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The President (being seated in a large and venerable chair which was formerly possessed by William Bradford, the second worthy Governor of the Old Colony, and presented to the Club by our friend Dr. Lazarus LeBaron of this town) delivered the following toasts successively to the company; namely, —
1. To the memory of our brave and pious ancestors the first settlers of the Old Colony.
2. To the memory of John Carver and all the other worthy governors of the Old Colony.
3. To the memory of that pious man and faithful historian Mr. Secretary Morton.
4. To the memory of that brave man and good officer Capt Miles Standish.
6. To the memory of Mr. Robert Cushman, who preached the first sermon in New England.?
7. The union of the Old Colony and Massachusetts.
8. May every person be possessed with the same noble sentiments against arbitrary power that our worthy ancestors were endowed with.
9. May every enemy of civil or religious liberty meet the same or a worse fate than Archbishop Laud.
10. May the Colonies be speedily delivered from all the burdens and oppressions they now labor under.
11. A speedy and lasting union between Great Britain and her Colonies. 12. Unanimity, prosperity, and happiness to the Colonies.
After spending the evening in an agreeable manner in recapitulating and conversing upon
and various adventures of our forefathers in the first settlement of this country and the growth and increase of the same, at eleven o'clock in the evening a cannon was again fired, three cheers given, and the Club and company withdrew.
On December 19, 1770, it was
1 Nathaniel Morton came in the Anne in 1623.
2 Robert Cushman arrived in the Fortune in November, 1621, and, though a layman, preached a sermon on December 9–19 following which was printed in London in 1622. The statement that this was "the first sermon preached in New England,” though often made, is a mistake. On Sunday, August 9, and again on August 19, 1607, the Rev. Richard Seymour preached sermons at St. George's Island, Maine, to the Popham colony. (Collections Maine Historical Society, 1853, iii. 298, 301.) In 1820 the Rev. J. Sabine expressed the opinion that the 1620 sermon was written by Brewster, not Cushman (The Fathers of New England, 1821, pp. 10–11, 31).
3 Records, pp. 400-405. This account, substantially as given in the text, was printed in the Boston Gazette of January 22, 1770, p. 2/1; and in the Boston News Letter of January 25, 1770, p. 1/1.
agreed upon and resolved that the twenty-second day of December, being the day of the first landing of our pious forefathers in this town, and which has been kept as a solemn festival in commemoration of the heroic transaction, falling in this year upon Saturday, being an unsuitable time for that purpose, it was therefore resolved that Monday the 24th of this instant be set apart and religiously kept for that purpose.
On December 24 the members met at ten at Mr. Howland's house, where they were joined by others; at twelve, “after having amused themselves in conversation upon the history of emigrate colonies and the constitution and declension of empires, ancient and modern, they were served with an entertainment foreign from all kinds of luxury, and consisting of fish, flesh, and vegetables, the natural produce of this Colony; after which, the company being increased ... a number of toasts were drank grateful to the remembrances of our ancestors, and loyal to those kings under whose indulgent care this Colony has flourished and been protected.”
On this occasion two or three new features were introduced, among them an oration - or, as the records of the Club say, “words . . . spoken with modesty and firmness" — by Edward Winslow, Jr., and a poem by Alexander Scammell.?
In 1771 December 22 fell on Sunday, and so — Monday the 23d of December ... was celebrated as a day of festivity in commemoration of that important event, The landing of our forefathers in this place. ... At noon the Club, being joined by a number of the most respectable gentlemen in town, met in a spacious room at the house of M' Wetherell, innholder, when they partook of a plain and elegant entertainment, and spent the afternoon in cheerful and social conversation upon a variety of subjects peculiarly adapted to the time. At sunset ... the members of the Club, with the gentlemen of the town, repaired to the Hall, where the aforesaid subjects were re
1 This was the only year between 1769 and 1780 that the 22d fell on a Saturday. In 1798 it again fell on a Saturday, and that day the celebration took place in Plymouth. In 1804 it once more fell on a Saturday, but in that year the celebration occurred on the 21st — presumably because the 22d was Saturday. I am informed that as late as about 1840 Saturday evening was regarded at Plymouth as part of the Sabbath. In 1804 the Boston celebration was held on Saturday, and gave rise to criticism: cf. p. 345, below.
2 Records, pp. 413, 414 415, 416. Edward Winslow, Jr., was in the Harvard class of 1765, and Alexander Scammell in that of 1769.
assumed, and several important matters relative to the conduct of our ancestors were discussed with freedom and candor, and a number of pleasing anecdotes of our progenitors were recollected and communicated by some of the aged men who favored us with their company. An uncommon harmony and pleasantry prevailed throughout the day and evening, every person present exerting himself to increase the general joy. The Old Colony song with a number of others was sung, after which the company withdrew.
On the same day the Rev. Chandler Robbins addressed a letter to the Club in which he said:
I'm told it was expected by some that as the anniversary of our forefathers' arrival in this place fell out on the Sabbath past, I would have taken some public notice of it in the pulpit. I must acknowledge I think there would have been a great propriety in it, and I am sorry it was entirely out of my mind that that was the day till I was reminded of it to-day; otherwise I should certainly have taken notice of it, and attempted to say something suitable to the occasion. However, 't is past now; but I would on this occasion, if it would not be esteemed assuming in me, humbly propose to the gentlemen of your Society whether it would not be agreeable, and serve for the entertainment and instruction of the rising generation more especially, for the future on these anniversaries to have a sermon in public some part of the day peculiarly adapted to the occasion, wherein should be represented the motives that induced them to undertake such an enterprise, the amazing dangers and difficulties they conflicted with and overcame, the piety and ardor with which
1 Exactly what "the Old Colony song” was I have been unable to ascertain. Possibly it was “Our FOREFATHER'S SONG. Composed about the year 1630,” which was first printed, so far as I am aware, in the Massachusetts Magazine for January, 1791, iii. 52–53, where a note says: The above, was taken memoriter, from the lips of an old Lady, at the advanced age of 92." The first two lines read:
THE place where we live is a wilderness wood,
It was again printed in 1838 in 3 Massachusetts Historical Collections, vii. 29–30, where a note says: Composed about 1630, author unknown; taken memoriter, in 1785, from the lips of an old Lady, at the advanced period of 96." It was also printed in 1846 by W. S. Russell in his Airs of the Pilgrims, pp. 1-3, where likewise appears a letter dated December 15, 1817, in which Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse says: “Who the author was I know not; nor do I when it was written; neither have I been informed who the old lady was who repeated these verses in 1767, when 94 years of age.”.
they persevered through numberless discouragements and opposition, the time, manner, and other circumstances of their first arrival, with all the train of surprising events that ensued, the appearances of the Divine Providence and Goodness for them, the noble and godlike virtues with which they were inspired, so worthy the imitation of their posterity, etc., etc., with many other things that would naturally fall in upon a discourse of this kind. ... I do but propose the thing, gentlemen, for your consideration this evening, and if it should prove agreeable I would beg leave to suggest one thing further; namely, that the minister to preach the sermon be chosen by your Society somewhere within the Old Colony, ...
In their reply, dated December 31, 1771, and approved by the Club January 7; 1772, the committee to whom this letter was referred said in part:
We have impatiently waited for a proposal of this kind to be made to some gentleman of the clergy by persons whose ages and situations and life have given them greater influence than ourselves; but as it has been hitherto omitted, we would modestly request (as you are the pastor of the first church that was gathered in the Old Colony, have the greatest advantages and opportunities for collecting all the historical facts and other materials that may be necessary for this work, and in every other respect are peculiarly qualified therefor) that you would upon the ensuing anniversary prepare and deliver a discourse “suitable to the time."
Accordingly, on December 22, 1772, "(to show our gratitude to the Creator and Preserver of our ancestors and ourselves, and as a mark of respect justly due to the memories of those heroic Christians who, on the 22d of December, 1620, landed on this spot) the members of this Club joined a numerous and respectable assembly in the meeting-house of the First Parish in Plymouth, and after an hymn of praise and prayer to God, the Reverend Ms Chandler Robbins delivered an historic and pathetic discourse." His sermon “closed with an address to the audience which did honor to humanity and himself;" the “New England Hymn, composed by Doct? Byles,' sung with uncommon melody, finished the exercise;" then "the members of the Club, together with the reverend gentlemen of the clergy and others the most respectable of the congregation,
See Rev. A. W. H. Eaton's Famous Mather Byles (1914), p. 110.
repaired to the house of M. Howland, where a table was spread and abundantly furnished with the various productions of this now fruitful country, at which the Hon ble General John Winslow presided;” and “after partaking of these bounties, and spending a few hours in the most social conversation upon the history of our country, the adventures of our ancestors, etc. (subjects at this time peculiarly pleasing), the company proceeded to Old Colony Hall, where the same sociability and harmony prevailed throughout the
This celebration was thus noticed in the Boston Gazette of December 28, 1772:
Tuesday the 22d of this instant December, was observed in the ancient Town of Plymouth, as a Day of public Festivity, in Commemoration of the important Event, the Landing of their Forefathers in that Place. In the Morning the Rev'd. Mr. Robbins (having been previously requested) delivered to a numerous and respectable Congregation, (consisting of a Number of the Reverend Gentlemen of the Clergy and others, Inhabitants of Plymouth and the Towns in the Vicinity,) a Discourse adapted to the Occasion, from those remarkable Words of the Psalmist,
The profound Silence and solemn Attention which was observable thro’out this vast Concourse of People, sufficiently demonstrated their Approbation of the Sentiments of the Speaker. - A plain and elegant Entertainment was prepared at a public House, at which the Gentlemen of the Clergy, and a large Number of others, the most respectable of the Congregation, were present. The Afternoon passed in recapitulating and recollecting a Variety of curious Anecdotes of our venerable Predecessors, Subjects at this Time peculiarly pleasing. The Evening was spent at OLD COLONY-HALL, in the most social Manner. — Joy, Gratitude and Pleasure were apparent in the Countenances of every Person, through the whole of this agreeable Day and Evening (p. 2/2).
On January 6, 1773, the Rev. Charles Turner was invited by the Club to preach the next anniversary sermon; but the "uncommon harmony and pleasantry” that prevailed in 1771 had, owing to the
1 Records, pp. 421-422, 424, 434–435. 2 Here follows Psalms, lxxvii. 5–7.
3 The same notice also appeared in the Boston News Letter of January 7, 1773, Supplement, p. 1/2.