Judith Sargent Murray Society
JSM's dates: 1751-1820

Judith Sargent Murray's Letter 768

Philadelphia Ferry, near Arch Street, Philadelphia, ca. 1790
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In 1790, Judith Sargent Murray and her husband, John Murray, traveled from their home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they would attend the first national convention of Universalists. John Murray, the leading Universalist preacher and organizer in the United States, would play a central role. During their journey, the Murrays attended Philadelphia's Independence Day Celebration which Judith described for her parents.
Judith Sargent Murray's letters from this journey appear in Bonnie Hurd Smith's book From Gloucester to Philadelphia in 1790.


Letter 768
To my Father and Mother
Philadelphia Arch Street
July 10 1790 — Saturday


Sunday last being the anniversary of Independence, and the Reverend Doctor Smith being requested to deliver a discourse, to the Gentlemen of the Cincinnati — Mr Murray omitted his morning service, that he might attend upon the Doctor, at Christ Church — and accordingly we presented ourselves in the great congregation — Christ Church is an elegant building. It hath three spacious openings — It is handsomely glazed, and neatly finished; the pulpit is in the best taste, it is richly ornamented, decorated with Cherubims and crested with a winged
Dove — It riseth under a superb Arch, variously painted, and furnished upon the right, and the left, with a copy of the Decalogue, in beautiful gilt Capitals — Fronting the pulpit, is an Orchestra supplied with a magnificent Organ, and the galleries rest upon ample and uniform
arches, which Arches are supported by many pillars, neatly fluted; Every thing was performed in honour of the day, which the observance due to holy time would allow — The Cincinnati, and other military marched in procession to the sound of solemn musick — The bells chimed most melodiously, and in the body of the church conspicuous pews were
reserved for the Cincinnati — Doctor Smith chose his subject from Isaiah Chapter 52d Verse 10th “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” [—] The Doctor’s discourse was elegant, and
animated — He was necessitated to accommodate himself to the day, as sacred time — to the day, as the anniversary of an event, which will no doubt continue memorable, to the latest posterity — It was incumbent upon him to unite the peculiar features of a sermon, with those of an Oration delivered to a particular Body of distinguished Citizens — yet,
without embarrassment and with the most happy arrangement, and elegance of expression, he effected every necessary purpose — He opened his discourse with a beautifully sententious exordium in praise of the fundamental truths of our most holy Religion, with an energetic Euloquium upon the Messenger of Peace — upon such who bring glad
tidings of good things and in a natural gradation, he proceeded to connect temporal blessings. The arm of the Lord had indeed been made bare, in favour of this Columbian World — It had been made bare, even in the sight of the Nations — He expatiated upon particular privileges, with which we, as Americans are endowed, and with nervous conciseness, he enumerated them.

The Cincinnati were handsomely complimented, and their virtues feelingly eulogized — He barely touched upon the apprehensions, with which the order had filled the people, and judiciously allowed our band of Heroes, the applause which they so justly merited, when instead of arming themselves with indignant pride, they evinced the benign aspect
of their association, by revising, correcting, and pruning, and by attributing to a holy jealousy in their fellow Citizens, suspicions for which, had they been activated by the motives imparted to them, they would have found it easy, to have assigned a more malignant cause. Illustrious Warriors, in that moment of self government, the splendid
triumphs of dignified condescension, were more glorious, than those fading, and diminished rays, which gild the Coronet or beam around the proudest Monarch who ever wore a crown — Doctor Smith believed no language could do higher justice, or more emphatically delineate the institution, than its own elegantly expressive articles of association, and he quoted the whole of a very animated paragraph, while at the affecting, and well known sounds, the tears of pleasure glistened in my eye —

Doctor Smith introduced from a sermon of his own, delivered in [the] presence of our immortal Chief, long before the Order of the Cincinnati had a Being, a sublime, and beautiful allusion, which he modestly observed, if he might be allowed to assume so much, possibly originated the institution, or at least must claim the honour of a prediction — In the selection adduced by the Doctor, the Columbian Hero was hailed as another Cincinnatin — The Dictator to, and the Redeemer of his Country, and, the Orator added, if rightly I divine, as he approacheth the horizon of life, his setting beams will be still more conspicuously splendid — Doctor Smith, in the conclusion of his discourse, borne with divine enthusiasm upon wings prophetic, beheld the thirteen United States, now again entwined in the sweet bands of Union, increasing in population, civilization, industry, propriety of manners, and benevolently effacious laws — Nor were his ideas confined by these emancipated States still soaring in the aerial regions of boundless anticipation, he beheld, amid the untutored and savage wilds,
of uncounted Realms, magnificent Cities bursting into life — Gathering myriads, of myriads, brightened upon him — Humanized indian Nations, forever burying the bloody hatchet, the murderous knife, adoring the salvation of our God, and mingling in their Orizons grateful
remembrance of those heroes, who had so nobly founded, the broad base of wide spreading liberty — Doctor Smith is not often found in the Pulpit, he informed his audience, that he stood there upon that splendid era, by the honourable choice of the Cincinnati, and the
acquiescing suffrage of the Right Reverend Bishop White — The matter of his discourses is, as I am told, always excellent, perhaps the manner is not quite an explainable, but appointed President of the University, he is generally engaged in the more particular duties, of his most important office —

After the services of the day, the bells again sounded most harmoniously, and the decent manifestations of joy, were abundant and truly gratifying — On Monday every restraint being taken off, the ebullations of hilarity obtained their utmost latitude — The bells were clamorous, the colors displayed, and the Cannon discharged — The military of every description was concluded by a display of fire works from the State House, and a superb illumination of Schuylkill gardens — The Proprietor of that Elysium, had advertised a variety of additional exhibitions, such as an artificial Island, a [Tavern] house, garden etc to be represented in the evening, upon the River, splendidly illuminated — a number of heathen Deities rendered luminous, and distinguished by their insignia — Bridge dressed in shrubbery, and appropriate Colours for every state in the Union — The Arms of America and France entwined by Liberty — a rich display of Fire works, exhibited from the Lawn, in front of the Federal temple — Thirteen Boys, and an equal number of Girls, issuing from the Grove, habited as shepherds, and shepherdesses, and proceeding to the Federal Temple,
chanting responsively, an Ode to Liberty, with a number of songs, Odes, and Choruses, in honour of the auspicious event, which the day commemorated. An advertisement of this kind, originated the highest expectations — It produced in the gardens a vast concourse of people, upwards of six thousand persons, Candidates for the pleasure of the scene — In an assembly so multifarious, characters of every description, you will not doubt, were collected — Urged by curiosity, my husband, supposing it would be unpleasant crossing the floating Bridge, took me in his Carriage to the middle of the ferry — never did I behold a scene more truly enchanting than Nature then presented, upon the Banks of the Schuylkill — The river was divinely serene, and the margin was ornamented by romantic, and beautifully variegated imagery —

But crossing the stream we approached the scene of riot — Never did my Fancy in its most tumultuous, and capricious combinations, sketch a view so replete with wild disorder, and confused uproar — With much difficulty we obtained tickets of admission, and when we reached the grounds, the unlicensed Mirth, the prevalent anarchy, boisterous manifestations of unbridled joy, and rude elbowing of the promiscuous throng, was really distressing — In vain, in the midst of those sweetly rural, and enchanting recesses, where we had recently enjoyed so much, we sought the honeysuckle arbour, or embowering shade — upon every
seat, and in every embosomed haunt, noisy frolick, with rude unmannered stare had taken its stand, and it was well if the thronged croud allowed us to keep our feet — All ranks of people were grouped together — The Orchestra, that beautiful seat of harmony, was taken by the Mob, and from the correct mind, every idea of enjoyment was of necessity banished — so great was the croud that to obtain the smallest refreshment, was out of the question, and our only remaining wish, was to gain a passage out of the gardens — To effect this was, however, impossible [—] Thick and lawless ranks lined the gates — all our addresses, and perseverance, proved abortive and I was nearly sinking upon the spot, when a friend taking compassion upon our sufferings, led us through a flight of rooms, into a subteraneous passage through which, winding our way, we once more found ourselves safely conducted into a spacious street — when instantly mounting our Carriage, and crossing the floating bridge at the risk of our lives, from the pressing horses, chaises, Coaches, and throngs of people, we very cheerfully left behind us illuminations, fire works, heathen Gods, and Goddesses etc etc most sincerely felicitating ourselves, upon our happy escape —....

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1996 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

Independent scholar and author Bonnie Hurd Smith is the president and CEO of History Smiths, a marketing company that works with businesses to incorporate history -- their own and their community's -- into their branding, marketing, and community outreach to attract customers, boost customer loyalty, and secure a high status reputation in the communities they serve.