Source: The Early Life of Lexington [KY] before the Year 1820, Mary Estelle Delcamp, A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Transylvania College in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts June, 1916

National holidays, altho festive occasions, were always characterised by sanity and dignity. The first fourth of July celebration in 1788 took the form of a dinner at Capt. Thomas Young’s Tavern, followed by a ball in the evening. As was customary at every banquet, "numerous toasts were drunk, accompanied by the discharge of fourteen rifles at intervals." Not forgetting their loyalty to state, the celebrators sang an ode to the tune of Rule Brittania:

When the Almighty that wave
Creation’s boundless range a birth;
The choir of angels hailed our land,
The land most favored of the earth.
Hail, Kentucke! Kentucke, thou shalt be
Forever great, most blest and free (July 5, 1788)

In July 1798 the occasion was celebrated by the three independent companies of the town and by fellow of citizens (July 11, 1798). Two years later the order of events was: a speech by Henry Clay at the court house; a parade to Maxwell Spring, in the following order: Fayette troop of horse, citizens bearing liberty cap inscribed July 4, 1776, the Lexington light infantry; at three p.m. a handsome dinner, followed by 16 toasts; in the evening sixteen rounds fired in the public square; a ball concluded the eventful day (July 10, 1800).

Maxwell Spring continued to be a favorite place for such festive occasions, and 1820 found the military companies still holding celebrations there (July 6, 1820). Until the year 1806 the women did not participate in the festivities at this Spring (July 5, 1806). In 1809 the governor of the state graced the occasion with his presence (July 11, 1809). Three years later the parade took the following route: Short to Mulberry; Mulberry to Main; Main to Main and Cross (Broadway); and thence to the Spring. The procession consisted of: Capt. M’Dowell’s troop of volunteer dragoons; Capt. Hart’s volunteer company of light infantry; trustees and students of Transylvania University by twos; an officer of the army of the United States, and strangers by twos; liberty cap borne by old settlers; great body of citizens; Capt. Hudson’s company of rifleman (July 7, 1812).

Maxwell Spring was not the only place where Fourth of July celebrations were held. In 1806 a group of people met an Independent Grove (July 8, 1806). Other popular places were: Mr. Littleton Estis’ place in the country (July 18, 1809); Col. George Trotter’s well (June 18, 1811); Major Gabriel Tandy’s (July 11, 1814); Mr. Coon’s Garden (July 11, 1814); George Dunlap’s (July 12, 1817); and Capt. Fowler’s Garden (July 8, 1816).

A few of the toasts on the different occasions will reveal much concerning the character of the western citizen at that time: "perpetual union on principles of equality, or amicable separation;" "Navigation of the Mississippi at any price but that of Liberty;" Trial by jury, liberty of press, and no standing army;" "No paper money, no tender laws, and no legislative interference in private contracts" (July 5, 1788); "The American Fair – altho the last toasted, the first in our hearts" (July 10, 1800); "Transylvania University – may it long continue a school of learning, religion and republicanism" (July 10, 1804); "Damn the canal, sink the navigation, and blow the manufactures of Kentucky all over the western world;" "May he that despiseth home manufactures be around the world" (July 6, 1806); "Peace on honorable terms. Whilst we offer the olive branch to other nations, let us remember to keep our arrows well-barbed, and our swords and bayonets bright;" "The Fair – but for the command of God, we should fall down and worship" (July 5, 1806); "French decrees and British orders of council – the American who would submit to either deserves a halter" (July 11, 1809; "The militia – if we would preserve peace, let us be prepared for war" (July 9, 1811); "The American experts – may the enemies of our country be the first" (July 11, 1814); "The People of the United States – an honorable grave to everyone of them, rather that submission to any foreign power on earth" (July 11, 1814).

February 22 was another great day in the national calendar. The first recorded celebration was not on February 22, but on January 25 in the year 1800. It was in the nature of a funeral procession and oration of George Washington. The citizens met at 10:30 in the morning at Mason’s Hall, and from there marched to the Presbyterian Meeting House. The order of the march was as follows: Military, with arms reversed; music, playing a solemn dirge; chairman and trustees of the University; President and professors of the University; students; Masonic lodges, dressed with the insignia of their order; clerk of the town; trustees of the town; clergy; justices of the peace; citizens; The oration was delivered by James Brown, professor of law in Transylvania (Jan. 25, 1800).

The next celebration, if the argumentum e silentia has any weight in this matter, was not until 1811. This time the program was given on the twenty second of February. The troops of cavalry and light infantry, and the citizens participated in a public dinner at the Kentucky Hotel (Feb. 5, 1811). The next year the celebration was of the same character (Feb. 18, 1812). Two years later Capt. Fowler’s Garden was chosen as a suitable place in which to honor the memory of the First American (Feb. 18, 1814).

The year 1819 witnessed a very elaborate program, which can best be described in the words of that day: "The anniversary of Washington’s birth was as usual celebrated in a handsome and appropriate manner by the citizens of Lexington. Capt. Combs’ artillery fired a federal salute in the morning; and the several volunteer companies of infantry paraded at an early hour. Thomas Hickey, Esq. delivered an excellent oration at the court house, and Mr. Joseph Maxwell, on behalf of the Union Philosophical Society, delivered a handsome address to a large audience of ladies and gentlemen at the University. A large party of gentlemen dined at Messrs. Lanphear and Carter’s Coffee House. A ball at Mr. Keen’s in the evening was graced by the beauty and fashion of the town" (Feb. 26, 1819).

The next year at Mr. Maxwell’s Spring "a collation in honor of the event was served up in the style of true republican simplicity. Such music as Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia, and Star Spangled Banner was appropriately played" (Feb. 25, 1820).

Transcribed February 2002 by pb

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