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.
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When the last of the Procession had reached Union Green, dinner was served to those 17,000 souls not too exhausted to eat and who were not put off that no alcoholic spirits were served during the 10 toasts to the new Union. In the shade of the floats ``Grand Foederal Edifice'' and ``Federal Ship Union,'' thousands of cups filled with cider were raised as each toast was offered at a trumpet blast. Each was answered by 10 artillery salutes and repeated by the sloop Rising Sun at her moorings in the Philadelphia harbor.Skip to next paragraph
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``To the people of the United States,'' went the first of the 10 full-throated toasts. The concluding one: ``To the whole family of mankind.''
Mr. Hopkinson said later that as the clock in the Philadelphia State House struck 6, the 17,000 celebrants ``soberly retired to their respective homes.''
As bonfires illuminated the streets, the sky shown bright and beautiful with the appearance of the aurora borealis. For many this is a sign that the heavens look with favor on what has gone on before and what is still to come.
One observer has told this correspondent that today's procession employed for the first time on a massive scale poets, painters, and musicians in the services of a national political election. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Signer of the Declaration and one of the key sponsors of the pageant, confirms that today's procession was deliberately staged to form a long historical link in the minds of those who watched and who are expected to vote in the First Federal Elections this fall.
``The connection,'' the prominent and pioneering Philadelphia physician observes, ``of the great event of Independence, the French Alliance, the Peace and name of General Washington with the adoption of the Constitution was happily calculated to unite the most remarkable transports of the mind which were felt during the war with the great event of the day, and to produce such a tide of joy as has seldom been felt in any age or country. Political joy is one of the strongest emotions of the human mind.''
JEFFREY ST. JOHN's ``Constitutional Journal: A Correspondent's Report on the Convention of 1787,'' appeared in the Monitor during the Bicentennial summer of 1987, and was published in hard cover by Jameson Books, Ottawa, Ill. This report - an account of the July 4 celebration of 1788 - is taken from Mr. St. John's sequel, ``A Child of Fortune: The Road to Ratification of the U.S. Constitution,'' to be published next April to mark the bicentennial of George Washington's inaugural. St. John's researches for this account include:
Catherine Drinker Bowen, ``Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787.'' London: Hamish Hamilton, 1967.
Carl Van Doren, ``The Great Rehearsal: The Story of the Making and Ratifying of the Constitution of the United States.'' New York: Viking Press, 1948.
Merrill Jensen and Robert A. Becker (editors), ``The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections: 1788-1790, Volume 1.'' Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.
John Bach McMaster, ``A History of the People of the United States.'' New York: D.Appleton & Co., 1893.
Kenneth Silverman, ``A Cultural History of the American Revolution.'' New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976.
US Department of State, ``Documentary History of the Constitution of the United States of America, Volume 4.'' Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1905.