A Call to Prayer


France had been a major ally of the United States during the American Revolutionary War and had signed a Treaty of Alliance in 1778 with the new government of the United States.  After the French Revolution toppled France’s monarchy, the United States had resolved several points of contention with Great Britain that had lingered since the end of the Revolutionary War.   The United States had declared neutrality in the conflict between France and Great Britain, and American legislation passed a trade deal with Great Britain, France’s enemy, which outraged the French.  The United States also refused to repay their debt to France, insisting their debt was to the French Crown and not the Republican France.  ( The United States finally settled its debt with France in 1795.) France began to seize American ships and at the close of 1797, John Adams reported to Congress of France’s refusal to negotiate and spoke of the need “to place our country in a suitable posture of defense.”  In April of 1798, President Adams informed Congress of an incident in which French agents demanded a large bribe for the restoration of relations with the United States.  It was during this time that President John Adams called the nation to a day of prayer.  The proclamation is as follows:

Proclamation of Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer (March 23, 1798)

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are at present placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation by the unfriendly disposition, conduct, and demands of a foreign power, evinced by repeated refusals to receive our messengers of reconciliation and peace, by depredation on our commerce, and the infliction of injuries on very many of our fellow-citizens while engaged in their lawful business on the seas--under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country demands at this time a special attention from its inhabitants.

I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction; that it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it; that our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate and perpetuated to the latest generations; that our public councils and magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period; that the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence and inspired with that vigor and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages; that the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their agriculture, commerce, fisheries, arts, and manufactures be blessed and prospered; that the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens, and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.

And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift, not only for His having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States in the independent enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population, and for conferring on them many and great favors conducive to the happiness and prosperity of a nation.

Given under my hand and the seal of the United States of America, at Philadelphia, this 23d day of March, A. D. 1798, and of the Independence of the said States the twenty-second.


By the President:

Secretary of State

Text as printed in the Phenix/Windham Herald, April 12, 1798


After reading this proclamation one could only know that John Adams believed that there is only one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jehovah, the Mighty One.          
God bless you,
Doyle Davidson


Sources: wallbuilders,com; wikipedia.org


Contributed by Kathryn Currier
posted November 25, 2009



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