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Peterborough’s July 4th in 1840

The Reverend Dr. Abiel Abbot (1765-1859) recorded this account of the July 4th festivities in 1840:

July 4th in 1840In 1840, July 4th, a procession was formed from Col. French’s tavern to the church.  Exercises were introduced by an anthem by the choir, vocal, instrumental, a prayer by Dr. Abbott, a hymn, Declaration of Independence, read by Dr. A. Smith, music, an oration by James Smith, a senior of Yale College, music.  Processing from the church to Col. French’s hall, where more than 150 ladies and gentlemen sat down to a cold collation.  No ardent spirits.  Good humor and social feeling prevailed through the whole.  Nothing of party politics disturbed the harmony and cheerfulness of the festival.  Mr. Smith was requested to deposit a copy of his oration in the Ministerial library, but declined the request.  In the evening, there was a display of fireworks from the hill.  No occurrence took place during the day or evening, unfavorable to the joys of the day.

The following toasts were made at dinner:

No. 1. The Day We Celebrate, Emphatically the Birthday of Civil Liberty, whose sun shed a cheering ray  upon our Fathers of Seventy-six like to the natural sun upon the Tempest-tost mariner, and as it rises toward meridian splendor, we’ll shed a glorious effulgence over the benighted regions of the other climes.

No. 2.  Republican Governments.  May their genial influence become universal, and Kings, Queens and Despots become names found only in history.

No 3.  The Stamp Act.  The signal gun for the Revolution.  It has taught the Mother Country a lesson she never can forget.

No. 4.  The Noble Seventy-Two, who in this town, June, 1776, signed a virtual Declaration of Independence—then worthy of Peterborough, and of whom Peterborough may well be proud.  Honor and Reverence to the three survivors (Thomas Steele, Benjamin Mitchell and William Robbe).  May their example be to us another lesson of patriotism.

No. 5.  Our Country.  The glorious inheritance handed down to us by the Revolutionary Patriots.  May it continue to descend to their right heirs, undiminished, unimpaired till the last trump shall wake the dead.

No. 6.  The Constitution.  The temple of our Liberties.  Should any Sampson in his blindness wish -to pull down any of its pillars, may it fall on him crush him to powder.

No. 7.  New Hampshire.  The great manufactory of heroes, statesmen and patriots.  Whence other  states derive their supplies.

No. 8.  Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce.  Three grand pillars of national prosperity.  While we wish success to all, we would caution one not to be too independent of the others.

No. 9.  Free Schools.  The nurseries of our infant intellects.  May they continue to receive the fostering hand of an approving people.

No. 10.  The Militia.  Freedom’s bulwark and our nation’s sure defence.

No. 11.  The seven Past Presidents.  In the political firmament, they form a constellation as bright and distinguishable as the seven stars in the natural.

No. 12.  The Surviving Heroes of the Revolution.  In a few short years every vestige of these devoted men shall have passed from among us.  Let us reverence them for their age and honor them for their patriotism, and learn of them this noble lesson—to love our country as they did.

No 13.  Woman.  Formed by the hand of Providence to share with man the excellencies and frailties of human nature, and as she sympathizes in his toils and sufferings, may it ever be deemed right that she should join with him in his festivities.

~ From the Archives of the Monadnock Center for History and Culture