frequently serves to mitigate the calamities, and to soften the penury, of the intervening year.

                  Let me, therefore … frankly acknowledge myself a confirmed advocate for THANKSGIVING DAY. May the wisdom of our legislators continue to recommend, and may our well disposed and orderly citizens cheerfully obey — may they honor this festival in their accustomed manner — may it still be distinguished as the poor man’s holiday — and may it be the coeval of this Columbian world. Yes, I will own, that I am enthusiastically fond of following, as far as may consist with rectitude, the example of my ancestors. I bow with reverence, to the holidays which they have consecrated as sacred; and, above all, I am extravagantly — yea, passionately, fond of Thanksgiving Day.