In Celebration of the Fourth of July

The Rhode Island Collection has over 75 published pamphlets and printed speeches related to the celebration of Independence Day going back as early as 1788.  Rhode Islanders have a storied tradition of celebrating Fourth of July - most especially in Bristol where the city hosts the oldest annual official celebration in the country dating back to 1785.

In 1795, Jonathon Maxcy delivered an oration at the First Baptist Church in Providence in honor of the 19th anniversary of Independence.  Just several years prior, he had been pastor of that church but had resigned in order to serve as the second President of Brown University (then known as Rhode Island College). 

In the introduction of his inspiring oration, he writes:

The citizens of America celebrate that day which gave birth to their liberties.  The recollection of this event, replete with consequences so beneficial to mankind, swells every heart with joy, and fills every tongue with praise.  We celebrate not the sanguinary exploits of a tyrant to subjugate and enslave millions of his fellow-creatures; we celebrate neither the birth nor the coronation of that phantom styled a king; - but the resurrection of liberty, the emancipation of mankind, the regeneration of the world.  These are the sources of our joy, these the causes of our triumph.  We pay no homage at the tomb of kings, to sublime our feelings - we trace no line of illustrious ancestors, to support our dignity -we recur to no usages sanctioned by the authority of the great, to protect our rejoicings; - no, we love liberty, we glory in the rights of men, we glory in independence. 

If you are interested in viewing any volumes from our collection of Fourth of July orations, please contact Kate Wells for a research appointment. 

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Kate Wells

As the Rhode Island Collection librarian at Providence Public Library, Kate Wells helps bring Rhode Island history to light by increasing access to the collection and providing research assistance to patrons. In the “Rhode Island Red” blog, Kate showcases interesting materials from the collection, provides research tip & techniques, and highlights local history. Feel free to contact her if you have any Rhode Island related questions; she is always happy to help. Email:


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