Family Update AND Some Fun History

Things are settling down around the house.  Both kids got a kitten and so far the dog is tolerant, the bird is undamaged and each cat has cozied up to the designated child.  Adam’s cat after only a few days has declared Adam’s bed as her throne while Katie’s tolerates being carried around and spoken to in baby-talk with great aplomb.  Purring has become the order of the day.

We’re getting ready to have friends over for a cookout in celebration of the Independence Day holiday.  I for one have no difficulty in allocating a series of days to this particular holiday given that it took the Continental Congress years to reach the point of declaring independence. It was not a snap decision, and an extended holiday seems appropriate.

If you ever get the time and inclination, it’s interesting to see how we as Americans intentionally differentiated ourselves from our ancestors.  I believe these to be true, but like most stories from 235 years ago; they do tend to evolve into legends and ultimately myths.

The practice of holding the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left gave way to using both in the dominant hand and switching hands to whichever task was being performed.  This was a way of discarding the British or European culture and developing a style of our own.  Similarly, the European bow was replaced by the hand shake by Thomas Jefferson.  Apparently the Founding Fathers took great pains to define themselves as Americans – a new nation and a new breed.  This is quite a different stance than our current trend of defining ourselves as Hyphenated Americans.

There have been rumors that there was a move during late 18th century to name George Washington king, but these have generally been discounted as stories without substance.  On the other hand, Washington was the only president to be unanimously elected president.  Apparently there was no popular vote and each member of the Electoral College had two votes; Washington received all 69 votes.  Washington was also posthumously promoted to the rank of General of the Armies in 1976, in order that John “Black Jack” Pershing would not have held a higher rank that General Washington.

John Adams foresaw great celebrations on the anniversary of Independence Day

According to:

 A Tradition of Celebration by the Adams Family

Researched by James R. Heintze.

 

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).(Click anywhere to see the article).

 

John Adams thought Independence Day would be celebrated on the 2nd of July since this was the day that the resolution was adopted in closed session of Congress; the 4th is the date shown on the Declaration even though most historians believe it was actually signed on August 2nd.   I guess Americans are most comfortable with the printed word; since the document said “July 4th” that’s when we celebrate.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the only signers of the Declaration to be elected president.  Their friendship gae way to political rivalry but rekindled in their later years.  They both died on July 4, 1826 – the fiftieth anniversary of America’s independence.  Thomas Jefferson died earlier in the day, but this was unknown to Adams whose last words are reported to be “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”

Thomas Jefferson’s last words are not known.  He called in his servants and spoke to them, but the words were not recorded.  However, it is obvious that he, like Adams, was struggling to hold onto life until the 4th of July; late on the 3rd he asked if it was the 4th.  However, even though his last words are lost, what he valued can easily be discerned from his tombstone which he designed and includes these explicit instructions:

“…on the faces of the Obelisk the following inscription, & not a word more:

Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
Father of the University of Virginia

“because by these,” he explained, “as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.”

This is a weekend rife with wonderful stories about real people who did great things.  This is history worth savoring since is integral to the explanation as to how we Americans came to be.

Happy Birthday America and Americans.  God bless this nation and its people.

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