Address by Dr. Thomas Edward Green

Excerpts from  an  Address Delivered by  the Late

DR. THOMAS EDWARD GREEN

on   March 11,  1929

Editor’s  Note:  Inasmuch· as this  roster  with by-laws is published  on   the seventy-third anniversary of   the Institution of   the Society of  the Sons of  the Revolution in   the District of  Columbia, it is  deemed appropriate to print  below extracts  from  the  address  delivered  before the  Society on   the  occasion of   its  fortieth  anniversary by  Dr. Thomas  Edward  Green,  Ge1ieral Chaplain  of  the General  Society,  Sons  of    the  Revolution  and  former President  of   the  Society in   the  District  of   Columbia.

We · are  celebrating tonight  the .fortieth   anniversary of   the  Instit ution  of   the  Society  of   the  Sons  of   the Revolution in  the  District of   Columbia  on   March  11th 1889.

Among  its  founders  were  John   Lee  Carroll,  Theo­ dorus  B.   M.   Mason,  Col.    John  Schuyler  Crosby,  and Archibald Hopkins.                                                         ·

 

These gentlemen, with eight  others  were either  mem­ bers of, or applicants  for   admission  to,  the  Society  of th e  Sons of  the Revolution in  the State of  New   York or in  the State ·of   Pennsylvania,  the  only Societies of   the Sons of  the Revolution then in existence.

 

At   a special  meeting of   the  Sons o:f   the  Revolution held at  Fraunces  Tavern in  New   York  City  on   March

11th, 1889, at 4:00P.M.,  a letter  was presented, signed by   the  petitioners  from  the  District  of   Columbia, re­ questing authority  to organize and incorporate a branch

of  the Society in   the District.

 

Whereupon, Major Asa.. Bird Gardiner  moved that  tb.e req uest  be   granted,  and  upon  a  second · by   Mr.   Austin Huntington,  the  auxiliary  branch  in   the  District  was received into full  fellowship in  the Society of   the Sons of   the  Revolution-and   upon its  incorporation under the l aws of  the District of  Columbia on   December 18th,

1889,  it became “The Sons of  the Revolution in the Dis­

trict of  Columbia.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 SONS  OF  THE  REVOL- UTION

 

Its initial meeting was . held   on  December  3rd   in  the residence  of   Lieutenant  Mason, 1606  Twentieth Street N.W.     At  this  meeting the   Constitution  of  the   Society in   the   State of  New   York   was   ‘ldopted  in  its entirety, and   officers   were  elected ,for   the   year  18 9 0,  the   Hon. John  Lee  Carroll being elected President.

The   first  Year   Book   of  the   Society  was   printed  May

15th,  1900, and  it  contained the  names of   forty-two members.   Tonight we  enroll 426  members.

 

Nothing, I  think, is  more fascinating  than  the   study of · origins.    They are   the   determining factor in  evalua­ tion.   The   mere enumeration {)f  facts is  stale, flat   and unprofitable.     Reminiscence  is   the    agreeable  pastime of  doddering senility.   Beside th  e mere fact, there must be  the environment, the   circumstance that  gave signifi­ cance to  tile   birth of  a  thing.   Thus alone can   we  con­ struct  a  philosophy of   history.   Thus  alone  do   things become  sacramental-    outward  and   visible  signs   of   in­ ward and  spiritual  things.   Thus alone ca  n  we  attempt to·  decide whether things are as  they are,  because they are,: or  because they were meant to  be.    Thus, to  quote the    epigrammatic  H.   G.   Wells,  does   “human   history become more and  more  a  race   between   education  and  catastrophe.”

 

Our   Society of  the   Sons of  the   Revolution  is  such a

‘rhing, – and  our  pleasant  privilege tonight  is  to   at­

tempt some rational  analysis of  the   determining sources

– the   creative influences out of  which it. came.

* * . * * *

So  it  came that  William E.  Gladstone said, “The American Constutition  is,  so  far   as  I  can  see,   the   most wonderful  work ever   struck off  at a  given   time  by  the brain and   purpose of  man.”

 

It was   to  commemorate the great  events and   the su­ preme emprise of  these days of  struggle and  accomplish­ ment that  the   first  step  was   taken  toward  hereditary patroiotic commemoration.

The   Society of  the   Cincinnati  was organized  on   May

13th, 1783, by the  American and  foreign officers  of  the Continental   Army  assem bled    in   their   Cantonment  on the   Hudson  River  near  Fishkill,  New   York.     Member­ ship  was   accorded  to   all  Continental officers   who   had

 

 

SONS  01<‘    TH.E REVOLUTION 5

 

 

served  with honor and   resigned after  three years’ serv­ ice,   or   who   had    been   honorably  .discharged  for   disa­ bility,-and in  turn to  the eldest male posterity of  such officers.   The   Society was   organized into thirteen State Societies.

 

The   first   general  meeting  was   held   in   Philadelphia on  May  7th, 1784, at which delegates were   present from all   the   original States, and   an   amendment was   adopted under  which a  society was  authorized and   organized  in France.

 

Although George Washington  was its  first President, and   held   office  until his  death, the   Society was  immedi­ ately  and   violently  unpopular  througlwut  the   country. Many  saw  in  it the   beginnings o.f   an   hereditary  aristoc­ racy-   Benjamin   Franklin    questioned   its    usefulness, while both   Adams and   Thomas Jefferson  were  avowedly hostile to  it.   The  Legislature  of  Massachusetts declared it  to  be  “da ngerous to  the  peace,  liberty  and   safety of the Union.”

 

Strange how   the   pendulum swings from  one  extreme to    another.    One    after   another,  the    State   Societies dwindled and   ceased to  exist.   Only   six  of  them lasted through,-an d  the   most   remarkable  climax to   the   hos­ tile feeling was  the   founding of  Tammany Hall in  New York, incorporated  in  17 89  as a protest against the  Cin­ cinnati, and  ·an  advocate ot “pure democracy.”

 

It was   not   until  1893  that  Connecticut revived as  a State Society;-and  not  until the  Triennial of  1902 that Georgia,  the    last  of   the  original  thirteen,  was   read­ mitted.

 

For  the past quarter of  a century, the  Society of  the Cincinnati has  maintained a  prosperous and  honored  ex­ istence, and   membership in  its ranks has  been  esteemed an outstanding distinction.

The   founder of  the Society of  the Sons of  the  Revo­

lution  was   Mr.   John  Austin  Stevens,  of   the    Class  of

1846 at Harvard University. Mr.. Stevens was  the grand­

son cf  Brevet-Colonel Ebenezer Stevens, of  the  Second Regiment  Continental  Corps    of   Artillery  in   the   Revo­ lution,  a nd   is   known as  the   accomplished founder   of the Magazine of  American History.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– – . ..  .: . . – :-   .  .,.-..      …        ‘   .. .  . .-: ‘ . – , .-    ·. – .

 

 

 

 

 

6 SONS OF THE  REVOLUTION

 

 

When  Mr.  Stevens  foun d,  after  correspondence with the   Honorable Hamilton Fish, President  General of  the Cincinnati, that  the  Constitution of  that order could not be amended so  as  to  admit descendants in  junior lines of original  members, he  con ceived   the   idea of  formin g  the Society o:f  t he  Sons of  the   Revolu tion.   He,  accordingly, held   a  meeting of   several  gentlemen   (all  members  of the  Cincinna ti) for   consultation in  his office in  the  New York   Historical  Society on  December 18th,  18 7 5.

 

A second meeting  was  h eld  at the   New  York Histori­ cal   Society  rooms  on   January  15th,  1876,  when    Mr. Stevens  submitted   a   completed   Constitution   f or    ap­ proval. The   purposes of   the   Society  were  declared  to be   to   revive  and    maintain  the  pa triotic  spirit  of   the heroes who  had  achieved the  independence of  the  United States,  to   collect  a nd   secure  for   preservation  the   his­ torical  records  and   documents relating  to   the   War   of the   Revolution,  and   to   promote social  intercourse  and good  feeling among th e  members.

 

As   the    Centennial  celebra tion    at  Philadelphia  was approaching, it was  decided to  issu e a  call  for  a  general meeting,  to   be   held    on   Washington ‘s  Birthday, to  ar­ range  f or   a   representation  at  the    Philadelphia  Cen­ ten nial.    Bef ore  that  time  the   Constitution  submitted by  Mr. Stevens was  approved  and   subscribed by  Messrs. Stevens, Houghton, Gardiner, L. Cass  Ledyard, Charles Henry Ward of  the   New  York  Society of  the Cin cinnati, a nd  others, and the  Society was  duly   instituted.

 

The   response  to   the   call   for  the  . 22nd   of  February meeting,  although  extensively publish ed,  sh owed   a lack of   public  interest  in   Revolutionary  matters,  and    the Founders of the Society accordingly concluded, on  the occasion  of   the  called  meeting,  to   await  a   more  pro­ pitious  d ay   for    increasing  th e   Society’s  membership. The   Society, although  duly   instituted,  consequently re­ mained prac tica lly  dormant for   several  years f rom   Feb­ ruary  22nd,  1876.    The   fact  had ,  however, been   pub­ lish ed  and   gone forth  th at  the Society of  the   “Sons  of the   Revolution” had   actually been   formed.

 

In  Novem ber  18 8 3 a great  Centennial celebration was held   in   New  York  City to  commemorate  the   evacuation of  New  York   by the  British.    Mr. Stevens and  his associ-

 

 

 

 

 

SONS OF  THE  REVOLUTION 7

 

 

ate  members in   the  Society of   the “Sons  of   the  Revo­ lution”  saw that  the  propitious  time for   increasing its membership and  establishing  it  on    an    enduring  basis had arrived.   He  accordingly issued carefully considered invitations for the  memorable dinner held at  Fraunces Tavern on  the evening of  December 4th, 1883,  the Cen­ tennial  anniversary  of    General  Washington’s  farewell to the officers of  the Main Continental  Army of  the Revo­ lution.   Here, in   the very “long  room” where occurred that  touching historic scene, the  plan of   the  Society  of the Sons of  the Revolution was submitted, and enthusi­ astically  received by  the assemblage, composed of  repre­ sentative  citizens  of   New    York  of   revolutionary  ante­ cedents.

\

From that  time the Society entered  upon a  career   of patriotic usefulness quite unexampled, and hence it  has been accustomed  to  date its success from the year 1883, although instituted  in   1875-6.   It soon  acquired  a   na­ tional   reputation   in   consequence  of    a  rigorous  ad­ herence to  the  qualifications and  limitations  for  mem­ bership, by   the character and standing of   its members, the p·rinciples it  annunciated,  and  by   its  patriotic com­ memorative   celebrations    and   public-spirited    efforts,

evinced in  the matters more particularly of  the success­ ful erection of  Bartholdi’s Statue of  Liberty in  New   York Harbor,  and  in    the  movement  for  the  erection  of   a statue to  Captain Nathan Hale.

 

This  honorable  reputation   achieved  by    the  Society induced  the  Honorable  Hamilton  Fish,  President  Gen­ eral of  the Cincinnati, to declare on   March  2 2nd, 18 8 9- that he   regarded the Society of   the “Sons of   the  Revo­ lution” as “a  younger brother of   the Cincinnati, labor­ ing to perpetuate the same principles, and inheriting the same  memories which belonged to   the Cincinnati.”

 

On   May   3rd, 1884, the Society was duly incorporated under  the  laws of   the State  o.f    New   York  by   the  Dis­ tinctive  name  of   “Sons  of   the  Revolution,”  the  name which had been adopted originally at tile meeting held December 18th, 1875.

 

Fraunces’ Tavern, which had been a house of  public entertainment  since 1762, and  memorable for  meetings of  the Sons of  Liberty in  17 7 5,  became the headquarters of  the Society for   its meetings, and commemorative cele-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• ;…

 

 

 

 

 

S            SONS OF THE  REVOLUTION

 

 

brations, and   has since been   acquired  arid   restored   by the   New  York   Society of  the Sons  of  the  Revolution.

. · At  the outset, Mr.  Stevens and   his  associates contem­ plated that  in  due time residents in   the  several states, . who   wet:e  actuated  by  the   same spirit  as the  “Sons of t_he  Revolution,’;  would    desire  to   adopt its  name, its principles, its insignia,  and   organize coordinate and  co­ eq”ti’al State  societies, and   a  provision for   that  contin­ gency was  inserted in  the  Constitution.

* * * * *

Accordingly, distinguished  gentlemen  in  Pennsylvania

and   in  the District of  Columbia successively applied  to

be authorized to  organize a society of  “Sons of the Revolution.”   Having been   found  duly  qualified by  de­ scent and  otherwise, their  requests were· cheerfully ac­ corded, ‘ and   they  were given the  most   fraternal recog­ nition. · ·

,   ,The ·_. Honorable   William  Wayne,  President   of    the R,ei,J.n,.;;y)vania  State  Society of  the Cincinnati, became President  of   the  Pennsylvania  Society  of   the   Sons  of the   Rev’olution, and  Ex-Governor John ..Lee   Carroll  of

1\faryland . y;as  the first President  of  the Society of  the

S6,ns  0f  the  Revolution in  the  District of  Columbia.

· In due  season; a general Society bf  the   “Sons o:f . the Revolution” was   formed; upon  the  basis of  the Society of  the  Cincinnati with  a  Constitution  from  the   pen   of the President of  the State Society of  Cincinnati in  New Jersey; Jli’dge Cliff·ord  Stanley Sims.   This Constitution was ·subniitted in  Philadelphia on  the  12th of  February

1890,   and   was   adopted  by   the  representa tives  of   the

Societies of   New   York,  Pennsylvania  and    the   District

of   Columbia  in   Washington City  on   April 19th,  1890, and   the  General Society thu$ organized met   for  its first session in  ·Philadel phia   April  4th,   18 91.    Twenty-seven State Societies now  adhere to  this Constitution.

 

Editor’s Note : Two   bronze tablets  have been  erected in the   City   of  Washington  which mark  respectively the site  of   the   building  in   which  the   Constitution  of    the General Society of  the Sons of  the  Revolution was  adopt­ ed -and  the   building in  w hich the  Society of  the  Sons  of the   Revolution  of   the   District  of   Columbia  was   orga­ nized.   The .first  of  these tablets is  on   th e  building at

819    Fifteenth   Street,   N. W.; the     second,  at   1606

Twentieth Street,  N. W.