Copyright by the editor, Hal Morris, Secaucus, NJ 1997. Permission is granted to copy, but not for sale, nor in multiple copies, except by permission.
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"What are you doing for the 4th of July?" is often heard about this time; or on getting back to work, "What did you do for the 4th of July". So today, for my (late) July 1 piece, I've hunted through 20 or 30 published diarys, old "lives and letters", etc., to take a sampling of what Americans were doing and thinking on this day of the year, in the days when Revolutionary War veterans were still walking around.
by Captain Frederick Marryat (ed. Sydney Jackman, Knopf 1962). Marryat, a novelist first and travel writer second, was one of the early republic's toughest (if most bemused) critics.
"The 4th of July, the sixty-first anniversary of American independence!
"Pop--pop--bang--pop--pop--bang--bang--bang! Mercy on us! How fortunate it is that anniversaries come only once a year. Well, the Americans may have great reason to be proud of this day, and the deeds of their forefathers, but why do they get so confoundedly drunk? why, on this day of independence, should they become so dependent on posts and rails for support? The day is at last over; my head aches, but there will be many more aching heads tomorrow morning!
"What a combination of vowels and consonants have been put together! What strings of tropes, metaphors, and allegories have been used on this day! what varieties and graduations of eloquence! There are at least fifty thousand cities, towns, villages, and hamlets, spread over the surface of America -- in each the Declaration of Independence has been read; in all one, and in some two or three, orations have been delivered, with as much gunpowder in them as in the squibs and crackers."
The 17th edition (1814) since 1897 -- Boston: Printed by Manning & Loring, for the AUTHOR; and sold at his Book-Store, No. 44, Cornhill, and by the Booksellers in general.
The extraordinary events of just 20 years ago, and the more recent events in France inspire Francis Blake to a cosmic vision: "The grand POLITICAL MILLENNIUM is at hand; when tyranny shall be buried in ruins; when all nations shall be united in ONE MIGHTY REPUBLIC!" This hope and expectation of a worldwide revolution made him slow to criticize the French Revolution, and its three decades of rumbling aftermath, and zealous to defend it from its critics.
"In viewing the causes which led to the event of this joyous anniversary; in tracing the effects which have resulted to America; in searching for the principles which impelled to the contest; in recalling the feelings which supported us in the struggle, it cannot fail to occur to us that the causes have not been confined to the limits of our continent; that the effects have extended far beyond the boundaries of our nation; that the glorious example, with electrical repidity, had flashed across the Atlantic; that, guided by the same principle, conducted by the same feelings, the people, who so gallantly fought and bled for the security of our lives and our liberties, are now fighting and bleeding in defense of their own.
"On this day, therefore, religiously devoted to the consecration of our independence, it becomes us, as the votaries of freedom, as friends to the rights of man, and bound to support them whenever invaded, to turn our attention, with a grateful enthusiasm, to the scenes of their sufferings, their revolt, and their victories. While exulting in the full enjoyment of peace and tranquillity, shall not a tear for the unexampled distresses of this magnanimous nation, check, for a moment, the emotions of our joy?
"They have sworn that they will live FREE or DIE! They have solemnly sworn, that the sword, which has been drawn in defence of their country, shall never be returned to its scabbard, till it has secured to them victory and freedom. Let us then breathe forth a fervent ejaculation to Heaven, that their vows may be remembered; that the cause of our former allies may not be deserted, till they have scourged their invaders, till they have driven them back in confusion to the regions of terror, from which they emerged.
"While we remember with horror the continued effusion of blood, which darkened the morning of their revolution, let us not forget that their vengeance was roused by the champions of despotism, whose lives have since justly atoned for the crimes they committed. While we lament the sanguinary scenes, which clouded its progress, let it not be forgotten that they arose from the bloody manifesto of a band of tyrants, combined for the hellish purpose of again rivetting the chains they had broken.
"The league of Pilnitz, like the league of Satan and his angels, revolting against the Majesty of heaven, was professedly fabricated, to arrest forever the progress of freedom; to usurp the dominion of France, and divide the spoil among this band of royal plunderers. Have we not heard, that the noble, the generous, the grateful monarch of the forest, that fawned at the feet of Androcles, when remembering his former friendship, will ever turn with fury on his pursuers; and when robbed of his whelps, rests not til his fangs are crimsoned in the blood of the aggressor?
"Shall then the fervour of our friendship be abated, by remembering the transitory frenzy of a people distracted with the enthusiasm of freedom, and irritated to madness with the dreadful prospect of losing what they had enjoyed but for a moment? Let it never be said of us, as of Rome and of Athens, that ingratitude is the common vice of republics. Was it to the crowned monarch, named Louis the Sixteenth, or to the people of France, that we are indebted, for the blood and treasure that were so profusely lavished in our cause? Shall then their services be forgotten, in the remembrance of their momentary excesses? or shall we refuse our most cordial concurrence in the feelings which impell them to the present contest with the ruffian potentates of Europe?
"Can we doubt, for a moment, which is the cause we are bound to support with our sanction, when we behold the winds and the seas, those dreadful ministers of Heaven's vengeance, commissioned to advance their progress, and deluge their enemies? When we behold Ariel, with his attendant spirits, gently hovering over their navies, and wafting them to victory on the bosom of the ocean; while Neptune and Boreas have combined against the league of their oppressors, to overwhelm in the deep these deluded followers of Pharaoh! Have we not seen them fed, as with manna from heaven; the waters divided, and the walls of Jericho falling before them, while the fair prospect of liberty has led them in triumph through the wilderness, as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night?
"AMERICANS! Let us join in a fervent supplication, that the sacred charters of humanity, which we have once sealed with our blood, may be forever preserved from the deadly grasp of tyrants.
"FRENCHMEN! Be firm; be undaunted in the struggle you have thus miraculously supported. Evince to the world, now gazing with admiration at your exploits in the field of battle, that you have virtue equal to your courage; that you are friends to the friends of humanity; that your arms are nerved only against the enemies of man. Let not the sacred name of LIBERTY be polluted by the frenzy of licentous passions; but may your present glorious constitution, while it protects your freedom from the unhallowed ravages of tyrrany, remain an unshaken bulwark against the destructive fury of faction.
"TYRANTS! Turn from the impious work of blood in which your hands are imbrued, and tremble at the desperation of your revolting subjects! repent in sackcloth and ashes. Bor behold, ye, who have been exalted up to heaven, shall, ere long, be cast down to hell! The final period of your crimes is rapidly approaching. The grand POLITICAL MILLENNIUM is at hand; when tyranny shall be buried in ruins; when all nations shall be united in ONE MIGHTY REPUBLIC! when the four angels, that stand on the four corners of the globe, shall, with one accord, lift up their voices to heaven; proclaiming PEACE ON EARTH, AND GOOD WILL TO ALL MEN."
My impression of the tone of the Columbian Orator, and of its author, Caleb Bingham, is that he may well have shared Blake's sympathies, and desire to assume the best about revolutionary France, and to have been a pretty thorough democrat (without Thomas Jefferson's blindered view of a portion of a portion of the human race). "Dialogue between a Master and Slave", and "Dialogue Between a White Inhabitant of the United States and an Indian" exhibit broad sympathies. The book was treasured by Frederick Douglass as a teenage slave in Baltimore.
Two other extracts of July 4 speeches from the Columbian Orator are more conventional celebrations of America's accomplishments.
From a speech given in Boston in 1794 by "Phillips" (no first name given, but perhaps Samuel, the founder of Phillips Andover Academy):
"AMERICANS! you have a country vast in extent, and embracing all the varieties of the most salubrious climes: held not by charters wrested from unwilling kings, but the bountiful gift of the Author of nature. The exuberance of your population is daily divesting the gloomy wilderness of its rude attire, and splendid cities rise to cheer the dreary desert. You have a government deservedly celebrated as "giving the sanctions of law to the precepts of reason;" presenting, instead of the rank luxuriance of natural licentiousness, the corrected sweets of civil liberty. You have fought the battles of freedom, and enkindled that sacred flame which now glows with vivid fervour through the greatest empire in Europe.
"We indulge the sanguine hope, that her equal laws and virtuous conduct will hereafter afford examples of imitation to all surrounding nations. That the blissful period will soon arrive when man shall be elevated to his primitive character; when illuminated reason and regulated liberty shall once more exhibit him in the image of his Maker; when all the inhabitants of the globe shall be freemen and fellow-citizens, and the patriotism itself be lost in universal philanthropy. Then shall volumes of incense incessantly roll from altars inscribed to liberty. Then shall the innumerable varieties of the human race unitedly "worship in her sacred temple, whose pillars shall rest on the remotest corners of the earth, adn whose arch will be the vault of heaven."
Another Boston speech of July 4, 1796 by "Lathrop"
"That the best way for a great empire to tax her colonies is to confer benefits upon them, and that no rulers have a right to levy contributions upon the property, or exact the services of their subjects, without their own, or the consent of their immediate representatives, were principles never recognized by the ministry and parliament of Great Britain. Fatally enamoured of their selfish systems of policy, and obstinately determined to effect the execution of their nefarious purposes, they were deaf to the suggestions of reason and the demands of justice. The frantic, though transient energy of intoxicated rage was exhibited in their every act, and blackened and distorted the features of their national character.
"On the contrary, Americans had but one object in view, for in Independence are concentrated and condensed every blessing that makes life desirable, every right and every privilege which can tend to the happiness or secure the native dignity of man. In the attainment of Independence, were all their passions, their desires, and their powers engaged. The intrepidity and mannanimity of their armies; the wisdom and inflexible firmness of their Congress; the ardency of their patriotism; their unrepining patience, when assailed by dangers and perplexed with aggravated misfortunes, have long and deservedly employed the pen of panegyric and the tongue of eulogy.
"Through the whole revolutionary conflict, a consistency and systematic regularity were preserved, equally honorable as extraordinary. The unity of design and classically correct arrangement of the series of incidents, which completed the Epic story of American Independence, were so wonderful, so well wrought, that political Hypercriticism was abashed at the mighty production, and forced to join her sister Envy, in applauding the glorious composition.
"It is my pleasing duty, my fellow citizens, to felicitate you on the establishment of our national sovereignty; and among the various subjects for congratulation and rejoicing, this is not the most unimportant, that Heaven has spared so many veterans in the art of war; so many sages, who were versed in the best politics of peace; men, who were able to instruct and to govern, and whose faithful services, whose unremitted exertions to promote the public prosperity, entitle them to our firmest confidence and warmest gratitude. Uniting in the celebration of this anniversary, I am happy to behold many of the illustrious remnant of that band of patriots, who, despising danger and death, determined to be free, or gloriously perish in the cause. Their countenances beam inexpressible delight! our joys are increased by their presence; our raptures are heightened by their participation. The feelings, which inspired them in the "times which tried men's souls," are communicated to our bosoms. We catch the divine spirit which impelled them to bid defiance to the congregated host of despots. We swear to preserve the blessings they toiled to gain, which they obtained by the incessant labours of eight distressful years; to transmit to our posterity, our rights undiminished, our honor untarnished, and our freedom unimpaired.
"On the last page of Fate's eventful volume, with the raptured ken of prophecy, I behold Columbia's name recorded; her future honors and happiness inscribed. In the same important book the approaching end of Tyranny and the triumph of Right and Justice are written in indellible characters. The struggle will soon be over; the tottering thrones of despots will quickly fall, and bury their proud incumbents in their massy ruins!
"Then peace on earth shall hold her easy sway,
And man forget his brother man to slay.
To martial arts, shall milder arts succeed;
Who blesses most, shall gain th' immortal meed.
The eye of pity shall be pain'd no more,
with Vict'ry's crimson banners stain'd with gore.
Thou glorious era, come! Hail blessed time!
When full-orb'd Freedom shall unclouded shine;
When the chaste Muses, cherish'd by her rays,
In olive groves shall tune their sweetest lays;
When bounteous Ceres shall direct her car,
O'er fields now blasted with the fires of war;
and angels view, with joy and wonder join'd,
The golden age return'd to bless mankind!"
The following are taken from Charles Haswell's An Octogenarian Reminisces.
From chapter 3, describing events of 1816,
"On the eve of Fourth of July, or Independence Day, booths were erected around the City Hall Park, and roast pig, eggnog, cider, and spruce beer were temptingly displayed. On the following day the militia formed at the Battery, paraded up Broadway to the City Hall, where it was reviewed by the Mayor and Aldermen, and after executing a feu de joie was dismissed. The various civic societies met, formed in line, and marched through some of the principal streets; the Tammany Society, by right of seniority, being assigned to the head of the column."
Francis Marryat described it much more vividly (again, Knopf, 1962 - see above):
"on the evening of the 3rd .. the municipal police [went round] pasting up placards, informing the citizens of New York that all persons letting off fireworks would be taken into custody, ... immediately followed up by the little boys proving their independence ... by letting off squibs, crackers, and bombs -- and cannons, made our of shin bones, which flew in the face of every passenger... [the morning dawned, 90 degrees in the shade, with hordes of timorous people fleeing the city] On each side of the whole length of Broadway were ranged booths and stands .. on which were displayed small plates of oysters, with a fork stuck in the board opposite to each plate; clams sweltering in the hot sun; pineapples, boiled hams, pies, puddings, barley sugar,... But what was most remarkable, Broadway being three miles long, and the booths lining each side of it, in every booth there was a roast pig, large or small, as the centre attraction. Six miles of roast pig! ...[the booths were also] loaded with porter, ale, cider, mead, brandy, ginger-beer, pop, soda-water, whiskey, rum, punch, gin slings, cocktails, mint juleps ... Martial music sounded from a dozen quarters at once;... At last the troups of militia and volunteers, who had been gathering in the park and other squares, made their appearance, well dressed and well equipped, and, in honour of the day, marching as independently as they well could. I did not see them go through many manoeuvres, but there was one which they appeared to excel in, and that was grounding arms and eating pies. ... The crowds assembled were, as American crowds usually are, quiet and well behaved. I recognized many of my literary friends turned into generals, and flourishing swords ... the shipping at the warfs were loaded with star-spangled banners; steamers... covered with flags; the whole beautiful Sound was alive with boats and sailing vessels, all flaunting with pennants and stremers.
"...All creation appeared to be independent on this day; some of the horses particularly so, for they would not keep "in no line no how." Some preferred going sideways like crabs, others went backwards, some would not go at all, others went a great deal too fast, and not a few parted company with their riders, ... let them go which way they would, they could not avoid the squibs and crackers. And the women were in the same predicament: they might dance right, or dance left, ... you literally trod upon gunpowder.
"When the troops marched up Broadway, louder even than the music were to be heard the screams of delight from the children ... "Ma! ma! there's pa!" "Oh! there's John." "Look at uncle on his big horse."
"Unless you are an amateur, there is no occasion to go to the various places of public amusement where ther fireworks are let off, for they are sent up everywhere in such quantities that you hardly know which way to turn your eyes. It is, however, advisable to go into some place of safety, for the little boys and the big boys have all got their supply of rockets, which they fire off in the streets -- some running horizontally up the pavement, and sticking into the back of a passenger, and others mounting slantingdicularly and Paul-Prying into the bedroom windows on the third floor or attics, just to see how things are going on there. Look in any point of the compass, and you will see a shower of rockets in the sky: turn from New York to Jersey City, from Jersey City to Brooklyn, and shower is answered by shower on either side of the water. Hoboken repeats the signal; and thus it is carried on to the east, the west, the north, and the south, from Rhode Island to the Missouri, from the Canada frontier to the Gulf of Mexico. At the various gardens the combinations were very beautiful, and exceeded anything that I had witnessed in London or Paris. What with sea-serpents, giant rockets scaling heaven, Bengal lights, Chinese fires, Italian suns, fairy bowers, crowns of Jupiter, exeranthemums, Tartar temples, Vesta's diadems, magic circles, morning glories, stars of Columbia, and temples of liberty, all America was in a blaze; and, in addition to the mode of manifesting its joy, all America was tipsy.
The reminiscing Octogenarian, Charles Haswell makes a sad note of the vanishing of the booths, with their "six miles of roast pig", in 1841, "June 29, a vote was taken in the Board of Aldermen on the resolution of a committee to abolish the permits for the erection of booths around City Hall Park on the afternoon preceding the Fourth of July, which was negatived, and the erection of booths continued for a few years afterward. The existence of them, the peculiar character of their proprietors, and of the refreshments furnished, with the crowds that visited them, elicited the general remark upon their cessation, 'The Fourth of July passed away when the booths around City Hall Park were taken away.'"
Hezikiah Prince Jr., born in 1820, lived in the small port town (for the coasting trade) of Thomaston, Maine; quotes are from the Journal of Hezekiah Prince, Jr., 1822-1828 (Maine Historical Society, 1965). He describes little of the noise and chaos of a New York 4th.
1822: "[a modest celebration that year was] ushered in by the discharge of cannon ... the ringing of bells, and the halloos of the true Sons of Liberty. ... The spirit and patriotism of '76 seamed still to flame in the breast of every citizen, especially the young who appeared very much animated. The few surviving veterans around us ... appeared to renew their age and glow with the same spirit which filled their breast in those ever to be rememberd days."
In 1823, he reports more of a formal celebration, but "There being considerable division, the parties divided and the Federalists had this meetinghouse and the Republicans the Brick Meetinghouse at the Meadow. I of course joined the Republicans. The Brick Meetinghouse was very neatly and handsomely decorated. The clerical services were performed by Rev. Job Washburn. The Declaration of Independence was read by William Farley of Waldoboro and an oration by John Ruggles, Esq. which was received with universal applause. [later] a company of about 300 took dinner with all the usual ceremonies. The party brok up about four o'clock and every one retired to their homes, well pleased with what they had seen, heard, and tasted."
1824: On the 5th (the 4th having been a Sunday) "We had a stage erected in front of the pulpit [of the Brick Meetinghouse] ... The first performance after the reading of the Constitution was an oration by Demerrick Spear, next a written disputation between ... and another between ... we went to the Shore to a dinner provided by the Widow Spear. About 50 set down to dinner after which some appropriate toasts were drunk. [about 3:30 pm] I came home in the chaise I had hired for the day -- Mrs. Hasting's chaise and Mr. Jourdain's horse. ... About seven o'clock ... tackled my horse and chaise and carried Miss Henrietta Marsh and Miss Fanny Sprague (two young ladies from Bath and fine agreeable ones, too) over to a ball ... [meeting a party of about 12 couples] ... we spent the evening or rather night in dancing and very pleasantly till about two o'clock when I came away with Miss Marsh and Sprague. Some of the party continued till three o'clock."
"4th July, 1826, National Jubilee. A fine morning was ushered in by the roar of cannon in all parts of the town, by a salute of 24 guns from a brass six pounder on the hill and by the ringing of bells. It is the fiftieth anniversary of that joyous day which we hail as our nation's birthday. It was a glorious day to our country -- it was so to the world, for it declared that "all men are born free and equal" and this principle of equality is gaining upon the old notions of imperial, kingly and lordly characters and as it gains ground, the world becomes enlightened and refined ... After the services at the Meetinghouse the procession formed again walked to the new ropewalks lately erected where a table of 300 plates was spread and a dinner in ample order. Mr. Ruggles presided assisted by five vice-presidents. ... After the cloth was removed and the wine was placed before us, some fine sentiments were drank to and a fine flow of soul seemed to pervade the whole company in number over 200. ... A Mr. Brown sung some fine patriotic songs and towards the last some comic songs in fine style. All was life and spirit, yet all was orderly and harmonious. In the evening a fine display of fireworks was had, procured from Boston ..."
A footnote adds that the meetinghouse was adorned with the names of Washington, Knox, and other patriots in white roses, with that of Bolivar (who helped revive that fine sense of a steady march of freedom).
Eight days later, on the 12th, "Papers brought the news that Presidents Old Adams and Jefferson both died on the 4th of July past."
The Diary of Charles Francis Adams (Massachusetts Historical Society 1968) relates:
"As my father (John Quincy Adams) was to deliver the Oration, I thought I would hear him for the purpose of forming a Judgment upon the character of his Oratory. To do this, I felt as if I should make sure of a good seat only bo going through all the Ceremonies. Isaac Hull and I therefore went up ... and endured all the excruciating head of the sun, ... dust, procession &ca. for three hours, until we reached the Meeting house, thus paying pretty dearly for our privelege. The Oration was and hour and twenty five minutes. The manner was as I expected, perhaps a little better though with a little of the defect I anticipated. [footnote says the main theme was an attack upon the South Carolina doctrine of nullification, which helps explain:]... I fear for him lest in his age it should bring upon him the War of words to which through all his life he has been accustomed. It is the character of my Father vehemently to attack. He does it through all his writings more or less, and attack in every community creates defence; Controversy rises, from which issue anger, and ill blood. All this is not to my taste and therefore I presume I must be set down as preferring insignificance and inglorious ease."
[It seems worth going off on a tangent somewhat, since this is such a nice revelation of Charles Francis Adams' character, and why he was the only son of John Quincy Adams who was not (so it seems) crushed by parental expectations. He also, of course, had the good luck not to be named George Washington Adams or John Adams 2nd, like his two unfortunate brothers. Charles Francis Adams had the strength the willow, at least where his father was concerned.]
"I attended the Dinner and suffered three hours of excessive heat without any thing to pay me for it, excepting a beautiful tribute to the memory of my Grandfather here in his native town, which affected me even to tears. That is worth having. Removed from all the stormy passions he sleeps in his last mansion, yet the spontaneous effusion of grateful hearts rises up to cheer and invigorate his drooping descendants.
On July 4, 1833, Charles Francis Adams notes:
"It is now so many years since the Declaration of Independence that the vigour of its celebration is rather slackened. The City of Boston still holds on to its accustomed forms and here and there is to be found some place where the festival is held, but noise is not to me a necessary concommitant of rejoicing."
He spent the day reading, visiting, and enjoying the outdoors.
On July 4th, 1829, an African named Ibrahima was lying mortally ill in Liberia. He was an educated Muslim prince, who had been captured in battle, sold to slave traders, to spend most of his life a slave to a small planter in the vicinity of Natchez, MI. He died on July 6, at sixty-seven; his death being largely caused by the folly of the American Colonization society. Ibrahima, at least, had a reason for being in Africa. He even had people coming to meet him. But he died, as did a huge percentage of others, who had no reason at all for being in Africa, could find no relatives there, and had no immunity to African diseases. His life is described in Terry Alford, Prince Among Slaves (Oxford University Press, 1977).
Another African American named William Johnson lived in Natchez. A free man, a barber, and a quite successful businessman (and slaveholder, it must be added), he kept a diary of short entries, hardly missing a day between 1836 and 1851. It is published in William Johnson's Natchez, the Ante-Bellum Diary of a Free Negro, ed. William Ransom Hogan and Edwin Adams Davis (1951, 1979, and Louisiana State University Press paperback - 1993). Here are some of his entries:
1836: Big marching about town. The Huzars turned Out for the first time in the streets on parade -- the Fencibles and the Mechanicks also -- Big Dinner at Mr West tavern ...
1837: To day was the most splendid day I have Ever witnessed on the fourth of July.
1840: Business was Quite Dull, this being the 4th of July. I did not Keep open more than half of the Day but walked out into the Pasture to see How the Citizens were Engaging themselves and I found them all in find Humor and in good order.
1841: Greate many persons are Frollicing to day, tho to morrow is the set day for the Celebration, and a Large parade is Expected, Good many of Our Citizens have gone over the River to take a Frollic. I've since herd that it broke up without affording much pleasure to the Company ...
1842: Two of the Companies turned Out to day and of all the Music that I Ever herd in my Life. Mr. Sorias Jonh and some other Boy, oh it was dreadfull indeed, past anything that I Ever Herd in my Life.
1846: I was at the Race track to day and saw the Race between Mr. Crizers Josephine & Mr. Rabeys Horse & Winstons Bay Mare Ellen True and the Bird of the world. The horse Blue Dick paid the forfeit ...I won $28 in all and came back home.
1847: Nothing going on very Lively to day altho tis the 4th. Old Roan and the SOrril mare wran off from the Commons to day Some time.
1848: I went out to the tract and made Several Bets on the Race ...
1849: [after describing what sounds like a full business day] I was out to the Race tract to day and Saw the Race between the Mardice Fily and Dorkertys Filly & ... The Mardice Filly won Easy in 1.51...
1850: [He describes activity at the race track in some detail, and gave this reckoning of the outcome of his bets:
5.00 with Jeff that Elizar Beeman would winn.
1.00 Stranger, Dr. Branums Horse VS. The Field
1.00 New Combs Same way
5.00 Cash with Mr. Icum Winn
I won a Bet of Mr Mardice of 5.00
and one Mr Cal Collins 5.00
& One of Jeff 2.50
& One of Bob .25
& One of Jack .50
& 1 of Capt. Pomp, 1/2 Bl Sugar 4.00
Having begun with the Columbia Orator, I end with a Frederick Douglass, who considered it a major influence in his life. Frederick Douglass the Orator, by James M. Gregory, (orig.: NY 1893; Appolo Editions reprint 1971) quotes from his speech on July 4th, 1852, called "The White Man's Fourth of July":
"To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot St., Fells Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the warves the slave-ships in the basin, ... with their cargoes of human flesh, ... There was at that time a grand slave-mart kept at the head of Pratt street, by Austin Woldfolle. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland announcing their arrival through the papers, and on flaming 'handbills,' header, Cash for Negroes. These men were generally well dressed, and very captivating in their manners, ever ready to dring, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother, by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness."
"What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocricy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages."
A shocking contrast, as if people were living side by side, yet in totally different worlds, symptomatic of a nation headed towards a horrible cataclysm.You can support this site at no cost if you make an Amazon purchase using this link to get to Amazon: Thanks