Edward Everett (1794 – 1865) was ordained as a minister in 1813 at the urging of Harvard University President John Thornton Kirkland. Everett had many important jobs, including: America’s first Ph.D., professor of Greek studies at Harvard University, U.S. congressman (1825-1835), governor of Massachusetts (1836-1840), minister to England (1841-1845), Secretary of State (1852-1853), and U.S. Senator (1853-1854). He was also the most celebrated orator of the nineteenth century.
DELIVERED AT LEXINGTON,
ON THE 19TH (20TH) OF APRIL.
BY EDWARD EVERETT
LEXINGTON, APRIL 22, 1835.
DEAR SIR, — By the unanimous desire of the citizens of Lexington, we tender you their cordial thanks for your eloquent address, delivered at this place, on the 20thinstant, in commemoration of the events of the ever memorable 19th April 1775, and request a copy for the press.
We cannot, sir, withhold an expression of our individual, earnest wishes that you will gratify them with the perusal of an address, in which the patriotic virtues of the first martyrs to American Independence, and the great principles of civil liberty, are so justly and so eloquently portrayed.
With the highest respect, we have the honor to be
Your friends and fellow-citizens,
Hon. EDWARD EVERETT.
CHARLESTOWN, MASS. MAY 7, 1835.
GENTLEMEN,—In compliance with the request of the citizens of Lexington, communicated in your note of the 22d ult., I have furnished for publication a copy of the address delivered by their invitation on the 20th.
With my thanks for the obliging, terms, in which you have been pleased to express yourselves, on the subject, I have the honor to be,
Gentlemen, most respectfully, your friend and fellow-citizen,
Elias Phinney, Esq.
Gen. Samuel Chandler, Committee.
Benjamin Muzzy, Esq.
FELLOW CITIZENS —
At the close of sixty years, we are assembled to commemorate the eventful scenes of the opening revolution. We have come together to celebrate the affecting incidents, which have place the name of this beautiful village, on the first page of the History of our Independence. The citizens of a free, prosperous, and powerful Republic, we come to pay the last honors to the memory of those, who offered themselves up, on this spot, the first costly sacrifice in the cause of American Liberty. In the day of our peace and safety, in the enjoyment of the richest abundance of public and private blessings, we have met together to summon up in grateful recollection the images of that night of trial, — of fearful anticipation, of high and stern resolve, — and of that morning of blood, which, to the end of time, will render the name of Lexington, sacred to the heart of the American Freeman.
Sixty years have passed away: — two full returns of the period, assigned by the common consent of mankind to one of our transitory generations. I behold around me a few, — alas! how few, — of those who heard the dismal voice of the alarm bell, on the 19th of April, 1775, and the sharp angry hiss of death volleys from the British lines. Venerable men! We gaze upon you with respectful emotion. You have reached an age allotted to the smallest portion of our race, and your grey hairs, under any circumstances, would be entitled to our homage. As the survivors of the militia of Lexingt6on, who on the 19th of April, 17758, were enrolled in defense of the rights of America, and obeyed the alarm which called to you defend them, we regard you as objects at once of admiration and gratitude. But when we reflect that you, a small and venerable remnant of those, who first took the field in the dawn of that Revolution which wrought out the liberty of the country, have been spared, not merely to see that revolution brought to a triumphant close, but to witness the growth of that country to its present palmy height of prosperity and power, we feel that you are marked out by a peculiar Providence, above all the rest of your fellow citizens. But where, oh, where are your brave associates? Seven of them, who, full of life and vigor, and patriotic daring, stood side by side with you, sixty years ago, on this ever memorable spot, are gathered, — what is mortal of them,—in that mournful receptacle. Others laid down their lives for their country in the hard fought and honorable fields of the revolutionary war. The greater p0art have stolen away one by one and in silence, and lie beneath the scattered hillocks of yonder grave-yard. Twelve only survive, — ten alone are present, — to unite with us in the touching rites of this honored anniversary. May the happy contrast in your own existence on the great day we commemorate, and on this its sixtieth return, and in the position and fortune of our beloved and common country, prove an ample compensation for your anxieties and perils, and fill the close of your days with peace and joy.
Fellow citizens of Lexington you are discharging your duty; —a filial, pious duty. The blood which wet these sods on the day you celebrate must not sink uncommemorated into the soil. It is your birth-right; your heritage; the proudest you possess. Its sacred memory must be transmitted by your citizens, from father to son, to the end of time. We come to join you, in this solemn act of commemoration. Partakers of the blessings, for which your fathers laid down their lives, we come to join you in these lasting affecting obsequies. And when all now present shall be passing — passed — from the stage; when sixty years hence, we who have reached the meridian of life, shall have been gathered to our fathers, and a few only of these children shall survive, changed into what we now hold in the grey heads and venerable forms before us, let us hope that it may at least be said of us, that we felt the value of the principles to which the day is consecrated, and the cost at which they were maintained.
We perform a duty which is sanctioned by reason and justice. It is the spontaneous impulse of the heart, to award the tribute of praise and admiration to those who have put everything to risk and sacrificed everything in a great public cause, —who have submitted to the last dread test of patriotism, and laid down their lives of their country. In the present case, it is doubly warranted by the best feelings of our nature. We do not come to weave fresh laurels for the hero’s wreath, to flatter canonized pride, to extol the renowned, or to add new incense to the adulation, which is ever offered up at the shrine of the conqueror: — But to give the humble man his due, to rescue modest and untitled valor from oblivion; — to record the names of those, whom neither the ambition of power, the hope of promotion, nor the temptation of gain, — but a plain instinctive sense of patriotic duty, — called to the field.
Nor is it our purpose to rekindle the angry passions although we would fain revive the generous enthusiasm of the day we celebrate. The boiling veins — the burning nerves — the almost maddened brain which alone should have encountered the terrors of that day, have withered into dust, as still and cold, as that with which they have mingles. There is no hostile feeling in that sacred repository. No cry for revenge bursts from its peaceful enclosure. Sacred relics! Ye have not come up, from your resting place in yonder grave yard, and an errand of wrath or hatred. Ye have but come a little nearer to the field of your glory; to plead that your final resting place may be on the spot where you fell; — to claim the protection of the sods which you once moistened with your blood. It is a reasonable request. There is not an American who hears me, I am sure, who would profane the touching harmony of the scene, by an unfriendly feeling; — and if there is an English man present, who carries an Anglo Saxon heart in his bosom, he will be among the last to grudge to these poor remains of gallant foes, the honors we this day pay to their memory. Though they fell in this remote transatlantic village they stood on the sold rock of the old liberties of Englishmen and struck for freedom in both hemispheres.
Fellow Citizens! The history of the Revolution is familiar to you. You are acquainted with it, in the general and in its details. You know it as a comprehensive whole, embracing, within its grand outline, the settlement and the colonization of the country — the development maturity, and rupture of the relations between Great Britain and America. You know it, in the controversy carried on for nearly a hundred and fifty years between the representatives of the people and the officers of the crown. You know it in the characters of the great men, who signalized themselves as the enlightened and fearless leaders of the righteous and patriotic cause. You know it in the thrilling incidents of the crisis, when the appeal was made to arms. You know it, —you have studied it,—you revere it, as a mighty epoch in human affairs, a great era in that order of Providence, which, from the strange conflict of human passions and interests, and the various and wonderfully complicated agency of the institutions of men in society, — of individual character, — of exploits, — discoveries, — commercial adventure — the discourses and writings of wise and eloquent men, — educes the progressive civilization of the race. Under these circumstances, it is scarcely possible to approach the subject in any direction, with a well-grounded hope of presenting it in new lights, or saying anything in which this intelligent and patriotic audience will not run before me, and anticipate the words before they drop from my lips. But it is a theme that can never tire nor wear out. God grant that the time may never come, when those who, at periods however distant, shall address you on the 19th of April, shall have anything wholly new to impart. Let the tale be repeated, from father to son, till all its thrilling incidents are as familiar as household words; and till the names of the brave men who reaped the bloody honors of the 19th of April, 1775, are as well known to us, as the names of those who form the circle at our fire-sides.
The events of the day we commemorate, of course, derive their interest from their connection with that struggle for constitutional liberty, which dates from the settlement of the country; and which is beyond question the most important topic, in the history of free government. It presents to us a spectacle worthy of the deepest meditation; — full of solemn warning, and of instruction not yet exhausted. We are, at times, most perplexed, with the phenomena which pass before us. We see our ancestors; — a people of singular gravity of character, not turbulent nor impracticable, imbued with an hereditary love of order and law, and of a temper signally loyal; engaged in a course of almost uninterrupted opposition to the authority of a government, which they professed themselves at all times bound to obey. On the other hand, we see the British government, under all administrations, — whether animated by liberal principles or the reverse, — adopting measures and pursuing a policy toward the North American colonies, which excited discontent and resistance. It is not till after careful scrutiny, that we find the solution of the problem, in a truth, which, — though our fathers, some of them, at least, unquestionably felt its reality, — was never professed in any stage of the contest till the declaration of Independence, and then not as a general axiom, but as a proposition true in the then present case, viz: the inherent incongruity of colonial government with the principles of constitutional liberty. Such a government, — involving as it almost of necessity does, the distance of the seat of power from the colony, — a veto on the colonial legislation, — an appeal from the colonial justice, — a diversion of the colonial resources to objects not necessarily connected with the welfare of the people, — together with the irritation produced by the presence of men in high office, not appointed by those who are obliged to submit to their authority, — seems, in its very nature, inconsistent with the requirements of constitutional liberty, either in the colony or the mother country. It is but half the mischief of the colonial system that obstructs the growth of freedom in the colony; it favors the growth of arbitrary power, in the mother country. It may be laid down as the moral of the long and varied struggle, which was brought to a crisis on this spot on the 19th of April, 1775, that a colonial government can neither be exercised on principles of constitutional liberty, without gross inconsistency, nor submitted to by a free people, possessing numbers and resources which authorize resistance.
The truth of this doctrine shines brighter and brighter, from each successive age in our colonial history. The very genius of the British Constitution, — the love of liberty, which was our father’s inheritance, — the passionate aversion to arbitrary power which drove them into banishment from the pleasant fields of England, — unfitted them for their colonial position and its duties. For this reason, the cares of the mother country were as wisely bestowed on the colonies, as those of the huntsman in the ancient drama, who nursed the lions whelp in his bosom, and brought him up as the playmate of his children. It was the nature, not the vice of the noble animal, that tame and gentle as a lamb at the beginning, he grew up to the strength and boldness of a lion, impatient of restraint, indignant at injury, and ready, at the first opportunity to bound off to his native woods. 
From this condition of things it resulted, that the statesmen on both sides the water, — as well in England as in America, — who took a lead in public affairs, were, to use the language of modern politics, in a false position, striving to do what could not be done; — to tax constitutionally without a representation, and to preserve allegiance in despite of everlasting opposition. It was one consequence of this unnatural state of things, that the real ground of the discontents was continually misapprehended, — that they were ascribed to temporary, local, and personal causes, — and not to the inherent nature of the process which was going on, and of the impossibility of a cordial union of elements so discordant. This is peculiarly visible in the writings of Gov. Hutchinson. This valuable historian was on the stage, for the entire generation preceding the revolution. For more than thirty years before it broke out, he was a political leader in Massachusetts. From the close of the French war to the year 1775, he was probably the most confidential adviser of the Crown; and for the chief part of the time the incumbent of the highest offices in its gift. He has brought the history of his native state down to the very moment when on the eve of the war, he left America never to return. Learned, sagacious, wary, conciliatory, and strongly disposed, as far as possible, to evade the difficulties of his position; no man had better opportunities of knowing the truth, and after making proper allowance for his prejudices, few are entitled to greater credit in their statements. And yet, with all the sources of information in his reach, and all the opportunities enjoyed by him to arrive at an enlarged conception of the nature of the controversy, Gov. Hutchinson seriously traces the origin of the revolution to the fact, that he himself was appointed chief justice, instead of James Otis, who aspired to the place.
But a more signal instance of this delusion was of much older date, than the opposition to the stamp act. The government party never understood the character of the people nor the nature of the contest; and a most memorable proof of this is found, in an act of provincial legislation, at the early period of 1694. In that year a step was taken by the court party, which showed, in a most extraordinary manner, the extent of their infatuation. Before this time, it had been the practice in many of the country towns to elect, as their representatives to the General Court, citizens of Boston, who either from being natives of the towns or for any other cause, possessed the confidence of those, by having voted against an address to his Majesty, praying the continuance of Sir William Phips in office, the Court party immediately brought forward and carried a law, forbidding the election of any person as a representative, who did not reside in the town, by which he was chosen. Provision was thus made by law to compel the towns, even if otherwise disinclined to do so, to take an interest in public affairs; and to secure from their own bosom a constant and faithful representation of the yeomanry. This was a court measure, designed to disqualify a few popular citizens of Boston, who had been elected for the country; but it may be doubted whether anything else contributed more, to carry the great constitutional controversy home to the country, by the strongest bonds of political sympathy.
I need but allude to the measures by which the revolution was at last brought on The Boston Port Bill was proof, that the British Ministry had determined to force matters to extremities; and it awakened the liveliest sympathy, in the fate of Boston, from one end of the continent to the other. The acts of Parliament passed in 1774, for altering the mode of summoning juries and transporting obnoxious persons to England for trial were direct violations of the charter; and indicated the dangerous policy of striking at the lives of individuals, under color of legal procedure. Nothing produces so great an exasperation, as this policy, and no policy is so weak; for the most insignificant individual is made important by proscription; while few are so gifted, but their blood will prove more eloquent than their pens or their tongues. These threatening steps, on the part of the ministry, did but hasten the preparations for resistance, on the part of the people of America. A continental Congress was organized in 1774, and a provincial Congress met, about the same time in Massachusetts, as her share of twenty thousand to be raised by the New England colonies, and one fourth of the number to act as minute men. By the same authority, magazines were established, — arms and munitions of war procured, and supplies of all kinds provided for a state of actual service. The greatest attention was paid to drilling and exercising the troops, particularly in the portions of the province, immediately contiguous to Concord and Worchester, where the military depots were established. A committee of safety and a committee of supplies were clothed with the chief executive power. General officers, — principally the veterans of the French war — were appointed to command the troops. As the royal forces in Boston, where in the habit of making excursions into the neighboring country, for parade and exercise, it became necessary to decide the question, when they should be met with forcible resistance. It was resolved by the provincial Congress, that this should be done, whenever the troops came out with baggage, ammunition, and artillery, and other preparations for hostile action. Having thus made provision for the worst, the provincial Congress of Massachusetts adjourned early in December, 1774, to give the opportunity to keep the stated Thanksgiving with their families; — and among the causes of gratitude to Almighty God, even at this dark and anxious period, which are set forth in the proclamation of the provincial Congress, they call upon the people to be devoutly thankful for the union of sentiment, which prevailed so remarkably in the colonies.
The situation of Massachusetts, at that time, presents a most striking and instructive spectacle. It contained a population, not far from three hundred thousand; arrested in the full career of industrious occupation in all the branches of civilized pursuit. Their charter was substantially abrogated by the new laws. Obedience was everywhere withheld from the arbitrary powers assumed by the government. The proclamations of the governor were treated with silent disregard. The port of Boston is shut, and with it much of the commerce of the province is annihilated; for the neighboring seaport towns vie with each other, in a generous refusal to take advantage of the distresses of Boston. The courts are closed, and the innumerable concerns, which, in an ordinary state of things, require the daily and hourly interposition of the law, are placed under the safe guardianship of the public sentiment of a patriotic community. The powers, assumed by the committees of safety and supplies and by the provincial Congress, are obeyed, with a ready deference, never yielded, in the most loyal times, to the legal commands of the king’s governors. The community, in a word is reduced, — no is elevated, — to a state of nature : — to a state of nature, in a high and solemn sense, in which the feeling of a great impending common danger and the consciousness of an exalted and resolute common purpose take the place, at once and with full efficacy, of all the machinery of constitutional government. It is thus that a people, fit for freedom, may get the substance before the forms of liberty. Luxury disappears, a patriotic frugality accumulates the scattered elements of the public wealth; — feuds are reconciled; differences compromised; — the creditor spares his debtor; — the debtor voluntarily acquits his obligations; an unseen spirit of order, resource, and power walks, like an invisible angel, through the land; — and the people thoughtful calm, and collected await the coming storm.
The minds of the people throughout the country had become thoroughly imbued with the great principles of the contest. These principles had for years been discussed at the primary meetings in Massachusetts; and the municipal records of many of the towns, at that period, are filled with the most honorable proofs of the intelligence and patriotism of their citizens. The town of Lexington stands second to none, in an early, strenuous, and able vindication of the rights of the colonies. In the year 1765, a very conclusive exposition of the question on the stamp act was adopted by the town, in the form of instructions to their representative in the general court. It is a paper not inferior to the best of the day. In 1767, the town expressed its unanimous concurrence, in the measures adopted by Boston, to prevent the consumption of foreign commodities. In 1768, a preamble and resolutions were adopted by the town, in which the right of Great Britain to tax America is argued with extraordinary skill and power. In 1772, their representative was furnished with instructions, expressed in the most forcible terms, to seek a redress of the daily increasing wrongs of the people. The object of these instructions id declared to be, that “thus, whether successful or not, succeeding generations may know, that we understood our rights and liberties, and were neither afraid nor ashamed to assert or maintain them; and that we ourselves may have at least this consolation, in our chains, that it was not through our neglect, that this people were enslaved.” In 1773, resolutions of the most decided and animated character were unanimously passed, relative to the duty on tea. At numerous town meetings toward the close of 1774, measures were taken for a supply of ammunition, the purchase and distribution of arms and other measures of military defense. A representative was chosen to the provincial congress, and the town’s tax directed to be paid, not to the royal receiver general, but to the treasurer appointed by the provincial congress.
Although the part thus taken by Lexington was in full accordance with the course pursued by many other towns in the Province, there is nothing invidious in the remark, that the documents to which I have referred, and in which the principles and opinions of the town are embodied, have few equals and no superiors, among the productions of that class. They are well known to have proceeded from the pen of the former venerable pastor of the church, in this place, the Reverend Jonas Clark, who for many years previous to the revolution and to the close of his life, exercised a well-deserved ascendancy in the public concerns of the town. To the older part of the citizens of Lexington it was needless to describe him: — they remember too well the voice, to which within these walls, they listened so long with reverence and delight. Even to those who are too young to have known him, the tradition of his influence is familiar. Mr. Clark was of a class of citizens, who rendered services second to no other, in enlightening and animating the popular mind, on the great questions at issue, — I mean the patriotic clergy of New-England.
The circumstances, under which this portion of the country was settled, gave a religious complexion to the whole political system. The vigorous growth of transatlantic liberty was owing in no small degree to the fact that its seed was planted at the beginning by men, who deemed Freedom of Conscience a cheap purchase at any cost; and that its roots struck deep into the soil of Puritanism. Mr. Clark was eminent in his profession, — a man of practical piety, — a learned theologian, — a person of wide general reading, — a writer perspicuous, correct, and pointed beyond the standard of the day, — and a most intelligent, resolute, and ardent champion of the popular cause. He was connected by marriage, with the family of John Hancock. To this circumstance, no doubt, may properly be ascribed some portion of his interest in the political movements of the time; — while on the mind of Hancock, and intimacy with Mr. Clark was calculated to have a strong and salutary influence. Their connection led to a portion of the interesting occurrences of the 19th of April, 1775. The soul-stirring scenes of the great tragedy, which was acted out by this spot, were witnessed by Mr. Clark, from the door of his dwelling, hard by. To perpetuate their recollection he instituted the following year, a service of commemorations. He delivered himself an historical discourse of great merit, which was followed on the returns of the anniversary, till the end of the revolutionary war, in a series of addresses in the same strain, by the clergy of the neighboring towns. Mr. Clark’s instructive and eloquent narrative, in the appendix to the discourse, remains to this day one of the most important authorities for this chapter in the history of the Revolution.
It may excite some surprise, that so great alacrity was evinced in the work of military preparation, by the town of Lexington, and other towns similarly situated in the colonies. How are we to account for the extraordinary fact, that a village not of the first class in size, and not in any respect so circumstanced as to require its citizens to stand forth, in the position of military resistance, should have taken such prompt and vigorous measures of a warlike character? This is a fact to be explained by a recurrence to the earlier history of the colonies. It is a truth to which sufficient attention has not, perhaps, been given in connection with the history of the revolution, that in the two preceding wars between Great Britain and France, the colonies had taken a very active and important part. The military records of those wars, as far as the province of Massachusetts Bay are concerned, are still in existence. The original muster rolls are preserved in the State House at Boston. I have examined a great many of them. The prove that the people of Massachusetts, Between the years 1755 and 1763, performed an amount of military service, probably never exacted of any other people, living under a government professing to be free. Not a village in Massachusetts, but sent its sons to lay their bones in the West Indies, in Nova Scotia, and the Canadian wilderness. Judge Minot states, that in the year 1757, one third part of the effective men of Massachusetts were, in some way or other, in the field, and that the taxes imposed on real property in Boston, amounted to two thirds of the income. In 1759, the General court by way of excusing themselves to Governor Pownall for falling short of the military requisitions of that year informed him, that the military service of the preceding year had amounted to one million of dollars. They nevertheless raised that year six thousand eight hundred men; a force which contributed most essentially to the achievement of the great object of the campaign the reduction of Quebec. The population of Massachusetts and Maine, at that time, might have been half the present population of Massachusetts; the amount of taxable property beyond all proportion less. Besides the hardships of voluntary service, the most distressing levies were made on the towns by impressment, enforced by all the rigors of martial law.
These are not the most affecting documents in our archives, to show the nature of that school of preparation, in which the men of 1775 were reared. Those archives are filled with the tears of desolate widows and bereaved parents. After the disastrous capitulation of Fort William Henry in 1757, the Governor of Massachusetts invited those, who had relatives carried into captivity among the Canadian Indians, to give information to the Colonial Secretary that order might be taken for their redemption. Many of the original returns to this invitation are on file. Touching memorials! Here an aged parent in Andover transmits the name of his “dear son,” that he may have the benefit of “the gracious design” of the government. A poor widow at Newbury states that her child, who was made captive at what she calls “Rogers’ great fight,” was but seventeen years old, when he left her. And old Jonathan Preble of Maine, whose son and daughter-in-law were killed by the Indians at Arrowsick Island and six of their children, from the age of twelve years down to three months, carried into captivity, the same day, “makes bold,” as he says, to send up the sad catalogue of their names. He apologizes for this freedom, on the ground of “having drank so deep” of this misery; and then apparently reflecting, that the words, and simply adds “having been deprived of so many of my family.” The original paper, with the erasure and the correction, is preserved.
In fact the land was filled, town and country, — and in proportion its population, no town more than Lexington, — with men who had seen service, — and such service too! There were few villages in this part of the Province, which had not furnished recruits for that famous corps of Rangers, which was commanded by Rogers and in which Stark served his military apprenticeship; — a corps whose duties went as far beyond the rigors of ordinary warfare, as that is more severe than a holiday parade. Their march was through the untrodden bypaths of the Canadian frontier; — the half-tamed savage, borrowing from civilization nothing but its maddening vices and destructive weapons, was the ranger’s sworn enemy. Huntsman at once and soldier, his supply of provision on many of his excursions, was the fortune of the chase of provisions, on many of his excursions, was the fortune of the chase and draught from the mountain stream, that froze as it trickled from the rocks. Instead of going into quarters when the forest put on its sere autumnal uniform of scarlet and gold, — winter – Canadian winter – dreary mid-winter, — on frozen lakes, through lice-bound forests, from which the famished deer chased by the gaunt wolf was fain to fly to the settlements, called the poor ranger to the field of his duties. Sometimes he descended the lakes on skates; sometimes he marched on snow shoes, where neither baggage-wagon nor beast of burden could follow him, and with all his frugal store laden on his back. Not only was the foe he sought armed with the tomahawk and scalping knife, but the tortures of the faggot and the stake were in reserve for the prisoner, who, for wounds or distance or any other cause, could not readily be sold into an ignominious slavery among the Canadian French. Should I relate all the hardships of this service, I should expect almost to start the lid of that coffin; for it covers the remains of at least one brave heart, who could bear witness to their truth.
Captain Spikeman, who fell on the 21st of January 1757, raised his company in which Stark, I believe was a lieutenant, principally in this neighborhood. The journal of General Winslow contains the muster roll, and I find there the names of several inhabitants of Lexington. Edmund Munroe, (afterwards, with another of the same name, killed by one cannon ball at the battle of Monmouth,) was of the staff in Rogers’ regiment; and Robert Munroe, whose remains are gathered in that receptacle, was an ensign at the capture of Louisbourg in 1758. There could not have been less than twenty or thirty of the citizens of Lexington, who had learned the art of war, in some department or other of the military colonial service. They had tasted its horrors in the midnight surprise of the savage foe, and they had followed the banners of victory under the old provincial leaders, Gridley and Thomas, and Ruggles and Frye, up to the ramparts of Quebec. No wonder that they started again at the sound of the trumpet; no wonder that they started again at the sound of the trumpet; no wonder that men, who had followed the mere summons of allegiance and loyalty to the shores of lake Champlain and the banks of the St. Lawrence, should obey the cry of instinct which called them to defend their homes. The blood which was not too precious to be shed upon the plains of Abraham, in order to wrest a distant colony from the dominion of France, might well be expected to flow like water, in defence of all that is dear to man.
From the commencement of 1775, a resort to extremities was manifestly inevitable; — but the time and mode, in which it should take place, were wrapped in solemn uncertainty. The patriots of the highest tone, well knowing that it could not be avoided, did not wish it postponed. Warren burned for the decisive moment; — young beloved, gifted for a splendid career, — he was ready, — impatient for the conflict. The two Adams’s and Hancock, bore, with scarcely suppressed discontent, the less resolute advances of some of their associates; and Quincy wrote from London in December 1774, in the following strain of devoted patriotism; “Let me tell you one very serious truth, in which we are all agreed, your countrymen must seal their cause with their blood. They must now stand the issue; — they must preserve a consistency of character, THEY MUST NOT DELAY, they must [resist to the death,] or be trodden into the vilest vassalage, — the scorn, the spurn of their enemies, a by-word of infamy among all men!”
In anticipation of this impending crisis, the measures of military preparation, to which I have alluded, were taken. The royal Governor of Massachusetts had served in the old French war and did not undervalue his adversary, but adopted his measures of preparation as against a resolute foe. Officers in disguise were sent to Concord and Worcester, to explore the roads and passes, and gain information relative to the provincial stores. At Medford the Magazine was plundered. An unsuccessful attempt was made to seize the artillery at Salem. On the 30th of March, General Gage sent eleven hundred men out of Boston and threw down the stone walls, which covered some of the passes in the neighborhood. These indications sufficiently showed that an attempt to destroy the provincial stores at Concord and Worcester, might be expected; a hostile excursion from Boston, on that errand, was daily anticipated, for some time before it took place; — an proper measures were taken, by stationing two persons on the lookout, in all the neighboring towns, to obtain and propagate the earliest intelligence of the movement.
In anxious expectation of the crisis, a considerable part of the people of Boston sought refuge in the country. Inclination prompted them to withdraw themselves from beneath the domination of what was now regarded as a hostile military power; and patriotism suggested the expediency of diminishing, as far as possible, the number of those who, while they remained in Boston, were at the mercy of the royal Governor; and held as hostages for the submission of their countrymen.
In conjunction with the seizure of the Province stores, the arrest of some of the most prominent of the patriotic leaders was threatened. Hancock and Adams had been often designated by name as peculiarly obnoxious, and on the adjournment of the Provincial Congress, a strong opinion had been expressed by their friends that they ought not to return to the city. Hancock yielded to the advice and took up his abode in this place, — the spot where his father was born, — where he had himself passed a portion of his childhood, and where he found in his venerable connection, Mr. Clark, an associate of congenial temper. Beneath the same hospitable roof, Samuel Adams also found a cordial welcome. Thus, my friends, your village became the place of refuge and your fathers were constituted the guardians of these distinguished patriots, at a moment, when a price was believed to be set on their heads.
Samuel Adams and John Hancock! — Do you ask why we should pause at their names? Let the proclamation of General Gage furnish the answer: “I do hereby in his Majesty’s name, promise his most gracious pardon to all persons, who shall forthwith lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects, excepting only from the benefit of such pardon, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whose offences are of too flagitious a nature, to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment.”
The flagitious offences of Hancock and Adams were their early, unrelaxing, and fearless efforts, in defense of the rights of American freemen; and the cordial co-operation of these men, in that great curse, unlike as they were in everything else, is one of the most pleasing incidents of the history of the revolution. John Hancock would have been the spoiled child of fortune; if he had not been the chosen instrument of Providence. His grandfather was for fifty-four years the pastor, with great authority, of this church, and his father, afterwards minister of Braintree, was born in Lexington. John Hancock was left an orphan at the age of seven years, and from that period, passed much of his time in this village, and received a part of his education, at the town school. After leaving college, he entered the family and became associated in the business of his uncle, a distinguished citizen and a wealthy merchant in Boston, who shortly afterwards dies, bequeathing to John Hancock a fortune of seventy thousand pounds sterling; — the largest estate probably, which had ever been amassed in the colonies. He was thus left at twenty-seven years of age, without parents, brought up in luxury, distinguished for personal appearance, voice, manners, and address, the master of a princely estate. He seemed, as it were, marked out by destiny, to pursue the tempting path of royal favor. He was accused of ambition. But what had he to gin by joining the austere ranks of those, who were just commencing the great battle of liberty? He was charges with a love of display. But no change of public affairs could improve his private fortunes; and he had but to seek them through the paths of loyalty, and all the honors of the empire, pertaining in any measure to his position, are at his command, on either side of the Atlantic. The tempter did whisper to him, that he might lead a gay and luxurious existence, within the precincts of the court. But his heart was beneath yonder roof, where his father was born. In the midst of all the enjoyments and temptations of London, he remembered the school, where he had first learned to read his bible; and exclaimed amidst the seductions of the British metropolis, “If I forget thee, Oh! New England, may my right hand forget her cunning.”
He witnessed the coronation of George III., and it was the immediate spectacle of a life of court attendance, that taught John Hancock to prize the independence of a Boston merchant: — of an American citizen. He returned from England, to plunge heart and soul, into the contest for principle and for liberty. He scattered his princely wealth like ashes. He threw his property into the form, in which it would be least productive to himself, and most beneficial to the industrious and suffering portion of the community. He built ships at a time, not when foreign trade was extending itself, but when new restrictions were daily laid upon the commerce of America and the shipwrights were starving; and he built houses, when real estate was rapidly sinking in value. He shunned personal danger as little as he spared his purse. On the retirement of Peyton Randolph from the chair of Congress in May 1775, he was called by the members of that venerable body to preside in their councils, and in that capacity, he had the singular good fortune to sign the commission of George Washington, and the immortal honor to affix his name first to the Declaration of Independence. To the solid qualities of character he added all the graces of the old school; and as if to meet the taunts, which were daily appointed at the rustic simplicity of the American cause, the enemies of the country beheld in its patriotic President, an elegance of appearance and manners unsurpassed at their own Court.
When the rapid depreciation of Continental paper had greatly increased the distresses of the people, Hancock instructed his agents at home to receive that poor discredited currency, with which his country was laboring to carry on the war, in payment of everything due to him; and when asked his opinion in Congress of the policy of an assault upon Boston, he recommended the measure although it would lay half his property in ashes. During all the distresses, which preceded the commencement of hostilities, while Boston was sinking under the privations of the Port Bill, Hancock not only forbore the enforcement of his debts, but literally shared his diminished income with the suffering townsmen. Providence rewarded his warm-hearted and uncalculating patriotism, with the highest honors of the country; — enabled him to build up his impaired estate out of the ashes of the Revolution; and gave him a place as bright and glorious, in the admiration of mankind, “as if,” — to use the words of Daniel Webster, “his name had been written in letters of light, on the blue arch of heaven, between Orion and the Pleiades.”
Samuel Adams was the counterpart of his distinguished associate in proscription. Hancock served the cause with his liberal opulence, Adams with his incorruptible poverty. His family at times suffered almost for the comforts of life, when he might have sold his influence over the councils of America for uncounted gold, — when he might have emptied the British treasury, if he would have betrayed his country. Samuel Adams was the last of the Puritans; — a class of men to whom the cause of civil and religious liberty on both sides of the Atlantic, is mainly indebted, for the great progress which it has made for the last two hundred years; and when the Declaration of Independence was signed, that dispensation might be considered as brought to a close. At a time when the new order of things was inducing laxity of manners and departure from the ancient strictness, Samuel Adams clung with greater tenacity, to the wholesome discipline of the fathers. His only relaxation from the business and cares of life was in the indulgence of a taste for sacred music, for which he was qualified by the possession of a most angelic voice, and of a soul solemnly impressed with religious sentiment. —Resistance of oppression was his vocation. On taking his second degree, he maintained the noble thesis, that it is “lawful to resist the supreme magistrate, if the Commonwealth cannot otherwise be preserved.” Thus, at the age of twenty-one, twenty years before the stamp act was thought of, Samuel Adams, from the cloisters of Harvard College, announced in two lines, the philosophy of the American Revolution. His after-life showed that his practice was not below his theory.
On leaving college, he devoted himself for some years to the profession of divinity; but he gave himself afterwards wholly to the political service of the country. He was among the earliest and ablest writers on the patriotic side. He caught the plain, downright, stile of the Commonwealth in Great Britain. More than most of his associates, he understood the efficacy of personal intercourse with the people. It was Samuel Adams, more than any other individual, who brought the question home to their bosoms and firesides, — not by profound disquisitions and elaborate reports, — though these in their place were not spared, — but in the caucus, the club-room, at the green-dragon, in the ship-yards, in actual conference, man to man and heart to heart. He was forty-six years of age, when he first came to the House of Representatives. There he was, of course, a leader; a member of every important committee; — the author of many of the ablest and boldest state papers of the time. — But the throne of his ascendency was in Fanueil Hall. As each new measure of arbitrary power was announced from across the Atlantic, or each new act of menace and violence, on the part of the officers of the government or of the army occurred in Boston, — its citizens, oftentimes in astonishment and perplexity, rallied to the sound of his voice, in Fanueil Hall; and there, as from the crowded gallery or the moderator’s chair, he animated, enlightening, fortified, and roused the admiring throng, he seemed to gather them together beneath the aegis of his indomitable spirit, as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings. With his namesake John Adams, Warren, and Hancock, he perceived the inevitable necessity of striking for Independence, a considerable time, before it was generally admitted. In some branches of knowledge he was excelled by other men; but one thing he knew thoroughly, and that was Liberty.
He began with it early, studied it long, and possessed the whole science of it. He knew it, class and order, — genus and species, —root and branch. With him it was no matter of frothy sentiment. He knew it was no gaudy May-day flower, peeping through the soft verdant soil of spring, and opening its painted petals as a dew cup for midnight fairies to sip at. He knew it was an austere and tardy growth, — the food of men, long hungering for their inalienable rights, a seed scattered broad cast on a rough thou genial soil, — ripening beneath lowering skies and autumnal frosts, — to be reaped with a blood sickle. Instead of quailing his spirit mounted and mantled with the approach of the crisis. Chafed and fretted with the minor irritations of the early stages of the contest he rose to a religious tranquility, as the decisive hour drew nigh. In all the excitement and turmoil of the anxious days that preceded the explosion, he was of the few, who never lost their balance. He was thoughtful, — serious almost to the point of sternness, — resolute as fate; but cheerful himself, and a living spring of animation to others. He stood among the people a pillar of safety and strength: —
As some tall cliff, that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm;
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
And so he looked forward to the impending struggle, as the consummation of a great design, of which not man but God had laid the foundation stone on the rock of Plymouth; and when on the morning of the day you now commemorate, the volleys of fire-arms from this spot announced to him and his companion, in the neighboring field, that the great battle of liberty had begun, he threw up his arms and exclaimed in a burst of patriotic rapture, “Oh, what a glorious morning is this!”
Yes! Fellow citizens, such was the exclamation of Samuel Adams, when a thousand British troops were in possession of your village, and seven of your citizens were struggling in the agonies of death. — His prophetic soul told him that the divine form of his country’s liberty would follow on, the next personage in that fearful but all-glorious pageant. He saw that morning sun, whose first slanting beams were dancing on the tops of the hostile bayonets, would not more surely ascend the heavens, than the sun of independence would arise on the clouded fortunes of his country. The glory he foresaw has come to pass. Two generations attest the truth of his high-souled prophecy. And you, “village Hampdens, who, with dauntless breast” withstood, not “the petty tyrant of your fields,” but the dread and incensed sovereign of a mighty empire, when he came in his embattled hosts to subdue you; you, who sealed your devotion to the cause by the last great attestation of sincerity, your blood has not sunk unprofitably into the ground. If your spirits are conscious of the honors we now pay your relics, you behold in the wide spread prosperity of the growing millions of America, the high justification of that generous impulse, which led you, on that glorious morning, to the field of death!
On Saturday the 15th of April, the provincial congress, then in session at Concord, adjourned to meet again, on the 10th day of May. It is probable that the intelligence of this event had not reached General Gage in Boston, when, on the same day, he commenced his arrangements, for the projected expedition. The grenadiers and light infantry were relieved from their several stations in Boston and concentrated on the common, under pretense of learning a new military exercise. At midnight following, the boats of the transport ships, which had been previously repaired, were launched and moored under the sterns of the previously repaired, were launched an moored under the sterns of the men of war in the harbor. Dr. Warren, on his way home from the Congress on Saturday, had expressed to the family of Mr. Clark, his firm persuasion that the moment was at hand when blood would flow. He justly regarded the military movements of the following night, as a confirmation of this opinion, and dispatched Colonel Paul Revere the next day, to this place, to bring the intelligence to Messrs. Hancock and Adams. They naturally inferred from the magnitude of the preparations, that their own seizure could not be the sole object, and advised the committee of safety, then sitting at West Cambridge, to order the distribution into the neighboring towns of the stores collected at Concord. Colonel Paul Revere, on his return to town, on Sunday concerted with his friends in Charlestown, that two lights should be shown from the steeple of the North Church, if the British troops should cross in boats to Cambridge, and one, if they should march out, over Boston neck.
Wednesday, the 19th was fixed upon as the eventful day. Ten or twelve British officers were sent out the day before on horseback, who dined at Cambridge; and at nightfall scattered themselves on the roads to Concord, to prevent the communication of intelligence from the town. Early information of this fact was brought to this place, by Solomon Brown of Lexington, who returned late from Boston market on the afternoon of the 18th, and passed them and was passed by them, several times, as they sometimes rode forward or fell back on the road. A dispatch to the same effect was also sent by Mr. Gerry, of the committee of safety, ant West Cambridge, to Mr. Hancock, whose answer, still preserved, evinces the calmness and self-possession, which he maintained at the approaching crisis. In consequence of this information, a guard of eight men, under the late Col. William Munroe, then a sergeant in the Lexington Company, was marched, in the course of the evening, to Mr. Clark’s house, for the protection of Messrs. Adams and Hancock. At the same time, Messrs. Sanderson, Loring, and Brown, were sent up towards concord, to watch the movement of the officers. They came upon them unawares in Lincoln and fell into their hands. About midnight Colonel Paul Revere, who had left Boston by direction of Dr. Warren, as soon as the movement of the troops was discovered, and had passed by the way of Charlestown where he narrowly escaped two British officers,) through Medford, and West Cambridge, giving the alarm at every house on the way, — arrived at Mr. Clark’s with dispatches from Dr. Warren, for Hancock and Adams. Passing on towards Concord, Revere, also fall into the hands of the British officers in Lincoln, but not till he hand an opportunity of communicating his errand to young Dr. Prescott of Concord, whom he overtook on the road. At the moment Revere was arrested by the officers, Prescott succeeded in forcing his way through them, and thus carried the alarm to Concord. The intelligence sent by Dr. Warren to Messrs. Hancock and Adams, purport that “a large body of the King’s troops, (supposed to be a brigade of 1200 or 1500 men,) had embarked in boats from Boston.”
After the detention of an hour or two in Lincoln, the British officers were informed by Colonel Revere, of all the measures he had taken to alarm the country; and deemed it expedient for their own safety to hasten back toward Boston. On their way toward Lexington, they put many questions to their prisoners, as to the place where Messrs. Adams and Hancock were residing. As they approached Lexington, they alarm bell was ringing and a volley was fired by some of the militia, then assembling on the green. Upon this they hastened their flight, and just as they entered the village their prisoners escaped from them. Colonel Revere repaired to the house of Mr. Clark, and the general apprehensions relative to his distinguished guests, having been confirmed by the interrogatories of the British officers, Messrs. Hancock and Adams were persuaded with great difficulty to withdraw from the immediate vicinity of the road. On the return of Colonel Revere to the center of the village, he met Captain Thaddeus Bowman coming up the road, in full gallop, with the news that the British troops were at hand.
It was at this time, between four and five o’clock in the morning. Three messengers had been sent down the road, to ascertain the approach of the British army. The two first brought no tidings, and the troops were not discovered by the third, Captain Bowman, till they were far advanced into the town. They had been put in motion about seven hours before, on Boston common. They crossed in boats, near the spot where the Court House now stands in East Cambridge: and there took up their march, from eight hundred to one thousand strong, grenadiers, light infantry, and marines. They crossed the marshes, inclining to their right, and came into the Charlestown and West Cambridge road, near the foot of Prospect hill. It was a fine moonlight, chilly night, No hostile movement was made by them, till they reached West Cambridge. The committee of safety had been in session in that place, at Wetherbee’s tavern; and three of its distinguished members, Vice-President Gerry, Colonel Lee, and Colonel Orne, had taken up their lodging for the night, at the same house. The village, having been alarmed by Colonel Revere, was on the alert at the approach of the army; and Messrs. Gerry, Lee, and Orne, had risen from their beds and gone to their windows, to contemplate the strange spectacle. As the troops came up, on a line with the house, a sergeant’s guard was detached to search it; and the members of the committee had but a moment to escape by blight into the adjacent fields.
It was now perceived by Colonel Smith, who commanded the British detachment that the country, on all sides, was in a state of alarm. The news had spread, in every direction, both by the way of Charlestown and Roxbury. The lights in the north Church steeple had given the signal, before the troops had fairly embarked. It was propagated by the alarm-bell, from village to village; volleys from the minute-men were heard in every direction; — and as fast as light and sound could travel, the news ran through Massachusetts, I might say through New England; and every man as he heard it sprang to his arms. As a measure of precaution, under these circumstances, Colonel Smith detached six companies of light infantry and marines, to move forward under Major Pitcairne and take possession of the bridges at Concord, in order to cut off the communication with the interior of the country. At the same time also, he sent back to General gage and asked a reinforcement, a piece of forethought which saved all that was saved of the fortunes of that day. Before these detached companies could reach Lexington, the officers already mentioned were hastening down the road; and falling in with Major Pitcairne, informed him, that five hundred men were assembling on Lexington green to resist the troops. In consequence of this exaggerated account, the advance party was halted, to give time for the grenadiers to come up.
And thus, fellow citizens, having glanced at all the other movements of this memorable night, we are prepared to contemplate that, which gives interest to them all. The company assembled on this spot, and which had been swelled by the British officers to five hundred, consisted in reality of sixty or seventy of the militia of Lexington. On the receipt of the information of the excursion of the officers and the movement of the troops, a guard had been set, as we have seen, at the house of Mr. Clark, the evening before. After the receipt of the intelligence brought by Revere, the alarm bell was rung; and a summons sent round to the militia of the place to assemble on the green. This was done by direction of the commander of the company, Captain John Parker, an officer of approved firmness and courage. He had probably served in the French war, and gave many proofs, on this trying occasion, of a most intrepid spirit. About two o’clock in the morning, the drum beat to arms, the roll was called, and about one hundred and thirty answered to their names; — some of them alas, — whose ashes, now gathered in that depository, invoke the mournful honors of this day, — for the last time on earth. Messengers were sent down the road to bring intelligence of the troops; and the men were ordered to load with powder and ball. One of the messengers soon returned with the report, that there were no troops to be seen. In consequence of this information, as the night was chilly, in order to spare the men, already harassed by the repeated alarms which had been given, and to relieve the anxiety of their families, the militia were dismissed; but ordered to await the return of the other expresses, sent down to gain a knowledge of the movements of the enemy, and directed to be in readiness, at the beat of the drum. About half the men sought refuge from the chill of the night, in the public house still standing on the edge of the green; the residue retired to their homes in the neighborhood. One of the messengers was made prisoner by the British, who took effectual precautions to arrest every person on the road. Benjamin Wellington hastening to the center of the village, was intercepted by their advanced party, and was the first person seized by the enemy in arms, in the revolutionary war. In consequence of these precautions, the troops remained undiscovered till within a mile and a half of this place, and when there was scarce time for the last messenger, Captain Thaddeus Bowman, to return with the tidings of their certain approach.
A new, the last alarm, is now given: — the bell rings, — guns are fired in haste on the green, — the drum beats to arms. The militia, within reach of the sound, hasten to obey the call, sixty or seventy in number, and are drawn up in order, a very short distance, in rear of the spot, on which we stand. The British troops, hearing the American drum, regard it as a challenge and are halted at the distance of one hundred and sixty rods, to load their guns. At the sight of this preparation, a few of the militia, on the two extremities of the line, naturally feeling the madness of resisting a force outnumbering their own, ten to one, and supposed to be near twice as large as it was, showed a disposition to retreat. Captain Parker ordered them to stand their ground, threatened death to any man who should fly, — but directed them not to fire unless first fired upon. The commanders of the British forces advance some rods in front of their troops. With mingled threats and oaths, they bid the Americans lay down their arms and disperse, and call to their own troops, now rushing furiously on, — the light infantry on the right of the church, in which we are now assembled, and the grenadiers on the left, — to fire. The order not being followed with instant obedience, is renewed with oaths and imprecations, the officers discharge their pistols, — and the foremost platoon fires over the heads of the Americans.
No one falls, and John Munroe, standing next to a kinsman of the same family name, calmly observed, that they were firing nothing but powder. Another general volley aimed with fatal precision, succeeds. Ebenezer Munroe replied to the remark that something more than powder was then fired, as he was shot himself in the arm. At the same moment, several troops dropped around them killed and wounded. Captain Parker now felt the necessity of directing his men to disperse; but it was not till several of them had returned British fire, and some of them more than once, that this handful of brave men were driven from the field.
Of this gallant little company, seven were killed and ten wounded a quarter part at least of the number drawn up, and a most signal proof of the firmness, with which they stood the British fire. Willingly would I do justice to the separate merit of each individual of this heroic band; but tradition has not furnished us the means. A few interesting anecdotes have, however, been preserved. Jedediah Munroe was one of the wounded. Not disheartened by this circumstance, instead of quitting the field, he marched with his company in pursuit of the enemy to Concord, and was killed in the afternoon. Ebenezer Munroe Jr. received two wounds and a third ball through his garments. William Tidd, the second in command of the company, was pursued by Major Pitcairne, on horseback up the north road, with repeated cries 6to stop or he was a dead man. Having leapt the fence, he discharged his gun at his pursuer, and thus compelled him in turn to take flight. Robert Munroe was killed with Parker, Muzzy, and Jonathan Harrington, on or near the line where the company was formed.
Robert Munroe had served in the French wars. He was the standard-bearer of his company at the capture of Louisbourg, in 1758. He now lived to see, set up for the first time, the banner of his country’s Independence. He was struck down, without living like you, venerable survivors of that momentous day, to behold it, as it dallies with the wind and scorns the sun, blest of heaven and of men, — at the head of the triumphant hosts of America! All hail to the glorious ensign! Courage to the heart and strength to the hand, to which in all time it shall be entrusted may it forever wave in honor, in unsullied glory, and patriotic hope, on the dome of the capitol, on the country’s strong holds, on the tented plain, on the wave-rocked top-mast. Wheresoever on the earth’s surface, the eye of the American shall behold it, may he have reason to bless it. On whatsoever spot it is planted, there may be freedom have a foot-hold, humanity a brave champion, and religion an altar. Though stained with blood in a righteous cause, may it never in any cause, be stained with shame. Alike, when its gorgeous folds shall wanton in lazy holiday triumph, on the summer breeze, and its tattered fragments below dimly seen through the clouds of war, may it be the joy and pride of the American heart. First raised in the cause of right and liberty, in that cause alone, may it forever spread out its streaming blazonry to the battle and the storm. First raised in this humble village, and since borne victoriously across the continent and on every sea, may virtue, and freedom, and peace forever follow, where it leads the way! The banner which was raised, on this spot, by a village hero, was not that, whose glorious folds are now gather round the sacred depository of th ashes of his brave companions. He carried the old provincial flag of the Massachusetts-Bay. As it had once been planted in triumph, on the walls of Louisbourg, Quebec, and Montreal, it was now raised in a New-England village, among a band of brave men, some of whom had followed it to victory in distant fields, and no rallied beneath it, in the bosom of their homes, determined, if duty called them, to shed their blood in its defense. May Heaven approve the omen. The ancient standard of Massachusetts Bay was displayed for the confederating colonies, before the STAR-SPANGLED BANNER OF THE UNION had been flung to the breeze. Should the time come, (which God avert,) when that glorious banner shall be rent in twain, may Massachusetts, who first raised her standard in the cause of United America, be the last by whom that cause is deserted; and as many of her children, who first raised that standard on this spot, fell gloriously in its defense, so may the last son of Massachusetts, to whom it shall be entrusted, not yield it but in the mortal agony!
Harrington’s was a cruel fate. He fell in front of his own house, on the north of the common. His wife at the window saw him fall, and then start up, the blood gushing from his breast. He stretched out his hands towards her, as if for assistance, and fell again. Rising once more on his hands and knees, he crawled across the road towards his dwelling. She ran to meet him at the door, but it was to see him expire at her feet. Hadley and Brown were pursued, and fell, after they had been taken prisoner on the road, before the British army reached Lexington.
Attempting to make his escape, when the firing commenced, he was shot within a few rods of the common. Four of the company went into the meeting-house which stood on this spot, for a supply of ammunition. They had brought a cask of powder from an upper loft into the gallery, and removed its head, At this moment, the house was surrounded by the British force, and the discharge of musketry and the cries of the wounded announced that the work of death was begun. One of the four secreted himself in the opposite gallery. Another, Simonds, cocked his gun and lay down by the open cask of powder, determined never to be taken alive. Comee and Harrington resolved to force their way from the house, and in this desperate attempt, Comee was wounded and Harrington killed. History, —Roman history, — does not furnish an example of bravery that outshines that of Jonas Parker. A truer heart did not bleed at Thermopylae. He was the next door neighbor of Mr. Clark; and had evidently imbibed a double portion of his lofty spirit. Parker was often heard to say, that be the consequences what they might, and let others do what they pleased, he would never run from the enemy. He was as good as his word; — better. Having loaded his musket he placed his hat, containing ammunition, on the ground, between his feet, in readiness for a second charge. At the second fire, he was wounded and sunk upon his knees; and in this condition, discharged his gun. While loading it again, upon his knees, and striving in the agonies of death to redeem his pledge, he was transfixed by a bayonet; — and thus died on the spot where he first stood and fell.
These were a portion of the terrors of this blood-stained field, but how shall I describe the agonizing scene which presented itself, that fearful night and the following day, to every family in Lexington? — The husband, the father, the brother, the son, gone forth on the errand of peril and death. The aged, the infirm, the unprotected, left without a guardian, at the desolate fireside, at this dismal moment, awaiting the instant intelligence of some fatal disaster; — fainting under the exaggerated terrors of a state of things so new and trying; or fleeing half-clad and bewildered to the covert of the neighboring woods, there to pass the ensuing day, famished, — exhausted, — distracted, — the prey of apprehensions worse than death. The work of destruction had begun. Who could assure them, that their beloved ones were not among the first victims? The British force had moved on towards Concord, and the citizens of Lexington had joined in the pursuit. What new dangers awaited them on the March? The enemy was to return through their village, — exasperated with opposition, — what new horrors might not be expected from his vengeance!
While a considerable portion of the unarmed population of Lexington dispersed through the nearest villages, or wandering in the open air, behind the neighboring hills, and in the adjacent woods, were at the mercy of these apprehensions, the British column moved on toward Concord. The limits of the occasion put it out of my power to dwell, as I would gladly do, on the gallant resistance made at Concord, — the heroic conduct of Davis, Hosmer, and Buttrick and their brave companions, — the rapid and formidable gathering of the population, the precipitate and calamitous retreat of the enemy. On the return of this anniversary ten years ago, I endeavored, at the request of our fellow citizens of Concord, as far as I was able, to do justice to this interesting narrative and to the distinguished and honorable part borne by the people of Concord, as far as I was able, to do justice to this interesting narrative, and to the distinguished and honorable part borne by the people of Concord, in the memorable transactions of the day. Time will only permit me now to repeat in brief, that the country poured down its population in every direction. They gathered on the hills that overlooked the road, like dark lowering clouds. Every patch of trees, every stream, covert, building, stone wall, was lined to use the words of a British officer, with an unintermitted fire. A skirmish engaged the enemy, at every defile and cross road.
Through one of them Governor Brooks led up the men of Reading. At another Captain Parker, with the Lexington militia, although seventeen of his number had been killed or wounded in the morning, returned to the conflict. Before they reached Lexington, the route of the invaders was complete; and it was only by placing in the front, and threatening instant death to their own men, if they continued their flight, that the British officers were able in some degree to check their disorder. Their entire destruction was prevented, by the arrival of reinforcements under Lord Percy, who reached Lexington, in time to rescue the exhausted troops, on their flight from Concord. Lord Percy brought with him two pieces of artillery, which were stationed on points commanding the road. A cannon shot from one of them passed through the meeting- house which stood on this spot. These pieces were diligently served, and kept the Americans at bay; but the moment the retreat was resumed the whole country was again alive.  It was a season of victory for the cause, — auspicious of the fortune of the revolution; — but purchased with accumulated sacrifices on the part of Lexington. To cover their retreat, the British army set fire to the houses on the road; some were burned to the ground; several injured; and three more of the brave citizens of Lexington were killed.
At length the eventful day is passed, — the doleful tocsin is hushed, the dreadful voice of the cannon is still, — the storm has passed by. It has spent its fury on your devoted village, — your houses have been wrapped in flames, — your old men, women and children, have fled in terror from their firesides, — your brave sons have laid down their lives at the threshold of their dwellings, and the shades of evening settle down upon your population, worn with fatigue, — heavy with bereavement and sorrow. What is the character, and what are the consequences of the day? — It was one of those occasions, in which the duration of ages is compressed into a span. In the lives of individuals, there are moments, which give a character to existence; — moments too often through levity, indolence or perversity, suffered to pass unimproved; but sometimes met with the fortitude, vigilance, and energy due to their momentous consequences. So in the life of nations, there are all important junctures, when the fate of centuries is crowded into a narrow space, — suspended on the results of an hour.
With the mass of statesmen their character is faintly perceived, — their consequences imperfectly apprehended, — the certain sacrifices exaggerated, — the future blessings dimly seen; and some timid and disastrous compromise, — some faint-hearted temperament is patched up, in the complacency of short-sighted wisdom. Such a crisis was the period which preceded the 19th of April. Such a compromise the British ministry proposed, courted, and would have accepted most thankfully, — but not such was the patriotism nor the wisdom of those who guided the councils of America, and wrought out her independence. They knew that in the order of that Providence, in which a thousand years are as one day, and a day is sometimes, as a thousand years. Such a day was at hand. They saw, — they comprehended, — they welcomed it; — they knew it was an era. They met it with feelings like those of Luther, when he denounced the sale of indulgences, and pointed his thunders at once, — poor Augustine monk, — against the civil and ecclesiastical power of the church, the Quirinal and the Vatican. They courted the storm of war, as Columbus courted the stormy billows of the glorious ocean, from whose giddy curling tops he seemed to look out, as from a watch-tower, to catch the first hazy wreath in the west, which was to announce that a new world was found. The poor Augustine monk knew and was persuaded, that the hour had come, and he was elected to control it, in which a mighty revolution was to be wrought in the Christian church. The poor Genoese pilot knew in his heart that he had as it were but to stretch out the want of his courage and skill, and call up a new continent from the depths of the sea; and Hancock and Adams, through the smoke and flames of the 19th of April, beheld the sun of their country’s independence arise, with healing in his wings.
And you, brave and patriotic men, whose ashes are gathered in this humble place of deposit, no time, shall rob you of the well-deserved meed of praise! You too perceived, not less clearly than the more illustrious patriots whose spirit you caught, that the decisive hour had come. You felt with them, that it could not, — must not be shunned. You had resolved it should not. Reasoning remonstrance had been tried from your own town meetings, from the pulpit, from beneath the arches of Fanueil Hall, every note of argument, of appeal, of adjuration had sounded to the foot of the throne, and in vain. The wheels of destiny rolled on; — the great design of Providence must be fulfilled; — the issue must be nobly met or basely shunned. Strange it seemed, inscrutable it was, that your remote and quiet village should be the chosen altar of the first great sacrifice. But so it was;— the summons came and found you waiting; and here in the center of your dwelling places, within sight of the homes you were to enter no more, between the village church where your fathers worshipped, and the grave-yard where they lay at rest, bravely and meekly, like Christian heroes, you sealed the cause with your blood. Parker, Munroe, Hadley, the Harringtons, Muzzy, Brown: —Alas! ye cannot hear my words; no voice but that of the Archangel shall penetrate your urns; but to the end of time your remembrance shall be preserved! To the end of time, the soil whereon ye fell is holy; and shall be trod with reverence, while America has a name among the nations!
And no ye are going to lie down beneath yon simple stone, which marks the place of your mortal agony. Fit spot for your last repose.
Where should the soldier rest but where he fell!
For ages to come, the characters graven in the enduring marble shall tell the unadorned tale of you sacrifice; and ages after that stone itself has crumbled into dust, as inexpressive as yours, history — undying history, — shall transmit the record. Aye, while the language we speak retains it’s meaning in the ears of men; while a sod of what is not the soil of America shall be trod by the foot of a freeman, you names and your memory shall be cherished.
Note A, to page 3.
The following is the list of Captain Parker’s company, as they stood enrolled on the 19th of April, 1775.
Those marked with an asterisk, were present at the celebration on the 20th of April, 1835.
Note B, to page 23.
Brown Francis, sergeant, wounded
Brown John, killed
Brown Solomon, living
Chandler John Jr.
Comee Joseph, wounded
*Durant Isaac, living
Fisk Dr. Joseph, living
Freeman Nathaniel, wounded
Hadley Samuel, killed
Harrington Caleb, killed
Harrington Daniel, clerk
Harrington Jonathan , jr., killed
H Harrington Jonathan 3d, living
*Hosmer John, living
Lock Benjamin, living
*Loring Jonathan, living
Tidd John, wounded
|*Mason Daniel, living
Munroe Ebenezer jr, wounded
Munroe Edmund, lieutenant
Munroe Isaac jr. killed
Munroe Jedediah, wounded in morn’g,
killed in the afternoon.
Munroe John jr
Munroe Robert, ensign, killed
Munroe William, orderly sg’t.
*Munroe William jr, living
*Parker Ebenezer, living.
Parker John, captain
Parker Jonas, killed
Pierce Solomon, wounded
Porter Asahel, of Woburn, killed
Prince, a negro, wounded
Raymond John, killed
Robbins John, wounded
Reed Josiah, living
Reed William Sanderson Elijah Sanderson Samuel
*Simonds Ebenezer, living
The proper limits of the occasion precluded a detail of the interesting occurrences of the retreat and pursuit from Lexington to Charlestown. One portion of these was commemorated at Danvers on the 20th of April 1835. Next to Lexington, Danvers suffered more severely than any other town. Seven of the Danvers Company were killed. On the late return of the anniversary, the Corner Stone of a Monument to their memory was laid at Danvers, with affecting ceremonies, and a highly interesting address was delivered, by Daniel P. King, Esq. of that place
The following return of all the killed and wounded was taken from the Appendix to Mr. Phinney’s pamphlet:
LEXINGTON. Killed in the morning. — Jonas Parker, Robert Munroe, Samuel Hadley, Jonathan Harrington, Jr. Isaac Muzzy, Caleb Harrington, John Brown.— 7.
Killed in the afternoon.— Jedediah Munroe, John Raymond, Nathaniel Wyman. —3.
Wounded in the morning.— John Robbins, Solomon Pierce, John Tidd, Joseph Comee, Ebenezer Munroe Jr. Thos. Winship, Nathaniel Farmer, Prince Estabrook, Jedediah Munroe. —9.
Wounded in the afternoon,— Francis Brown. —1.
CAMBRIDGE, Killed— Wm. Marcy, Moses Richardson, John Hicks, Jason Russell, Jabez Wyuman, Jason Winship. —6.
Wounded. —Samuel Whittemore. —1.
Missing. — Samuel Frost, Seth Russell. —2.
CONCORD. Wounded — Charles Miles, Nathan Barnet, Abel Prescott. — 3.
NEEDHAM. Lieut John Bourn, Elisha Mills, Amos Mills, Nathaniel Chamberlain, Jonathan Parker. —5.
Wounded. Eleazwer Kinsbury, Tolman —2.
ACTON. Killed.— Capt. Isaac Davis, Abner Hosmer, James Hayward. 3.
BEDFORD. Killed— Jonathan Wilson. 1. Wounded— Job Lane. 1.
WOBURN. Killed— Asahel Porter, Daniel Thompson. 2. Wounded. George Reed, John Bacon, Johnson. 3.
MEDFORD. Killed— Henry Putnam, William Polly. 2.
CHARLESTOWN. Killed — James Miller, C. Barber’s son. 2.
WATERTOWN. Killed —Joseph Coolidge. 1.
FRAMINGHAM. Wounded — Daniel Hemenway. 1.
DEDHAM. Killed — Elias Haven. Wounded —Israel Everett.
STOW. Wounded— Daniel Conant.
ROXBURY. Missing — Elijah Seaver.
BROOKLINE. Killed — Isaac Gardner Esq. 1.
BILLERICA. Wounded — John Nickols, Timothy Blanchard
CHELMSFORD. Wounded — Aaron Chamberlain, Oliver Barron. 2.
SALEM. Killed —Benjamin Pierce.
NEWTON. Wounded —Noah Wiswell.
DANVERS. Killed. —Henry Jacobs, Samuel Cook, Ebenezer Goldthwait, George Southwick, Benjamin Daland, Jotham Webb, Perley Putnam. 7. Wounded. Nathan Putnam, Dennis Wallace. 2 Missing. Joseph Bell. 1.
LYNN. Killed. Abednego Ramsdell, Daniel Townsend, William Flint, Thomas Hadley. 4. Wounded. Joshua Felt, Timothy Munroe. 2. Missing. Josiah Breed. 1.
TOTAL. Killed 49. — Wounded 36. — Missing 5.
CELEBRATION AT LEXINGTON,
20th April, 1835.
[The following account of the celebration is taken principally from the “BUNKER-HILL AURORA” of 25th of April]
At a legal meeting of the inhabitants of the town of Lexington, on Monday, 28th of April, 1834.
Art. 6. Voted unanimously to have the remains of those who were killed by the British army, on the morning of the 19th April, 1775, removed, and re-entombed near the monument — (with the consent of their surviving relations.
Voted to choose a committee of nine persons to carry the foregoing vote into effect. The following gentlemen were chosen, viz: —
|ELIAS PHINNEY, Esq. Chairman.
Gen. SAML. CHANDLER.
Maj. BENJ. O. WELLINGTON
BENJ. MUZZEY, Esq.
NATHANIEL MULLIKEN, Esq. Secy
|Messrs CHARLES REED,
WILLIAM CHANDLER, Esq.
AMBROSE MORRELL, Esq.
Col. PHILLIP RUSSELL.
[Rev Charles Briggs, appointed by the town as Chairman of the Committee was absent at the South, for the benefit of his health, and the committee were, therefore, deprived of his assistance.]
The names of the persons whose REMAINS were enclosed in the Sarcophagus, were as follows, viz: —
Jonas Parker, Robert Monroe, Samuel Hadley, Jonathan Harrington, Jr. Isaac Muzzey, Caleb Harrington, and John Brown.
These persons belonged to Lexington, and were killed in the morning. Three other citizens of Lexington, were killed on the return of the British in the afternoon, viz : Jedediah Munroe, John Raymond, and Nathaniel Wyman.
It appears that the bodies of the seven individuals belonging to Lexington, where originally enclosed in long wooden boxes, made of rough boards and buried in one grave, in a corner of the town burying-ground, separate and distant from all other graves. — Many persons are now living who saw them buried, — among them several survivors of Capt. Parker’s Company, (their associates,) and two daughters of Rev. Jonas Clark, maiden ladies, now residing in the paternal mansion, in which Hancock and Adams were for some time secreted.
At about 11 o’clock the Procession was formed, under a military escort consisting of the Lexington Artillery and a Volunteer Company of Light Infantry, commanded by Capt. J. F. LeBaron and Capt. Billings Smith, near the Monument House. The invited guests had assembled at the dwelling house of Gen. Chandler, and from thence formed in Procession. The procession moved, under a light shower of rain to the burying ground, where the seven victims of the battle were originally interred.
A few days prior to the late celebration, the remains of these bodies were disinterred, under the direction of the committee, for the purpose already stated — the sides of some of the coffins were found, retaining their original form, but in a state of almost complete decay, — the bones appeared to be more or less decayed, —the sculls and large bones were all in a more perfect state than had been anticipated, —the under jaw-bones and teeth were the most perfect. The remains were first placed in a wooden coffin, which was enclosed in lead and made air tight — and the whole in a mahogany sarcophagus, 4 feet long by 2 feet wide: on the sides and ends of which were eight urns, bearing the names and emblematical of the individuals whose remains were contained within. A deposit was made in the sarcophagus of a thick leaden box, hermetically sealed, containing the following articles viz: a copy of the history of the battle of Lexington, by Elias Phinney Esq. — a sketch of the exercises and odes of the day – a copy of the Bunker-Hill Aurora, and of the Concord Whig, of the Saturday previous – the names of the President of the U. States, of the Lt. Governor and acting Governor) of Massachusetts, and of the clergymen of Lexington. To receive the Sarcophagus, a tomb was constructed near the foundation of the Monument. Salutes and minute guns were fired at intervals during the morning, and flags raised in honor of the occasion, were waving at half-mast, until the close of the funeral services. At an early hour the village was filled with visitors to the number of several thousand. Public and private houses were all occupied and had the day been pleasant, it is believed a very much larger number of strangers would have been present.
Here the Sarcophagus, containing their remains, was placed on the hearse, the Band performing appropriate music during the ceremony, and the procession re-formed in the following order:
Military Escort, with the Boston band.
Pall Bearers. SARCOPHAGUS. Pall Bearers.
Relatives of the deceased.
Survivors of Capt. Parker’s Company.
Aid — CHIEF MARSHALL —Aid
Chairman Committee of Arrangements.
Chaplain — ORATOR — Chaplain.
Committee of Arrangements.
Lt. Governor and Aids.
Senators and Representatives in Congress.
Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Judges of the Massachusetts Courts and Attorney General.
President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Members of State Legislature.
Officers and Soldiers of the Revolution.
Officers of the Army, Navy and Militia.
Clergy and other invited guests.
Citizens and Strangers.
On arriving at the Church, (which stands on part of the battle field, built in 1794,) the military opened to the right and left; the Sarcophagus was placed in the broad-aisle, and the Procession entered. The pulpit was occupied by the Chaplain and the Reverend Clergy. In front of the pulpit a platform had been raised for the Orator; and on each side of him on the platform were seated the Survivors of Captain Parker’s Company. The galleries were occupied exclusively by the Ladies. Notwithstanding the unpromising state of the weather on the preceding day and in the morning the church was very much crowded, and a platform having been erected around it, the windows were also filled with hearers. The following was the
ORDER OF EXERCISES.
Dirge — By the Choir.
Prayer — By Rev. James Walker.
Ode — By Rev. John Pierpont.
TUNE — “America”
Long, in a nameless grave,
Bones of the true and brave!
Have ye reposed.
This day, our hands have dressed,
This day, our prayers have blessed
A chamber for your rest;
And now ‘tis closed.
Sleep on, ye slaughtered ones!
Your spirit in your sons,
Shall guard your dust!
While winter comes in gloom,
While spring returns with bloom,
Nay _ Till this honored tomb
Gives up its trust
When War’s first blast was heard,
In the morning’s prime they bled;
These men stood forth to guard
Thy house, O God!
And now, thy house shall keep
Its vigils where they sleep,
And still its shadow sweep
O’er their green sod.
And morning finds their bed;
With tears all wet;
Tears that thy hosts of light,
Rising in order bright,
To watch their tomb all night,
Shed for them yet.
Naught shall their slumber break:
For ‘they shall not awake,
Nor yet be raised
Out of their sleep, before
Thy heavens, now arching o’er
Their couch, shall be no more. —
THY NAME BE PRAISED!
Oration — By Hon. Edward Everett.
Ode — By Miss H. F. Gould
TUNE — “Araby’s Daughter.”
They come from the grave to attest to the story
That we, of their struggle for Liberty, tell! —
From silence and shade that her mantle of glory
May fold o’er the first of her Martyrs who fell!
They come that the balm of her breath may perfume them,
And peacefully then to return to their rest; —
That we, from her arms, may receive and entomb them,
Assured that they once have reposed on her breast.
All hail, sacred Relics! from sixty years sleeping
Beneath the green turf, where so freely ye bled;
Who, shrouded in gore, still the battle ground keeping,
Forsook not the field, though your vital fire fled!
In valor’s proud bed, with its rich purple o’er you,
The first blood for Freedom that gushed on the sod,
Ye lay, when the souls, to the onset that bore you,
Had passed with her cause though your wounds tot heir God.
Behold, blessed Spirits, who nobly defending
Your country, rushed forth from you dwellings of clay, The tribute of sorrow and joy we are bleeding
To you, o’er their dear hallowed ruins to pay!
The hearts of a nation, your monument rearing,
Have built it of gratitude, fair and sublime,
It rises to heaven, your honored names bearing,
With earth not to sink, nor to crumble with time.
The ground, that as brothers, in pain ye were sewing,
Embosomed the seed for a root firm and deep,
When life’s crimson fountains were opened and flowing
To moisten the soil for the harvest we reap!
Forgive then, the view that we take, ere we sever
From these broken walls, that for us ye forsook!
On them or their like again never, O never,
Are we, or the eye that is mortal, to look!
We give them to earth, till the Savior descending
With beauty for ashes and glory for gloom,
Shall speak, while the dead to his voice are attending,
And life, light, and freedom, are poured through the tomb!
After the close of the Exercises in the Church, the procession was again formed as before and moving around the enclosed battlefield to the Monument, the Sarcophagus was placed within the iron railing, in a tomb of stone masonry, prepared to receive it. Three volleys of musketry were then fired over the grave and the procession moved on to the Marquee, erected near the Monument House where a Collation was provided for about 600 persons.
Was of an oblong shape, with enwreathed pillars in the center and an elevated table at the head. There were seven rows of tables, containing nearly 100 plates each, which were all occupied. The marquee was decorated with flags, evergreens and trees, in a very neat and simple manner. At the head, were the following inscriptions:
THE BIRTH-PLACE OF AMERICAN LIBERTY:
OUR COUNTRY AND OUR CONSTITUTION.
On the side of the marquee, right to the President, were the names of Washington, Adams, Hancock Franklin. On the left Lafayette, Jefferson, Warren, Kosciusko. Near the head of the Marquee, on the right and left of the President were the names of the Governors of Massachusetts: right, Hancock, Bowdoin, S. Adams, Sumner, Strong, Sullivan; left, Gore, Gerry, Brooks, Eustis, Lincoln, Davis. The appearance of the interior of the Marquee, was very appropriate and suitable to the occasion, and was creditable to those under whose superintendence this part of the arrangement was made.
We understand that the painted mottoes, &c. in the Marquee were politely prepared and furnished for the occasion, by Mr. John Green, Jr of Boston; the flags and other decorations were loaned by Messrs. Samuel Goodrich, and Albert Fearing, & Co. Several beautiful bouquets were received from the green house of Mr. Cushing of Watertown and Winship’s of Brighton, which added very much to the appearance of the tables.
Great credit is due to Mr. Hayward, of the Monument House for the excellent collation which he provided on the occasion. — We have never seen a public collation, on so extensive a scale, better prepared. The company was amply supplied with everything they could wish, served up in the best manner. We believe all were satisfied with this part of the proceedings of the day.
Elias Phinney, Esq. Chairman of the committee of arrangement presided at the tables. On each side of the President, the invited guests were seated, including Lt. Gov. Armstrong, and Aids, Orator and Chaplains, Mr. Webster, Judge Story, President Quincy, Attorney General Austin, Adj. Gen. Dearborn, A. H. Everett of Boston, and others. The veteran survivors of the revolution were provided with seats at the head of the center tables. A blessing was asked by Rev. Henry Ware, Jr.
At the close of the collation, the President of the Day addressed the assemblage.
He remarked that they occurrences and congregation of this day were calculated to deepen our feelings of veneration for the events commemorated. It had been an occasion for the exercise of generous feelings in the discharge of an honor due to the glorious dead. He was sure he could not render a more acceptable service to his fellow-citizens assembled, than to return their grateful acknowledgments to the distinguished guests who had honored the occasion by their presence, and particularly to him whose unrivalled eloquence had engaged our attention and stirred our feelings. The solemn ceremonies of this day would remind us of our obligations to those who spilled their blood in the first offering at the shrine of Liberty. It was an offering, however humble in itself, the precursor of great events and consequences to our country and the world. He therefore proposed as a sentiment —
The names of those who fell in this first fight for Liberty — The Harringtons, Monroe, Parker, Brown, Muyzzey, and Hadley — these names will never remain honored and cherished, and white the names of their heroes shall be forgotten, these will be gratefully remembered so long as patriotism shall exist or liberty find a friend.
The President then gave the following complimentary sentiment to Lt.Gov. Armstrong: His Honor the Lt. Governor— His public elevation is but the just reward of his private worth.
Gov. ARMSTRONG remarked that the Orator of the day had called to mind in an eloquent and forcible manner, the singular success which followed the cause of liberty, and the price of blood at which it was obtained; but great as that price was, he believed that even that price was not sufficient to purchase the liberties we now enjoy. He offered the following sentiment —
Religious and Civil Liberty —The bountiful donations of Almighty God — may we prove ourselves worthy recipients of the gifts of the Giver.
A Hymn, accompanied by the Piano Forte, was sung by Geo. W. Dixon, in the air of the “Marseilles Hymn.”
In announcing the following sentiment, Mr. Phinney, President of the Day remarked:
Among the numerous blessings secured to us by our invaluable constitution there is no one, perhaps, upon which the permanency of free institutions so essentially depends as that of an Independent National Judiciary. The Judges of that August tribunal, selected from the whole people, for their distinguished patriotism, talent and integrity, may well be considered the pride and boast of our country. While they are allowed to exercise the powers vested in them by the constitution our liberties are safe, safe from the arbitrary assumption of power on one hand and the licentiousness of the people on the other. Allow me to offer you as a sentiment —
The Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States—A Constellation whose brightest star is in the East.
Judge STORY replied to this sentiment. He viewed it as a homage, not to an individual, but to the law itself, of which those who fell at Lexington, and their associates, were the proud asserters and the proud maintainers. This is the spot, where, in defense of law, the first blood was split, which lead to our independence. He considered that the people rose in support of law; that the three-pence a pound tax on tea was nothing, to the great principle involved in its admission; that the people regarded it as unconstitutional and unjust to be taxed without representation, and therefore resisted it . He believed that the revolution commenced in the town meetings of Massachusetts, where the rights of the people were considered and discussed. So was it understood by the English Parliament, which in 1774, passed a law to prohibit the town meetings of Massachusetts, except for the necessary purpose of choosing town officers. He quoted a part of the Preamble to this law, starting that the people had been misled into a mischievous and unwarrantable interference with subjects not connected in the regular business they were assembled to do; and made some appropriate remarks upon this “unwarrantable and mischievous taking of the subjects of liberty, right and constitutional law, into their own hands. He then alluded to the Oration of Mr. Everett, which he considered one of the happiest efforts of his life and concluded with the following sentiment:
The Orator of the Day— Truly, in the language of another as quoted by himself the day is come and the man is come —“What a glorious Day is this!”
[These words were used by Samuel Adams. Mr. Everett had stated that Adams and Hancock were at Rev. Mr. Clark’s house when the attack of the British were made at Lexington. It was supposed to be one object of the British detachment, to secure their persons. They therefore, by the urgent persuasions of their friends, were induced to leave Mr. Clark’s house for the safer retreat — on the way, hearing the firing, Adams, “whose prophetic soul saw that liberty and independence must follow,” cried out, “What a glorious morning is this!”
The president introduced the following sentiment: —
The Orator of the Day — He has done ample justice to the men whose individual characters he has this day eulogized — he has thrown a halo of glory around humble deeds, more enduring than the granite which covers their remains.
Mr. EVERETT briefly returned thanks for the kind terms, in which his efforts had been noticed; but would not take up the time of the company on a subject so unimportant, as what personally concerned himself. He would rather take advantage of the opportunity of addressing the company, to pay his humble tribute of respect to the venerable survivors of the 19th of April,1775. He rejoiced to be able to state, that of those enrolled in Captain Parker’s Company of Militia, on that day twelve were still living, of whom two only, — one living at the great distance, and one on account of the infirmities of age, — were absent, and the remaining ten now honored the company with their presence. He was sure he should gratify every person present, by repeating their names. They were Dr. Joseph Fiske, Messrs. Daniel Mason, Benjamin Locke, William Munroe, Jonathan Harrington, Ebenezer Simonds, Jonathan Loring, John Hosmer, Isaac Durant, Josiah Reed. Mr. Solomon Brown and Ebenezer Parker were absent. Having named these venerable persons, who had been spared by Gracious Providence to so advanced an age, and to participate in the celebration of this memorable anniversary, he would only add farther, as a sentiment: —
The health of the Survivors of Captain Parker’s Company — May they experience in the feelings, with which they are met this day, some compensation for the anxiety, perils and suffering of the 19th of April, 1775.
The President of the Day introduced the following sentiment, by remarking —
I am confident by my fellow citizens of Lexington will cordially unite with me in offering a tribute of profound respect to the distinguished Senator, whose participation has given an increased interest to the ceremonies of this occasion. If any circumstance can magnify the importance of the solemn events we commemorate, it is the respectful noticed of those whose exalted wisdom and patriotism enable them to discern and duly to appreciate their value — Allow me then to say :
Hon. Daniel Webster —His unshaken integrity and gigantic powers of mind are surpassed by nothing in firmness and strength but the everlasting hills of his own native State.
Mr. WEBSTER rose on the announcement of this sentiment, and was received with the applause of the whole audience. From the very imperfect notes which were enabled to take, we cannot presume to give a correct sketch of his remarks. We can only mention some of the points touched upon. He esteemed it a pleasure and honor to be invited to be present on this occasion of great interest. He supposed there could be no man in this Republic who entertained just estimate the value of Liberty, or just estimate of its cost, who could contemplate the history of t Lexington battle, without strong emotions. He inferred this from the natural course of his own feelings. It was now many years since he, when a young man, unknown in this Commonwealth, and without a single acquaintance in this village, passed a whole day in viewing this scene of holy martyrdom, and in meditating upon the results consequent, to his country and the world, from that great drama, whose first scene was acted here. He could suppose that from the Atlantic to the untrodden wilderness, from the farthest east to the Gulf of Mexico, there was not an American citizen, who does not possess and feel a degree of happiness, and hope for posterity, intimately connected with the occurrence transacted on this spot. He confessed he was not able to limit even to this continent his view of the consequences of this commencement of the revolutionary war. It was designed and accomplished under great hazards, trials, and with wonderful success for the universal cause of liberty. A new world and new state of society was brought to light. I sprung up, not like the natural Sun in the East, but a political Sun in the West, as sure to diffuse its light and accomplish its purpose as the natural Sun over our heads. I commenced on the Western shore of the Atlantic, to gladden those who first saw the light, and re-act upon the continent. America will yet pay back in this light, the debt she owes for all the knowledge science, and intelligence of every description, which she has received from Europe.
He spoke of the manner in which civil and constitutional law was understood in the early days of our revolution. Those early appeals to arms, he said, were not accidental — they were founded in principle, and began in the place where we are now happily met together. The place, the details, so interesting, which we had heard from the voice of eloquence, had filled him with meditation. He could not but think after generations would consider us, notwithstanding what we had don too slow, to inanimate, too little alive to the great events of the revolution which commenced here. It was delightful to contemplate the characters of the military leaders of those days, exerting themselves, so differently from the military leaders of history, to secure the rights and liberties of the people. The effects of their noble example are felt among the nations of Europe, where not an effort in behalf of the people is made, not a stroke is struck, without reference is made to America. Mr. Webster concluded his remarks , of which we know our sketch is very meagre and incomplete with the following sentiment: —
Lexington Common — in 1775, a field of blood — in all after time a field of glory.
The President announced the following : —
Josiah Quincy, Jr. who died on April 26, 1775, among the first born of the champions of American Liberty — Like the martyrs whose memory we this day celebrate — he saw but the dawn of that light he prized higher than life. His sons come to honor, but he knoweth not. Peace to his ashes!
Hon. JOSIAH QUINCY, President of Harvard College, being called upon for a sentiment remarked that after what had been said by distinguished gentlemen in the church and at this table it would not be expected of him that he should make a display or a speech. It was time for feeling — a time for thought — a moment of delight — a moment to applaud. He should, therefore simply reciprocate the sentiment of the chair —
The Town of Lexington — Where brave men are raised, and brave men are honored.
Attorney General AUSTIN being called upon by the President, said — Suppose the reburied dead, while their bones were resting in the body of the church, and amidst the multitude of people had revived and addressed the living assembly! — The remark is not a strange one, said he, we read in sacred story of the bones of the dead reviving, and why might not these bones have gained assumed life! In what language think ye would they have addressed the assembly. If they had said one word, it would have been that the spirit of liberty must be preserved by the people who enjoy it! Who were they, whose bones we have this day honored? Were they the eminent, the distinguished, great and honored? No sir, no! They were the people — individuals of the people! They had been taught and had learned the lesson that, if they would enjoy life and liberty, they must, by their own arm andstrength, by their courage and the blessing of God, obtain and preserve it for themselves. Let us learn from their new made grave, this important lesson, here to enjoy what they have enabled us to possess. It is not enough for us to say, we had noble and brave ancestors — let it be said by our posterity, by those who come after us, sixty years hence, that they too had a noble and generous ancestors. Liberty must be supported with Law, and Law with Liberty.
The detail which we heard this day in the meeting house, shows not only that the men did their duty, but that the women did theirs also; that while the men were toiling and breasting the fore in the field, there were hearts at home bleeding, and almost bursting with anxiety, and hands toiling too, for their country. The gave therefore as a sentiment —
The Females of Lexington —Worthy mothers of an honorable progeny.
The Rev. Mr. STETSON, after a very happy allusion to the last toast offered some remarks in reference to the Puritans, and quoting the words of the address, gave as a sentiment.
The last of the Puritans—Samuel Adams.
Mr. WEBSTER made some remarks upon the opening of the revolution — the separate character of the colonial government — the extent of the country — the union and exertion which took place for the common cause of liberty. And concluded by offering the following sentiment : —
The liberty and union of the United States —May both be perpetual.
This was the last sentiment announced at the table. The guests retired, and the company separated, highly gratified with the success and happy termination of the day, notwithstanding the unpropitious state of the weather in the early part of it. Great Credit is justly due to the vigorous exertions of the individual members of the Committee of Arrangements, alike for the judicious, and liberal character of their arrangements and for the energetic manner in which they carried them into complete effect. From the peculiar character of the celebration, combining in itself the two great features of funeral ceremony and a civil celebration, their duties were necessarily numerous, responsible and difficult. The arrangements engaged their almost undivided attention for several weeks, and they devoted themselves to it with a zeal and interest worthy of the occasion, and highly to the credit of themselves and the town of Lexington. The success which in so eminent a degree crowned their labors is to us the best proof we can have of the judicious and effective character of their arrangements, and to them the best reward for the time and toil which they have generously bestowed upon them.
THE POWDER HORN. — [From the Bunker-Hill Aurora.]
AMONG the interesting mementos of the 19th of April, 1775, to which the attention of the company assembled at Lexington on the late anniversary, was called, was the Powder Horn, worn by MR. JAMES HAYWARD, of Acton, who was killed in Lexington, during the pursuit, and which was perforated by the ball, that entered Mr. Hayward’s body. Mr. Everett observed that he had been requested by the owner of this interesting relic, Mr. Stevens Hayward, of Acton, (the nephew of the person, by whom it was won on the 19th of April, ’75) to exhibit to the company, and to mention its history. Before doing so Mr. E. asked leave to state, that the number of facts connected with the occasion, they were met to celebrate, was so great that he had, in preparing his address been somewhat embarrassed in making a selection, which could be brought within the reasonable limits of such a performance. He had confined himself, of necessity, in a great degree to those facts, which had an immediate connection with the village of Lexington; it being quite impossible to bring into the narrative all the transactions of that eventful day. He ought, however, in justice to himself, observe, that he hand intended to allude briefly to the incidents of the resistance made to the British troops at Concord, — the bravery evidenced by the citizens of that place and the neighborhood, — the gallantry of Davis, Hosmer, Buttrick, and others, and in a word, the honorable part borne by Concord in the transactions of the day. He had also intended to glance at the precipitate and calamitous retreat of the enemy, and the important occurrences on the line of their flight, through Lexington back to Boston. — Having reached that part of his address, his strength failed him, and he was obliged to abruptly hasten to a close, — which he hoped would be considered by all, who took a peculiar interest in those portions of the affecting history of that day, as a sufficient apology for the seeming neglect.
The interesting relic which he had been requested to exhibit to the company, was won by Mr. James Hayward of Acton, who, on the night of the 18th, on hearing the alarm of the movement of the royal troops, started, with his father, — like all the brave yeomen of the neighborhood, moving without the commands of any field officer, and driven by the impulse of individual enthusiasm to share in the conflict. Mr. Hayward joined in the hot pursuit from Concord. At the foot of Fiske’s Hill, in Lexington, being thirsty, he was about passing the west window of the house, still standing at the foot of the hill, toward the well in front of the house. A British soldier, who was in the house, for the purpose of plunder, perceived him through the window, and stept to the door to cut him off as he passed the corner of the house. They levelled their pieces and fired at the same moment. The British soldier was killed on the spot; Mr. Hayward received the ball, which passed through his powder horn, driving the splinters before it into his body, and languished eight hours. It appeared that of a pound of powder, which he had taken with him, the whole was nearly fired away, and that but two or three of forty bullets, with which he had started remained. This fact shews the extraordinary severity of the pursuit. Another fact manifestes the high feeling of the country. Mr. Hayward died as cruel a death, as man could suffer; but retaining his reason to the last repeatedly exclaimed, “that he was happy to die in the defence of his rights.” These details were communicated to Mr. E in a letter from Mr. Stevens Hayward, the nephew of the sufferer; and who was led to make the communication at the suggestion of the Rev. J. T. Woodbury of Acton. Like other traditions of the day, this shows how widely and unanimously the country was moved, and pointedly indicate the sentiment, with which Mr. E begged leave to conclude—
Lexington, Concord, and the neighboring towns: — may the common sufferings and efforts of 1775, prove a common bond of harmony and good feeling at the present day.
See in note A the roll of Capt. Parker’s company of Lexington Militia, with the names of the survivors indicated.
Aeschyl. Agamemn. 720.
From an anecdote preserved by Dr. Eliot, Biograph. Dict. Art. Hutchinson,) it would appear on the authority of Judge Trwobridge, that Otis also viewed the question, in the same connection with his own personal relations to it.
Lexington Town Records. — Fol. 209.
Some remarks were made on this subject, in an oration delivered at Worchester on the 4th
of July, 1833, by the author of this address.
Mr. Brown is still living but from the distance of his place of residence was not able to attend, with the other survivors of Captain Parker’s company, (eleven in number,) the celebration o the anniversary.
Mr. Loring was present on the stage, at the delivery of this address.
Joseph Simonds was the ensign of the Lexington company on the 19th
of April 1775.
See note B at the end.