J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

President Washington in Providence, 15 Aug.

There are a couple of Revolutionary-era events happening in New England in the next several days that I want to acknowledge before the Stamp Act protest sestercentennial is officially upon us.

In 1789, President George Washington visited Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire as part of his tour (some might even say his progress) through the northern states. Rhode Island was left out since it hadn’t ratified the Constitution yet.

Rhode Island finally ratified on 29 May 1790. It started to participate in the Congress and everything. So President Washington made a special trip that summer to tick Rhode Island off his list. This year marks the 225th anniversary of that journey—though not even Wikipedia offers a word for a 225th anniversary.

The President’s visit is being commemorated at the John Brown House in Providence on Saturday, 15 August, with an event called “Washington Returns to Providence.” Dean Malissa (shown above), Mount Vernon’s “official historical portrayer” of Washington, is making a special trip, courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Vice Regent for Rhode Island, Elizabeth Mauran.

The Rhode Island Historical Society says:
We invite you to spend the day with our country’s first commander-in-chief and enjoy such festivities as a walking tour that explores the sites he visited, family-friendly activity booths, photo opportunities, and refreshments authentic to the period.
Free events start at 10:00 A.M. and are scheduled to last through late afternoon.

The event organizers also quote the Providence Gazette of 21 Aug 1790 on the original event:
On the President’s landing, he was welcomed by a federal Discharge of Cannon, and the Ringing of Bells. The Concourse of people was prodigious. The Procession was conducted with great Decorum, and exceeded any thing of the Kind before exhibited in this Town. . . . Every countenance indicated the most Heart-felt Joy.
So all that Anti-Federalism was forgotten. What was a “federal Discharge”? That phrase appeared often in reports of President Washington’s journeys and other early republican holidays. It was a thirteen-gun salute.

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