The WSJ today had a piece today about the first official Thanksgiving proclamation — which was George Washington’s first proclamation of any kind as president — and it struck me how fitting that the main objections to it came from South Carolinians. During debate over the resolution asking the president to proclaim the holiday:
Rep. Aedanus Burke of South Carolina objected on the grounds that a Thanksgiving was too European. He “did not like this mimicking of European customs, where they made a mere mockery of thanksgivings.”
Rep. Thomas Tudor Tucker, also of South Carolina, raised two further objections. “Why should the President direct the people to do what, perhaps, they have no mind to do?” he asked. “If a day of thanksgiving must take place,” he said, “let it be done by the authority of the several States.”
Tucker’s second reservation had to do with separation of church and state. Proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving “is a religious matter,” he said, “and, as such, proscribed to us.” The Bill of Rights would not be ratified until 1791—but Congress had just approved the wording of First Amendment, and that debate was fresh in everyone’s mind.
It fell to a New Englander to stand up in support of Thanksgiving…
Of course, the only one of those objections that had a ghost of substance was the church-and-state one — you can see how someone who had recently debated the First Amendment might pause remembering the words “Congress shall make no law…” But of course, a reasonable person’s next thoughts would be that this was just a resolution, it only asked that the president recommend a day of thanksgiving, and it in no way established anything, much less a religion, or inhibited the free exercise thereof.
It’s not the substance of the objections that strike me. It’s that it’s so very South Carolina to be the ones objecting to even the most vanilla, Mom-and-pumpkin-pie actions by the federal government. I mean, leave it to a South Carolinian to inject state’s rights into a discussion of Thanksgiving.
What is it in our water, or whatever, that has always made white men from our state so prickly?