by Scott Hansen
John Adams, the Massachusetts delegate to the second Continental Congress, penned a letter to his wife, Abigail, informing her that on July 2, 1776, Congress had voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from the mother country, making the once British colonies free and independent states. The next day, July 3rd, Adams wrote:
“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Why then do we celebrate our country’s birthday on July 4th? The answer is politics. The wording of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was being scrutinized and debated. Remember, back then, each state was its own sovereign entity, and each wanted to make sure the document was worded so that the state governments would approve it. Adams said it was akin to getting 13 ships to sail in formation, or 13 clocks to strike at the same time. The important thing was to keep all 13 colonies focused on cooperating, and not arguing about minor differences in political ideology.
It took two days before the Congress would approve of the document’s wording, and officially adopt the Declaration of Independence. While the date is slightly off, Adams’ hopes for an annual celebration worthy of the birth of our great nation have been fulfilled.
Give thanks for your freedom, and have a safe and happy July 4th celebration.