After the reception of the veterans, one of them proposed to go up into the belfry, and see the old bell which proclaimed liberty “to all the land, and to all the nations thereof.” Lafayette and a few others accompanied the proposal by expressing a wish to see that interesting relic. With great difficulty, some of the old men were conducted up to the belfry, and there they beheld the bell still swinging. Lafayette was much gratified at the sight, as it awakened his old enthusiasm to think of the period when John Adams and his bold brother patriots dared to assert the principles of civil liberty, and to proclaim the independence of their country. Old John Harmar, one of the veteran soldiers who had been in Philadelphia when the Declaration was proclaimed, and who again shook hands with his old brothers in arms, gave vent to his thoughts and feelings as he stood looking at the bell.
“Ah! that’s the trumpet that told the Britishers a tale of vengeance! My memory’s not so bad but I can recollect the day that old bell was rung for independence! This city presented a very different appearance in those days. It was a small town. Every body was expectin’ that the king’s troops would be comin’ here soon, and would sack and burn the place: but the largest number of us were patriots, and knew the king was a tyrant; and so we didn’t care much whether they came or not. How the people did crowd around this State-House on the day the Declaration was proclaimed! Bells were ringing all over town, and guns were fired; but above ’em all could be heard the heavy, deep sound of this old bell, that rang as if it meant something! Ah! them was great times.”
As old Harmar concluded these remarks, the old men standing near the bell nodded approvingly, and some echoed, “Them was great times!” in a tone which indicated that memory was endeavoring to conjure back the time of which they spoke. They then slowly turned to descend. Lafayette had preceded them with his few friends. “Stop!” said old Harmar; “Wilson, Morton, Smith, and you, Higgins, my son wants you to come home with me, and take dinner at his house. Come; I want to have some chat with you over old doings. I may never see you again after you leave Philadelphia.”
The invitation, cordially given, was cordially accepted, and the party of old friends descended the stairs, and, arriving at the door, were assisted by the cheering crowd to get into their carriage, which then drove towards the residence of old Harmar’s son. At that place we shall consider them as having arrived, and, after much welcoming, introducing, and other preparatory ceremonies, as seated at a long, well-supplied table, set in a large and pleasant dining-hall. Young Harmar, his wife, and the four children, were also accommodated at the same table, and a scene of conviviality and pleasure was presented such as is not often witnessed. The old men were very communicative and good-humored; and young Harmar and his family were free of questions concerning the great scenes through which they had passed. But we will let the company speak for themselves.