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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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Celebrating Washington in Cambridge and South Boston, 22 Feb.

George Washington’s Birthday is on Monday, February 22. I was going to spotlight the special tours of the general’s headquarters in Cambridge that day, led by Garrett Cloer of the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site.

However, this afternoon I heard that those tours are all booked up. If you want to take a chance on cancellations, call 617-876-4491 to hear if spaces have opened up.

Meanwhile, over at the South Boston Library, the South Boston Historical Society will host Prof. William M. Fowler of Northeastern speaking on “First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of his Countrymen!” That salute to Washington will run from 6:30 to 7:45 P.M. The library branch is at 646 East Broadway, and the event is free to the public.

The title of Bill Fowler’s talk comes from the resolutions that the U.S. House passed on 19 Dec 1799 after receiving news of President Washington’s death. The official record of the House offers this text of the resolutions:
1. That this House will wait on the President of the United States, in condolence of this national calamity.

2. That the Speaker’s chair be shrouded with black, and that the members and officers of the House wear mourning, during the session.

3. That a joint committee of both Houses be appointed to report measures suitable to the occasion, and expressive of the profound sorrow with which Congress is penetrated on the loss of a citizen, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.

4. That when this House adjourns, it will adjourn until Monday next.
When the Senate responded to the House, it too used the phrase “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” And when John Marshall read a eulogy written by Gen. Henry Lee in front of Congress a few days later, he said of Washington: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life.”

TOMORROW: But what was the first form of that phrase?

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