December 18th: Three Reasons to give Thanks

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Richard Warren, among 10 passengers in the lan...

Mayflower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 18 1620, the Mayflower docked at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. In 1606, the Puritans founded their own church separate from the Church of England. After being accused from treason, the Puritans sailed to the Netherlands. After spending twelve years in the Netherlands struggling to make money and adapt to the culture, the Puritans decided to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers boarded the Mayflower and set sail to America. After docking on December 18, the Pilgrims would spend a miserable weather trying to build a settlement; half of the Pilgrims would die. In the spring they made contact with the Wampanoag Tribe and signed a peace treaty with the chief. The following fall, the Pilgrims and the Native Americans would celebrate the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims showed how important it is to be able to practice religion freely – they risked their lives to be able to. Ever since 1620, the United States has been a safe haven to all religions.

Years later, on December 18, 1777, the United States celebrated its first national day of Thanksgiving; they gave thanks to the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. The Battle of Saratoga was a turning point in the American Revolutionary War since it convinced the French to enter the war at the American’s ally since they were able to fight the British. The American forces were led by Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold while the British forces were led by General John Burgoyne. One of the most important heroes of the battle was Polish Engineer Thaddeus Kosciusko – it was he who fortified the Americans’ defenses along the Hudson Bay, ensuring the British would not be able to attack. In December, Congress wrote “It is therefore recommended to the Legislative or executive Powers of these United States, to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for solemn Thanksgiving and Praise; That at one Time and with one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor.”

"The surrender at Saratoga" shows Ge...

“The surrender at Saratoga” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was the first time all thirteen colonies had celebrated together, one step for them in forming a country. If Americans did not win the Battle of Saratoga, the French may never had sided with the Americans and who knows if the war would have favored the Americans. Then in December 18, 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in America. The Amendment stated “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Though the main goal of the Civil War was to reunite the Union, the North began to hate slavery since it was associated with the South. In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the states rebelling against the North (meanwhile the Northern and Border states still allowed slavery, though majority of states did not practice it). In March 1865, the amendment passed and was ratified in December of the same year. This amendment would abolish all slavery in the United States, creating a large population of African-Americans that would struggle for Civil Rights to this day. Though the United States is still working toward becoming a country where everyone is equal, the 15th Amendment was the first major step in the right direction.

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