A Coolidge Thanksgiving

President and Mrs. Coolidge leaving church, Thanksgiving, 11/27/24

Not surprisingly, Thanksgiving, this most puritan of holidays, held special meaning for Calvin Coolidge, as his antecedents truly had been among the Pilgrim Fathers. His forebears sailed with Governor John Winthrop to the new Massachusetts Colony in 1630, and John Coolidge began his life in America as a farmer in Watertown and was a deputy to the General Court. His descendants migrated northward to Plymouth, Vermont after the Revolutionary War. Some of the log houses from that era were still standing when Calvin Coolidge was a boy in the 1870s.

Thus when president Coolidge spoke of the pilgrims with reverence, he was speaking of his own family line. And for him, giving thanks always was as important as being thrifty:

“If at any time our rewards have seemed meager, we shall find our justification for Thanksgiving by carefully comparing what we have with what we deserve. The little band of Pilgrims who first established this institution on the shore by Plymouth Rock had no doubts. If their little colony of devoted souls, when exiled to a foreign wilderness by persecution, cut in half by disease, surrounded by hostility and threatened with famine, could give thanks how much more should this great nation, less deserving than the Pilgrims yet abounding in freedom, peace, security and plenty, now have the faith to return thanks to the author of all good and perfect gifts.”

 

(text partly adapted from a Vermont Public Radio interview with Cyndi Bittinger, former executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation)

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