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Liberty Bell

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During my patriotic boyhood, there was a salient difference in doctrinal philosophy between the Baptists and Congregationalists, and it probably has never been recognized by students of schisms. On the night before the Glorious Fourth, the Baptists locked their edifice securely and posted Mr. Herman Damon on guard, denying us boys the pursuit of happiness as well as the ceremonial exercise of ringing the big bell in the steeple. This led to some improvisation by certain patriotic infidels that was never necessary with those embracing the Congregational credenda.

The Congregational deacons left their church-open, and kept a light burning by the wooden ladder steep and tall, so we could go in there and ring all we wanted. The two churches were at opposite ends of the village, so the Night Before the Fourth was usually announced more vigorously in that with the open door, policy, but not always.

Some older chaps (two-three were respectable businessmen) recognized something to reject in the Baptist attitude, and tricked Mr. Damon into the pastor's study one time. They pounded on the outside wall with a board, and when Mr. Damon came to investigate they shot a bolt and trapped him. Then they rang the bell for an hour or so. Another time, somebody sneaked the bell rope out a steeple window so the ringing could be done from the churches lawn. Mr. Damon went up into the loft and was heard to deplore this deceit, but the rope was coming and going with such vigor, being in time with the rocking of the great bell, that he didn't touch the thing.

The Congregationalists had the better bell. It was hung on a wheel, so it could be rolled over. For patriotic observances on the Night Before, the rope was disengaged from the wheel, and then a half dozen good mucklers would get the thing turning like a dervish and the clapper would make a mighty contact with each revolution. Momentum took over, and after that one or two hands could keep the bell clanging all night. The Baptist bell wouldn't roll over but had to come again after each bong. But such is the particularity of patriotic communicants that it was always more fun to clang the Baptists' if it could be arranged, and the two or three up in the Congo belfry were outnumbered by fervent legions of scheming celebrators who were trying to think up some way to excommunicate Mr. Damon.


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