25 March 2009

Washington Benevolent Society

In an effort to electioneer for votes, the Federalist Party promoted the establishment of Washington Benevolent Societies at the local level. These political organizations were popular from 1800 to 1816. Often, moral and political addresses were delivered before the local Washington Benevolent Society on February 22, the anniversary of the birth of the first president.

The Washington Benevolent Society
of the County of Cayuga

The Constitution of the Washington Benevolent Society, of the County of Cayuga; together with the Farewell Address of George Washington; and the Constitution of the United States and of the State of New York was printed at Auburn in 1813 by H. & J. Pace. That pamphlet is recorded in Shaw & Shoebridge (#30463). The following is an excerpt from that publication:

"Whereas associations formed to dispense charity, cultivate brotherly love, diffuse useful information, and to inculcate sound moral and political principles, have a tendency to promote individual happiness and the public welfare. And whereas it is desirable, that those who form such associations should render them communicative of the virtue and the good example of illustrious men, wherever it can be done consistently with the objects of their institution,.. And whereas the preeminent virtue, inestimable public services, and meritorious example of George Washington entitle his memory to every mark of respect and consideration from a grateful people, and furnish an admirable pattern of imitation, We the subscribers have formed ourselves into a Society, by the name of the Washington Benevolent Society, of the County of Cayuga, as well to testify to our sincere veneration for the memory of the illustrious Washington, as to cherish the remembrance of, and inculcate his wise, benevolent, and pure maxims and principles...

"1. Each member shall, at the time of his admission, pay to the treasurer, for the use of the society, the sum of two dollars.... 2. The funds of the Society shall be applied to purposes of charity and the diffusion of useful information among our fellow citizens.... 3. Officers.... 9. Any member who shall conduct himself unfaithfully and unworthily may be expelled by the vote of two-thirds of the members who shall be present at his trial, which trial shall be had before the same number of members, and conducted in the same manner as in case of an officer.... 14. Every person who shall hereafter become a member of this Society shall signify his assent to these articles, by subscribing his name thereto."

For Further Information

David Hackett Fischer. The Revolution of American Conservatism: The Federalist Party in the Era of Jeffersonian Democracy.