This weekend Alex and I will travel to a little piece of property in the Texas hill country. We will go to the hills to sit and read and talk and eat and drink and play Rumi Cube. There will be lots of laughing. Even fireworks. All of this to celebrate the 4th day of July in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, and the United States officially broke from the rule of England.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in a second-floor room on Market Street in Philadelphia, on a little lap desk that he had designed himself. Some members of the Continental Congress had hoped that Benjamin Franklin would write the document, but Franklin declined. John Adams was also considered a possible writer of the document, but Adams gave the assignment to Jefferson because he said, "You can write ten times better than I can."
Jefferson finished the first draft after a few days work and sent it to Franklin on the morning of June 21, asking for suggestions. Franklin made just a few changes. In the most famous passage, Jefferson had written, "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable." Franklin changed it to, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."
The actual vote for independence came on July 2nd, 1776. John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, "The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival." The adoption of the Declaration itself came two days later, on July 4th. At the time, it was considered an afterthought. But copies of the Declaration were printed and distributed throughout the colonies, and since the document was dated July 4th, that became the date that we now celebrate as the birth of our nation.
There were unofficial celebrations of Independence Day from its first anniversary, but it really became a popular holiday after the War of 1812. On the frontier, it was the only time of the year when everyone in the countryside gathered together in one place. There would be parades and speeches, and the prettiest and most wholesome girl in the village would be named the Goddess of Liberty. Politicians would get up and call the King of England a skunk and challenge him to a fight. Drunken men in the streets would get into fights and call each other Englishmen.
Now, in 2010 as I celebrate the adoption of this document by going to the country and shooting the breeze, I wanted to share this youtube creation.