Thanksgiving as a Presbyterian Political Plot

John Adams thought that his Thanksgiving proclamation cost him reelection. Or at least that’s what he told Benjamin Rush in an 1812 letter. During his term in office, Adams had asked that Americans mark Thursday April 25 “as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” He wanted the American people to give thanks to God for “the countless favors which He is still continuing to the people of the United States, and which render their condition as a nation eminently happy when compared with the lot of others.”

You might be thinking: Why would this mark him for electoral disaster? Presidents now announce their forthcoming attempts to subvert Congress with a pen and a phone, or join the nation to semi-treaties, or declare war with a Declaration of War. Why in the world would the use of the 18th-century presidential bully-quill be such a misstep?

Well . . . it made him look like a Presbyterian. Adams said that Presbyterians had “allarmed and alienated Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Moravians, Sweedenborgians, Methodist, Catholicks, Protestant Episcopalians, Arians Socinians, Arminians . . .” and that “a general Suspicion prevailed that the Presbyterian Church . . . aimed at an Establishment as a National Church.” All that fasting and thanksgiving on a marked day. Mighty suspicious.

-Michael Brendan Dougherty in today’s National Review. This made me laugh.