Party Politics. Two-hundred years ago on July Fourth, Philadelphia threw a big bash to honor the ratification of the Constitution; but the parade planners had more in mind than just bells and whistles and fabulous floats. Jeffrey St. John gives us first-person coverage of the parade--and its political purposes.
(Page 2 of 3)
Mounted militia and military units afoot stepped smartly to fife and drum playing a specially composed ``Federal March.'' They were joined by parading merchants, tradesmen, mechanics, craftsmen, and representatives of over a dozen other manual trades to demonstrate that they all believed the Constitution is a ``New Roof'' for the infant Republic.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In the future, many parade officials insist, all will be sheltered by the new Constitution in safety, happiness, and prosperity. Especially if bricklayers and carpenters who marched in today's parade should participate in the physical construction of buildings for the new national government in Philadelphia, where both the Declaration was signed and the new Constitution debated, drafted, and signed.
Francis Hopkinson, poet, Signer of the Declaration, and one of the main planners of today's Procession, penned ``The New Roof'' as a metaphor for the Constitution. It would, he writes, replace the rotting and leaky old Articles of Confederation. In another piece, ``The Raising: A New Song for Federal Mechanics,'' he places emphasis on the democracy of the document:
COME muster, my lads, your mechanical tools,
Your saws and your axes, your hammers and rules;
Bring your mallets and planes, your level and line,
And plenty of pins of American pine:
For our roof we will raise, and our song still shall be,
Our government firm, and our citizens free.
Every business, trade, and occupation was represented in the seemingly endless stream of marchers and floats. The past was represented by horse-drawn floats depicting Independence, the French Alliance, the Constitutional Convention, and the Federal Roof.
The future was represented by the Manufacturing Society's float, the huge wagon covered with cotton cloth of its own make. Most of the spectators were puzzled by the new inventions on the wagon. This writer was told they are a wool carding machine and a spinning jenny of 80 spindles for making cotton.
But the greatest cheers went up from the crowd when the float ``Federal Ship Union'' heaved into view. On the foreheads of its 10 horses were painted the name of each ratifying State. Sources say the float was built in only four days, its wheels and machinery hidden under a sheet of canvas painted by the portrait artist Charles Willson Peale. The bottom of the ``ship'' was the barge taken from the Serapis that was captured by American naval hero John Paul Jones.
The ``Constitution'' float was mounted on a light blue carriage, decorated with Liberty Caps, 20 feet long with rear wheels eight feet in diameter. A framed copy of the document was mounted over a painted banner proclaiming ``THE PEOPLE.'' In the center of the float stood a 13-foot-high eagle emblazoned with 13 silver stars in a field of blue, the eagle's talons gripping an olive branch and 13 arrows.
Following the ``Constitution'' float was Procession Grand Marshal Francis Hopkinson leading a long line of city and State politicians and members of diplomatic corps. A printer's float was producing fresh copies of an ``Ode'' that the politician-poet had composed for the parade, printers flinging them to the crowds as they passed. Carrier pigeons were released with toasts of the day and the ``Ode'' for delivery to the 10 ratifying States, which read:
Hail to this festival! - all hail the day!
Columbia's standard on her roof display!
And let the people's motto ever be,
``United thus, and thus united, free!''