HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE DAY
Independence Day or the Fourth of July celebrates the adoption by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, of the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the severance of the allegiance of the American colonies to Great Britain. It is the greatest secular holiday in the United States, observed in all the states, territories, and dependencies.
Although it is assumed that the Continental Congress unanimously signed the document on the 4th of July, in fact not all delegates were present, and there were no signers at all. Here is what really happened.
HISTORY OF THE 4TH OF JULY: JOHN ADAMS
Before John Adams became the first Vice President of the United States under George Washington, second President of the United States, the first resident of the White House, and writer of the Massachusetts State Constitution he had a role during the Revolutionary War period as one of the creators of the Declaration of Independence.
Committee of Five
He was on the Committee of Five and was at the age of 40 more senior than the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson, but realized that Jefferson was the more eloquent writer.
Jefferson asked Adams to write it. However, Adams insisted that Jefferson do so, arguing:
”Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.”
Later Adams wrote:
“Was there ever a Coup de Theatre that had so great an effect as Jefferson’s penmanship of the Declaration of Independence?”
Adams saw to its completion. The most senior member of the Committee, Benjamin Franklin was aroused from his bed to finalize it. The 70-year-old gentlemen had been bedridden with gout. Then the remaining two of the Committee reviewed it –Robert R. Livingston of New York and Roger Sherman of Connecticut — likely without further change. (more…)
We know this polymath as a writer, publisher, printer, merchant, scientist, moral philosopher, international diplomat, and inventor. Musically he invented the glass harmonica, but he also invented the Franklin stove and started the first lending library and fire brigade in Philadelphia.
He did experiments in electricity and developed the lightning rod.
Born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, he was one of the earliest and oldest of the American Founding Fathers. He served as lobbyist to England, was first Ambassador to France, and has been called “The First American.”
Perhaps no one person is more associated with the 4th of July in American History than Thomas Jefferson, probably because it was his hand that penned the immortal Declaration of Independence.
“The Third President is the Muse of American life, the chief articulator of our national value system and our national self-identity. Jefferson was a man of almost unbelievable achievement: statesman, man of letters, architect, scientist, book collector, political strategist, and utopian visionary. But he is also a man of paradox: liberty-loving slaveholder, Indian-loving relocationist, publicly frugal and privately bankrupt, a constitutional conservative who bought the Louisiana Territory in 1803.”
As the US celebrates Independence Day, Canadians have a celebration of their own this weekend. Canada Day (Fête du Canada) celebrates the anniversary of July 1, 1867, when the three independent colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into a single dominion. On that date the British North American Act, known today as the Constitution Act officially confederated Canada. While it was still a subject of the British Empire, Dominion Day as it was originally called (or Le Jour de la Confederation as the French would call it) marked this new beginning. It was renamed to Canada Day in 1982.
Canada Day is called “the birthday of Canada” but differs from the U.S. holiday in that it did not become separate from the British Empire until 1982 when it gained complete independence with the Constitution Act of 1982. And they didn’t have to fight a Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, Canada still enjoys its status in the British Commonwealth as a federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, with the British Queen as head of state. So they get a Queen and live in the New World, something that American’s envy.
HISTORY OF JULY
The month of July was renamed for Julius Caesar, who was born in that month. Before that, it was called Quintilis in Latin meaning the fifth month in the ancient Roman calendar. This was before January became the first month of the calendar year about the year 450 BC. We currently use the more recent Gregorian calendar — recent as in AD 1582 — which makes use of Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord” counting from the birth of Jesus. As we’ve previously discussed, in this calendar Jesus was born curiously 4 to 6 years BC or “Before Christ.”
The Gregorian calendar was a reform of the Julian calendar which was itself a reform of the previous Roman calendar. The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar himself in 46 BC, where he added — probably after returning from an African military campaign in late Quntilis (July) — an additional 67 days by putting two intercalary months between November and December, as Cicero tells us at the time. This took care of some of the leap year problems. The Romans, after his death, renamed Quintilis to Iulius (July) in honor of his birth month.
The word Solstice comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “Sun, standing-still.” This year the Summer Solstice occurs on June 21 at 10:07 UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, or Zulu Time, or roughly Greenwich Mean Time.
This is also known as the Northern Solstice as the Sun is positioned directly above the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere. This time of year is known as Midsummer, though the official Midsummer Day is actually celebrated on June 24, thanks to differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. Christian festivals during this time of year are related to the Birth of St. John the Baptist. In Bolivia and Peru, it’s called the Festival of San Juan.
June Nineteenth, or Juneteenth, marks the celebration of the emancipation of African-American slaves in 1865. While the annual celebration started in Texas in 1866 — and became an official Texas state holiday there in 1980 — this formerly obscure holiday it is now observed across the United States, and around the world, and is an official holiday in most states. It is now celebrated with church-centered celebrations, parades, fairs, backyard parties, games, contests, and cookouts. Originally it began in Galveston, Texas to mark the arrival of Union Army Major General Gordon Granger who arrived two months after the end of the American Civil War to read General Order Number 3 which announced that “all slaves are free.” It read:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
HISTORY OF FATHERS DAY
[NOTE: I wrote a longer and more serious version of this article for CBS.com a couple of years ago. It has been published on their network of sites for major cities around the country. You can find an example here.]
The celebration of Father’s Day goes back all the way to the beginning, actually to the Garden of Eden when Abel gave his father Adam a razor while his brother Cain gave his father a snake-skin tie. This was the beginning of Cain’s downward slide.
Scholars have debated for ages why Mother’s Day seems to be more honored than Father’s Day. A parallel has been drawn between this phenomenon and that of the difference in popularity between the Irish patron saint and the Italian patron saint.