Happy Independence Day!
I can hear you saying, “Wait! What….?” I know that today is not the fourth of July, Independence Day, call it what you will. I do not celebrate the fourth of July, because I think it is a void holiday. Why is it void, you ask? For one simple reason.
What happened on the fourth of July, 1776?
Nothing. You heard me. NOTHING. Tons of relevant things happened on July 4, 1776, but not involving the Second Continental Congress or the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin (reportedly) said on the fourth, “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin’s attributed quote is worth mentioning- it ridiculed John Dickinson’s and Edward Rutledge’s worries- no matter if they had a third continental congress that sent another olive branch peace treaty, they would be hung. King George III would hang them either way. Other than that famous statement, very little happened at all. The Declaration was sent to a printer in the morning, since the printer had not been open the previous night, July 3rd.
So… July 4th, commonly thought of as the day of the signing and approval of the Declaration of Independence, continues as a false day of celebration. I celebrate both days, since the town really won’t change the day of the fireworks for me. There’s so much to be thankful for, why not celebrate a real day of independence, July 2nd.
July 2nd, 1776 was a monumental day. The Lee Resolution (seen at left), proposed on June 7, 1776, was approved by 12 out of the 13 delegations. New York abstained. Part of the Lee Resolution read “Resolved: That these united Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” As John Adams said later about the day, “Independence Forever!”
This vote took in account the Declaration of Independence written by Jefferson and advocated by Adams. Together, they were called the pen and the voice of the declaration. On the floor of Congress, Adams had argued with spirit for the Declaration. After only five days on the floor, the delegates voted. So, the 2nd of July is a tremendous day.
On July 4th, the Declaration was edited slightly by the Congress. I had people tell me that the Declaration was signed on the 4th, which made me nearly laugh out loud. Contrary to the famous painting by John Trumball (seen at left), the signers did not all gather to sign at once. In truth, the signing began on August 2nd with John Hancock and the members of the Committee of Five (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, and Roger Sherman) penning their name to the engrossed copy. The other delegates signed as well, but not all that day. Because August was the height of the yellow fever season, at least five were out sick. Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean, and Matthew Thornton did not sign until a few months later.
So, as you can tell, July 4th was the last of the editing of the Declaration, so often, and not incorrectly, it is called the “adoption” of the Declaration. Truly, the paper had been approved earlier, but some adjustments had to be made, of course. (I wish I knew all of the changes!) The copies for the public (Did you know a public copy was found the other day for $4 and the person sold it for over two million? I would have kept it.) were printed on that day, as well. The fourth of July was not different than many other days in congress. The second of July is the day I celebrate!
In a finale, I would like to post an excerpt of a letter celebrating the true holiday. And, as many of you may have suspected, it is by the respected John Adams to his loyal, politically-smart 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 Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
So, remember, when you are watching fireworks, drinking lemonade, eating cake, and playing with glowsticks (please don’t- they’re horrible for the environment), remember the Founding Fathers. Remember the soldiers who fought for your freedom. Remember that July 4th, however obscure the actual day, was at a time of absolute insecurity. The nation was not a nation yet. The war had barely begun, and this Declaration of Independence was radical, and mostly viewed unnecessary. Our freedom was in no way expected, guarrenteed, or without bloodshed. July 4th is possibly the most important national holiday. It is a celebration of freedom.