The 1811 Fourth of July celebration at Faneuil Hall, with John Adams and Paul Revere in attendance

[Docket title:] Order of the Tables at Fanueil Hall 1811 4th July. NP, ND, but probably Boston, June-July 1811.
Pen and ink on wove paper bearing “RUSE & TURNERS 1808” watermark, 9 13/16”h x 15 11/’16”w at sheet edge, docketed in ink on verso. A few splits along old folds and light wear along edges, no losses to the text.
$1,750

A manuscript seating plan for the 1811 Fourth of July celebration in Boston’s Faneuil Hall, indicating the presence of both John Adams and Paul Revere.

Reconstructed and enlarged in 1806 under the direction of architect Charles Bulfinch, Faneuil Hall served multiple functions: a public market on the ground level, city offices and a Great Hall on the second floor, and the headquarters of the Ancient and Honorable Company of Artillery on the third. During the Bullfinch renovation the Great Hall was expanded to 76 feet square and 28 feet high, with galleries on three sides.

It was in this hall that the 1811 Fourth of July celebration was held, featuring an oration given by James Savage, Esq. (1784-1873). Trained at Harvard, Savage went on to train as a lawyer, gaining admission to the bar in 1807, and served in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature. In 1816 he co-founded the Provident Institution for Savings, the first chartered savings bank in the country. His oration was intensely partisan, Federalist in tone and substance through and through. He spent most of it contrasting the American Revolution (“not only of right, but of the strictest necessity”) with the French (“neither necessary or just”), and attacking the foreign policy of the Jefferson and Madison administrations: “Can we expect to maintain our dignity abroad, before our rulers learn to respect themselves? We have much, very much, to recover, before we regain that sublime height on which our infancy was passed.” (James Savage, An Oration Delivered July 4, 1811 at the Request of the Selectmen of Boston, in Commemoration of American Independence. Boston: John Eliot, Jun., 1811)

Offered here is a hand-drawn seating plan for the event, depicting a symmetrical arrangement of somewhere between 11 and 16 tables, depending how one chooses to count them. The placement of the leading attendees is indicated, including Harrison Gray Otis (1765-1848), the arch-Federalist former President of the State Senate and future U.S. Senator, who presided over the event from the head table (shown at top center). Each of the other tables is presided over by a “Vice President” and a “Marshall”, all identified by last name. Certain tables are reserved for the Selectmen, militia members, and members of the Ancient and Honorable Company of Artillery. Of particular note are “Mr. Adams”—presumably John Adams, the former President of the United States—holding the rank of 14th Marshall and seated with the Selectmen. Also present was “Col. Revere” as “5th Vice President”, this being Paul Revere, the famed patriot who held the rank of Colonel during the Revolution and later became a successful industrialist and committed Federalist.

The most notable absence from the cast of luminaries is the Honorable Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), then serving as Governor of Massachusetts. Gerry was staunchly Republican and a close ally of Presidents Jefferson and Madison, and indeed just a year later would sign into law a radical redistricting of the state providing the Republicans with a powerful electoral advantage and giving rise to the term “Gerry-mandering”. Judging by the tenor of Savage’s oration and the pre-eminent role played by Otis, Gerry would not have been particularly welcome at the Faneuil Hall event. Indeed, he seems to have spent the day at a completely separate—and rival?—celebration, which culminated with a gala dinner atop Bunker Hill. (Pittsfield Sun, July 12, 1811)

An interesting artifact of an early Fourth of July celebration attended by two men closely identified with American independence.