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HOW THE GLAD TIDINGS
WHILE the vote on the adoption of the Declaration of Independence was being taken in the State House at Philadelphia, crowds surged about the streets. The suspense was terrible. Would Congress dare declare the colonies free? Would they dare defy the power of England?
The old State House bell was to ring out the news if Congress acted. Already, in the belfry the old bell-ringer waited for the signal. At last it came, and as his grandson bounded up the stairs shouting “Ring! Ring! Ring!” the peals of the bell broke forth spreading the good news far and near. And the shouts from the crowds below told that the joyous sound found echo in the hearts of the people of the new and independent nation.
THERE was tumult in the city,
In the quaint old Quaker town,
Pacing restless up and down, —
Where they whispered each to each,
With the earnestness of speech.
As the bleak Atlantic currents
Lash the wild Newfoundland shore, So they beat against the State-House,
So they surged against the door; And the mingling of their voices
Made a harmony profound, Till the quiet street of Chestnut
Was all turbulent with sound.
“Will they do it?” “Dare they do it?”
“Who is speaking?” “What's the news?” “What of Adams?” “What of Sherman?”
“Oh, God grant they won't refuse!” “Make some way there!” “Let me nearer!”
“I am stifling!” “Stifle then! When a nation's life's at hazard,
We've no time to think of men!”
So they beat against the portal,
Man and woman, maid and child; And the July sun in heaven
On the scene looked down and smiled: The same sun that saw the Spartan
Shed his patriot blood in vain, Now beheld the soul of freedom,
All unconquered, rise again.
See! see! The dense crowd quivers
Through all its lengthy line,
As the boy beside the portal
Looks forth to give the sign! With his little hands uplifted,
Breezes dallying with his hair, Hark! with deep, clear intonation,
Breaks his young voice on the air.
Hushed the people's swelling murmur,
List the boy's exultant cry! “Ring!” he shouts, “Ring! grandpa,
Ring! oh, ring for Liberty!” Quickly at the given signal
The old bell-man lifts his hand, Forth he sends the good news, making
Iron music through the land.
How they shouted! What rejoicing!
How the old bell shook the air, Till the clang of freedom ruffled
The calmly gliding Delaware! How the bonfires and the torches
Lighted up the night's repose, And from the flames, like fabled Phoenix,
Our glorious Liberty arose!
That old State-House bell is silent,
Hushed is now its clamorous tongue; But the spirit it awakened
Still is living — ever young; And when we greet the smiling sunlight
On the Fourth of each July, We will ne'er forget the bell-man
Who, betwixt the earth and sky, Rung out, loudly, “Independence”;
Which, please God, shall never die!
THE SPEECH THAT JOHN ADAMS
SHOULD HAVE MADE
THE great speech of John Adams on the adoption of the Declaration of Independence was not made until after Adams was dead. Daniel Webster made it in a Fourth of July oration in memory of Adams and Jefferson. The speech begins with the ringing words which have inspired patriots ever since: “Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote.”
Webster, a greater orator than Adams, though not a greater patriot, recited the speech as having heard it from Adams' lips. But in truth, only the idea and a few scattered sentences had come from Adams. Webster called to life the spirit of the great patriot, and put these noble words in his mouth.
He pictured him standing there in Independence Hall with the great issue before him: Should the American colonists be safe and dependent, or should they risk their necks on the chance of winning freedom for themselves and for the America of the future? And so this speech, imaginary so far as the actual words are concerned, is absolutely true to life as representing Adams and the spirit of Seventy-Six.