Tag Archives: Continental Congress

The Decision and the Declaration

Today, on July 4th, we celebrate the Independence Day, when the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress in 1776.

However, history is more interesting than just the event and the date.

On June 7, 1776, the senior Virginia member of Congress, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution stating:

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.”

Congress adopted the Virginia motion on July 2, 1776, thereby refuting our status as a colony; this is why John Adams believed that we would celebrate our independence on July second, the date of the decision.

The Declaration of Independence was approved two days later, on July 4, 1776.

While the Declaration of Independence is a masterpiece, and I recommend that everyone read it today, it was not the decision, but merely the explanation to the world as to why the decision had been made. Although we have seen many portrayals of all the Founding Fathers assembled together in Independence Hall to sign the document on the fourth of July, most, but not all, signed on August second; one signer, who was not a member of the congress until later in the year, signed in November.

As is often the case, history is more complex, and far more interesting than the snapshot presented in civics class.

* Thanks, once again to Wikipedia. If you use it, kick in a donation—even a dollar helps.

 

Independence Day

1776 Ben Frnaklin telling John Adams, "Don't worry, the history books will clean it up."

1776
Ben Franklin telling John Adams, “Don’t worry, the history books will clean it up.”

It’s July 2nd – the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress voted for independence. John Adams predicted fairly accurately how we’d celebrate Independence Day, with parades, fireworks and such, but he figured that we’d celebrate the second, not the fourth.

The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4th, which is why that date appears at the top of the document; “In Congress, July 4, 1776”, but the motion was voted on and approves on the second.

Incidentally, most of the delegates signed the Declaration on August 4th, not July 4th, with the last signature, Thomas McKean not being added until 1781.

However, this is all trivia. It makes things interesting, but does not detract from the importance of the event. A handful of accomplished but very human (i.e. flawed) men worked through their differences and created this great country of ours.

When we despair at the political antics we see today, perhaps it is good to remember that beloved Thomas Jefferson came in second to John Adams and therefore was Adams’ vice president. The next election cycle he hired an expert to run a vicious campaign against Adams accusing him of being a hermaphrodite, among other things. (For an interesting Mental Floss/CNN article, click [HERE]).

Our democratic republic is hardly perfect, but I argue that it’s as good as we humans can do.

P.S. As you know, I enjoy the Musical/Movie “1776” and have tried to make it a family tradition to watch it the weekend closest to the 4th. Unfortunately, there’s not too much enthusiasm, and in a year when I’m down to one child without a driver’s license, the chance for it becoming a tradition will be gone.