Thursday, July 3, 2008

America's Independence Day

The Arbitrary, Yet Symbolic, Nature of the Fourth of July©
Isaac M. McPhee
Mar 12, 2008

American's have celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence ever since it was first signed in 1776 - but why exactly was this day chosen above the others?
The Fourth of July.

It is a date thoroughly engrained on the consciousness of all Americans; synonymous with all of the freedoms and liberties which Americans hold dear. Even if nothing else is retained through the years of public education, at the very least this one fact will be always remembered: America first gained its independence from England with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 – the very first Independence Day.
It is one of those “sure things.”
The Real Independence Day?
Students of history should be sufficiently prepared to accept that most things are never quite so black and white.
Independence Day is the holiday which is intended to celebrate the signing of The Declaration of Independence, that document which dramatically spells out the grievances of the colonists against King George and the English Parliament and which demands American sovereignty, even if it means the shedding of blood.
It is a striking document to say the least, and certainly opened up the American colonies to quite a bit of British aggression.
But should it really be celebrated on July 4th?
The timeline that most people are not fully aware of goes like this:
The Declaration of Independence was completed by Thomas Jefferson (with a great deal of help from his lifelong friend and later political adversary John Adams, as well as Benjamin Franklin) by July 2nd, at which point the continental congress voted unanimously to disunite the colonies from Great Britain and form an independent state.
From here, the next two days were spent by the congress reworking the Declaration, perfecting it for public consumption (all of this was so far done in secrecy). Finally, the document was accepted by the congress on July 4th, and signed by the congress' president, John Hancock (in that most famous of all signatures; large, bold and proud, practically begging the British to try to take back their colonies; and, coincidentally, where the term “put your John Hancock right on this line” comes from).
The rest of the members of congress didn't actually sign the document until August 2nd, while some waited even longer than that.
What Does This Mean?So when, exactly, should American independence be celebrated?
Should it be the day when America first officially declared her Independence? Then it should be July 2nd.
Should it be the day that the final declaration was accepted? Then it should remain as it is, on July 4th.
Should it be the day Americans first celebrated their independence? Then it should be on July 8, for on that day in 1776 the Declaration was first publically read, and throughout Philadelphia there was great celebration.
Should it be the day that the delegates all finally got together to sign the document, thereby making it official? Then it should surely be August 4th.
Or should Independence be celebrated on the day independence was actually won; the day the war for American Independence ended with the Treaty of Paris, on September 3rd, 1783?
The SolutionWhat should be done in response to these very valid questions?
Nothing, of course. After all, it doesn’t matter in the least what day something is celebrated (just look at Christmas as an example) – what matters is what it represents. Independence Day represents the American colonists throwing off the yoke of English oppression and was symbolic of a young nation finally deciding that she was able to stand on her own.
July 4th is as good a day as any. At least, so thought the United States Congress of 1870, which named the day an unpaid federal holiday, as well as the congress of 1941, which bumped the day up a notch to become a paid federal holiday.

That should be good enough for any American.

Cheers And Happy Fourth Of July

From Patricia

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