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The celebration of 1799 was thus described in the Columbian Centinel of December 25 (p. 3):
FEAST OF THE “SONS OF THE PILGRIMS.” The anniversary of the landing of our Ancestors, at Plymouth, in 1620, was celebrated in this town, on Monday last, by a large number of gentlemen, who dined together at Concert Hall. The guests were several immediate descendants of the first company of emigrants, with a large number of native citizens sprung from the early settlers of Massachusetts, or the Old Colony; or connected with them by the affection and respect they bear to their memory. STEPHEN HIGGINSON, Esq. presided; and JOSEPH RUSSELL, and PELEG COFFIN, Esquires, officiated as Vice-Presidents.
The tables were covered with a choice collection of fish, wild meats, and birds: And a shell of uncommon size, borrowed from the Museum of the Historical Society, adorned the head of the table, containing the appropriate succatash, sufficient for the numerous company.
The following toasts were given. [They shall be given to the public on Saturday.)
After the first toast, an Ode, in honor of the Fathers, was sung, with suitable solemnity by the company to the tune of Old Hundred. Lines adapted to this ancient tune were conceived to be well adapted to the occasion. It was pleasing to recollect that our ancestors sang together their sacred hymns in this tune; which on good ground is supposed to have been composed by the celebrated Reformer, MARTIN LUTHER. — The “ Plymouth Ode,” composed for the celebration of the anniversary there, in 1793,3 was also performed; and Mr. PAINE's admired song of “Sainted Shades,” composed for the last anniversary.
1 Born November 28, 1743; died November 22, 1828. In his Life and Letters of Stephen Higginson (1907), the late Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson gave a brief account (pp. 219-229) of the celebrations in 1801-1804, drawn from notes furnished by the present writer. Oddly enough, “No allusions to these festive occasions are apparently to be found in Stephen Higginson's correspondence" (p. 229).
? Mr. Grenville H. Norcross writes me: “When the Massachusetts Historical Society began, it had a Natural History attachment, the remains of which, consisting of two pairs of horns and two big ‘oyster' shells, remained down to my time as Cabinet Keeper. We offered the horns and shells to the Boston Society of Natural History, but they were declined.” Later, they were all given to Dr. Edwin H. Brigham, who informs me that they are at his house at South Hanover, that “one shell is much the larger," that it weighs two hundred pounds, and that its capacity is "at least a bushel, perhaps more."
3 An error for 1794: see p. 306 note 3, above. * See p. 326, above.
The celebration of this anniversary leads us to the tombs of our Fathers; and naturally excites some degree of not unpleasing sensibility; — But it was the lot of the company who assembled on Monday to have the soothing contemplations on the deeds and characters of the Fathers, overwhelmed by the intelligence of a most afflicting event, which will excite the sympathy of the whole civilized world. In the forenoon of the day, a rumor prevailed, that WASHINGTON was dead! Before noon it was rendered painfully certain.
Common festivals upon such intelligence would have been omitted: But the impressions arising from the celebration were thought not inconsistent with a due sensibility to the sad event which was announced. The usual expressions of gaiety had no place; and the guests appeared assembled rather for condolence than festivity. Had it been possible, none could wish to exchange his tender emotions, for thoughtless bilarity; since every heart capable of sympathy will pronounce,
“The broadest mirth unfeeling folly wears,
At the close of the first Ode to the memory of the Fathers, a tribute of respect was attempted to the memory of the Great Man who has fallen. As the Ode was originally prepared, it concluded with the following verse: —
Hail Pilgrim Fathers of our race,
After the afflicting intelligence of the day arrived, the following lines were added,
Ah! while we gather round your urn,
* The bells were then tolling."
In this ode, written by Samuel Davis, the term Pilgrim Fathers occurs for the first time. The list of toasts promised by the Columbian Centinel, duly appeared in the issue of December 28:
1 Columbian Centinel, December 25, 1799, p. 3.
? For a memoir of Samuel Davis, who was a brother of Judge John Davis, see 3 Massachusetts Historical Collections, v. 253–255. As there has been confusion in regard to Judge Davis's ode of 1794, so too has there been with respect to Samuel Davis's ode of 1799. An account of the 1845 celebration at Plymouth,
No The following are the toasts given at the Feast of the “Sons of the Pilgrims,” at Concert-Hall, on Monday last. 1. MHE 22d of December, 1620. — May its perpetual celebration be a monu
1 ment to the virtues of our fathers, durable as the rock of their landing. 2. The President of the United States — The venerable Chief, who sustains our empire, by toils and virtues, like those by which it was acquired. 3. The Administration of the United States. — May it display the wisdom of CARVER, the integrity of BRADFORD, the firmness of WINSLOW, the piety of BREWSTER, and the spirit of STANDISH. 4. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. — May it ever find Governors like the last;' resembling BRADFORD and WINTHROP. — Men who did not seek office, yet whom office sought; who were willing to rule, and not less willing to be ruled. 5. The Fathers of New England. - May the healthful stamina of their institutions resist the infection of insidious philosophism. 6. Antient maxims and antient manners. — May they be duly respected by modern policy and modern philosophy. 7. The memory of our Ancestors. — May their ardour inspire and their success encourage their descendants to maintain their birth-rights, and may all their enemies be converted like Massasoit, or suffer like PHILLIP. 8. The American Judiciary. — Lord COKE's benediction to them, “The gladsome light of jurisprudence, the loveliness of temperance, and the solidity of justice.” 9. The American Navy. — Let it be remembered, that the ocean it is to defend bore our sires on its bosom. 10. Those Foreign Ministers, who, like CARVER, “carry themselves with good discretion,” and like WINSLOW, “clear the country from blame and dishonor.” 11. Our Envoys to France, who will remember that the sons, like the fathers, would rather be blotted from the book of that republic, than "become marginal notes to a French text, which is yet but apocryphal.” 12. The sixteen United Fires. -— May they burn bright and pure; full of genial warmth to the friends of our country, and of deadly heat to its enemies. 13. Correct systems in politics and religion; and sharp swords to defend the one, and sound sense to maintain the other. 14. May the doctrine older than our fathers never be forgotten, that liberty of the people is inseparable from the authority of the magistrate. 15. The prudent policy of our
written by the Rev. John Pierce, is printed in 2 Proceedings Massachusetts Historical Society, x. 393–403. “Then the choir," wrote Mr. Pierce, “sung the ode by Judge Davis, written in 1799” (p. 396). An editorial note says, “Here follows the well-known ode, written by the Hon. Judge Davis, third President of the Historical Society, beginning 'Sons of renowned sires.'” This editorial statement is correct, though Mr. Pierce gave the year 1799 instead of 1794 (see p. 306 note 3, above). Mr. Pierce continued: “The hymn then for 22 December, written by Judge Davis, was sung to Old 100." An editorial note says, “Here follows Judge Davis's scarcely less familiar hymn, beginning ‘Hail, pilgrim fathers of our race!"" The attribution of this hymn to Judge Davis was a mistake.
1 Increase Sumner died while in office June 7, 1799. 2 William Vans Murray, Oliver Ellsworth, and William Richardson Davie.
3 Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee had been admitted into the Union in 1791, 1792, and 1796 respectively.