2017-07-06 / Opinion

A City of Historic Declaration


Although the Fourth of July is now in our rearview mirror, it is worth reflecting on how fortunate we are to live in a city so rich in history. As Newporters, we have the privilege of being able to visit historic buildings and walk the streets in much the same way as our forefathers did during our nation's infancy.

As a young man, Major John Handy read the Declaration of Independence on July 20, 1776 to the citizens of Rhode Island from the Colony House steps. Fifty years later, he did it again, beginning the tradition of an annual reading in downtown Newport.

The significance of the day was not lost on the crowd that filled Washington Square on Tuesday, July 4 to hear the reading once more. To a large gathering of celebrants dressed in red, white and blue, Roy Lauth, wearing the signature Newport Artillery Company uniform (and a member of the Sons of the Revolution) gave a powerful delivery of the words from 1776 that set the foundation of our country. The Sons provided small booklets containing the document so people could follow along. All 500 copies were quickly handed out, as were hundreds of hand-held flags.

(Photo by Allan Millora Photography) (Photo by Allan Millora Photography) The cannon salute by the Artillery Company was the grand finale to the historic festivities in the square. But throughout the afternoon, hundreds visited the many houses of worship that were open. One of the organizers of the “First Freedom Open House Tour” said more than 300 came to Touro Synagogue. Built in 1763, it the oldest synagogue still standing in the United States. In August 1790, President George Washington visited Newport and was welcomed by its citizen groups, among them members of the Hebrew congregation. Washington’s historic thank-you letter to that group includes the line affirming “a government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” Not far from Newport’s historic center, in the Mt. Vernon-Bush Street neighborhood, someone with impeccable penmanship had stealthily chalked the opening sentences of the Declaration on the sidewalk for all passers-by to ponder.

So, our message on this sixth day of July is go out and appreciate the history of Newport, and the history of our nation any day as if it was July 4, 1776.

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