The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster: With An Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style

By Edwin P. Whipple; Daniel Webster | Go to book overview
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FIRST SETTLEMENT OF NEW ENGLAND.
A DISCOURSE DELIVERED AT PLYMOUTH, ON THE 22D OF DECEMBER, 1820

[THE first public anniversary celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth took place under the auspices of the "Old Colony Club," of whose formation an account may be found in the interesting little work of William S. Russell, Esq., entitled "Guide to Plymouth and Recollections of the Pilgrims."

This club was formed for general purposes of social intercourse, in 1769; but its members determined, by a vote passed on Monday, the 18th of December, of that year, "to keep" Friday, the 22d, in commemoration of the landing of the fathers. A particular account of the simple festivities of this first public celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims will be found at page 220 of Mr. Russell's work.

The following year, the anniversary was celebrated much in the same manner as in 1769, with the addition of a short address, pronounced "with modest and decent firmness, by a member of the club, Edward Winslow, Jr., Esq.," being the first address ever delivered on this occasion.

In 1771, it was suggested by Rev. Chandler Robbins, pastor of the First Church at Plymouth, in a letter addressed to the club, "whether it would not be agreeable, for the entertainment and instruction of the rising generation on these anniversaries, to have a sermon in public, some part of the day, peculiarly adapted to the occasion." This recommendation prevailed, and an appropriate discourse was delivered the following year by the Rev. Dr. Robbins.

In 1773 the Old Colony Club was dissolved, in consequence of the conflicting opinions of its members on the great political questions then agitated. Notwithstanding this event, the anniversary celebrations of the 22d of December continued without interruption till 1780, when they were suspended. After an interval of fourteen years, a public discourse was again delivered by the Rev. Dr. Robbins. Private celebrations took place the four following years, and from that time till the year 1819, with one or two exceptions, the day was annually commemorated, and public addresses were delivered by distinguished clergymen and laymen of Massachusetts.

In 1820 the "Pilgrim Society" was formed by the citizens of Plymouth and the descendants of the Pilgrims in other places, desirous of uniting "to commem orate the landing, and to honor the memory of the intrepid men who first set foot on Plymouth rock." The foundation of this society gave a new impulse to the anniversary celebrations of this great event. The Hon. Daniel Webster was requested to deliver the public address on the 22d of December of that year, and the following discourse was pronounced by him on the ever-memorable occasion. Great public ex pectation was awakened by the fame of the orator; an immense concourse assembled at Plymouth to unite in the celebration; and it may be safely anticipated, that some portion of the powerful effect of the following address on the minds of those who were so fortunate as to hear it, will be perpetuated by the press to the latest posterity.

From 1820 to the present day, with occasional interruptions, the 22d of December has been celebrated by the Pilgrim Society A list of all those by whom anniversary discourses have been delivered since the first organization of the Old Colony Club, in 1769, may he found in Mr. Russell's work.

Nor has the notice of the day been confined to New England. Public celebrations of the landing of the Pilgrims have been frequent in other parts of the country, particularly in New York. The New England Society of that city has rarely permitted the day to pass without appropriate honors. Similar societies have been formed at Philadelphia, Charleston, S. C., and Cincinnati, and the day has been publicly commemorated in several other parts of the country.]

LET us rejoice that we behold this day. Let us be thankful that we have lived to see the bright and happy breaking of the auspicious morn, which com

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The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster: With An Essay on Daniel Webster as a Master of English Style
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