Independence Day – After watching recent street interviews on video – I was stunned and appalled about how little people knew about Independence Day and what led up to it. Don’t they teach ANYTHING in school these days? Or has revisionist history so skewed the curriculum today that they aren’t learning what happened at all? In honor of how special today is to our country, I thought I’d give us a quick refresher course . . . Enjoy!
In April 1775, when the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out, few colonists wanted complete independence from Great Britain. Those who did want it were considered to be radical. Sort of like those of us today who want smaller, less intrusive government, right? By the middle of 1776 though, many more colonists had come to think it was a good idea because of growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary concepts like the ones Thomas Paine wrote about in his bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense”, which was published early in 1776. When Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (which was later called Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion that called for the colonies’ independence. In the middle of heated debate on the issue, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution and appointed a five-man committee that included Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York – to write a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in an almost unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2nd will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival, and that the celebration should include Pomp and Parade . . . Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one end of the continent to the other. On July 4th, the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written in great part by Thomas Jefferson. Even though the vote for the actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.
Early Fourth of July Celebrations
In the years before the Revolution the colonists held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday. These traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speech making. The contrast of the celebrations in the summer of 1776 is HUGE. Some of the colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III, which to them symbolized the end of the monarchy’s hold on American and the triumph of liberty. Their festivities included concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets. This also included readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after it was adopted. While Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war, Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777. George Washington issued double rations of rum to all of his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778 and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday. When the Revolutionary War was over Americans continued to celebrate Independence Day every year, in ways that allowed the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create e a feeling of unity. By the last decade of the 18th century, the two major political parties – Federalists and Democratic-Republicans (Wow – we’ve come a long way from there!) – began holding separate Independence Day celebrations in many large cities.
July 4th Becomes A National Holiday
In the War of 1812, the United States again faced Great Britain. After this the tradition of patriotic celebrations became even more widespread. In 1870 the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. In 1941 the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees. Over the years, the political importance of the holiday would decline, but Independence Day remained an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.
What this little walk down the hall of history misses out on is the emotion and the actual impact that the birth of our nation really is all about! It’s about sacrifice! It’s about the willingness of these men to give up their lives, their homes, their families, their very freedoms if need be to stand up for what they believed in. They traveled to this new land – or their parents did – to be free from oppression from Great Britain. They came here to make their own choices, worship they way they felt and believed, to be able to say what they wanted, when they wanted. They gave up everything so that their children, children’s children , and so on, could have a life that they would be denied otherwise. So, the question in my mind is, when the land of the free that our forefather’s fought so hard for becomes the land of the oppressed and controlled, where do we turn to be free from the oppression? Scary thought, isn’t it?
Food Celebration of the Day –
Today’s food of the day on www.food.com holiday calendar was Caesar Salad. Somehow that just doesn’t seem festive to me, so I decided to not list that one and ask what everyone usually has for their traditional Independence Day meal!? For us it’s a conglomeration of food that will have us scurrying for the health food first time tomorrow. We’ll have a bonfire later on and be roasting hot dogs. There will be a cast iron pot of chili on the fire too. We’ll have chips and dips, fruit salad, potato salad, corn on the cob, cookies to munch on, and of course s’mores. The best part of the whole thing is sitting around the fire with people we care about, appreciating the freedoms we have and the freedoms we are determined to keep. We owe our founding fathers that much . . . to hold on to what they fought and died for.
Have a blessed and wonderful Independence Day and please, never forget what this day means, what it cost to give it to us, and what it may cost to keep it. God Bless You. I’ll see you tomorrow.