History for the Rest of Us

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Nov 22, 2012

During the reign of Henry VIII of England, radical Puritan reformers wished to move from a calendar filled with nearly 150 days when people were required to attend church, forego work, and in some cases pay for expensive celebrations, to a calendar that only consisted of special Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving. These days were to be selected based on events that demonstrated divine providence. For example, Days of Thanksgiving were held following the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. First Thanksgiving The tradition continued when the Puritans emigrated into New England in the 1620s and 1630s. Which of the various Days of Thanksgiving should be considered the official ‘First Thanksgiving’ is a matter of debate. Notably there were Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and one in Boston in 1631. The Spanish held a service of Thanksgiving on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine Florida, and a codified day of Thanksgiving was established in 1619 in Charles City County, Virginia. Date of Thanksgiving Originally, proclamations of ‘Thanksgiving’ were made primarily by church leaders, but eventually politicians began to influence the proclamations. November 26, 1789 became the first nationwide Thanksgiving celebration in the United States after a proclamation by George Washington for a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.” From the first nationwide Thanksgiving until the time of Abraham Lincoln, the date the holiday was observed varied by state. In an attempt to built unity in a divided nation, Lincoln, by means of a presidential proclamation in 1863 named the final Thursday of November as the official date for Thanksgiving. The Confederate States of America refused to recognize the authority of the proclamation, and a nationwide date wasn’t realized again until the 1870s. The current date, the fourth Thursday of November was determined by a joint resolution of Congress signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 26, 1941. The slight change was decided upon as a measure to give the country an economic boost by lengthening period between Thanksgiving and...

FDR – Fireside Chat – Purging the Democratic Party

FDR – Fireside Chat – Purging the Democratic Party

Oct 13, 2012

June 24, 1938. Listen to Fireside Chat: Fireside Chat FDR 1938-06-24 Our government, happily, is a democracy. As part of the democratic process, your President is again taking an opportunity to report on the progress of national affairs, to report to the real rulers of this country—the voting public. The Seventy-Fifth Congress, elected in November, 1936, on a platform uncompromisingly liberal, has adjourned. Barring unforeseen events, there will be no session until the new Congress, to be elected in November, assembles next January. On the one hand, the Seventy-Fifth Congress has left many things undone. For example, it refused to provide more businesslike machinery for running the Executive Branch of the government. The Congress also failed to meet my suggestion that it take the far-reaching steps necessary to put the railroads of the country back on their feet. But, on the other hand, the Congress, striving to carry out the platform on which most of its members were elected, achieved more for the future good of the country than any Congress did between the end of the World War and the spring of 1933. I mention tonight only the more important of these achievements. (1) It improved still further our agricultural laws to give the farmer a fairer share of the national income, to preserve our soil, to provide an all-weather granary, to help the farm tenant towards independence, to find new uses for farm products, and to begin crop insurance. (2) After many requests on my part the Congress passed a Fair Labor Standards Act, commonly called the Wages and Hours Bill. That act— applying to products in interstate commerce—ends child labor, sets a floor below wages and a ceiling over hours of labor. Except perhaps for the Social Security Act, it is the most far- reaching, the most far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted here or in any other country. Without question it starts us toward a better standard of living and increases purchasing power to buy the products of farm and factory. Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the government relief rolls in...

FDR – Fireside Chat – Economic Conditions

FDR – Fireside Chat – Economic Conditions

Oct 13, 2012

April 14, 1938. Listen to Fireside Chat: Fireside Chat FDR 1938-04-14 My Friends: Five months have gone by since I last spoke to the people of the nation about the state of the nation. I had hoped to be able to defer this talk until next week because, as we all know, this is Holy Week. But what I want to say to you, the people of the country, is of such immediate need and relates so closely to the lives of human beings and the prevention of human suffering that I have felt that there should be no delay. In this decision I have been strengthened by the thought that by speaking tonight there may be greater peace of mind and that the hope of Easter may be more real at firesides everywhere, and therefore that it is not inappropriate to encourage peace when so many of us are thinking of the Prince of Peace. Five years ago we faced a very serious problem of economic and social recovery. For four and a half years that recovery proceeded apace. It is only in the past seven months that it has received a visible setback. And it is only within the past two months, as we have waited patiently to see whether the forces of business itself would counteract it, that it has become apparent that government itself can no longer safely fail to take aggressive government steps to meet it. This recession has not returned us the disasters and suffering of the beginning of 1933. Your money in the bank is safe; farmers are no longer in deep distress and have greater purchasing power; dangers of security speculation have been minimized; national income is almost 50 percent higher than in 1932; and government has an established and accepted responsibility for relief. But I know that many of you have lost your jobs or have seen your friends or members of your families lose their jobs, and I do not propose that the government shall pretend not to see these things. I know that the effect of our present difficulties has been uneven; that they have affected some groups and some localities seriously, but...

FDR – Fireside Chat – Unemployment Census

FDR – Fireside Chat – Unemployment Census

Oct 13, 2012

NOVEMBER 14, 1937: I am appealing to the people of America tonight to help in carrying out a task that is important to them and to their government. It is a part, but an essential part, of the greater task of finding jobs for willing workers who are idle through no fault of their own; of finding more work for those who are insufficiently employed and of surveying the needs of workers and industry to see if we can find the basis of a better long-range plan of re-employment than we have now. Enforced idleness, embracing any considerable portion of our people, in a nation of such wealth and natural opportunity, is a paradox that challenges our ingenuity. Unemployment is one of the bitter and galling problems that now afflicts man-kind. It has been with us, in a measure, since the beginning of our industrial era. It has been increased by the complexity of business and industry, and it has been made more acute by the depression. It has made necessary the expenditure of billions of dollars for relief and for publicly created work; it has delayed the balancing of our national budget, and increased the tax burden of all our people. In addition to the problem faced by the national government our states and local governments have been sorely pressed to meet the increased load resulting from unemployment. It is a problem of every civilized nation–not ours alone. It has been solved in some countries by starting huge armament programs but we Americans do not want to solve it that way. Nevertheless, as a nation we adopted the policy that no unemployed man or woman can be permitted to starve for lack of aid. That is still our policy. But the situation calls for a permanent cure and not just a temporary one. Unemployment relief is, of course, not the permanent cure. The permanent cure lies in finding suitable jobs in industry and agriculture for all willing workers. It involves cooperative effort and planning which will lead to the absorption of this unused man-power in private industry. Such planning calls for facts which we do not now possess. Such planning applies not only...

FDR – Fireside Chat – Recommended Legislation

FDR – Fireside Chat – Recommended Legislation

Oct 13, 2012

October 12, 1937. Listen to Fireside Chat: Fireside Chat FDR 1937-10-12 My Friends: This afternoon I have issued a Proclamation calling a special session of the Congress to convene on Monday, November 15, 1937. I do this in order to give to the Congress an opportunity to consider important legislation before the regular session in January, and to enable the Congress to avoid a lengthy session next year, extending through the summer. I know that many enemies of democracy will say that it is bad for business, bad for the tranquility of the country, to have a special session—even one beginning only six weeks before the regular session. But I have never had sympathy with the point of view that a session of the Congress is an unfortunate intrusion of what they call “politics” into our national affairs. Those who do not like democracy want to keep legislators at home. But the Congress is an essential instrument of democratic government; and democratic government can never be considered an intruder into the affairs of a democratic nation. I shall ask this special session to consider immediately certain important legislation which my recent trip through the nation convinces me the American people immediately need. This does not mean that other legislation, to which I am not referring tonight, is not important for our national well-being. But other legislation can be more readily discussed at the regular session. Anyone charged with proposing or judging national policies should have first-hand knowledge of the nation as a whole. That is why again this year I have taken trips to all parts of the country. Last spring I visited the Southwest. This summer I made several trips in the East. Now I am just back from a trip from a trip all the way across the continent, and later this autumn I hope to pay my annual visit to the Southeast. For a President especially it is a duty to think in national terms. He must think not only of this year but of future years, when someone else will be President. He must look beyond the average of the prosperity and well-being of the country, for averages easily cover...