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Our Second President, John Adams, Recalls the First Independence Day

Adams said that the rule of law was far more important than merely making points with the home crowd.

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-By Warner Todd Huston

John Adams was one of the truly indispensable men among our founding fathers. He was the man that wrote one of the first fully written out Constitutions in human history when he wrote the Constitution of Massachusetts. He wrote a seminal book on government that helped inform the founders of our nation, he was an ambassador to France and other European nations, he was our first vice president, our second president, and more.

In fact, Adams was at the center of one of the incidents that set the tone for our national character. When the Redcoats responsible for the Boston Massacre were put under arrest, John Adams stepped forward to represent the Redcoats in court. Many of his fellow patriots were amazed at this offer, some even incensed at Adams for doing so. But Adams said that the rule of law was far more important than merely making points with the home crowd and the Redcoats deserved to have competent representation.

With Adams expert capabilities, the soldiers were acquitted of murder. But even though the Redcoats were not convicted for their outrageous actions, Adams’ selfless offer set a tone that America would be a nation run by laws, not the capricious desires of men.

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In any case, the day after our first Independence Day, John Adams sat down and wrote a letter to his wife describing the day.

July 3, 1776

Yesterday the greatest question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony ‘that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, and as such they have, and of right ought to have, full power to make war, conclude peace, establish commerce, and to do all the other acts and things which other states may rightfully do.’ You will see in a few days a declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man. A plan of confederation will be taken up in a few days.

When I look back to the year of 1761 and recollect the argument concerning writs of assistance in the superior court, which I have hitherto considered as the commencement of the controversy between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole period from that time to this, and recollect the series of political events, the chain of causes and effects, I am surprised at the suddenness as well as greatness of this revolution. Britain has been fill’d with Folly and America with Wisdom, at least this is my Judgment.

Time must determine. It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distressing yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect, at least: it will inspire us will many virtues, which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement, in states as well as individuals. And the new governments we are assuming, in every part, will require a purification from our vices and an augmentation of our virtues or they will be no blessings.

The people will have unbounded power. And the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. I am not without apprehensions from this quarter, but I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.

In a second letter he wrote:

The second day of July, 1776, will be 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, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

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 light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.

Now please don’t call it “July Fourth.” We don’t celebrate a number. We celebrate an action and that action was our Independence from England.

So, have a fun and safe Independence Day, folks.

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America

Dear America, Stop Calling This The ‘July Fourth Holiday.” Here’s Why…

Today we celebrate Independence Day, the day we stepped out and formally declared our intention to become our own nation.

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-By Warner Todd Huston

Today we celebrate Independence Day, the day we stepped out on our own and formally declared our intention to become our own nation and not a vassal state of England. Unfortunately, too many people keep calling this day “the July Fourth holiday.” But, we don’t celebrate a number or a month. We celebrate our independence as a nation. So, I urge everyone to stop disrespecting our nation’s birthday by calling it “July Fourth” and here is why…

It is well known that John Adams had imagined that July second would be the day that future generations of Americans would remember as their day of independence from England, the nation’s birthday, if you will. It was, after all, on the second that it was proclaimed “(T)hat 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.”

But it was two days later that those gathered in defiance to the King of England declared a “Declaration of Independency” thereby adopting the famed document that carefully delineated the natural rights by which they claimed independence followed by a list of grievances that would explain why they invoked those rights.

So what are we celebrating? Is it our birth as a nation or are we celebrating the document of Independence? Early celebrations were mixed and a bit confused on that point. Not only that but celebrations on July fourth weren’t even that common for quite some time after the Revolution was over. At first, not many felt a need to celebrate something that had only recently happened and was over. It was time to move on from war in many American’s eyes.

Then again, not many Americans had much interest in the Declaration itself until the 1790s when the emerging parties began to vie for bragging rights over who wrote it. The Democratic Republicans proudly held that their leader, Thomas Jefferson, was the author of the document while the Federalists reminded everyone that their leader, John Adams, was also a member of the committee that drafted the document and that he, as much as Jefferson, had his stamp on the Declaration of Independence.

As the fame of the document and interest in it grew in the new United States of America, so too did a focus on celebrating the nation’s separation from England. By 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration, Independence Day had become a common day for celebration in our young country. And, except for a brief period in the South during and after the Civil War, the holiday atmosphere has remained strong to this day.

The answer to the question above, then, is that we celebrate both the famed document and its purpose for having been drafted. We celebrate our birthday as a nation as well as those stated principles that announced to the world what we were and what this new nation was meant to represent. And so, it is properly Independence Day that we celebrate — a celebration both of the document and its famous ideas as well as our separation from England and the birth of our nation.

But one thing is sure: it is not any “July Fourth” that we celebrate. The fourth day of the seventh month is an inconsequential number. We are not celebrating a fourth day of anything and the bland, uninformative title of “July Fourth” should be banished from our minds as meaningless twaddle.

Why forget that title? Aside from the fact that we aren’t celebrating the numerology of the day, calling it “July Fourth” does nothing toward informing the world and our fellows of what it is we are celebrating. Do we celebrate December 25th, or do we Celebrate Christmas? Worse than a lack of identification, calling this sacred holiday merely “July Fourth” also dims from our minds the great purpose for which the holiday stands.

Independence Day is more than a number and more than just a birthday party. It is the heralding of a new set of principles by which all men everywhere can declare their own freedom. It is the assertion that all men are created equal and have been given that status by God. Further, that because these rights have been bestowed upon us by God, we have the right to insist that government serve us and that we mustn’t be yoked to serve government.

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

These were revolutionary concepts upon which we built a nation and it announced to the world that our revolution was a common cause for all mankind, not just Americans. That day we declared that all men everywhere have the right to cast off oppressive governments and live free.

Without doubt, these are heady concepts. And these are the high principles that we celebrate on Independence Day each year, that holiday that just happens to fall on the fourth day of July.

So, let’s cast off this meaningless appellation of “July Fourth” for a holiday that celebrates these important ideas. Let us proudly call it “Independence Day” so that we can keep in the forefront of our minds those great ideas we hold up as something worth celebrating.

It isn’t “July Fourth,” so let’s stop calling it that. It is Independence Day and nothing less.

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