We are nothing if not our traditions. President Obama will probably pardon the Thanksgiving turkey tomorrow, just as presidents have done all the way back to Abraham Lincoln. This charming practice began in 1863 when a living turkey was delivered to the White House, and Lincoln’s son, Tad, begged his dad to spare the bird from the chopping block.
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 Barack Obama pardons the Thanksgiving turkey on Wednesday, the fortunate fowl will live out the rest of its life at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia.