Friday, July 7, 2017

4th of July toast to the Navy and patriotic Melvills

On the Fourth of July in 1830, Herman Melville's first cousin Thomas Wilson Melvill (formerly Pierre Francois Henry Thomas Wilson Melvill) joined the young men of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in their spirited celebration of the national holiday. Midshipman Melvill had arrived in New York on the U. S. ship Vincennes the previous month, having been gone (as reported everywhere) three years and nine months on a voyage of almost 70,000 miles that included visits to the Marquesas and Sandwich Islands.

According to a newspaper report, William Southgate offered a toast for the occasion that honored three generations of Melvill patriots: the present young midshipman, his locally prominent father Major Thomas Melvill, Jr., who served as Commissary and head of the Pittsfield cantonment during the War of 1812, and his more famous grandfather Thomas Melville, one of the Tea Party "Mohawks."

In response to Southgate's "flattering" toast, Midshipman Melvill graciously proposed his fellows, "The Young Men of America."

Boston Patriot and Daily Chronicle
July 14, 1830
Celebration at Pittsfield, Mass.--The day was celebrated by the young men of Pittsfield with great spirit. The following were among the toasts: ...
By Wm. Southgate--The American Navy--A Melvill gallantly assailed the Tea Ships of Old England: A Melvill stood forth in defence of free trade and sailor's rights; and while his descendant is guardian of our country's flag, its glory will gain additional lustre. 
[Midshipman Melvill returned thanks for the complimentary notice of his honored relatives, and the flattering allusion to himself, and begged leave to offer the following sentiment:] 
The Young Men of America--Intelligent, brave and patriotic: They well understand the principles upon which the republican institutions of their country are founded:-- Knowing their value, they will promptly obey the signal to defend them, either in the camp, the cabinet, or on the ocean.  --Boston Patriot and Daily Chronicle, July 14, 1830
Who's William Southgate?

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