1832: Commemorating George Washington’s Birthday

Washington's Farewell Address

Image from the Social Studies and History Teacher’s Blog


The Centennial Anniversary of the birth day of WASHINGTON, was celebrated in this village, on the 22d inst.

The morning was ushered in by a National salute. A numerous concourse of citizens were escorted to the Court House by the Infantry and Militia companies, under the command of Captains GAUFF, and CARKHUFF, directed by WILLIAM B. MATHEWSON, Marshal.

The Throne of Grace was addressed in a feeling, pathetic, and patriotic prayer, by the Rev. Mr. JOHNSON, — Washington’s Farewell Address was read by C.L. BOALT, Esq. — after which, we then listened to one of Mr. STURGES’ best pieces of eloquence which indelibly impressed upon our minds, the days of our fathers & enkindled in our bosoms the fire of ;76.

The procession was then escorted to Maj. O. JENNEY’s Hotel where a rich and elegant dinner was provided for the occasion. The Hon. TIMOTHY BAKER, presiding as President of the Day — assisted by P. BENEDICT, Esq. as Vice President. The cloth being removed, the following Toasts were drank, accompanied with a discharge of cannon.

1. The Patriot, whose birth day we celebrate — The Hero, whose virture was only equalled by his valor, and whose name is too firmly fixed in the Temple of Fame to be shaken or sullied by pious bigotry, or clerical slander.

2. The departed Heroes, who fought and bled in the cause of Liberty — peace to their manes — we revere their valor, courage, and patriotism.

3. The President of the United States.

4. The State of Ohio — Though young in years, she is rich in population and resources — great in intellectual acquirements, and as the Psalmist David says, “We go from strength to strength.”

5. The Governor of the State of Ohio.

6. Our Country — Her fetters are broke, her tyrants are fled, and the hands of the North and the South shall unite to raise on the tomb of the glorious dead a temple of honor and crown it with light.

7. The Venerable Charles Carroll — the remaining signer of the Declaration of Independence — like Job’s servants, he can say, “I only am escaped to tell thee.

8. Internal Improvements — The rugged path it makes smooth — the crooked way it makes straight — triumphs over time and space, and sheds new lustre upon all who promote it.

9. The United States — The pillars of [political and religious] freedom — the glory and delight of our country as they are, but our destruction when united.

10. The Light of Liberty — Unlike the sun, it rose in the West — may it soon shed its radiance over the East.

11. Farmers and Mechanics — the bone and sinew of our republic — it is not blasphemy to say, “without thee we can do nothing.

12. Agriculture, Commerce, and Manufactures — a triumvirate of sisters — palsied be the hand that severs these ligaments.

13. The Fair Sex of Ohio — So many beauties, don’t be particular — “touch and take.”


By the Chaplain of the Day. — The political aspiring and unholy Clergy of the day — like Jonah in the whale’s belly, may they be compelled to eat meat without salt, and then be spewed out upon a land, unknown to American Freemen.

Timothy Baker

By the President of the Day. — The freedom of Poland. — That much injured people, may we live to see the day when their freedom shall be equal to that we now enjoy.

Platt Benedict - Founder of Norwalk, Ohio

By the Vice President. — The 22d day of February, the birth day of our beloved Washington, may it be kept in remembrance by every American, until time shall end.

By the Marshal. — The Orator of the day — May his name be remembered by all true Americans, for his able and fearless stand, this day taken against the calumniators of Maj. Gen. George Washington, the father of this Republic.

By the Orator of the day — The life and fame of Washington — The man who reviles the one, or tarnishes the other, deserves our unqualified reprobation and contempt.

By Maj. Underhill — The Legislature of N. York — May they ever be applauded for discharging their Chaplain.

By M. Kimball, Esq. — The memory of George Washington — His fame survives — bounded only by the limits of the earth, and by the extent of the human mind.

By S. Van Rensselaer, Esq. — The present and future officers and citizens of our Union — May they ever be influenced by Washington’s precepts.

By S. Preston, Esq. — The enlightened citizens of Norwalk — A strong phalanx against the wiles of bigoted Priests, and Mormon Impostors.

By Capt. Carkhuff — The Militia of Ohio — In peace, humble citizens — but in war, a thunderbolt.

By Wm. Bruester — The American Fair — The chains imposed by them, are the only ones that Freemen will ever wear.

After which, the company retired, in good season, pleased with the festivities of the social meeting.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Feb 28, 1832

Delivered at Norwalk, Ohio,
February 22d 1832,

We are permitted, fellow citizens, once more to commemorate one of the interesting epochs of American history. we are met again to mingle our sympathies, congratulations, and rejoicings over the prosperity and happiness of our much loved country, and by a bright retrospect of the past, to indulge in the most vivid anticipations of her future glory and renown. Other nations have had their festivals of mirth and their seasons of triumph. Often have they united their exertions to decorate with the regal diadem the brow of the tyrannical despot, and again and again, echoed their praises, to the Imperial conqueror just returning from scenes of carnage and slaughter. From the earliest periods of the world, men too have arisen, distinguished for their philanthropy and benevolence, who have received the loud peans of national gratitude, and dying have elicited a deep expression of national mourning..

Greece has had her Leonidas, Rome her Cato, and modern governments their distinguished heroes, whose names have been celebrated in all the sweetness of ancient song, and all the grandeur and pathos of modern eloquence. Certainly then, as Americans, we need no apology for the reason of this day’s assemblage. Indeed to call to mind the virtues of those who have preceded us in the great struggle of American freedom; to speak of their patriotism and philanthropy, and to portray the great benefits we have received from their hands, is calculated to awaken the most vivid sensibility, and the fire of liberty, which already animates the heart, only catches new inspiration from a recital of the heroic deeds of our forefathers.

What occasion, fellow citizens, is more suitable to review the interesting scenes of our country’s history, and impels us to testify by every demonstration of joy our heart felt thankfulness for our great and continued prosperity, than the centennial anniversary of the natal day of our beloved Washington. Go search the records of other nations, investigate the history of the rise and downfall of the governments of Europe, traverse by the dim flickering of the pages of romance, the mystical lore of fabulous ages; pursue in your inquiries all the traditions of oriental stories, and tell me where do you find a day whose events have proved more important to freedom and to man. Then arose into existence one whose influence upon the history of our world can only be told when tyrants shall no longer hold a subject — bigotry an advocate, or slavery a victim.

Though then in his swaddling clothes, completely the object of a mother’s care, regardless alike of the past, present, and future, through his success many a king has been made to tremble, and amid the shouts of his victories, many a despot with anguish and despair has heard the loud death knell of his future power and grandeur. Think you not, if at this eventful period, the mother of our illustrious hero could have looked down the vista of future years, that the prospect would not have swelled her heart with emotions and raptures too mighty for utterance? She then held in her arms the future glory and brightest champion of America, and when other monuments and mementoes of greatness should tumble into ruins, the name of her son would be handed down to future times encircled with a gilded halo of glory, which would mock alike the asperities of party and the ravages of time.

I will not, fellow citizens, on this occasion, trace minutely the boyhood of Washington, or attempt to describe all the scenes of his eventful life. Engraven, as they have been, upon your memories, even from your own childhood, it would but insult your good sense to attempt to portray all the transactions in which he was engaged. Appointed at the early age of 19, to an important post in the military of Virginia, and at 22 to that of Lieut. Colonel in the British army, he here fought the battles of his sovereign with the same ardent courage, disinterested philanthropy, and unyielding determination, that so distinguished his subsequent career. It is however to a late period of our history that we must refer for the brightest display of Washington’s character. It was when the clouds of war brooded over our land and threatened with one fell stroke to sweep in its desolating march every vestige of the last brightest hope of man.

A voice already arose from the ground, now crimsoned with human gore — Arise, O Man, to Freedom and Glory — It met with a welcome response in his devoted heart and thrilled thro’ every fibre of his soul. From his first election to the Continental Congress, while holding the command of the American army, during the seven year’s war, he ever exhibited a magnanimity of soul, and independence of spirit, and fortitude under sufferings and privations commensurate with the great cause he had espoused. Let Monmouth, Trenton, Yorktown and Germantown tell of his prudence in embarrassments, his modesty under praise, and his invincible courage in battle. Let the thousands who have fought by his side, during the memorable contest for our national existence, tell of his patriotic devotion to his country’s good and of his kind and generous heart. Let his parting with his compatriots at New York tell how much his soul and his whole soul was wrapped iin the future glory of America. Let his sentiments which he unfolded when he resigned his military commission, bear witness to his noble elevation of purpose, and the dignity of his soul. Let the warm attachment which holds in each of your hearts speak to-day how much we owe to this great and good man.

But it was not, fellow citizens, mere amid the clangor of war, and the shock of contending armies, that the virtues of Washington shone conspicuously. When surrounded with domestic dangers and domestic foes, subject to all the contentions of party spirit, and exposed to the intrigues of foreign emissaries, his voice was ever raised to still the tumults of passion, and stay the torrent of civil war. How infinitely contemptible do all the heroes of other times appear when viewed by the side of Washington. With no ambition but his country’s good, and no anxiety but her future welfare, he was as unwearied in promoting the former as wise in devising plans for the latter. Blessed with an affluence which placed him above the reach of sordid motives, he placed it all at the shrine of patriotism’s altar. Born with a heart which knew no guile, and governed by principles which claim affinity to higher beings, the goodness of his soul was only equalled by the splendor of his achievement. He firmly visited detested treachery, with all the unyielding severity of martial law, while the unmerited sufferings of the incorruptible patriot ever elicited the most lively expression of his sympathetic feelings. Alike conspicuous in the cabinet as in the field, he wielded the sword with the devoted enthusiasm of the Warrior, and wore the coronet with the integrity of the Philanthropist.

What a sublime spectacle does his retirement from the Executive Chair present. Tho’ elected for two successive terms, surrounded by those who delighted to do him honor, already having received the highest reward a grateful people could bestow, he forgets his illustrious life, he forgets fame, he forgets the trying scenes of other days, he forgets his companions in arms, he forgets himself, he forgets all, and catching a glimpse of the paradise of glory, he, (as his last official act) commits the interests of his dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them to His holy keeping. O, fellow citizens, who does not this day feel proud of such a hero, and who will not lay aside all sectarian feeling, while we do homage to the memory of such a benefactor?

We have thus but barely alluded to some of the transactions of Washington’s life, and some of the bright traits in his shining character. But I may perhaps be asked, had he no faults? It has, fellow citizens, been alledged, that he was too prudent, and that by a bolder and chivalrous onset he would sooner have obtained American freedom. But when we take into consideration the circumstances under which he was placed, must we not assign to this quality the very prospects we this day enjoy. Already had the genius of liberty been driven from the Eastern Continent and gladly unfurled her bright standard upon the fertile shores of America — to the charge of Washington it was committed to guard its safety with untiring vigilance. Millions yet unborn would be freemen or slaves according to its protection. Weigh then, if you can, the full weight of responsibility under which he acted. Who would not yield the doubtful success of immediate onset to the long but sure prospect of ultimate victory?

True it is, Washington had his enemies — deep, dark, and malignant enemies; — and the same malicious bigotry, that in our youth would have prostrated the rising prospects of America, now guides the heart and wields the pen of those, who would tarnish the brightest jewel in our country — Yes, humbling as it is to us as freemen — degrading as it is to human nature — revolting as it is to our feelings — there are those, even in high places, who would tear from his character every thing his countrymen hold dear — heap upon his memory every epithet of disgrace, and consign him to the lowest depths of degradation and woe. —

Tasting the sweets — the precious sweets of the freedom, that was purchased by his exertions, they would associate his name with the Volneys, Paines, and Voltaires of other times. You undoubtedly anticipate me, in alluding to the recent attempts. at the Capital of a sister State, to spoil his hard earned laurels, and under the professed sanction of the Cross, disturbing the ashes of the illustrious dead; and this merely to gratify the malignant feelings of his heart. Is it not enough, fellow citizens, that surrounded with dangers and death, for seven long and successive years, he fought by the side and inspired the patriotism of your fathers? Is it not enough, that he ascribed all his success, and all his victories to the God of Battles? Is it not enough, that the secret grove and the midnight hour witnessed the ardency of his devotions and the fervency of his aspirations? Is it not enough, that he with his compatriots bequeathed to us the bright inheritance of our liberties?

Under the full blaze of Washington’s glory, beaming its radiant rays, shall a Minister of the Gospel, which inculcates as its highest precept “peace on earth and good will to men,” dare to insult the moral feelings of this nation, by associating his name with infidels and deists, and proclaim him as mocking at every thing sacred?

Forbid it Heaven! —

Forbid it every heart, that has one feeling that responds to the touch of sympathy. Let no official robes or sacred surplice protect the defamers of our heroes and statesmen — they are the moral wealth of this nation, and dead indeed must be the heart — malignant indeed must be the feelings, that would lessen these riches, or thus trample upon the ingenuous sympathies of the America heart.

Am I too severe on this subject?

Let any individual read the paper I hold in my hand and not feel his heart rise in sentiments of indignation at this vile attempt upon the fame of Washington. Yes — I go farther — I call upon every partizan, of every party, to unite with mine their voices this day in protecting the character of their common father. I call upon every patriot to manifest the feelings, which already burn in their breasts, at this unhallowed outrage upon the friend of freedom. Above all, I call upon every christian of every sect, by the holy character of their calling, to redeem religion from the disgrace of its professed advocate, by an united testimony of their decided disapprobation. Far be it from me, fellow citizens, on this occasion, to violate the sentiments, or injure the feelings of any individual; rather would I give a new zest to every cause of rejoicing, and add a still fresher wreath to every source of pleasure; — but where is the man, so dead to every better feeling of the heart, as not to respond to the sentiments I have here advanced? Where is the man, so devoted to sectarian feelings, who will not pronounce his loud anathemas upon him, who without cause, and without provocation, would sacrilegiously open the tombs of our departed heroes, and thus profane their memories with all the bigotry of modern fanaticism.

But to return from this digression. The death of our beloved hero was in accordance with his patriotic life. His country, his whole country, and nothing but his country, was the theme of his last days. Let those, who can recollect the day of his death in ’99, tell of a nation’s mourning.

Here, fellow citizens, we may pause and reflect upon the scenes which have passed. One hundred years from this day we beheld a few dependent colonies, without resources, without arms, subject to the caprice of a foreign king; with no glorious retrospection of the past, and no vivid anticipations of the future. We have beheld her fighting the battles of her sovereign. We have seen a small but chosen band resist the usurpations of lawless power. We have seen her for seven long and successive years coping with the most powerful kingdom of the Eastern Continent — struggling even amid the inclemencies of the seasons and even without the common necessaries of life, fighting for their fire sides and homes, with no prospect but ignominy and death. —

With the most anxious expectation, we have seen the standard of liberty for, apparently, the last time unfurl her patriotic stripes, and we have witnessed this standard gloriously forcing its way against the most deadly opposition, and finally triumph over all its foes and all its enemies. The fearful struggle that ensued may well have attracted the attention of the nations of the earth. It was a moral spectacle, which may well have enlisted the prayers and sympathies of every patriot of every clime. We have seen our beloved country assume an important stand among the nations of the earth. We have seen her powerful at home and respected abroad — her commerce whitening every sea, and her progress surprising every heart. With more than thirteen millions of inhabitants, she has advanced, during the different periods of war and of peace, and constantly pursuing her onward course of human glory. — Free from the embarrassments of a national debt, and with no object but the happiness of her citizens, she at this moment presents the proudest spectacle ever told in song or recorded history. Is there an individual that does not this day feel his heart arise in aspirations of gratitude and thankfulness at the future prospects of America; and

“Breathes there a soul so dead,
That never to himself hath said
This is my own, my native land.”

While we have beheld with astonishment, the rise and downfall of other nations, seen some of the most beautiful specimens of political power, crumbling into ruins, witnessed even the predictions of to-day refuted by the events of to-morrow, and even seen the final catastrophe of many of the governments of the East unmoved and unharmed amid the surrounding elements of discord and confusion, we have only pursued our even and constant march of greatness and grandeur.

Look around you Fellow citizens, and contemplate the numerous avenues to happiness, which the genius of our government unfolds. Survey the numerous interests which shedding their revivifying radiance upon surrounding objects, are now moving forward in constant harmony, & each calculated to ameliorate our condition and hourly adding a still brighter tinge to our political horizon. Behold for one moment, the comparative superiority of our institutions with those of the dynasties of Europe. Here no voice from the abodes of tyranny strikes terror and dismay to the rising emotions of your souls. Here, free as the air, you breathe, you are permitted to indulge in every feeling of your heart. No religious fanatic dare here raise the arm of persecution and compel you to renounce the faith of your fathers, or bow your knees to the bigoted prophets of the East. All upon equality, the rich and the poor, the resident of the palace, or the peasant of the cottage, you can to-day mingle your sympathies on the rising destinies of America.

Oh! Fellow citizens, could Washington even in imagination have beheld this interesting Anniversary, — think you not, it would have swelled his heart with higher emotions and caused it to thrill with still greater extacies of joy and delight. Think you not it would have raised still higher the exertions of his arms and the reflections of his soul. Are our departed friends ever permitted to revisit the scenes of their former labors and former loves? If so, what tongue can tell, what imagination conceive the thoughts that glow in his breast at even the present prospects of his dearest country?

But Fellow citizens, the effects of the exertions of Washington are not confined to our own country. They have carried their sure and irresistible influence into the governments of the East, ameliorating the condition and spreading light and joy over our world. They have held their place in the retirements of the Imperial Palace, and already a ray of light has sprung from the very bed of despotism, destined yet to illuminate Europe. Many a devoted martyr to his country’s good, while lifting up his fervent and animated aspirations for the welfare of man, (although surrounded with the ensigns of royalty and the trappings of power,) has raised his drooping eyes and a beam of heavenly joy has gleamed over his countenance, while catching a glimpse of the glory which encircles the fame of our beloved Washington. The Patriot of every clime has looked to our shores with the most anxious expectations and are even now watching with ardent hopes, the last experiment, whether man can be free.

Tyrants have been taught by a lesson full of emphasis, that in the heart of man, even subjugated man, there burns a fire which fanaticism cannot smother, or oppression destroy. Greece, France and Poland, have each in their turn, led by the beacon light of American freedom risen in their Native Independence, torn off the badges of kingly power and proclaimed in a voice well understood the omnipotence of those principles bestowed by their Creator. And though torn by all the strifes of internal divisions and shaken to their very centre, by all the convulsions of civil war, yet they have only tended to provoke an inquiry which will eventually regenerate our world. —

Blood undoubtedly will yet flow and many a devoted friend to civil rights will bid farewell, a long farewell, to his country’s freedom. Yet Americans, the time is coming, when some returning sun shall mingle in its radiance, that of universal emancipation. Poland, unhappy, ill fated Poland, may again rise and again fall. Kings for a time may rejoice at the success of despotic arms, and the tomb of Kosciusko may still for a time be moistened by the tear of regret, & a night even darker than the grave, may still hover over this unhappy empire. Louis may again ride in the Imperial Chariot, and the Court of St. Cloud, may again witness decrees subjugating the Citizens of France. Turkish superstition and Mahomadan frenzy may still for a season carry success to the Moslem sceptre. Modern bigotry and ecclesiastical domination may forge still stronger and still closer chains upon the spirits of English Yeomanry. Inquisitorial cruelties may yet drench in blood, the fairest portion of the Eastern Continent, and reach in their lawless crusades, the hearts of the great and the home of the brave. But all in vain. The cause of freedom, is the cause of man. It is the cause of God. It will finally triumph. It will ultimately prevail.

Such, Fellow Citizens, are some of the effects of our Independence, obtained greatly by the exertions of him whose birth, we to-day commemorate.

But while we are called upon this day to rejoice, let us not forget the surviving soldiers and officers of the Revolution. A few of those, who fought by the side of Washington, still exist. They remain, it is true, like the oaks, stript of the foliage of their younger days, liable every moment to fall by the storms and tempests with which they are surrounded. In a few more years, the last of those who were the companions, as well as the compatriots of Washington, will descend into their graves, and their names be only known in our country’s history or in the inspirations of poetic song. They now behold their descendants raised to affluence and prosperity, and with the flush of patriotism, still glowing upon their withered cheeks, they raise their supplicating arms, and ask for returning gratitude. Shall they be denied? Never let a Nation’s sad regret prove the sequel of American ingratitude. Heard you not that shout of joy, and anthem of rejoicing, when they returned to their firesides and homes? Beheld you not that tear of exhilarating joy, when our country was proclaimed delivered and free? They belong to the veterans of other times.

Silence not that shout, dry not that tear. —

Smooth the decline of their years, and then in other days, we may invoke the spirits of our departed heroes, to lead us safely to the highest pinacle of National grandeur. —

What a debt of gratitude do we owe to the soldiers of the Revolution. —

As some requital let us hand to our children, and our children’s children, the bright inheritance of our liberties, uncontaminated and unimpaired. Let us one and all, testify this day, those hallowed feelings which already swell in every heart. As followers of different political sentiments, tho’ equal inheritors of the fame of Washington — let us lay aside all differences of opinions, and during all the festivities of this occasion, let us act as becometh American and freemen.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Feb 28, 1832

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2 Responses to “1832: Commemorating George Washington’s Birthday”

  1. Forty-Niner Profile: Thaddeus B. Sturges « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] Once More Life as it was reported back then « 1832: Commemorating George Washington’s Birthday Mark Twain: Funeral Oration on the Democratic Party […]

  2. Forty-Niner Profile: Thaddeus B. Sturges « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] George Washington’s Birthday: An Oration given by Thaddeus B. Sturges. (LINK) Image from […]

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