Henry Livingston, Jr.
Henry Livingston's Poetry



A Procession


The legislators pass along
A solemn, self-important throng!
Just raised from the common mass
They feel themselves another class.
--But let them in the sunshine play
For every dog must have his day.

There moves the law's close-wedged band
The scourge & terror of the land!
Pandora's box replete with ills
Not half so baleful as their quills.

The sons of Galen, ghastly crew!
Next pass in horrible review:
Arm'd with each instrument of death
To sap the citadel of Health.
Ten thousand times ten thousand fall
And physic's monster gulps down all.

Bellona's sons, a num'rous train,
now darken all the dusky plain!
--War, their amusement, Death their trade
And the one sin, to be afraid.

They're but another dire disease
The soul from prison to release:
And man forlorn, as well may be
A prey to steel as malady:
Explore he must the mortal road,
The only diff'rence is the mode.

The men in black bring up the rear,
More warm to preach than folks to hear:
Each points to his own fav'rite road
As leading to the blest abode
Proclaiming loud that all are wrong
Who don't around his banners throng.
Till, all confounded FAITH retires
And frighten'd CHARITY expires.

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Background
The NY Constitutional Convention met in Poughkeepsie on June 17, 1788. Although the members attending this convention were overwhelmingly anti-Federalist, the constitution still passed, partly due to the set of articles penned by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, and known as The Federalist Papers. The ratification of the constitution resulted in processions, as parades were then called, all through the thirteen new states.

Henry might be describing the first meeting of Congress under the Constitution, which took place on the 4th of March, 1789 in New York City. But that occasion, while celebrated with the ringing of bells and the firing of cannons in the morning, noon and evening, could not do any work, because there were only eight senators and thirteen representatives present, not enough to constitute a forum.

Theodore Roosevelt describes New York City's ratification procession in his 1906 book, New York.

The townsmen were quicker witted, and politically more far-sighted and less narrow-minded than the average country folk of that day. The artisans, mechanics, and merchants of New York were enthusiastically in favor of the Federal constitution, and regarded Hamilton as their especial champion. To assist him and the cause they planned a monster procession, while the State convention was still sitting. Almost every representative body in the city took part in it. A troop of light horse in showy uniforms led, preceded by a band of trumpeters and a light battery. Then came a personator of Columbus, on horseback, surrounded by woodsmen with axes, the axe being pre-eminently the tool and weapon of the American pioneer. Then came farmers in farmers' dress, driving horses and oxen yoked to both plow and harrow, while a new modeled threshing-machine followed. The Society of the Cincinnati came next. The traders followed: gardeners in green aprons, tailors, grain-measurers, bakers, with a huge 'Federal loaf' on a platform drawn by ten bay horses; brewers, and coopers, with a stage drawn by four horses, bearing the 'Federal cask,' which the workmen finished as the procession moved; butchers, tanners, glovers, furriers, carpenters, masons, bricklayers, whitesmiths, blacksmiths, cordwainers, peruke-makers, florists, cabinet-makers, ivory-turners, shipwrights, riggers, and representatives of scores of other trades. In every part of the procession fluttered banners with Hamilton's figure and name, and the great feature of the show was the Federal ship Hamilton, drawn by ten horses. It was a thirty-two-gun frigate in miniature, twenty-seven feet long, fully rigged, and manned by thirty seamen and marines. Thirteen guns from her deck gave the signal to start, and saluted at times during the procession. The faculty and students of the University, the learned societies and professions, the merchants, and distinguished strangers brought up the rear. The procession moved out to the Bayard House, beyond the city, where a feast for six thousand people was served.







        
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