The presidential turkey pardon has a mysterious and intriguing history. It is believed that presidents as far back as the 19th Century used to be offered birds by a regular citizen as gifts during thanksgiving ceremony. There are records in the White house that can attest to this fact. George Washington, the first president of the US is the leader who commissioned the Thanksgiving ceremony in US. The tradition of reprieving turkeys can however be traced back to the 1863 when Abraham Lincoln was president. His youngest son named Tad, had become fond of a bird that had been given to the president for Christmas. Lincoln decided that the turkey was not going to be slaughtered after his son begged him to allow spare the bird.
Carrying On The Tradition
In the later years, 1873 to be precise, a poultry farmer from Rhode Island named Horace Vose, formed the habit of sending the best bird from his farm to the white house as a present. The farmer started the tradition during Ulysses S. Grant’s term in office. Vose was a non-partisan citizen and never discriminated on the presidents who were in the office based of their party affiliations. Despite being a republican, he delivered a bird to both democrat and republican presidents. Vose continued religiously sending a bird to the reigning president for forty years until his death in 1913. After Vose’s demise, the National Turkey Federation took the mantle and has been supplying a bird to the white house for the last 66 years.
The tradition acquired its title in 1989 when the senior president George Bush said officially that he had pardoned a turkey that appeared to be scared. He authorized that the bird should not be slaughtered. That was the first time the word ‘pardon’ was used to refer to the act of sparing the bird. The tradition continues to date, and president Obama also pardoned another turkey this year. Obama acknowledged that at times, some presidents have not been able to uphold the tradition and have ended up eating the bird. However, for the most, they pardoned the bird and allowed it to go free. The ceremony symbolizes patriotism and unity which are some of the cherished values of the people of USA.