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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Monday, May 29, 2017

A Celebration in North Stratford, Connecticut

On 5 June 1783 the Vermont Gazette of Bennington published an “Extract of a letter from Stratford, in Connecticut, dated May 27, 1783.” It read:
Yesterday the inhabitants of North Stratford convened for a rejoicing for the memorable declaration of peace and American independence.

At one o’clock they assembled at the meeting house, where the Rev. Mr. [James] Beebee made an excellent prayer, before and after which singing was performed with great accuracy. Mr. LEWIS BEEBEE, a student in Yale College, delivered a very elegant Oration on the first discovery and settlement of this country, the occasion of the unnatural war and the various strategems made use of by the enemy to subjugate these states, after which a suitable anthem was performed.

The ladies were then invited to partake of a refreshment provided for them, and about 200 gentlemen and ladies took their seats. The militia performed many manoeuvres, and went through the prepared firing by platoons and street firings with great exactness, after which a stage was set in the midst of the concourse of people, and the following toasts were drank, viz.

1st. The United States in Congress assembled.

2d. General Washington, the Officers and soldiers under his command.

3d. Our faithful and illustrious allies.

4th. The friendly powers of Europe.

5th. The Governor and Company of the State of Connecticut.

6th. May the peace prove glorious to America and last forever.

7th. May tyranny and despotism sink, and rise no more.

8th, May war prove an admonition to Great Britain, and the present peace teach its inhabitants their true interests.

9th. The Navy of the United States of America.

10th, May our trade and navigation extend to both the Indies, and the balance in our favour.

11th, May the union of these American States be perpetual and uninterrupted.

12th, May the American Flag be a scourge to tyrants.

13th. May the virtuous daughters of America bestow their favors only on those who have courage to defend them.

14th. May Vermont be received into the federal union, & the Green Mountain Boys flourish.

After each toast a cannon was discharged. The greatest decency and decorum, was observed throughout the whole.
The item was signed “AARON HAWLEY, Toast-master.” (At least I think that’s the final word. The page from this newspaper that made it onto microfilm isn’t complete.)

Another description of the day, differing in wording, small details, and the order of two toasts, appears between quotation marks in Samuel Orcutt’s A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport (1886). Orcutt stated no source, but he might have quoted a Connecticut newspaper I haven’t located.

The toasts provide a snapshot of what that New England village—North Stratford became the town of Trumbull in 1797—hoped for as the Revolutionary War officially ended. The fourteenth toast for Vermont, and the letter sent there describing the event, reflect Connecticut’s close ties to that territory. Later historians have connected this late-May celebration with Memorial Day, but the emphasis is different.

(The photograph above shows the Joseph Plumb house in Trumbull, built around 1780.)


Ruth Hodges said...

Why do you think the ladies only are offered some kind of refreshment before both the ladies and gentlemen take their seats? Just curious.

J. L. Bell said...

I’m guessing the ladies were not included in the patriotic toasts at the end, so the early refreshments might have been ladies-only to make up for that.

Or perhaps the line “The ladies were then invited to partake of a refreshment provided for them, and about 200 gentlemen and ladies took their seats” meant that gentlemen escorted the ladies of their choice to their seats.