Mister D: Okay, this is a happy and glorious day for the United States of America and we are celebrating the independence we will once more be experiencing in 2008!!!! Also, Barry and Darrell have accused me of being ethnocentric (look it up) so I will be taking care of that within the following week. I will own up to being narsiscitic (whatever the spelling…me, me, me, people don’t have time for spell check!) but, never, ever, any other “trics.” Anyway, I kid. USA, have a Happy Birthday. Everybody have fun and be safe. Read the story below to see why we celebrate. To the rest of the world, I send out peace, love, and joy and I promise to bring you all into the fold if you would like to do so. Look for something this week to participate in.
To hear Bette Midler sing The National Anthem: Click Here
Who: the Second Continental Congress
What: the Declaration of Independence
When: July 4, 1776
Why: to declare the Thirteen colonies “Free and Independent States… Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown” of King George III.
The Declaration of Independence
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
With these memorable words, Thomas Jefferson, at the age of 33, laid the cornerstone of the United States of America. Though the Declaration of Independence, or, as it was known at the time, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,” holds no legal standing, it stands at the head of the US Code. The signed copy resides in the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Fifty years later, in an 1825 letter, Jefferson wrote that the Declaration of Independence was designed as “an appeal to the tribunal of the world.” The document was therefore “intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion,” and the fledgling state was thus introduced to the nations among which it was destined to assume its rightful place.
To lay the moral foundation for revolution, the Declaration of Independence invokes the principle of natural rights, which is strongly identified with John Locke (particularly in Two Treatises of Government, 1690). These are the basic rights of which each individual is possessed, and of which he cannot be stripped by society or government. In Jefferson’s formulation, the “pursuit of happiness” was substituted for Locke’s more specific “health” and “possessions.”
An enlightened reader might wonder about the contradictory relationship between natural rights and the institution of slavery. Indeed, Jefferson’s initial draft included the following among the offenses laid at the doorstep of King George III:
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.
This clause was edited out in order to secure the votes of the southern delegates. Nevertheless, the Declaration of Independence has been cited as the inspiration for such causes as abolition, universal suffrage and civil rights.
The document goes on to list “a long train of abuses and usurpations” perpetrated by King George III that led to the decision “to throw off such Government.” After all, “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Let no one imagine that the decision was rashly undertaken. During the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, most colonists had no thought of political separation from their homeland. But they grew increasingly alienated by unjust treatment: “Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” And it wasn’t only the monarch who was unresponsive: “Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren… We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity… They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity.”
It is noteworthy that the adoption of the Declaration of Independence took place against the backdrop of ongoing Revolutionary War hostilities. When the signers affixed their John Hancocks upon the document they were jointly laying their lives on the line, since there was a bounty on the revolutionaries’ heads:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
When Benjamin Franklin said, upon signing the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately,” it was no less than the literal truth.
Fifty-six men were signatories to the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence that Congress ordered to be made on July 19, 1776. John Hancock, as president of Congress, was first, and he famously wrote his name front, center and large. He and 49 others signed on August 2, 1776, in geographic order of the colonies they represented, from north to south. They signed with ink from the Syng inkstand, currently on display at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Six other signatures were added later, the last one, that of Thomas McKean, in 1781.
The story of the birth of the United States is thrilling and inspiring, full of heroes and their words and deeds.
Celebrations then and now
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 for evermore.
â€” John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776 (referring to the day before, when the resolution for independence was passed)
Adams’ words were prescient, even though he was off by two days. As the news spread, celebrations began immediately. In that first year they featured readings of the Declaration of Independence in public places, accompanied by the firing of muskets and cannon. The statue of King George in New York was torn down and its lead turned into bullets. Everywhere were military parades, bells ringing, toasts, fireworks, music and “loud huzzas.” In 1781, the legislature of Massachusetts became the first to officially designate the Fourth of July as a holiday commemorating the birth of independence; in 1783 â€” the year the Revolutionary War formally ended â€” the governor of North Carolina followed suit.
Nowadays, celebrations include such all-American activities as picnics and barbecues (featuring hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, potato salad and apple pie), baseball games, races and contests, parades with marching bands and Revolutionary War-era costumes, reenactments of historical events, concerts featuring patriotic songs, fireworks at dusk, and more.
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.
â€” Virginia Gazette, July 18, 1777
Upcoming On BLB:
Darrell and Barry Accuse Mister D Of Ethnocentrism (look it up!) What will Mister D Do About It!
Jamie Mck: Philly BetteHead And Local Teens Break Ground In Philly NYRP Style!
Help Wanted: All Nationalities Asked To Participate. Mister D Forgets BLB Is An International Site!
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