Most of us (maybe with the exception of students in postmodern schools) know the story of the Pilgrim Fathers and the First Thanksgiving. The holiday though was recognized by various states and not by the Federal Government as a national holiday until 1863, when President Lincoln established it by Executive Order.
The year 1863 was pivotal in the US Civil War. It was the year of the Emancipation Proclamation and two decisive victories over the Rebels; at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The latter battle occasioned Lincoln's order to establish Thanksgiving Day; which in many ways is a uniquely American holiday celebrating both our Christian and Constitutional principles. The Secessionists hung on pointlessly for another year and a half; finally crowning all their crimes by treacherously assassinating Lincoln after he'd given them more generous peace terms than they deserved.
Abraham Lincoln's reputation has fallen on difficult times recently. The Radical Right hates Lincoln because they sympathize with the Secessionists; and the Radical Left hates him because he was a famous white male who accomplished great things. In many ways, there are parallels between Lincoln's career and our own recent election.
The Election of 1860 was also a divisive one. Like Trump, Lincoln faced a hostile press and opposition candidates bent on not accepting the election results, should he win. Like the Clinton Machine, the Democrat candidates stood for a corrupted, entrenched system and were teeming with radicals who'd been conspiring against the Constitution for years. Lincoln was also condemned by the then-Elites for his lack of experience and promises to unify a divided country.
Lincoln won the Election of 1860 with a plurality of popular votes, though decisively in the Electoral College, and this spawned the ancestors of the Not My President crowd of 2016 and the interested Elites into action. The Secessionists had been plotting an overthrow of the Government for some time. Jefferson Davis, the ringleader of the rebellion, married the daughter of President Taylor and floated the idea shortly after the 1848. Taylor's energetic response and pro-Union stand convinced the traitors that they had bet on the wrong horse. Taylor died under mysterious circumstances in 1849 and was succeeded by the ignorant and ineffectual President Fillmore. Matters grew worse in 1852, when the Democrats nominated the inept and alcoholic Franklin Pierce to the presidency. Davis served as Pierce's Defense Secretary and moved arsenals and military facilities to South; as well as flooding West Point with Southern-born cadets and appointing Robert E. Lee as its head. In 1856, the incapacitated Pierce declined re-election in favor of a weak and suspected homosexual James Buchanan who was on record as saying that secession was a Constitutional Right.
Like Trump, Lincoln took the presidency after a string of incompetent, weak, and corrupt leaders had primed America for internal collapse. Though he won the confidence of the people, Lincoln was fought by interested elites and cunning fanatics during his entire presidency. The treasonous Secessionists were even being covertly aided by the British; who were still smarting after their defeat in America during the War of 1812. But Lincoln never lost his Faith in God, his convictions, or his belief in humanity during four years of civil war.
During the war, Lincoln refused calls to suspend the 1864 Elections and was successfully re-elected against a pacifist candidate. He also refused Rebel demands on prisoner-of-war exchanges unless the Confederates agreed to give Black POWs the same status as Whites. Lincoln once also countermanded some anti-Semitic orders imposed by his military governors and issued orders protecting Jewish Americans.
Lincoln's Administration not only defeated the Secessionists. Many of his forward-looking policies set the course for future Americans. He established the Department of Agriculture and land-grants for agricultural colleges, which made the US the leading agricultural power for the next century. In 1862, he augmented these policies with the Homestead Act---which was responsible for creating thousands of family-farms in the West. Lincoln also authorized subsidies for the transcontinental railroad project---which would enable commerce on a previously-unrealized scale nationwide. In 1864, Lincoln issued Federal protection for the future Yosemite National Park.
In addition to freeing the slaves, Lincoln also proposed Indian policy reform following the Sioux Uprising of 1862. Lincoln pardoned over 200 Indians sentenced to death after their defeat, though the ringleaders were executed: according to some sources, because they were Confederate agents. He also stabilized the currency with some tax and banking reforms that were years ahead of their time. Lincoln nominated five Supreme Court Justices, among them the famous jurists Salmon P. Chase and Noah Swayne.
So on Thanksgiving 2016, we can see that the political and social turmoil we see around us today was present on the first Thanksgiving in 1863. Lincoln still stands tall as an example for us today: hold fast to faith, convictions, and a belief in man---and we can come through the current upheavals as our forefathers did in Lincoln's Era; better and stronger than before.