Thursday, November 25, 2010

Margaret Fuller on Thanksgiving

Back in the 1840s, before Thanksgiving was a national holiday, Margaret Fuller--one of the first female journalists (for the New York Tribune), and the first to serve as a foreign correspondent (during Italy's battle for unification)--celebrated the spirit of Thanksgiving and called for its establishment. This is, in part, what she had to say:

"Thanksgiving is peculiarly the festival day of New-England. Elsewhere, other celebrations rival its attractions, but in that region where the Puritans first returned thanks that some among them had been sustained by a great hope and earnest resolve amid the perils of the ocean, wild beasts and famine, the old spirit which hallowed the day still lingers, and forbids that it should be entirely devoted to play and plum-pudding. [. . .] And, in other regions, where the occasion is observed, it is still more as one for a meeting of families and friends to the enjoyment of a good dinner, than for any other purpose. [. . .]The instinct of family love, intended by Heaven to make those of one blood the various and harmonious organs of one mind, is never wholly without good influence. Family love, I say, for family pride is never without bad influence, and it too often takes the place of its mild and health sister.

"Yet how much nobler, more exhilirating and purer would be the atmosphere of that circle if the design of its pious founders were remembered by those who partake [in] this festival! If they dared not attend the public jubilee till private retrospect of the past year had been taken in the spirit of the old rhyme, which we all bear in mind if not in heart--

What has thou done that's worth the doing,
And what pursued that's worth pursuing?
What sought thou knew'st that thou shouldst shun,
What done thou shouldst have left undone?

If parents followed up the indulgences heaped upon their children at Thanksgiving dinners with similar messages, there would not be danger that children should think enjoyment of sensual pleasures the only occasion that demands Thanksgiving."

December 12, 1844

4 comments:

Aaron H. said...

I liked this. Thanks.

Jenny said...

Our Thanksgiving was HAPPY!!
Hope yours was, too.

Amazon Mama said...

I kind of wish that my children thought of Thanksgiving dinner as an "indulgence." Actually, I wish they were thankful for Thanksgiving dinner.

But alas, they were only truly thankful for the rolls. And the one chocolate pie.

Amazon Mama said...

Oops--I meant to say our children.