Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Monday, July 02, 2012

Happy Independence Day

No, I haven't gone crazy after all the attacks on the Constitution by Obama, Congress & the Supreme Court. Today is Independence Day even though we celebrate it on the 4th. Now for those of you who are wondering why this is so, here is the rest of  the story.
On 7 June 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution to the Continental Congress that read "Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation." The resolution was seconded by John Adams.
Several colonies had not yet authorized their delegates to vote for independence, so it was decided to postpone any vote for 3 weeks. Meanwhile a committee of 5 was appointed to write a formal declaration should the vote go for independence, something that was appearing more & more inevitable. The men appointed to the committee were  John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert Livingston of New York, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, & Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. It was decided that Jefferson whould write the initial draft.

After some alterations by Adams & Franklin, the final fraft was presented to Congress on 28 June 1776. It was titled "A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled."

After the Declaration was presented it was put aside & debate on the Lee resolution began. Congress became a committee of the whole to do so. On 1 July 1776 there was a preliminary vote of  9 to 2 (with two abstentions) that was favorable to independence. (Note: each colony had 1 vote based on what the majority of  its delegates voted.) On 2 July Congress heard the committee report & voted 12 to 0 (New York abstaining, "courteously" one can assume*, because it still hadn't received instructions from the NY state legislature) to adopt the 1st part of Lee's resolution, thus declaring independence from from King George III & Great Britain. At that time the written declaration was read again & debate began on the Declaration.
The debate continued & many changes were made to the text including dropping the passage about slavery. On the afternoon of 4 July 1776  Congress approved the final dratf. A handwritten copy was made & signed only by John Hancock as president of Congress & Charles Thompson, the secretary. Unfortunately, no official record was made of the debates for independence of the Declaration. Jefferson did have a copy of the Declaration on which he made notes of the changes, but not by who. A copy of that final text of the Declaraion was sent to  broadside printer, John Dunlap.

Copies of what has come to be known as the Dunlap Broadside were sent throughout the colonies to be read.
On 3 July 1776 John Adams wrote his wife Abigail 2 letters about the events of 2 July. In one he wrote the following "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."

So, why do we celebrate independence on the 4th of July?  Well that is the rest of the story. 1st of all, the copies of the Declaraion sent out had the date of July 4, 1776 on them.  The large handwritten  parchment copy that is now in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives in Washington, DC also bears the date of July 4, 1776. However, it was decided to make that copy later in July & itwasn't actually ready until 2 August 1776. At that time, most but not all of the 56 signers signed it. Some of the signers were not in Congress at the time of approval. The last signer was likely Thomas McKean, possibly as late as 1781.
But since everything the people saw said July 4, that was the date that was quickly adopted as the day that we celebrated our Independence. & thus it was that 50 years later, on 4 July 1826, that 2 of the last 3 signers of the Declaration died. Jefferson (83 years old) in the early afternoon followed by Adams (90 yrs old) a few hours later in his home in Quincy. At their death, the last surviving signer was Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic to sign.
Adams had been asked to give a speech for the 50th Anniversary of the birth of America. He knew he would be unable to do so because of his health, but he did prepare a message. In it he siad "My best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind."
Given the attacks on our freedom coming out of Washington DC these days, I feel fairly certain Adams would be leading the charge to restore & defend our rights just as he did then. I pray that we turn away from the direction this nation is heading & return to the course our Founding Fathers set us out on.
* I couldn't resist adding "courteously" as that was how it was shown in the play & movie versions of 1776. Whikle not totally accurate historically, it does capture the mood of the various delegations as well as some of the struggles & iinterpersonal conflicts of various delegates. I highly recommend getting the movie & watching it. The quotes used are taken mostly from the later writings of those who said them.



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