Juvenile Celebration of Independence” gives later generations a look at two celebrations of July 4, 1836. Readers of Parley’s Magazine were expected to appreciate the quiet celebration of Sunday School scholars, rather than the rowdy celebration of their friends; it was a theme explored a decade later by Youth’s Companion.

“Juvenile Celebration of Independence” (from Parley’s Magazine, August 1836; pp. 250-251)

In many parts of New England, and especially in some of the cities, the children who attend Sabbath Schools, along with their teachers and superintendents, celebrated the late anniversary of American Independence in a manner which to us was quite new. The following is the description of one of these celebrations, from a gentleman who was present.

“About three o’clock in the afternoon the children belonging to the north Sabbath School in Hartford in Connecticut, in company with their superintendents, and teachers, and many of their parents, assembled together in a spacious hall, which was beautifully ornamented with evergreens, wreaths of flowers, &c. and furnished with a band of music. After half an hour’s familiar conversation, during which none of the company were at all confined to their seats, the Sabbath School bell was rung, upon which the whole company took their seats and sung the following hymn.

To God the youthful circle’s Friend,

Our hymn to day shall rise;

O from the heavenly courts descend

And bless the sacrifice.

While through our land fair freedom’s song

Our fathers raised to thee;

Our accents shall the notes prolong;

We children too, are free.

The past with blessings from thy hand,

Was richly scattered o’er,

As numerous as the countless sand

That spreads the ocean’s shore.

Oh may the future be as bright,

Nor be thy favors less;

Resplendent with the glorious light

Of peace and happiness.

On earth prepare us for the skies:

And when our life is o’er,

Let us to purer mansions rise,

And praise thee evermore.

“After the hymn was sung, the minister of the parish was placed in a chair under an arch of evergreens, and the teachers and their pupils—first the males and then the females—were one by one introduced to him. He rose and took them by the hand, and called them by their names respectively.

“When this ceremony was over, they all went, in the best manner and in the most quiet order, into an adjoining room, where fruits, and cakes, and water had been provided for their refreshment. These refreshments were placed on a long table very tastefully set out with flowers, and had a most admirable appearance.

“After partaking of these very moderately, and conversing familiarly with each other and with their friends, the bell rang again, and they went back to their seats. This was at four o’clock. Then another hymn was sung. I observed, with much pleasure, that nearly all the children could sing, and the most

p. 251

of them pretty well. Even the pupils of the infant class could join in the exercise.

“After singing, an address was made to the children by Mr. Gallaudet, the author of the Child’s Book on the Soul; and an excellent address it was, too. Nearly every child could understand it; and the parents were as much delighted with it as their children. He told them what was meant by celebrating American Independence. He explained the words anniversary, freedom, &c; and spoke of a great many sorts of freedom. He closed by telling them how important it was to have the freedom which the bible so often speak of, viz. FREEDOM FROM SIN. I wish every reader of Parley’s Magazine could have heard this whole address.

“At five o’clock the exercises were closed by singing one of those little hymns called DOXOLOGIES; upon which the children and the rest of the multitude retired to their homes.

“I forgot to tell you that during the celebration, Dr. North the principal Superintendant of the school, brought forward some 30 or 40 new books, which had just been presented to the library by a former teacher in the school. Then followed a vote of thanks by the teachers and pupils for the books, and a hearty one, too; for many of the books were quite valuable.

“On the whole this July celebration was the most interesting one which I ever saw, though I have lived to see nearly forty. I could not help thinking how much happier the children were than to be in the streets witnessing the parade, and noise and firing;—for there was a great bluster made in Hartford that day with soldiers and guns and swords; and much drinking of spirits, and eating of unwholesome food, and glutting the appetite with that which is naturally wholesome. There was also some bad language used, and these children, had they been abroad in the streets, might have seen many other sorts of bad conduct which I have not mentioned; such as is usually seen on these and many other public days.”

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
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