Why We Celebrate the Fourth of July
Congress made it’s degree for freedom on July 2, 1776 and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The alarm for freedom was sounded at Independence Hall with the Liberty Bell. Americans rejoiced as word spread throughout the newly declared independent states. But the fight for freedom and independance was not over until September, 1783, seven years later.
On July 3, 1776 John Adams said, “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.”
This quote is an excerpt from John Adams’ letter to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. The emotions of this sharp-witted founding father speak of the momentous occasion. Adams believed that July 2, 1776, would be the date to mark and celebrate forever our Declaration of Independence. Although the official date came later, Americans celebrated their country’s birth date on July 4, and have followed Adams’ advice ever since. Adams bore witness to, and was part of, the American dream for freedom. He was an example of how the new nation would carry on after the war by becoming our first vice-president, and our second president. Adams’ eloquent words put the historical significance of American independence, and the consequence for failure if it was not achieved, into focus.
Unfortunately, Americans were getting good and bad news at the same time. British troops were making landfall in New York as the Liberty Bell rang in Philadelphia. At that point, American and British forces already had been engaged in armed conflict for fifteen months. On July 9, 1776, General George Washington, while concentrating troops in New York City, ordered the Declaration of Independence read aloud to his men. He hoped that they would find new meaning in the war for independence.
In 1777, the British occupied the capital city of Philadelphia while Washington and his men struggled through a brutal winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Nearly two thousand of Washington’s twelve thousand men died during that winter encampment. The Continental Army was hardened by the experience, and gained even greater resolve in the campaign to defeat the British. For the next four years, Americans would fight battle after battle against the mightiest military on earth.
Thanks to the military leadership of Washington, and the combined efforts of the French Navy and Washington’s good friend and ally General Marquis de Lafayette, the British surrendered after the Siege of Yorktown on October 19, 1781. The fight for independence was over. The Treaty of Paris, signed between the United States and Great Britain on September 3, 1783, made it official. The United States had become a sovereign and independent nation after six years of valor and sacrifice.
Since the Revolutionary War, the United States has fought many wars to defend freedom; all have come at a terrible cost. Freedom rings as loudly today as it did at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, thanks to our determination as a nation and a people.
Americans may be more divided now than at any time in recent memory. But there is one thing that all of us can agree on, the United States is still the best country in the world because of our freedoms.
As Americans, we all have the ability to express our opinions, whether everyone agrees with them or not. So remember and appreciate our freedoms Saturday as we celebrate Independence Day with family and friends.
If you choose to engage in political conversations over the holiday, we urge you to do so with confidence, but with respect for the opinions of others around you.
The freedom of expression is founded on the notion that there are many gray areas in the pursuit of truth, that a diversity of voices will lead us toward the best shared outcomes and experiences worth remembering as we gather to celebrate our independence.
Fireworks and picnics are staples of July Fourth, and our region will see plenty of both. As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, we as a country will proudly carry on the words of John Adams – “Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more”-with brilliant fireworks displays. These illuminations will light up the skies of our nation to inspire and remind us how fortunate we are to have the freedom that has been entrusted to us all.”