Saturday, March 31, 2018

Fourth of July toasts in Poughkeepsie, 1826

 In Poughkeepsie, the day was celebrated with a zeal and hilarity which has never been exceeded. Col. H. A. Livingston read the Declaration. The oration was pronounced by Stephen Cleveland., esq. Col. Livingston presided at the feast, assisted by Clapp Raymond, Joseph Harris, John De La Veigne, John S. Myers and John W. Oakley, esqrs. --Albany Argus, July 18, 1826
Henry Alexander Livingston (1776-1849) aka "Colonel Livingston" of Poughkeepsie was the son of Henry Livingston, Jr's older and much better known brother John Henry Livingston. Dutchess County historian Helen Wilkinson Reynolds well describes Henry A. Livingston as  "a leading citizen of Poughkeepsie for approximately half a century." If you needed a parade marshal or banquet host, Col. Livingston was your man. When Lafayette landed in Poughkeepsie, Col. Henry A. Livingston made the appropriate welcome speech. Colonel Livingston routinely officiated at Fourth of July celebrations. In 1824 the Poughkeepsie Journal (July 7, 1824) criticized the noise and fireworks that year as ridiculously and dangerously excessive. But two years later a notably grand celebration took place on July 4, 1826--the half-centennial anniversary of American independence. Colonel Henry A. Livingston naturally served as Chairman on the Committee of Arrangements. As in 1824, Col. Livingston had the honor of reading the Declaration of Independence. In between the parade and fireworks, Col. Livingston presided over the dinner and formal toasts which in this extra-special instance were "accompanied by the discharge of cannon, music from the band, and occasional songs."

Some of the toasts were evidently composed by Col. Livingston's uncle Henry Livingston Jr., then 77 years old. On the marvelous Henry Livingston website, Mary S. Van Deusen has transcribed some Scraps from 4th of July toasts which survive in manuscript (on "Livingston Microfilm" at the New York Public Library, exact location not specified). Van Deusen identifies the handwriting as that of Henry Livingston, Jr. Some years earlier, Col. Livingston's uncle Henry had expressed interest in regional 4th of July plans, in a letter to his son-in-law Sidney Breese dated July 2, 1820.
"It appears the 4th of July is to be celebrated in a novel stile in the land of your nativity. All the boats of the canal are to move in divisions from Utica, Whitesboro, Rome &ct finally, assembling at Salina, then display the Ensigns of festivity & Keep it up"
It's hard to tell from the images as reconfigured on the Henry Livingston Jr site, but the letter "R" that appears below many of the toasts in manuscript may be unrelated to Livingston's alleged pseudonym. Repeated assertions of authorship here do not seem necessary or even germane to the process of drafting suitable toasts. Presumably Uncle Henry had little reason to adopt a persona or disguise his identity, which would have been perfectly obvious to his own nephew and all concerned. In the context of toasts to be delivered at a formal dinner banquet, in this case for an unusually elaborate celebration of the "National Jubilee" in 1826, "R" might refer to a planned "Response" of some kind, either in the form of a brief speech, music, song, or--as indicated in the advertised program--a cannon blast.
"During the dinner and at the several toasts, a discharge of Artillery."  Poughkeepsie Journal, June 28, 1826.
If any surname absolutely had to be associated with the letter "R," we now have that of Clapp Raymond, Col. Livingston's first-named Vice President on the 1826 Committee of Arrangements.

Henry's nephew Colonel Henry A. Livingston apparently did need help with the job of composing toasts with flair. In 1830 Col. Livingston recycled one of his uncle's compositions, the 1826 toast to Indians and their "inextinguishable love of liberty."

· Wed, Jul 7, 1830 – Page 2 · Poughkeepsie Journal (Poughkeepsie, New York) ·
By Col. HENRY A. LIVINGSTON. The Aborigines of this country--Now rapidly receding from existence--May we who now possess their lakes and their rivers, their mountains and their vallies, inherit at least one of their virtues, an inextinguishable love of liberty.
 --Poughkeepsie Journal, July 7, 1830
The same toast to "Aborigines" had been proposed at the 4th of July dinner in 1826. Two of the seven manuscript toasts transcribed on the Henry Livingston site made it into the local newspaper: one to "The aborigines of this country" and the other to "The army & navy of the Union," reported in print as "The Army and Navy of the United States." From the Poughkeepsie Journal, July 12, 1826:


The Fiftieth Anniversary of American Independence was celebrated in this village in the manner heretofore published by the Committee of Arrangements, and with a zeal and hilarity never exceeded. The dawn of day was announced by a discharge of cannon; at sunrise a national salute was fired and the bells rung. At noon the salute was repeated, and the grand procession was formed under the direction of the Marshalls of the day, escorted by all the uniform companies of the village, with the band from Freedom. The procession passed through our principal street to the Church, where the exercises of the day were performed accompanied by music from the choir and band. A fervent address to the throne of Grace was offered by the Rev. Mr. Cuyler. The Declaration of Independence was eloquently read by Col. Livingston. The appropriate and excellent oration delivered by Stephen Cleveland, Esq. obtained universal approbation, and awakened in the bosoms of the audience emotions congenial to the patriotic sentiments of an address, so ably and so elegantly adapted to the occasion and the theme. The concluding benediction was invoked by the Rev. Dr. Reed.
The procession then again formed and passing through several streets repaired to the Hotel where a dinner was provided by Capt. Myer.

Col. Livingston presided at the table assisted by Clapp Raymond, Joseph Harris, John Delavergne, John S. Myers and John W. Oakley, Esquires as Vice Presidents, and the following toasts were drank, accompanied by the discharge of cannon, music from the band, and occasional songs.

The Day--Half a century ago thousands hailed its birth, millions now join in celebrating the Jubilee and tens of millions in future ages, will plaudit its recurrence.

The Worthies--Who fifty years since signed the charter of our independence and for the support of their declaration pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour.

The Memory of Washington--Like the vast pyramids of Egypt, stands towering in the pages of history, uninjured by the waste and lapse of time.

The American Hercules--Fifty years ago, although an infant in the cradle, strangled the viper that assailed him; he is now in the vigor of youth, fond of peace, but will evade no honorable conflict.

The President and Vice President of the United States of America.

The Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the state of New York.

Our beloved country--May it continue to be the land of civil liberty and independence, until century on century shall roll away, and the last Archangel's trump shall sound.

The Militia--Success to that government which prefers armed citizens, to armed slaves.

The Army and Navy of the United States--When the occasion occurs, may the former never lack a Washington, a Fayette, or a Greene, nor the latter a Perry, McDonnough, or a Bainbridge. 
The Aborigines of this country now rapidly receding from existence--May we who possess their lakes, and their rivers, their mountains and their valleys, inherit at least one of their virtues--an inextinguishable love of liberty.

The river of our hearts--The magnificent Hudson has reently commingled embraces with the lakes of the west, and of the north, and at an early period, may she as cordially unite with her sister, the Delaware on the west.

May peace be within our gates, plenty within our dwellings, patriotism in our rulers, truth in our statesmen, piety in our preachers, virtue in our senators, and industry and honesty in the people, until time shall be no more.

The Fair Daughters of America.

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