|Banks County Opinions...||
JUNE 25, 2003
By: Jana Mitcham
In June of 1776, 227 years ago, a committee was formed to draft a document that would sever the ties the fledgling United States of America had with Britain. With pen in hand, Thomas Jefferson and other committee members crafted what came to be known 86 changes later as the Declaration of Independence. It was adopted by Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, hence the Independence Day celebration.
Interestingly, a resolution that made the document possible was passed on July 2, 1776, and it was this day that John Adams thought would be celebrated in years to come.
He wrote on July 3, 1776, in a letter to his wife, Abigail: The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.
Further, Adams called for the day to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews (sic), Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
And although the fourth day of July, rather than the second, became recognized as the birthday of independence, no signatures were actually made to the Declaration of Independence on that day. In fact, not all members of Congress were present New York voted on the resolution on July 9, and one signer, Thomas McKean, signed the document in 1781.
Still, in the flurry of celebration that followed in anniversary years, it was July 4 that was remembered.
The one-year anniversary held July 4 in Philadelphia was documented and described in the July 18, 1777, edition of the Virginia Gazette: Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal. Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more. Amen, and amen.
The way July 4th is celebrated today echoes the sound, spectacle and sentiment of long ago. Certainly the proximity of the events leading to independence are 227 years removed, and, as such, perhaps the fervor and patriotism are tempered or reshaped by the way of life this generation knows. Do patriotism and independence have the same meaning in 2003 that they had in 1776? (And, in fact, what did independence mean in a time when not everyone was free? Another issue, I suppose.) Maybe the meanings of words shift to fit the context of the times, but the traditions of the July 4th celebration remain. Bands, fireworks, flags....the festivities carry on.
Its interesting to read the words written in the newspapers of those early days, to sense the excitement found among those experiencing a changing world. I also like to get a sense of the founding fathers, as they are called, as real people, with real foibles and real concerns. None of it happened by magic and none of it was flawless as they worked together as best they could within their given lifes framework, and upon the heels of a revolutionary war, on a document of independence for a country of its own.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not, Adams wrote to his wife. 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.
On July 4, the traditions will carry on with a celebration in Homer, complete with fireworks, music and general sound, spectacle and sentiment.
And so it continues, 227 years later.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor for The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.
Sources: www.american.edu/heintze/fourth and www.pbs.org/capitolfourth/history)
By: Rochelle Beckstine
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