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Life of George Washington

Joel Tyler Headley; Life of George Washington (Philadelphia: serialized in Graham’s Magazine, 1854)

The next day, July 4th, was appointed for final action. It was soon known throughout the city, and in the morning before Congress assembled, the streets were filled with excited men, some gathering in groups engaged in eager discussion, and others moving towards the State House. All business was forgotten in the momentous crisis the country had now reached. No sooner had the members taken their seats than the multitude gathered in a dense mass around the entrance. The old bell-man mounted to the belfry, to be ready to proclaim the joyful tidings of freedom so soon as the final vote had passed. A bright-eyed boy was stationed below to give the signal. Around that bell, brought from England, had been cast more than twenty years before, the prophetic sentence, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." Although its loud clang had often sounded over the city, the proclamation engraved on its iron lip had never yet been spoken aloud. It was expected that the final vote would be taken without delay, but hour after hour wore on and no report came from that mysterious hall where the fate of a continent was being settled. The multitude grew impatient -- the old bell-man leaned over the railing, straining his eyes downward, till his heart misgave him and hope yielded to fear. But at length, at two o’clock, the door of the hall opened, and a voice exclaimed: "It has passed." The words leaped like lightening from lip to lip, followed by huzzahs that shook the building. The boy-sentinel turned to the belfry, clapped his hands, and shouted, "Ring! Ring!" The desponding bell-man electrified into life by the joyful news, seized the iron tongue and hurled it backward and forward, with a clang that startled every heart in Philadelphia like a bugle blast. "Clang -- clang," it resounded on, ever higher and clear and more joyous, blending in its deep and thrilling vibrations, and proclaiming in long and loud accents over all the land the motto that encircled it. Glad messengers caught the tidings as it floated on the air and sped off in every direction to bear it onward. homepage

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