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In 1805 the day was celebrated on December 21st, as the 22d fell on Sunday. “Among the gentlemen present,” we read, “were the descendants of BRADFORD, WINSLOW, BREWSTER, STANDISH, WINTHROP and HIGGINSON, the most prominent characters among those who established the oldest colony in this part of America;" but neither their names nor those of the presiding officers were printed in the newspapers.
The Independent Chronicle of December 26 remarked:
It has been announced in our papers, that a number of the " most respectable" gentlemen celebrated the anniversary of the landing of our forefathers at Plymouth. Who these most respectable characters are, we are not told.
. . The toasts on this occasion are a kind of enigmatical declaration of political principles, which would puzzle any man to comprehend. Their volunteers are not promulgated; being, it is supposed, either too absurd for perusal in a cool moment, or too high seasoned for the present taste of the public. We understand, however, that the favorite song of “Rule Britannia,” was sung among the sons of the pilgrims; in honor, no doubt, of the late “glorious victory,” 2 which enables the British navy to extend its sovereignty over the ocean. .. How a merchant 3 could sit with composure to hear a song in praise of a nation which had interdicted almost the whole commerce of this country, is as remarkable as any narrative we could find in Mather's Magnalia. How wonderfully profound must these "wise men of the east” have appeared. A lawyer on one side, a priest on the other, and a merchant on the centre, all joining a chorus — “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves!" . . . Callipee and callipash, clams and oysters, succatouch and pumpkin puddings, turkies, ducks, chickens, beef, venison, meat pies, custards, and other sweat meats; the whole interlaid and dove tailed with cider, punch, wine, brandy, and other mouth waters, forming a salutary repast most grateful to the delicate stomachs of jovial pilgrims in honor of their ancestors.
How would a Higginson, Broadstreet, Bradford, Winslow, Brewster, Standish, or a Winthrop, have looked, after partaking of such a ponderous meal as these "most respectable" gentlemen carried away under their jackets on Saturday night last! Our worthy forefathers would
i Columbian Centinel, December 25, 1805, p. 2/3.
not have been able to stagger under such a load, especially if some of them had to preach on the next day. Alack a-day, (some of their parishioners would cry) our parson looks as if he had been a husking!
It is understood, however, that the song was not generally applauded, though some who ought to imbibe the spirit of their ancestors were more elated than others of their brother pilgrims (p. 3/1).
Under the signature of “Agricola” appeared in the Independent Chronicle of January 2, 1806 (pp. 1-2), the following
Reflections on a late Feast of Shells in Boston. Some years ago, a number of persons, who had been engaged in the toils, dangers and anxieties of the revolution, proposed to celebrate, annually, the origin of our country, and to honor the memory of the men, who fled to these shores to secure their natural, civil & religious rights. In honor to the ancestors of the country, who were fed with clams, and other bounties of the sea, they called it a feast of shells. There were no parties in politics or religion among them; but all was love, peace, and harmony. No offensive or abusive toasts were given, no irritating, obscene or lascivious song was heard; but a cheerful, and dignified gravity, adorned the priest and the people, while decent sacrifices were offered, and the libations of temperance and chaste propriety were poured at the passover of New England. ...
The terrible party, united under the auspices of colonel Hamilton, held all the ideas of republicanism in derision; . . . He died in the field of murder, in a duel, yet his party, the party at the late feast of shells, celebrate his character, and his praises have even tinged the forms of public devotion with the pollution of guilt.
This party have crouded themselves into every public place, where impudence can remove the bars of decency and patriotism; and having gained the seats at the feast of shells; having polluted the anniversary, with the principles of monarchy, and having served up the leeks, the onions, and the flesh pots of Egypt, on the alter of the New England passover - the men who love the principles of our ancestors, retired from their noisy uproar, and do not appear at the irregular Jubilee.
But as these men have published their toasts to the world, and have
1 "Q. What is the chief end of Federalism? A. Federalism's chief end is to glorify the Pope and enjoy him in a free land” (The Federal Catechism Metamorphosed: or, the Natural Spirit of Federalism Exposed, from the Works of their Federal Holiness, 1805, p. 3. On the same page is an allusion to "the reign of John Adams").
had the audacity to call themselves the principal men of the town of Boston, their indecency of conduct merits some serious remarks.
This renders it necessary, that the public should know who those heroes of the bottle are, that have the confidence to call themselves the principal men of the town of Boston. Were there any senators, counselors, or representatives there? ... Were ministers of religion there? if they were, let it be known. Did they smile on the obscene song, or join in the chorus of Brittania rule the waves? ...
Besides this, while we are contending for the important and enriching privileges of national nutrality, what will other nations conceive of us, when they shall read in our gazettes, that the principal men of Boston, at a public feast, openly, in the noise of the loud chorus, and in the riotous huzza of the pointed toast, appeared to be already inlisted on one side of the belligerent powers, had realed, by political inclination, over the line of nutrality, and avowed themselves the decided, though intoxicated, volunteers of one party in the European war? ...
To this a Federalist replied:
HE toasts given at the last "Feast of Shells," in this town, which
the Chronicle first found innocent or, at worst, enigmatical, are now pronounced, by an infuriated “AGRICOLA,” to be seditious, a profanation of the principles and characters of our ancestors, “an abuse of our happy constitutions and of those who formed and are determined to maintain them.”
Such wanton perversion of language, such malignant and unqualified calumny of good citizens and respectable men, can only proceed from the pen of an occasional contributor to the Chronicle, whose delirious effusions exhibit a melancholy picture of human extravagance and folly; and who generally interlards his miserable productions with an affected parade of historical learning, of which he knows little; and with scraps of Latin, of which he knows nothing. ...
“AGRICOLA” makes a clamorous call for the names of those who so audaciously dined together on this occasion, and seems solicitous to have the Bill of Fare. He knows, or ought to know, that being charged with the high crimes of sedition and rebellion, they are not bound to furnish evidence against themselves. As to their bill of fare, they do not apprehend that they could be endangered by giving it, in all its variety; but in a case so critical, it is discreet to be silent.1
i Columbian Centinel, January 4, 1806, p. 2/4.
The writer's refusal to divulge the names of those present seems to indicate some uneasiness of mind. At all events, the Boston celebrations reached their height in 1804, and the vigorous attacks on those who managed the festival in 1805 had their effect, for, though the celebrations were continued for a few years, they lost their political significance and soon ceased altogether. It is worth noting that at none of these Feasts of Shells was there a discourse, nor does it appear that there were ever any speeches. But in 1813 the day was celebrated by the Massachusetts Historical Society in a formal manner, a notice of which will bring to a close these accounts of Boston celebrations:
Commemoration of the Landing of the Fathers. WE are happy to hear that this interesting anniversary is about to be celebrated by the Massachusetts Historical Society, in a manner appropriate to the occasion and worthy of this highly valuable institution. At eleven o'clock, THIS DAY, the Hon. John Davis, will deliver an ORATION before the Society, in the Stone Chapel; and the Rev. Dr. FREEMAN and Dr. HOLMES will perform suitable religious services. It will be, doubtless, a scene, which the taste and refinement of this metropolis will delight to witness. — And notwithstanding the usual obtrusive modes of attracting public notice have been omitted by the Society, the interest of the occasion and the rank and genius of the speaker will, unquestionably, assemble a large and discriminating audience. We understand that the doors will be opened for ladies at 10 o'clock 2
1 In 1806 the celebration was duly recorded in the Columbian Centinel of December 24, p. 2/3. The same paper of December 19, 1807, contented itself with remarking that "The anniversary will also be noticed in this town by the Descendants of the Pilgrim fathers” (p. 2/3). There is no notice of a celebration in 1808. The Centinel of December 27, 1809, merely stated that “The above anniversary was respectfully noticed by a number of the Sons of the Pilgrims, in this town: — who partook of an excellent dinner in the Exchange Coffee-House" (p. 2/3). This was apparently the last of the Boston celebrations, except that in 1813. The following advertisement appeared in the Columbian Centinel of December 22, 1824:
LANDING of the PILGRIMS. NHE Columbian and City-Museum, Common-street, (late Tremont) will be
brilliantly illuminated in good style, in commemoration of this Anniversary, THIS EVENING. Music on different Instruments (p. 3/4).
: Columbian Centinel, December 22, 1813, p. 2/4. A proposal to make the anniversary permanent failed (1 Proceedings Massachusetts Historical Society,
Of the celebrations that occurred elsewhere than at Plymouth or Boston, one only need be mentioned that at New York on December 22, 1805. It was thus described:
(We present the following account of the proceedings of the Sons of the Pil
grims, in New York, as a just satire on those of this town.] On Saturday last the members of the “New England Society," in this city, celebrated the 185th Anniversary of the landing of their forefathers at Plymouth. An elegant dinner was prepared for the occasion by Mr. Lovett. The Rev. Docts. Rogers and Beach' performed in a devout and very appropriate manner the accustomed religious services of the table. More than 150 gentlemen of the society, forgetting all differences of party and opinion, united to celebrate the occasion with an affectionate remembrance of their common origin and in the true spirit of a society, the objects of which are friendship, charity and mutual assistance.
This we believe, is the first time in this state that the descendants of New England, now so extensively diffused, have joined in a public and solemn celebration of that anniversary. ..
Among the toasts were the following: 2. New England. ... 3. The city of Leyden. ... 5. John Carver, first Governor of the first colony of New-England.
6. John Winthrop, the venerable founder and first Governor of Massachusetts.
7. John Smith, who gave to New-England its name, and to its inhabitants a bright example of naval skill and courage.
8. The descendants of the first settlers of New York — we respect them as our elder brethren, and may they regard us as members of their family.
12. The President of the United States — Drank standing.
i. 235–236, 237, 239). Judge Davis's oration was printed in 1814 in 2 Massachusetts Historical Collections, vol. i. pp. i–xxxi; and also separately with the following title: "A Discourse before the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, December 22, 1813. At their anniversary commemoration of the first Landing of our Ancestors at Plymouth, in 1620 . . . Boston: . . . 1814."
1 Probably Rev. John Rodgers (1727–1811), and Rev. Abraham Beach (1740-1828).