Tuesday, June 30, 2009

America Celebrates July 4, 1875 in London

"Aliens no more, allies forever". In preparation for the 1876 centennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a delegation of United States dignitaries, led by the Honorable Erastus P. Carpenter, of Foxboro, Massachusetts (USA) traveled to London to celebrate the ninety-ninth anniversary. General Robert Cumming Schenck, the United States Minister to England presided at the July 4, 1875 festivities, which were held in the Crystal Palace. Then, as is true today, the two nations celebrated their common indivisible bond of friendship and allegiance.

The decorations for the dinner were most impressive. The Palace banquet hall was decked out with groups of flags representing both nations. Across one end of the hall was a large painting of two hands grasping, over them was written, “England and America,” while statues of Washington and Lincoln, and other notable Americans were placed in different parts of the room.

In his opening remarks E. P. Carpenter stated, “I have the honor as the president of the committee to call this assembly to order. I feel I only echo the voice of Mother England when I say, ‘Welcome Grandchildren to the old English homestead;’ let us bring garlands of peace to the altar of liberty, with malice towards no one and charity to all, showing that we appreciate free government, and our veneration for the wisdom of our ancestors, who have given us such a goodly heritage. This day on this occasion, if observed in the spirit of unity and peace, may serve to strengthen the ties of friendship between the two nations whose power united must lead the civilization of the world.”

All the dishes served during the dinner were named after American cities and celebrities at the time. During the banquet the band of the St. George Rifles played a selection of music, in which the airs of Great Britain and America were intermingled. There were toasts throughout the evening. That to Ulysses S. Grant, President of the United States, was responded to by the band playing “Hail Columbia and Yankee Doodle;” that to Her Majesty Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was responded to by the band playing “God Save the Queen.”

Robert Torrens, a Minister of Parliament, declared, “After this day all present would say of England and America, ‘Aliens no more, allies forever.’ But if there were to be political creeds, there should be toleration for differences in political faith. Of the brave soldier fighting by his side in the cause of mankind he would not ask if their creeds agreed, nor would he give up his tried and valued friend because he knelt not at the same altar.” In the course of these remarks, Torrens mentioned that the Queen had never turned away from America in her times of trouble.

As we Americans celebrate our July 4th Independence Day, let us not forget our Great Britain brothers and sisters who place themselves in harms way, side-by-side with our sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan, in defense of our common values of liberty and freedom.