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Catholic Celebration at Philadelphia

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

July 5.—Yesterday being the anniversary of the day which gave freedom to the vast republic of America, the Congress, the President, and the Council of the State, with the other civil and military officers, and a number of principal gentlemen and ladies, at twelve o’clock, attended at the Roman Chapel, in Philadelphia, agreeable to invitation received from the Minister Plenipotentiary of his Most Christian Majesty. A Te Deum was performed on the occasion to the great satisfaction of all present, and his excellency’s chaplain delivered a short and elegant address to his audience, of which we have been favored with the following translation:

“Gentlemen:—We are assembled to celebrate the anniversary of that day which Providence had marked in his eternal decrees to become the epocha of liberty and independence to the thirteen United States of America. That Being whose almighty hand holds all existence beneath its dominion, undoubtedly produces in the depth of his wisdom those great events which astonish the universe, and of which the most presumptuous, though instrumental in accomplishing them, dare not attribute to themselves the merit. But the finger of God is still more peculiarly evident in that happy, that glorious revolution, which calls forth this day’s festivity. He hath struck the oppressors of a people, free and peaceable, with that spirit of delusion, which renders the wicked artificers of their own proper misfortunes. Permit me, my dear brethren, citizens of the United States, to address you on this occasion. It is that God —that all-powerful God who hath directed your steps, when you knew not where to apply for counsel—who, when you were without arms, fought for you with the sword of eternal justice—who, when you were in adversity, poured into your hearts the spirit of courage, of wisdom, and of fortitude, and who has at length raised up for your support a youthful sovereign whose virtues bless and adorn a sensible, a faithful, and a generous nation. This nation has blended her interests with your interests, and her sentiments with yours. She participates in all your joys, and this day unites her voice to yours at the foot of the altars of the eternal God, to celebrate that glorious revolution which has placed the sons of America among the free and independent nations of the earth!

“We have nothing to apprehend but the anger of Heaven, or that the measure of our guilt should exceed the measure of his mercy. Let us then prostrate ourselves at the feet of the immortal God, who holds the fate of empires in his hands, and raises them up at his pleasure, or breaks them to dust—let us conjure him to enlighten our enemies, and to dispose their hearts to enjoy that tranquillity and happiness which the revolution we now celebrate has established for a great part of the human race—let us implore him to conduct us by that way which his Providence has marked out for arriving at so desirable an end—let us offer unto him hearts imbued with sentiments of respect, consecrated by religion, by humanity and patriotism. Never is the august ministry of his altars more acceptable to his divine Majesty than when it lays at his feet homages, offerings, and vows so pure, so worthy the common parent of mankind. God will not respect our joy, for he is the author of it; nor will he reject our prayers, for they ask but the full accomplishment of the decrees he hath manifested. Filled with this spirit, let us in concert with each other, raise our hearts to the Eternal—let us implore his infinite mercy to be pleased to inspire the rulers of both nations with the wisdom and force necessary to perfect what it hath begun. Let us, in a word, unite our voices to beseech him to dispense his blessing upon the counsels and arms of the allies, that we may soon enjoy the sweets of a peace which will cement the Union, and establish the prosperity of the two empires. It is with this view that we shall cause that canticle to be performed which the custom of the Catholic Church hath consecrated, to be at once a testimonial of public joy, a thanksgiving for benefits received from Heaven, and a prayer for the continuance of its mercies.”1


1 New York Journal, July 26.