Abraham Lincoln Establishes Thanksgiving Holiday


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, October 17, 1863

We have created an online archive of all Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This archive contains incredibly rich details which are simply not available anywhere else. The material allows you to not only study details of the important events, but also see the people's reaction to the events.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)


Nevski Flagship

Nevski Flagship


Abraham Lincoln Establishes Thanksgiving Holiday

Armed Slaves

Davis to Arm the Slaves

Confederate Ships

Confederate Rams

Russian Ships

Russian Ships

Soldier's Story

A Soldier's Story

Libby Prison

Libby Prison

Libey Prison

Libey Prison


Parade on Broadway

Libey Prison in Richmond

Libey Prison in Richmond

Russian Fleet

Russian Fleet


Pirate Cartoon





[OCTOBER 17, 1863.]


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

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 invite and provoke the aggressions of foreign states, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed every where, except in the theatre of military conflict, while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

The needful diversions of wealth and strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship. The axe 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 battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

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 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 Prayer 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 third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United State the eighty-eighth.   ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.



THE fundamental principle of the foreign policy of the United States has always been to beware of entangling foreign alliances. It was Washington who laid down the principle, and Presidents and statesmen of all parties have uniformly adhered to it ever since. Of that principle the natural corollary was the Monroe doctrine, which, though it was not proclaimed till twenty years after Washington's time, has nevertheless taken as deep root as a part of our national policy as the parental doctrine from which it sprang.

We all dislike to see any principle of policy settled by the Father of the Country being brought into question; but still it is obvious that, as the world has kept on moving since Washington's time, there must be a great portion of his work which, though perfect enough in his day, has, by the advancement of civilization and the changes in the world's condition and circumstances, been rendered susceptible of improvement now. Is it not possible that this dread of "entangling foreign alliances" may have been wiser or more natural seventy years ago than it is now?

When Washington lived steam, telegraphs, and railroads were unknown, and the United States were thirty days' distant from the nearest part of Europe. An alliance offensive and defensive with a European nation might have obliged us to send fleets and armies to points forty, fifty, and sixty days' distance from home —a risk not to be encountered on any condition short of absolute necessity. Again, in Washington's time intelligence circulated slowly. One nation knew little of another; and peoples separated by an ocean were absolutely ignorant of the most common features of each other's idiosyncrasy. It is easy to understand why Washington sought to guard the nation he had so largely helped to create against alliances with strangers as ignorant of our views and purposes as we were of theirs. And again, in his time the United States were so far separated from the rest of the world that their very isolation was ample protection against foreign attack. No European nation could hope to carry on war against them, at a distance of 3000 or 4000 miles from their base, with any reasonable hope of substantial success. So protected, we needed no foreign allies, and had we entered into alliances, the gain would all have been on the side of our ally.

But three quarters of a century have changed all this. We are now within fifteen days of almost my part of the coast of Europe. During this war we have sent out naval expeditions on as long voyages as from here to Liverpool or

Brest. It was further from London to Balaclava than from Liverpool to New York. Steam has placed Europe and America within easy striking distance of each other, and the ocean is no longer a protection against hostile attack. The telegraph and the spread of intelligence have, moreover, made us all familiar with the position, policy, views, and purposes of each other. We know precisely what a foreign alliance might involve. Furthermore, we are no longer isolated from the rest of the world. Our commerce, and our steadily increasing communication with all parts of the world, have made us part and parcel of the great civilized community of mankind; nothing which happens any where is now indifferent to us, and our transactions interest all the rest of the world.

It seems quite doubtful, under these circumstances, whether we can possibly much longer maintain the position of proud isolation which Washington coveted; and it is pretty certain, as things are now shaping, that if we do we shall lose as much as we gain by doing so.

The cardinal principle of the policy of the Western Powers of Europe is a steady offensive and defensive alliance. France and England—was Louis Napoleon's calculation—if heartily united, can rule the world. That alliance, formed by the Emperor, was maintained through the Crimean war and the Chinese war, and was more lately exemplified in the recognition of the Southern rebels by both Powers conjointly. If the Slave Confederacy is recognized the recognition will be simultaneous at London and Paris, the calculation being that the United States could not afford to make war on both the Western Powers. The alliance of the Western Powers is in fact, if not in name, a hostile combination against the United States.

What is our proper reply to this hostile combination? When Lee reinforced Bragg we replied by sending two corps of the Army of the Potomac to Rosecrans. Would it not be wise to meet the hostile alliance of the Western Powers of Europe by an alliance with Russia? France and England united can do and dare much against Russia alone or the United States alone; but against Russia and the United States combined what could they do?

The analogies between the American and the Russian peoples have too often been described to need further explanation here. Russia, like the United States, is a nation of the future. Its capabilities are only just being developed. Its national destiny is barely shaped. Its very institutions are in their cradle, and have yet to be modeled to fit advancing civilization and the spread of intelligence. Like the United States, Russia is in the agonies of a terrible transition: the Russian serfs, like the American negroes, are receiving their liberty; and the Russian boiars, like the Southern slave-owners, are mutinous at the loss of their property. When this great problem shall have been solved, and the Russian people shall consist of 100,000,000 of intelligent, educated human beings, it is possible that Russian institutions will have been welded by the force of civilization into a similarity with ours. At that period the United States will probably also contain 100,000,000 of educated, intelligent people. To two such peoples, firmly bound together by an alliance as well as by traditional sympathy and good feeling, what would be impossible? Certainly the least of the purposes which they could achieve would be to keep the peace of the world, and prevent the ambition of despots or the knavery of shop-keepers from embroiling nations in useless wars.

At the present time Russia and the United States occupy remarkably similar positions. A portion of the subjects of the Russian empire, residing in Poland, have attempted to secede and set up an independent national existence, just as our Southern slave-owners have tried to secede from the Union and set up a Slave Confederacy; and the Czar, like the Government of the Union, has undertaken to put down the insurrection by force of arms. In that undertaking, which every Government is bound to make under penalty of national suicide, Russia, like the United States, has been thwarted and annoyed by the interference of France and England. The Czar, like Mr. Lincoln, nevertheless perseveres in his purpose; and, being perfectly in earnest and determined, has sent a fleet into our waters, in order that, if war should occur, British and French commerce should not escape as cheaply as they did in the Crimean contest. We run no similar risk of being blockaded in the event of war with England and France, and need not send our squadrons away; but still we are preparing, in our way, by the construction of fast cruisers and heavy iron-clads.

An alliance between Russia and the United States at the present time would probably relieve both of us from all apprehensions of foreign interference. It is not likely that it would involve either nation in war. On the contrary, it would probably be the best possible guarantee against war. It would be highly popular in both countries, and it is hard to see what practical dangers it could involve.

The reception given last week in this city to Admiral Lisovski and his officers will create more apprehension at the Tuileries and at St. James than even the Parrott gun or the capture

of the Atlanta. If it be followed up by diplomatic negotiations, with a view to an alliance with the Czar, it may prove an epoch of no mean importance in history



NEW YORK, September 29, 1863.

SINCE its first issue myself and family have been constant readers of your valuable Weekly, and the general character of its illustrations, selected and original reading matter, have been unexceptionable; but I have noticed, within a recent period, that you begin to dabble in the dirty pool of partisan politics, and thus lower the high character your paper has attained, and render it unfit for a place upon the centre table, or to be read by those that assemble around the family altar. Sincerely believing this, I have been compelled to exclude it from my house more in sorrow than anger, for, until recently, it was there a welcome visitor.

I would not be understood as questioning your right to publish what you please. But I deny the right of a public journal, that boasts of its neutrality in matters political, under that guise to publish articles, in regard to men and things, utterly devoid of truth, and in language that would disgrace the lowest partisan political journal in the land. If you are to publish a political journal let it be known, and the public will know what they buy, and not under the guise of illustrations seek to force upon them sentiments political that are unpalatable to those who do not think as you may, and not in accordance with their views of principle and party.



DEAR MR. SMITH,—Harper's Weekly is issued every week, and sold for six cents a copy. The illustrations are always worth more than that money; and if any purchaser does not like the sentiments he finds here he can abstain from any future purchase. You, Mr. Smith, ought to understand that you confer no favor upon any body but yourself in buying the paper, and that no sentiments are "forced" upon any body "under the guise of illustrations" or in any way whatever.

You say that the paper, notwithstanding its professions, dabbles in party politics. The remark betrays your sympathies. The country is in mortal peril from a conspiracy to overthrow the Government and to perpetuate Slavery. The stability of that Government is the security of all the rights and property of the citizens. Its defense, therefore, is not only the instinct of patriotism and honor, but of individual interest. But the defense of the Government is in no sense a party measure, except as it tends to bring to grief the party of rebels, Copperheads, and foreign enemies. Instinctively, therefore, and with the consent of all our convictions and faculties, we support the Government. It is not because it is Democratic or Republican, but because it is the Constitutional Government of the United States. If General Dix, a life-long Democrat, were President, we should do exactly what we do when Abraham Lincoln, a life-long Whig, fills the chair. It is not a question of persons or of parties, but of principle and of national existence.

We support also every necessary measure of war. We are, indeed, most sincerely rejoiced that the war waged upon the Government to secure the supremacy, of slavery offers the opportunity for settling the eternal vexation of our history, and the constant menace of our peace and permanence, by overthrowing slavery itself. Our conscience and common sense alike approve the emancipation policy. But we support it not as a party measure, for it is not one. There are plenty of the President's political friends who did not like it. We support it not as a Democratic or Republican policy, but as the policy of common sense happily authorized by the Constitution. And upon this ground we stand side by side with the most eminent Democrats, such as Generals Butler, Logan, Grant, Rosecrans, and Burnside, who know exactly what the war demands.

In thus supporting the Government and its policy, in the war of self-defense against the foulest rebellion, we are of course the enemies of all its enemies, whether they are rebels or Copperheads, Englishmen or Frenchmen. We especially denounce and pursue Horatio Seymour, because he is the chosen representative of the policy which aims to pinion the arms of the Government while the rebellion stabs it to the heart. We oppose him, earnestly and constantly, because, in a crisis when national danger should obliterate all party lines, he is a persistent and shameless political partisan. We oppose him because, in all this fierce and momentous struggle, no sincere word of sympathy for his country, or her defenders, or her cause has even by chance dropped from his lips or pen; because all his words justify treason and palliate rebellion, and all his acts perplex the Government and prolong the war; because he is openly counted by the rebel leaders and papers as one of their "friends;" and because the most disloyal, dangerous, and criminal of the population are called by him "friends" of his own. We oppose Horatio Seymour for precisely the same reasons that we do Jefferson Davis, because we believe him to be an enemy of the Government, and because he openly declares that he would rather see the Union dissolved than slavery destroyed. We do not oppose him as a Democrat any more than we oppose Judah Benjamin as a Democrat, but as we combat Vallandigham as an accessory to national dishonor and ruin. We do not oppose him as a Democrat, because John A. Dix, Joseph Holt, and Andrew Johnson are quite as good Democrats as Horatio Seymour, and we stand by them shoulder to shoulder, and heart to heart.

What we say to you here, and now, has been said a hundred times in this paper. There is nothing equivocal in its position. It knows no party but the country, no politics but all measures necessary for its salvation.

Yours truly,

Dear Mr. Smith,



WE have fallen upon evil times. We assist at the death-throes of the republic. From the moment when Abraham Lincoln haughtily refused to invite our outraged Southern brothers to state upon what terms they would consent to remain in the Union our doom has been sealed. Carthago delenda est! Not content with overrunning the fair fields of the South with an army which our Southern brothers, in their circumstances, may be pardoned for calling a Vandal horde—not satisfied with the effort, which history will fitly characterize, to plunge peaceful Southern society into the blackest gulf of massacre, rape, and fire, Abraham Lincoln, whom our naturally exasperated Southern brothers stigmatize with characteristic poetic fervor as a gorilla, has not hesitated to trample upon all law, all securities of social order, all the guaranteed rights of American citizens, turning the entire North into a huge Bastile, a colossal continental dungeon, which echoes and re-echoes continually with the moans and cries or the futile shouts of indignation of the oppressed but helpless people beneath his heel.

We have not failed in our duty. We have warned and again warned the American people in the most solemn manner that they were in mortal peril from this man whom our warm-blooded and excited Southern brothers have often picturesquely described as a drunken ape. But our advice to the country has been in vain. We have mourned to our fellow-citizens, and they have not wept. And now behold the result! The last sublime point of audacity has been scaled by the fanatical feet of him whom our brothers of the South, with startling emphasis, have, with what justice let time determine, denounced as the tyrant Lincoln.

The Confiscation Act, the atrocious, absurd, and inoperative Emancipation Act (alas for the delicate wives and daughters of the sunny South!), and the Habeas Corpus Suspension were blows under which this unhappy land still staggers—the recreant land, which sees a noble martyr and exile sighing upon the Canadian shore, and yet does not in thunder tones cry to him, "Come over and help us!"

But these were only the ring and the halter by which the country and our liberties were to be drawn down to receive the finishing blow. That has at last descended. America is discrowned among the nations. We are lost forever, unless under the leadership of tried statesmen, a Seymour, a Wood and his brother, a Vallandigham, and a Wickliffe, we strike a despairing blow and conquer the conqueror.

Details are useless. In the universal wreck why specify any single loss? But the final damning proof of the utter subserviency of the present imbecile Administration to the rankest Puritan fanaticism is the proclamation for Thanksgiving! What is Thanksgiving? It is a Yankee, Puritan, Roundhead, sniveling, snuffling, canting, hypocritical institution. It smells of baked beans, roast turkey, and Indian pudding, not to say pumpkin-pies and soft custards. Pah! We desire in all coolness to see the Constitutional warrant for such an appalling innovation upon national customs. We call for chapter and verse. It is an outrageous and illegal ebullition of that Roundhead spirit of Phariseeism which incessantly bloats New England conceit. Why, let us ask—why should we return thanks for the wasted fields and desolate homes of our Southern brothers? Why should we be glad that England stops the Confederate rams? Are we grown such caitiffs that we are unwilling to give fair play to an honorable antagonist? O tempora! O mores!

But is it possible that the despotism under which we live—or, rather, die—has so paralyzed our faculties that we do not see the claw in this smooth-seeming paw? Is not this Thanksgiving notoriously a State institution? Was it not always appointed by the Puritan Governors and their imitators? And shall we, without a murmur, see the Washington tyranny sweep this poor State-right away? Awake, freemen! Arise, ye oppressed! Let the imperial State of New York rally around her beloved and honored head. Let him take up the gauge so scornfully hurled at him and at our sovereignty, and say to Lincoln and his minions, in their teeth, that the people of the country have had enough of Yankee fanaticism, of Puritanism, and of cant, and are resolved to vindicate the majesty of State rights, and to appeal to the hearts of our betrayed Southern brothers, which yearn for the Union as it was and the Constitution as it is, and to insist upon their mentioning the terms of their submission. Could we but see Seymour President, Robert Toombs Secretary of State, General Lee in the War Department, and Fernando Wood in the Treasury, we should feel sure that the country was redeemed, and that we should have no more occasion for canting Thanksgiving proclamations.


THE late French pamphlet by Michel Chevalier has been wisely translated and printed in the New York Times. It treats the United States as the Czar treated Turkey. Turkey was a mortally sick man upon whose estate Russia must administer. So, in Mr. Chevalier's view, speaking unquestionably what the Emperor wishes to have generally believed, the United States Government is virtually overthrown, and France must "consecrate final separation." It is impossible for any American but a rebel or a Copperhead to read this shameless pamphlet of one of Louis Napoleon's literary lackeys without a boiling of the blood. But we wish now, as briefly and coolly as possible, to state the substance of the work.

It is divided into four parts. The first begins by remarking that distant wars are always unpopular in France. Hence it is a second-rate colonial power. Frenchmen in war look to glory, and not to politics or business. When England and Spain withdrew from the treaty of Soledad, there was but one feeling of regret in France at the necessary war with Mexico. The active opponents (Next Page)




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