Originally published on 6/25/2015
In the summer of 1776, John Adams was in Philadelphia with the other members of the Continental Congress. His wife Abigail was in Massachusetts. In July, just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, when the delegates had agreed in principle to its contents, he wrote to tell her about it. It’s clear that he understood the significance of what they were doing, something no one had done before. They were not only declaring independence. They were declaring that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. They were declaring that it was the right of the people to establish the form of government that seemed most likely to ensure their safety and happiness. We tend to take these things for granted now. We grew up with those ideas. It’s easy to forget how revolutionary they were in 1776.
This is what John Adams wrote on the eve of that first Independence Day.
“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.”
He thought the day we’d be celebrating was the 2nd of July. It didn’t turn out that way. Sometimes things take longer. In this case it was worth the wait. He understood the costs of what they were doing, and he understood the reasons. He said “I am a revolutionary so my son can be a farmer so his son can be a poet.”
We’re getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July in 2015. We’ll do it with fewer solemn acts of devotion and with less pomp, but we’ll have fireworks, parades, baseball games, band concerts, and cookouts. Let’s add something else to the list for our celebration. Let’s take time to remember this. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness … “
Enjoy the 4th of July. Celebrate Independence Day.
The Democratic Town Committee supplies this column.