Charles C. (Charles Cotesworth) Beaman.

An historical address, delivered in Scituate, Rhode Island (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryCharles C. (Charles Cotesworth) BeamanAn historical address, delivered in Scituate, Rhode Island (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 6)
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Copy 2



Historical Sketch


ToA^^n of Seituate, R. I,



Published by order of tbe Town Council.







July 4.tli, 1876,



P 1 1 E N I X :

Capron & Campbell, Steam Book and Job Printers.



Sonice unknown


The great republic of the world celebrates its first century
to-day ! It has invited all nations to participate in the occasion by
an exhibition of the products and workmanship of their respective
countries, in the city where the assembled Congress framed, adopt-
ed, and sent forth, July Fourth, 1776, their Declaration of Inde-
pendence. It has selected an orator and poet, and other exercises
appropriate to the event to take place in the same city. Our own
State has requested, through its legislature, that every town in our
borders should have a local celebration ; and Congress and the
President have sent a similar appeal to every town in the Union.

The extraordinary growth of the country in the last century,
the very high position it occupies to-day, the success on so large a
scale, and for so long a period, of a free government, would seem
to demand an uncommon manifestation of the nation, on the happy
event of completing our first one hundred years ; and that to-day
our Union is perfect and complete, with not a single star blotted
out from our banner, and many more added to the original thirteen,
standing to-day stronger and more immovable than ever.

It was with fear and trembling, one hundred years ago, that
the delegates from the colonies assembled in a small hall in Phila-
delphia, put forth their immortal Declaration, July 4, 1776. They
were wise and prudent men — some of them, as was our own Hop-
kins, advanced in years ; a few, like Hancock, were rich. They all
had much at stake, having families, high character, the ablest meii
chosen from Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the other


colonies : they exposed themselves, in case of defeat, to confis-
cation of property, banishment, imprisonment, loss of reputation,
and death by being hung as traitors, but they drew not back, there
was no faltering while they cut the tie which bound them to the
mother country, apd launched their bark upon the tempestuous
ocean of conflict with a mighty nation that had the resources of a
standing army, vessels of war, wealth, and all the munitions ready
for instantaneous and deadly war. To oppose all this strength of
warlike array, there were a few regiments of militia, no ship of
war, and guns, cannon balls and powder; and other requisites of
military warfare were few indeed, and neither money nor credit
but in a very limited degree.

The infant Congress staggered not at the impending and
deadly struggle looming up at the future, and boldly appealed to
the arbitration of the sword, and the decision of the impartial na-
tions of the world :

"When," they said, commencing their declaration, "in the
course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dis-
solve the political bonds which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and
equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God en-
title them, a decent respect for the opiniuns of mankind requires
tJiat they should declare the causes which impel them to the sepa-

Many and dear were the ties wliich bound them to the mother
country! It was beyond other great nations, a free country ; and
the men of the revolution often expressed tliemselves as demanding
nothing more than the rights of a British subject enjoyed at home.
England was dear to them, as the source whence their supplies and
protection proceeded ; they had an interest, in licr glory as a nation ; as
the ci)untry from whose bosom the colonies came as from a mother.
Their literature, religion, language and customs had been brought
over to America — the graves of ancestry made the burial places of
Britain dear to Americans. Ties of interest, affection and consan-
guinity were sundered with regret.


But Great Britain, her rulers, and her people looked upon the
colonies to be sources of pecuniary profit; they were jealous of all
manufactures and commerce which interfered with their own ; and
by custom-house taxes and vexatious laws to prevent the Americans
from trading with any people but England and her colonies, they
turned the love of the people into hatred. The people were treated
in some respects as a conquered or dependent race, and not to be
ranked in privilege and honor with subjects at home. All these
reasons, and more, are stated in the declaration ; then comes the
solemn determination that they will bear the injustice and oppres-
sion no longer, but set up for themselves. In well considered
words they take tlieir final farewell :

" We. therefore, the representatives of the United States of
America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme
Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the
name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies,
solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of
right ought to be, free and independent states ; that they are ab-
solved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all politi-
cal connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is, and
ought to be totally dissolved : and that as free and independent
states they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract
alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things
which independent states may of right do. And for the support of
this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine
Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our for-
tunes and our sacred honor."

The fighting at Concord and Lexington had already taken
place, and two mouths afterwards the battle of Bunker Hill sent its
echo round the world. Boston had been evacuated by the British
forces March H, 1776. and now, July 4, 1776, the rebellion had
taken shape in an official act of the newly organized government,
casting off all allegiance to Great Britain, and asserting its entire
independence and determination to maintain it by all the force they
could command.


We meet to-day without distinction of party or religious de-
nomination ; and though we come together as town's people of
Scitnate, we hold fellowship with all the towns of our State, and
passing out of the bounds of Ehode Island we stand up to-day with
every state, city and town in the Union in a Grand National Jubilee !
on the occasion of our completing our first hundred years. We
go farther, and extend a call to every other nation to rejoice with us
in our remarkable history ; in the unexampled prosperity we have
enjoyed, in the success which has attended the experiment of a peo-
ple self-governed. We may be pardoned for some little self-ex-
ultation wliile we recognize the guiding hand of our God in our pres-
ervation and blessing.

In the city of Philadelphia, where our delegates in Congress
assembled a hundred years ago, and framed and adopted a Declara-
tion of Independence there will be an extraordinary gathering of
our fellow citizens from all parts of our country, and many distin-
guished visitors from foreign lands will be convened to witness a
national festival, commemorative of what transpired m that city a
hundred years ago, and what great results have come out of it.

We have dared to invite an International Exhibition of Art
and Manufactured, Inventions and Discoveries, Literature and Sci-
ence, and other matters relating to man's progress in society, and
to put side by side, our own skill and taste, not for vain show, but
in order to bring the world into fellowship and useful and honor-
able competition.

We may not be able to grasp in our vision the spectacle which
our still youthful nation presents to the world to-day. Our place
is in the New World discovered by Christopher Columbus four
hundred years ago. The vast extent of territory that maps out our
heritage lying between two groat oceans ; its natural features of
mountains, valleys and plains, and lakes and rivers, indented coasts
by inlets, bays and harbors where proud navies ride and prosperous
cities lift their spires is but imperfectly realized. A view of the
manufacturing and mechanical establishments, a sight of the farms
cultivated with all tlio help of newly invented agricultural imple-


ments, a perception of the warehouses where are stored the produc-
tions and workmanship of every clime, the schools and colleges
filled with pupils of both sexes, the churches whose bells ring
cheerfully on the Sabbath morn, the printing presses worked by
steam power, scattering leaves of knowledge over the whole land,
the railroads running in every direction, bearing immense freights
and conveying passengers in multitude, the telegraph with its wires
beneath the ocean and stretched out over the whole land, and the
activity of the people, and the enterprise visible, and the arrivals of
emigrants daily from the four quarters of the globe, with the gene-
ral intelligence, comfort and happiness of the people, the steady
march of population over the deserts, or uncultivated places,
and the returning march from the West to meet midway the East;
this is the picture too great and wonderful to be fully realized, as
the orators of our centenuary year vainly strive with uplifted
voice and choice expression to describe to-day in the assemblies
convened all over the land.

Praise and thanksgwing may well go up from the nation so
highly favored of God ! who has not so blessed every other nation
under the broad heavens — no other nation has a history like ours.
Behold what God has wrought for us ! May thanks go up from the
shores of both oceans, and from the banks of every river and lake,
from every hill and valley, and all places where man has set his
foot on the soil of these United States and sheltered himself from
oppression and wrong beneath the folds of our star spangled ban-

Berkeley, the English philosopher, who made for a while his
home in Newport, in 1730, filled as it were with superhuman fore-
sight of the coming glory of America, wrote the well-known pro-
phetic lines :

" Westward tlie course of empire takes its way;
. 'J'he fii-st foiu" iU'ts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day-
Time's noblest oftspring is the last! "


The arriving of a centennial year naturally turns our thoughts
to the pa^t. We revert to the beginning and progress of men and


things, and love to connect old things with new. It is a duty
which we owe to those who have gone before us to consider their
wrongs and enquire for their principles ! We cannot go back
like China, Japan and India, to a very remote past, for our country
is very new ; but we may turn to ancient and discolored manu-
scripts, antiquated house furniture, old houses, by-gone burial
places, deeds of valor, primitive and frugal ways, times of poverty
and need, of honesty and patriotism, to the period of forest and
self-denying and perilous lives, to ther simple faith and child-like
trust in God of the early days.

Wealth and luxury, numbers and power, things that are new
and wonderful we can see every day and year, but we must make
special exertion and set apart a time to explore the past and rumi-
nate in the quiet shades of by-gone generations. We have before
us to-day a town hifttory : one that is eventful, that called out hu-
man strength and fortitude in an extraordinary degree, and devel-
oped what is good and noble in man and in communities.

It will be expected of me, on the present occasion, to present
some outlines of the history of Scituate. Like other parts of Ehode
Island, it was first inhabited by Indians, and the territory remained
in a state of nature, for the red men were hunters and fishers, culti-
vating only little patches of ground, of corn, tobacco, beans, etc.
Little collections of huts or wigwams formed their towns — of which
there may have been a dozen in many miles travel.

The settlement of Roger Williams at Providence in 1636 is the
commencement of our history. He dedicated himself to the spread
of the gospel among the Indians, and traveled among the different
tribes who were at war with each other, to pacify them and satisfy
them that he and his associates had honest intentions to live peace-
ably with them. God gave him with Cnnonicus, the great and
powerful Indian chief, favor so that he obtained as a gift large and
valuable tracts of laud. The deed of gift was dated March 24,
1631, in the second year of the Rhode Island plantation and reads
— "in consideration of the many kindnesses and services he hath
continually done for us." The land given was of the lands upon


Mooshansick and Woonasquatucket rivers. Soon after this grant,
Mr. Williams, in an unselfish spirit, executed a deed j;'iving an
equal share with himself to twelve of his companions, and -'sueli
other as the maj«r part of us shall admit into the same fellowship
of vote with us." All of them, with others, filty-fonr in all, had
lots assigned them, in the first division of land, which took place
soon after the initial deed was accepted.

The settlement increased, as from other colonies and from be-
yond the sea, emigrants continued to arrive, and numbers spread
themselves over the wooded heights and vales of that part of Prov-
idence afterwards set oft' as Scituate.

It was formerly the practice — that is soon after the proprietors
connected with Roger Williams had been increased to one hundred,
that persons " took up lands," as the current phrase was, that Ihey
had them surveyed and marked off, and enterod njion the records —
some compensation may have been given to the propiictors. Deeds
were however in early use; an old one was found not long ago,
among the papers of Gideon Harris, bearing date 1(161, of the
size of half a sheet of letter pnper, written on both sides, and with
the curious orthography of the oldcni time.

The first settlers of Scituate drove tu» large herds and flocks
before them, and there were no meadows lor a supply of grass to
feed them; at first, probably, men alone; came to build a rough
cabin and make a clearing, and afterwards, tlicy broiiglit their fam-
ilies. The soil was good, but it was rocky and covertMl with woods.
Wild beasts and Indians roved over it. Stephen Ifoivkins. who
was born in Scituate in 1710, and lived thcio till middle life, in
a few pages of early Rhode Island histiuy, wrote in poeti

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Online LibraryCharles C. (Charles Cotesworth) BeamanAn historical address, delivered in Scituate, Rhode Island (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 6)