There is a great deal of richly deserved myths and legends associated with Independence Day. This is a day where people from different lands and even cultures gathered to say, “No more” to tyranny and oppression.
Yes, they were mainly people of the same kin, British in birth right, but they were people who settled different regions. They eventually developed their own set of cultures and values that were separate from there fellow countrymen. One common value most held was that they all were law abiding citizens (for the most part.)
This was a time where monarchs and dictators ruled almost every square inch of the inhabited world. In fact, if a new land were to be discovered during this time, the land and its people would eventually fall under the banner of the crown of foreign country. They would then be subjugated to the same laws as the citizens thousands of miles away while not even being treated as citizens of the nation ruling those people.
That was the reality of the world pre-July 4, 1776. There had been political philosophers who wrote and spoke about the laws and values that would eventually influence the foundation of the birth of our nation. Political thinkers such as John Locke, Voltaire, Charles Montesquieu and a few others who wrote about the need for the people to govern, freedom to worship whatever and where ever one chooses and that the powers of government be separated. While we use these ideas today as the backbone for any democratic society, in the pre-July 4, 1776 world, these ideas were considered a novelty by those in power. Almost as if they were works to entertain and not enlighten.
Yet they helped inspired our forefathers to rebel against the British crown. Coupled with denying its “citizens” their basic rights as Englishmen, they decided to take up arms and fight for their “novel” ideas.
In late June of 1776, Thomas Jefferson with the help of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin began to work on a document that would forever change history. Once it was signed, it would forever alter the course of human kind. This document of course is the Declaration of Independence.
There have been many famous portraits of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, no more so than John Trumble. One of the myths is that all of the members signed together, standing proud at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. They show no fear in the image and all look proud and determined. The image also gives us a sense of egotism, the idea that once the document was signed, our independence would be secure and our nation was born.
The truth is quite different than Mr. trumble’s rendition of those events. We were already at war with the British and their armies had been ravaging both from the North and the South on their way to capture the “traitors” in Philadelphia.
Many who signed did so by stopping by Constitution Hall, getting out of their carriage, and then immediately fleeing the city to head back to help protect and arm their home State. The unfortunate truth was the signing was no grand spectacle. Yet this is the version we see in our heads, the deserved version we deserve to see because of the leadership and sacrifice of so many who could no longer stand for the rule of an imperial yoke.
It wasn’t until the war had been won and the colonies of the British Empire were severed and left to establish their own form of governing. With this, came the creation of the Constitution of the United States, signed in June of 1787 and the practice of freedom and self-governing. No longer were these idealistic novelties, they were now realities.
Each year we celebrate our independence on July 4th. We celebrate the signing of the document, all thirteen (in reference to the original thirteen colonies) clocks striking at the same time, a point of emphasis during a debate spoken by John Adams briefly before the document was ratified and signed.
This day is bigger than just celebrating the signing date of the Declaration of Independence. We still had to fight for almost ten more years until we became a nation.
This document was so unique and ahead of its time that the language used, words that were so carefully chosen and the manner in which it spoke to all of the peoples of the world, not just those in the colonies, ignited a new world order and revolution that would spread beyond the borders or the colonies.
Today we live in a world that has far more independent nations than nations under the rule of a monarch or dictator. We live in a world where freedom is the norm. None of this could have been possible had it not been for the brave men and women; the patriots who decided to stand up to tyranny and finally for once and all say, “No more!”
As I look at a modern calendar today, I see many holidays on it. Even a quick glance at social media on any given day will say that it is a “special day.”
We have evolved since from standard religious and cultural holidays to the “Hallmark holidays” as I like to call them. Days such as national Hot Dog Day, Hug Day, Best Friends Day, Secretaries Day, Doppelgänger Day…the list goes on and on. Corporations such as Hallmark and other conglomerates that sell “appreciation” cards, goods and services profit from our calendar filling up with these “national” recognition days.
While many of these days can be fun, let us not forget the importance of Independence Day. Not just in the United States, but the world abroad for it has changed the course of human history.
Let us continue to celebrate this day with honoring the brave men and women in uniform who serve and have served to protect the ideas our forefathers created. Let us continue to gather and celebrate with friends, have fun and decorate the night sky with lights, explosions, oohs and ahhs. The greatest way to continue to honor the memories of those who helped create and later defend our freedom is to celebrate with a bang! (Pun intended)
For this is one holiday I will not let Hallmark or any other big company or conglomerate take away from me. This is a holiday that was earned and has been preserved through the sacrifice of so many. It is a holiday I will never allow to be or want to see cheapened.
When we gather each year on this day, let us regale in the myths and legends, for this one time, they are deserved. The truth is still romantic in its own right, but let us continue to show our pride and let freedom ring. Happy Independence Day to all and Happy Birthday to the good old U.S.A!
Author: Adam Wilkinson