The Whatth of July

800px-USA_declaration_independence

The Declaration of Independence was adopted on 2 July 1776, which is why John Adams expected the celebrations to take place each year on the second.  Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers were politicians, so the wording wasn’t finalized until the fourth of July. (If it had been the founding mothers, they would probably have been more practical, organized, and less egotistical. I’m sure the Declaration would have been completed much earlier.)

Not everyone who signed the Declaration did so on the fourth of July.  There’s no complete record as exactly who signed when. It’s probably safe to say that John Adams, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and Thomas Jefferson all signed on that day (Hancock signed first and large–so King George could read it without his glasses).

The last signer was probably Matthew Thornton from New Hampshire, who wasn’t elected and seated in the Continental Congress until November; he asked for and received the privilege of adding his signature at that time, and signed on November 4, 1776.

So, two things:

  1. The Declaration of Independence set us on the path of the most improbable and radical experiment in civilization. The hereditary monarchy thing failed, as did leadership by military conquest. Our experiment is still running with its ups and downs, and will take forever to perfect. However, as Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
  2. We should never be surprised if politicians do not deliver in a timely manner.

Given the importance of the event, maybe it would be better to celebrate Independence Month!

 

 

 

2 responses to “The Whatth of July

  1. Rick Martinez

    Thank you, Steve, for your reminder and details on WHY the 4th of July–and thus America’s Declaration of Independence. Because of your genius, you love details. I’m sort-of a big picture guy–except in this one case and when you mention our Founding Fathers were “politicians.” I respectfully quibble with that a bit. I do not believe they were out “politicking” like today’s politicians, or did they put politics or political agenda before country. I truly believe it was their commitment to serve America and Americans FIRST and “NOT anyone’s politics or political agenda.”

    The collaboration between Jefferson and Franklin is a work of compromise and statesmanship. We know Thomas Jefferson wrote the entire Declaration of Independence’s first draft, yet some say it was Franklin’s editing that made it immortal. Jefferson’s draft read, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable.” Franklin changed it to: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Imagine the simple significance and eloquence of that change.

    So it ultimately read: “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.”

    America’s 13 original colonies were declared independent from Britain.

    • Hola, Rick!
      Politics isn’t necessarily bad–it’s when ego trumps the common good. The political issues that had to be hammered out included: slavery, “the peculiar institution” that was practiced almost nationally, but was critical to the agrarean industry in the South; Adams and Franklin (among others) wanted a strong federal government while Jefferson saw the new nation(s) as self sufficient due to farming–able to purchase manufactured goods with foodstuffs (or not, and not go hungry); I believe the New York delegation never were given explicit direction as to what New York wanted.

      The good news is that they were able to work out these and other contentious issues–some better than others.

      The better news is that these were plain, ordinary men. They were accomplished and successful, to be sure, but they were people, not icons. Washington saw himself first, and foremost as a planter. He had been a soldier and an officer (and not particularly successful) in the French and Indian War, proudly serving the Crown, in the uniform of Great Britain. He served as general, but after the war, physically returned his commission papers to the Continental Congress. King George was initially in disbelief, but when he was convinced it was true, he was amazed.

      I guess, that was the point I tried to make in just a few words–that these men were able to accomplish an almost impossible task against overwhelming odds–including military ones. However, they were still politicians–and damned good at it.

      Happy Independence Day!
      Esteban

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