Abraham Lincoln Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

November 16, 2018

Fran Lane

This year President Trump is expected to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey before Thanksgiving. This Presidential tradition began in 1863 when a live turkey was delivered to the White House for the Lincoln family to feast on during the holidays. Abraham Lincoln’s 10 year old son, Tad, quickly befriended the bird and named him Jack. Tad fed Jack, and taught the bird to follow him around the White House grounds.

When the time came to prepare the turkey for the holiday meal, Tad convinced the “executioner” to delay slaughtering the bird, so he could bring Jack’s case before the President. Tad ran and burst into one of his father’s Cabinet meetings. Crying loudly, Tad told his father that Jack was about to be killed. “Jack must not be killed; it is wicked,” Tad pleaded. President Lincoln replied, “Jack was sent here to be killed and eaten…I can’t help it.” Tad, sobbing, said, “He’s a good turkey, and I don’t want him killed.” Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States of America, paused in the midst of the Cabinet meeting. He took out a card, and on it he wrote an order of reprieve. Jack’s life was to be spared, and Tad raced out of the Cabinet meeting to present the presidential order to the executioner.*

 This began what has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition. Each year the President pardons a turkey before Thanksgiving. After President Trump pardons the Thanksgiving turkey, the fortunate foul will live out the rest of its life at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia.

 *A footnote to the story: On Tuesday, November 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln was elected to a second term as president. A special polling place had been set up on the White House grounds especially for soldiers who chose to vote. Jack, the turkey, actually strutted in front of some of the soldiers and cut in the voting line. Seeing this, the president looked at Tad and asked if Jack was going to vote. “He is under age,” Tad replied.