Every year, right around the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, we Americans celebrate the birth of our great nation — the Fourth of July. This year the holiday comes in the middle of the week on Thursday.
While we celebrate Independence Day on July 4, the Second Continental Congress actually voted to declare independence on July 2, putting Thomas Jefferson and the Committee of Five to work drafting the Declaration of Independence.
In fact, John Adams wrote, “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. 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 forever more.”
But we celebrate Independence Day on July 4 — the date written on the declaration, even though some historians believe the document wasn’t actually signed until August.
In addition to claiming for themselves “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them” the Founding Fathers boldly declared, “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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness … ”
Mighty words, indeed.
Of course, the Revolutionary War began more than a year before the Declaration of Independence, on April 19, 1775 when armed conflict erupted between the American Patriots and the British Army. First came the daring midnight rides of Paul Revere and Samuel Prescott who warned the colonists the English were coming to seize their weapons and militia stores.
No one knows who fired first, but the British outnumbered the militiamen at Lexington, and the patriots retreated after losing eight men.
But the militia regrouped and 400 militiamen met 100 British soldiers at the Old North Bridge in Concord and fired what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “the shot heard round the world.”
Surprisingly, Congress did not make the Fourth of July a national holiday until 1870.
Curiously, the Philippines celebrate Republic Day on July 4 — commemorating the day in 1946 when the United States recognized that nation’s independence.
Remember Safe and Sane Fireworks are legal only within the city of Susanville on the Fourth of July and all fireworks are illegal in Lassen County and on state or federal land.
Happy birthday, America.