The first President of the United States, George Washington, proclaimed
November 26th to be a day of national thanksgiving and prayer after
receiving Congressional requests for such a decree.
He wrote in his November
26th diary entry: "Being the day appointed for a thanksgiving
I went to St. Pauls Chapel though it was most inclement and stormy--but
few people at Church." President Washington later provided money,
food, and beer to debtors spending the holiday in a New York City
Thanksgiving failed to become an annual tradition at this time.
Only Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison declared national
days of thanks in their terms. Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy
Adams considered the practice to infringe upon the separation
of church and state. Governors, on the other hand--particularly
in the New England states, regularly issued proclamations of thanksgiving.