Fourth of July in Watertown, an overview
Fourth of July, 1858
Watertown Democrat, 07 01 1858
Before another number of our paper is issued, the Anniversary of our National Independence will have passed. Another year will be added to an infant nation's age, and the bond of union strengthened by the trials and experience of another cycle. The recurrence of this event is suggestive of many thoughts and recollections that should, and in the breast of the true friend of freedom do, inspire renewed confidence in the permanency and stability of free institutions. On that day the heart of the American citizen beats warm with gratitude, his step is elastic and his bearing proud. His daily vocation is suspended, his cares and business laid aside, and his individuality forgotten in the pride of citizenship. The mind wanders to scenes and occurrences of "the days that tried men's souls." Events within the recollection of a lifetime are fresh in his mind. The history or the causes that led to, and the consequences that followed the American Revolution, are “'household words." Despotic pretensions produced resistance that, crowned with success, resulted in incalculable and untold blessings. The "arms of the mighty was broken," and "the stone that the builders rejected" was made the corner stone in the edifice of universal freedom.
Scarce three-quarters of a century have transpired since the sun of freedom first shone upon the Western Hemisphere, yet the tree of liberty then planted, watered by the blood of the patriots, and protected from the blasts of despotism by the wisdom and sagacity of the sages of the revolution, has grown to giant stature. Beneath its sheltering branches millions of freemen are protected in "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The lapse of time has but increased the strength and extended the area of freedom. Her fields yield their riches to the hands of industry. The winds of prosperity blow fresh around the homes of her children. The air of liberty nerves their arms and incites their aspirations. Peace dwells within her borders, and the oppressed of all nations find welcome and protection on her hospitable shores . . . Neither let us forget our duty as Christians, in a Christian land, and that we owe our inestimable blessings to Him the giver of all good, who holdeth in his hand the destinies of the nations of the earth, and without whose guidance and protection the wisdom of man availeth nothing.
Watertown Democrat, 07 01 1858
I have heard it remarked, by those who had traveled much in foreign lands, that in the older European Nations, where vice and licentiousness most prevail, and where imbecility is fast succeeding energy, and where the people are willing tools of designing rulers, and where discord, anarchy and confusion exist, that it is the case, and true without exception, that there is a total disregard of the Sabbath, nay, more - that it is made a day, and the day, for the indulgence of riot and licentiousness, and that the despotic rulers and governors of these countries cultivate this practice, as the strongest support of their unjust usurpation of the rights of men, for that, by so doing they destroy a proper appreciation of their condition by the people, and lead their minds from the study and perusal of the Bible and the truths of Christianity, thus surely deterring them from a proper and true knowledge of the rights, privileges and duties with which they are endowed, and owe their Creator.
And also, that in Spain, once the most powerful, and now the weakest, of the governments of the Old World, it is the practice, and has been for centuries, for the rulers and leaders, and the people, to desecrate the Sabbath be indulging in the most cruel and disgraceful of exhibitions on that day, and that in France - where the wickedest and most unscrupulous despot rules - there is an almost total disregard of the Sabbath, and that this is also the case in all those countries where revolution and bloodshed are most rife.
It is also remarked by observing persons, that in some of the cities and communities in this country, as for instance, St. Louis, New Orleans, San Francisco and other places where mob violence, riot and disgraceful scenes of murder and bloodshed are most frequent, that there is not a proper observance of the Sabbath day.
The above thoughts were suggested upon being informed that it is the intention of a portion of those resident in this city to celebrate the 4th of July on Sunday next, by military display and the usual festivities of that occasion. It is undoubtedly the privilege of any man or set of men in this country to devote themselves to the pursuit of any occupation or pleasure they see fit, provided they do not interfere with the rights or privileges of others. But the man who controls his actions only and alone by legal obligations, will soon become a pest to society, and a stench in the nostrils of upright men, and although the Constitution guarantees to each and every citizen of the United States universal freedom, I do not understand it to confer the power or privilege to do wrong; again, there are other than legal obligations, which every man owes to society, certain moral and social obligations, obligations to the Government under which he lives, to the community in which he resides, and the neighbor with whom he associates.
When the Constitution of this government gives me or any other man the right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience, it does not confer upon another the right to disturb me in the prosecution of my wishes or the promptings of reason in that respect. The American confederacy was founded and established upon the basis of popular and liberty. The first paragraph in the Declaration of Independence recognizes the existence of a Supreme Being in that, "Man is endowed by his CREATOR with certain inaliable rights," etc. From the landing of the Pilgrims — who fled from the mother country to obtain the privilege of worshiping God — to the present time, every step in the advancement and progress of our institutions has been marked by the light of religion and the guidance of Christianity.
Liberty and religion live and move together. Hand in hand they aid in enlightening the world. They are alike essential to the prosperity of individuals and governments, and no nation, government, community or people can be happy deprived of their benign influences.
It is incumbent upon those in authority above all others, by their example and power, to protect the communities over which they preside in the exercise and practice of virtue, decency and propriety. Spanish bull fights, Parisian reviews and parades, or even the origins of the reign of terror, or the goddess of reason, may be excusable as the results of fanaticism and depravity, but in a Christian, Republican community, and under a government which is founded upon intelligence, morality and truth, such scenes are contrary to the spirit and intent of her laws, in violation of the rights of the people, and will surely result in injury and danger to her institutions.
I am aware, sir, that there are demagogues and designing men in every community, who would sacrifice their souls and sell themselves to the devil, for the sake of office, and that these men, occupying prominent positions in society, will cater to the tastes and cultivate the good wishes of any class of men, however vitiated or depraved. But they forget that when a city, corporation or people are entitled to and receive the condemnation of every respectable and moral man, they themselves become outcasts from society. They also forget that while attempting to deceive the world and themselves into the belief of their influence and position, they are destroying the respectability of the community in which they live, and are driving all honorable men from among them.
In no other city of this State do they propose to desecrate the Sabbath and disturb the religious exercises of the day by military parade, carousal and debauchery. Here, and here only, are such disgraceful scenes to be enacted. Here, and here only, are night and day to be made hideous by the bacchanalian revels of Infidels, Red Republicans and Revolutionists.
As a citizen and a taxpayer, I have a right to speak upon this subject, and that plainly, and it is your duty, as a conductor of a public press, to denounce the practice of desecrating the Sabbath day. If not your duty, it is your interest, to protect the fame and reputation of our city by opposing the practices that occur upon every Sabbath. And it is the duty of all in authority, and particularly our city officers, to protect those of our citizens who do prefer quiet, on that day, in the enjoyment of religious liberty. If our authorities are too weak or depraved to act in this matter, the respectable portion of our citizens should. It is the duty of every law abiding man to support and sustain the laws of our State, and if necessary, aid in enforcing them. That Military displays and diversions that disturb the peace and quiet of the city on the Sabbath are in violation of the Statutes, there can be no question. Chapter 43 Session laws 1851, Section 1st.
I am not one of those who are opposed to amusements and diversions at a proper time and in a proper place. Nor do I forget my duty as a citizen or fail to recollect the virtues, sufferings and patriotism of our forefathers, or the respect due their memory, and I would willingly and cheerfully join in celebrating the Anniversary of our Independence, in a proper and respectable manner. I believe the day should, as John Adams — than whom no man did more to obtain our freedom — said "It ought to be commemorated as a day of deliverance by solemn, acts of Devotion to Almighty God," and it cannot be, if the harmony of our worship be disturbed by the noise and confusion incident to military displays. It has never been the, custom in this country to celebrate this most important of all Anniversaries, by military display, firing guns, or other joyful demonstration when it occurred on the Sabbath, and it never will, for when a community becomes so lost to all religious decency and honor, Liberty will become a by-word and reproach, and independence lost in anarchy and disgrace. You will pardon my occupying so much of your time, but considering as I do, the subject to be one of vast importance to ourselves and our posterity, to the fair fame and reputation of our city, and to the welfare of our State and beloved country. I could not say less and do what I conceived to be a duty.