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March 23, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

Festival at Buckingham Court House: Part I

william-cabell-rives_UVA_Small Special Collections

William Cabell Rives. Courtesy Small Special Collections, University of Virginia.

On July 11, 1840, Richmond’s The Whig printed special correspondence from Buckingham County describing a festival held in honor of Mr. Rives. It is a reminder of the fact that Administrations in Washington, D.C. can be “mentally agitating.” Nothing is new.




Pursuant an invitation tendered to Mr. Rives by the opponents of the present administration in this country (Martin Van Buren), to accept of a Public Dinner, and address them on those great political questions which are now agitating the minds of the whole People, that distinguished gentleman arrived here on the evening of the 12th instant. He was immediately waited upon by the Committee, and many others, who are desirous of an introduction. The 13th being Court day was the day appointed for the festival. Upwards of twenty years had elapsed since he had been permitted to mingle with his fellow citizens in this County, and great eagerness was manifested by all parties to see and hear one whose name was so widely extended, and whose political independence has rendered him the object of such unsparing and malignant persecution.

                The Court House being thought insufficient to hold the assemblage who were expected to be present on the occasion, a spacious awning was erected in the public square. At an early hour in the morning, crowds of people from all parts of the county, and numbers from distant and adjoining counties, began to pour into the village and by 11 o’clock, the concourse was swelled to one thousand or fifteen hundred anxious and excited expectants. The signs of the morning promised an unfavorable day – the sky being covered with clouds, and the air being oppressive and sultry. At the hour of eleven, Mr. Reeves was accompanied to the stand by the Committee, and commenced his remarks in a beautiful and feeling manner, to an attentive and breathless audience. He had not spoken long, before a violent storm rendered farther (sic) speaking under the awning impracticable, and the crowd rushed into the Court House to hear the conclusion of his address. It was quite insufficient, however, to contain the audience, and when the rain had ceased, the people were again invited to the awning. After having spoken on for some time, the ringing of the bells announced that dinner was ready – and a proposition was made and acceded to for postponing further discussion until the dinner was over. Notwithstanding these embarrassing and successive interruptions, so well calculated to confuse the mind and damp the ardor of the speaker, Mr. Reeves seem to redouble his exertions, and rise higher and higher at each succeeding struggle of his genius. All sympathized with the situation of the speaker, but all admired the increasing energy with which he met and conquered all these obstacles – which, to say the truth, were by far the most serious he met with during the day.

Correction: When I first posted this story from The Whig, I mistakenly thought the Mr. Rives was Judge Alexander Rives.  However, Mr. William Cabell Rives was the honored guest.

Coming Next: Festival at Buckingham Court House: Part II

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