Happy birthday, USA!
All nations have their celebrations, and July 4th, 1776 is our day to honor our Declaration of Independence from Britain.
Of course, history is often fuzzy. July 2, 1776, is actually the day that the Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence, so that was the official separation.
But a proper document was needed, to explain why the colonies were taking such a drastic step, so after the resolution was approved, the congress studied the declaration that explained their momentous decision. The draft declaration was produced by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson the principal writer. After debate, it was approved on the Fourth of July.
It’s likely that not everyone signed the document on the Fourth, (a lot of historians think August 2nd was the day), though Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they signed on July 4th. (Jefferson and Adams were the only signers who later became president, and they died on exactly the same day: July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.) But the exact date is less important than the significance of the event.
John Adams said in a letter to his beloved Abigail,
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Actually, he was talking about July 2nd, but he was right about celebrating with devotion, illuminations, sports, etc. We still do.
A community project:
One of my favorite celebration stories is a piece of local history. On July 4th, 1827, the 500 or so citizens of Boonsboro, Maryland, gathered and in one day (with a break for lunch), they built a memorial dedicated to George Washington. It was the first monument to Washington to be completed. It looks like a stone jug. <g> As a popular celebration of our nation and a great hero, it’s wonderful. I think of it as rather like a barn raising.
The words of the Declaration resonate today:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Jefferson could write! When I visit the Jefferson memorial in Washington, reading his words carved on the walls bring tears to my eyes. (The Lincoln memorial has the same effect. Both illustrate the incredible power of words.)
Since this is a holiday, I imagine many of you are off doing things with friends and family, so I’ll keep this short. But it’s worth remembering that the American revolution was a unique and quite amazing event. As a nation, we’re a work in progress, doing some things well and others badly. The same is true of all nations.
So happy birthday, USA! Let's keep working on getting it right!
Mary Jo, happy to see not only Wenches Jo, Joanna, Andrea/Cara, and Anne in NY at the RWA conference, but several of our valued regulars: Maggie Robinson, Louisa Cornell, and Susana Fraser. If I missed anyone, my apologies. It was a very busy week!