July 4, 2017: Fly your flag! 241st anniversary of public reading of the Declaration of Independence

July 3, 2017

At Four Mile Historic Park in Glendale, Colorado, Abraham Lincoln actor John Voehl pauses before delivering the Gettysburg Address at a 4th of July celebration (yes, Lincoln delivered the address on November 16; it's a great statement of the meaning and history of the Declaration of Independence, and probably appropriate for July 4, remembering that the actual independence resolution passed on July 2, 1776 . . .) Denver Post file photo

At Four Mile Historic Park in Glendale, Colorado, Abraham Lincoln actor John Voehl pauses before delivering the Gettysburg Address at a 4th of July celebration (yes, Lincoln delivered the address on November 16; it’s a great statement of the meaning and history of the Declaration of Independence, and probably appropriate for July 4, remembering that the actual independence resolution passed on July 2, 1776 . . .) Denver Post file photo

It’s a day of tradition — oddly enough, since we are in reality a very new nation, and Lee’s resolution to declare independence from Britain came on July 2.

A soak in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is nothing if not a steeping in tradition.  Fly your flag today, to celebrate the independence of the American colonies of Britain.

Fourth of July: NPR has already read the Declaration of Independence (or will soon, if you’re up early), PBS is ready to broadcast the Capitol Fourth concert  (maybe a rebroadcast is available, if you’re off at your own town’s fireworks — check your local listings), your town has a parade somewhere this weekend, or a neighboring community does, and fireworks are everywhere.

At the White House, traditionally, new citizens are sworn in — often people who joined our armed forces and fought for our nation, before even getting the privileges of citizenship.  Fireworks on the Capital Mall will be grand. President Obama’s White House would host a few thousand military people and their families from some of the best views.  Traditionally, five photographers, chosen by lottery, get to shoot photos of the fireworks from the windows of the Washington Monument; will that occur, with the Monument open again after repair from the earthquake?

There will be great fireworks also in Baltimore Harbor over Fort McHenry, the fort whose siege inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-spangled Banner” from his boat in the harbor, in 1814. Fireworks will frighten the bluebirds nesting at Yorktown National Battlefield.  I suspect there will be a grand display at Gettysburg, on the 154th anniversary of the end of that battle. July 4, 1863, also marked the end of the Siege of Vicksburg; tradition holds that Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July for 83 years after that. I’ll wager there will be fireworks there tonight.

In Provo, Utah, the city poobahs will have done all they can to try to live up to their self-proclaimed reputation as having the biggest Independence Day celebration in the nation.  Will the celebration in Prescott, Arizona, still be muted by the tragic deaths of 19 Hot Shot firefighters a few years ago; will drought halt the fireworks, too?  There will be fireworks around the Golden Gate Bridge, in Anchorage, Alaska, reflecting on the waters of Pearl Harbor, and probably in Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas Islands.

Fireworks on the Fourth is a long tradition — a tradition that kept John Adams and Thomas Jefferson alive, until they both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in 1826, the sounds of the fireworks letting Adams know the celebration had begun (Adams erroneously celebrated that Jefferson, the Declaration’s author, still lived, unable to know Jefferson had passed just hours earlier).

Remember to put your flag up today.

Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag -- Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

Last flag on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag — Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

If you’re not on the Moon, here are some tips on flag etiquette, how to appropriately fly our national standard.

Also:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site. NASA caption: Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger descent stage comes into focus from the new lower 50 km mapping orbit, image width 102 meters. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

This is mostly an encore post, but I so love that photo of the flag with the Earth in the distance.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4 — Kathryn Knowles’s birthday. We’re always happy the town chimes in with the celebratory spirit.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and the cast of thousands of patriots including George Washington.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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July 4, 2016: Fly your flag today! 240th anniversary of the public reading of the Declaration of Independence

July 3, 2016

It’s a day of tradition — oddly enough, since we are in reality a very new nation, and Lee’s resolution to declare independence from Britain came on July 2.

A soak in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is nothing if not a steeping in tradition.  Fly your flag today, to celebrate the independence of the American colonies of Britain.

Fourth of July: NPR has already read the Declaration of Independence (or will soon, if you’re up early), PBS is ready to broadcast the Capitol Fourth concert  (maybe a rebroadcast is available, if you’re off at your own town’s fireworks — check your local listings), your town has a parade somewhere this weekend, or a neighboring community does, and fireworks are everywhere.

At the White House, traditionally, new citizens are sworn in — often people who joined our armed forces and fought for our nation, before even getting the privileges of citizenship.  Fireworks on the Capital Mall will be grand, with the White House hosting a few thousand military people and their families from some of the best views.  Traditionally, five photographers, chosen by lottery, get to shoot photos of the fireworks from the windows of the Washington Monument; will that occur, with the Monument shut down from public view for repair from the earthquake?

There will be great fireworks also in Baltimore Harbor over Fort McHenry, the fort whose siege inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-spangled Banner” from his boat in the harbor, in 1814. Firworks will frighten the bluebirds nesting at Yorktown National Battlefield.  I suspect there will be a grand display at Gettysburg, on the 150th anniversary of the end of that battle. July 4, 1863, also marked the end of the Siege of Vicksburg; tradition holds that Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July for 83 years after that. I’ll wager there will be fireworks there tonight.  In Provo, Utah, the city poobahs will have done all they can to try to live up to their self-proclaimed reputation as having the biggest Independence Day celebration in the nation.  The celebration in Prescott, Arizona, is muted by the tragic deaths of 19 Hot Shot firefighters last week; will drought halt the fireworks, too?  There will be fireworks around the Golden Gate Bridge, in Anchorage, Alaska, reflecting on the waters of Pearl Harbor, and probably in Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas Islands.

Fireworks on the Fourth is a long tradition — a tradition that kept John Adams and Thomas Jefferson alive, until they both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in 1826, the sounds of the fireworks letting Adams know the celebration had begun (Adams erroneously celebrated that Jefferson, the Declaration’s author, still lived, unable to know Jefferson had passed just hours earlier).

Remember to put your flag up today.

Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag -- Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

Last flag on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag — Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

If you’re not on the Moon, here are some tips on flag etiquette, how to appropriately fly our national standard.

Also:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site. NASA caption: Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger descent stage comes into focus from the new lower 50 km mapping orbit, image width 102 meters. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

This is mostly an encore post, but I so love that photo of the flag with the Earth in the distance.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4 — Kathryn Knowles’s birthday. We’re always happy the town chimes in with the celebratory spirit.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and the cast of thousands of patriots including George Washington.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


July 4, 1826: Astonishing coincidences on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration

July 4, 2014

You know the story, don’t you? If you don’t, you should commit this one to memory.  It’s not fiction, and if you proposed it for fiction, the editors would reject it as too improbable, or too sappy, a tug on your heartstrings and tear ducts.  It’s true, better than the faux patriot fiction we often get on July 4.

July 4, 2014, is the 238th anniversary of the announcement of the Declaration of Independence.  I hope you’re thinking about how you’ll fly the flag this weekend in honor of the Declaration of Independence.

The resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee calling for independence of the 13 colonies passed the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.  The Declaration would be Thomas Jefferson’s crowning achievement, outshining even his presidency and the Louisiana Purchase.   John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that July 2 would forever be marked by patriotic displays.

But the Declaration itself, which gave teeth to the resolution, was adopted two days later on July 4.  That has come to be the day we celebrate.

Detail, John Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of Independence - Theodor Horydczak photo, Library of Congress

Detail, John Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence – The committee of five presents the Declaration of Independence to John Hancock, the President of the Second Continental Congress; from left, the committee is John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin.  Theodor Horydczak photo, Library of Congress

Adams didn’t miss a beat.  Who quibbles about a couple of days when the celebrating is so good?

Adams and Jefferson were two of the five-member committee the Congress had tasked to write a declaration.  Adams and Ben Franklin quickly determined to leave it up to Jefferson, who had a grand flair with words, and who had just written a couple of stirring documents for Virginia.  Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, the other two members, went along.  And so it was that the Declaration of  Independence is almost completely the work of Thomas Jefferson.

Adams and Jefferson became friends only later, when they both served the nation at war as ambassadors to France, and then for Adams, to England.  A widower, Jefferson was taken in by Abigail Adams who worried about him.  After the war, Jefferson was in England when Adams was to meet King George III in a grand ceremony in which the king would accept the credentials of all the ambassadors of foreign nations to England.  As the king strode down the line, each ambassador or delegation would bow, the king would acknowledge them, the papers would be passed, and the king would move on.  Adams and Jefferson bowed.  King George moved on, ignoring them completely.

In such a case of such a snub, the snubbed foreigners usually made a quick exit.  Adams and Jefferson did not.  They stood at attention as if the king had treated them like all the rest, reversing the snub.  From the beginning, Americans and the United States pushed for more practical, reasonable, and compassionate government and relations.  Standing together, against the snub of the British King one more time, Adams and Jefferson formed a silent bond that held them the rest of their lives.

Back in America in peacetime, and both members of the administration of George Washington, Adams and Jefferson fell out.  Secretary of State Jefferson favored a more limited federal government; Vice President Adams favored a more powerful one.  By the end of Washington’s second term, party politics had been well developed.  Adams defeated Jefferson in the election of 1796.  As was the law then, Jefferson was vice president as the runner-up vote getter in the electoral college; but Adams kept Jefferson out of all government affairs.  Perhaps because he didn’t have Jefferson to help, Adams’s presidency did not go well.  In the rematch election in 1800, one of  the bitterest election fights ever, Jefferson’s party defeated Adams.  The gleeful Democratic-Republican electors all voted one ballot for Jefferson, the presidential candidate, and one ballot for Aaron Burr, the party’s vice presidential candidate.

Alas, that produced a tie vote in the electoral college.  Adams’s party, the Federalists, still held the House of Representatives before the new Congress came in.  A tie vote goes to the House for decision.  They could not bring themselves to vote for Jefferson, and the deadlock continued for 37 ballots.  Finally Jefferson’s former friend but now arch-enemy Alexander Hamilton intervened, explaining that Burr was clearly the greater scoundrel, and the House elected Jefferson.  Adams slunk out of town, avoiding the inauguration.

It wasn’t until after 1809 when Benjamin Rush hoodwinked Jefferson into writing to Adams, and Adams to Jefferson, that the two became friendly again.  For the next 17 years Jefferson and Adams carried on perhaps the greatest series of correspondence in history between two great minds.  Letters went out almost daily, from Monticello, Virginia,  to Braintree, Massachusetts, and from Braintree to Monticello.  They discussed the weather, their families, old times, farming — but especially the republic they had been most instrumental in creating, and how it might be preserved, and made to prosper.  Eventually the letters became harder to read, both because their eyesight was failing, and because their penmanship deteriorated, too.

The ideas, however, flowed like a great river of freedom.  Perhaps this correspondence was the river flowing justice the prophet Amos foretold.

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 15th, 1820 - Library of Congress image

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, August 15th, 1820. From The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827. Library of Congress image

Both men took ill early in 1826.  This was a landmark year, 50 years since the Declaration of Independence.  In Massachusetts, a grand display of fireworks was planned to cap off a day of feasting and celebration.  Adams hoped he might attend.  In Virginia, a week before, it became clear Jefferson was too ill to venture even as close as Charlottesville for the celebration.  Jefferson sent his regrets to invitations from several celebrations.  Jefferson slept through most of July 3, but awoke about 9:00 p.m., and asked, “This is the fourth?”  It was not.  These are the last significant, recorded words of Jefferson.  He awoke at about 4:00 a.m. on the Fourth of July, 1826, but could not make a rally.  He died at 12:50 in the afternoon.

Adams, too, was too ill to attend the celebrations.  In the late afternoon or early evening of the Fourth, he awoke, and heard the celebration in the town.  Almost as if he had worked just to live to see that particular day, he checked the date.  Realizing he was near the end, happy that he’d seen 50 years after the Declaration, and unaware of the events a few hours earlier that day in Virginia, Adams said, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”  Adams, too, died on July 4, 1826.

Fly your flag July 4th. Remember John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Remember their great work in creating the nation that protects our freedoms today.  Remember their great friendship.  Write a letter to a good friend you’ve not written to lately.

It is Independence Day, a day created and celebrated by great men like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Their spirit survives in us, as we celebrate, and if we remember why we celebrate as friends.

More:


Fly your flag today! July 4, 2014, 238th anniversary of the public reading of the Declaration of Independence

July 4, 2014

It’s a day of tradition — oddly enough, since we are in reality a very new nation, and Lee’s resolution to declare independence from Britain came on July 2.

A soak in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is nothing if not a steeping in tradition.  Fly your flag today, to celebrate the independence of the American colonies of Britain.

Fourth of July: NPR has already read the Declaration of Independence (or will soon, if you’re up early), PBS is ready to broadcast the Capitol Fourth concert  (maybe a rebroadcast is available, if you’re off at your own town’s fireworks — check your local listings), your town has a parade somewhere this weekend, or a neighboring community does, and fireworks are everywhere.

At the White House, traditionally, new citizens are sworn in — often people who joined our armed forces and fought for our nation, before even getting the privileges of citizenship.  Fireworks on the Capital Mall will be grand, with the White House hosting a few thousand military people and their families from some of the best views.  Traditionally, five photographers, chosen by lottery, get to shoot photos of the fireworks from the windows of the Washington Monument; will that occur, with the Monument shut down from public view for repair from the earthquake?

There will be great fireworks also in Baltimore Harbor over Fort McHenry, the fort whose siege inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-spangled Banner” from his boat in the harbor, in 1814. Firworks will frighten the bluebirds nesting at Yorktown National Battlefield.  I suspect there will be a grand display at Gettysburg, on the 150th anniversary of the end of that battle. July 4, 1863, also marked the end of the Siege of Vicksburg; tradition holds that Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July for 83 years after that. I’ll wager there will be fireworks there tonight.  In Provo, Utah, the city poobahs will have done all they can to try to live up to their self-proclaimed reputation as having the biggest Independence Day celebration in the nation.  The celebration in Prescott, Arizona, is muted by the tragic deaths of 19 Hot Shot firefighters last week; will drought halt the fireworks, too?  There will be fireworks around the Golden Gate Bridge, in Anchorage, Alaska, reflecting on the waters of Pearl Harbor, and probably in Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas Islands.

Fireworks on the Fourth is a long tradition — a tradition that kept John Adams and Thomas Jefferson alive, until they both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in 1826, the sounds of the fireworks letting Adams know the celebration had begun (Adams erroneously celebrated that Jefferson, the Declaration’s author, still lived, unable to know Jefferson had passed just hours earlier).

Remember to put your flag up today.

Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag -- Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

Last flag on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag — Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

If you’re not on the Moon, here are some tips on flag etiquette, how to appropriately fly our national standard.

Also:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of the Apollo 17 landing site. NASA caption: Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger descent stage comes into focus from the new lower 50 km mapping orbit, image width 102 meters. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

This is mostly an encore post, but I so love that photo of the flag with the Earth in the distance.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4 — Kathryn Knowles’s birthday. We’re always happy the town chimes in with the celebratory spirit.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and the cast of thousands of patriots including George Washington.


Fly your flag today! July 4, 2013, 237 years since the Declaration of Independence

July 4, 2013

It’s a day of tradition — oddly enough, since we are in reality a very new nation, and Lee’s resolution to declare independence from Britain came on July 2.

A soak in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is nothing if not a steeping in tradition.  Fly your flag today, to celebrate the independence of the American colonies of Britain.

Fourth of July: NPR has already read the Declaration of Independence (or will soon, if you’re up early), PBS is ready to broadcast the Capitol Fourth concert  (maybe a rebroadcast is available, if you’re off at your own town’s fireworks — check your local listings), your town has a parade somewhere this weekend, or a neighboring community does, and fireworks are everywhere.

At the White House, traditionally, new citizens are sworn in — often people who joined our armed forces and fought for our nation, before even getting the privileges of citizenship.  Fireworks on the Capital Mall will be grand, with the White House hosting a few thousand military people and their families from some of the best views.  Traditionally, five photographers, chosen by lottery, get to shoot photos of the fireworks from the windows of the Washington Monument; will that occur, with the Monument shut down from public view for repair from the earthquake?

There will be great fireworks also in Baltimore Harbor over Fort McHenry, the fort whose siege inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-spangled Banner” from his boat in the harbor, in 1814. Firworks will frighten the bluebirds nesting at Yorktown National Battlefield.  I suspect there will be a grand display at Gettysburg, on the 150th anniversary of the end of that battle. July 4, 1863, also marked the end of the Siege of Vicksburg; tradition holds that Vicksburg did not celebrate the 4th of July for 83 years after that. I’ll wager there will be fireworks there tonight.  In Provo, Utah, the city poobahs will have done all they can to try to live up to their self-proclaimed reputation as having the biggest Independence Day celebration in the nation.  The celebration in Prescott, Arizona, is muted by the tragic deaths of 19 Hot Shot firefighters last week; will drought halt the fireworks, too?  There will be fireworks around the Golden Gate Bridge, in Anchorage, Alaska, reflecting on the waters of Pearl Harbor, and probably in Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas Islands.

Fireworks on the Fourth is a long tradition — a tradition that kept John Adams and Thomas Jefferson alive, until they both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in 1826, the sounds of the fireworks letting Adams know the celebration had begun (Adams erroneously celebrated that Jefferson, the Declaration’s author, still lived, unable to know Jefferson had passed just hours earlier).

Remember to put your flag up today.

Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag -- Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

Last flag on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag — Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

If you’re not on the Moon, here are some tips on flag etiquette, how to appropriately fly our national standard.

Also:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of Apollo 17 landing site

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of Apollo 17 landing site

This is mostly an encore post, but I so love that photo of the flag with the Earth in the distance.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4

Fireworks in Duncanville, Texas, for July 4 — Kathryn Knowles’s birthday. We’re always happy the town chimes in with the celebratory spirit.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and the cast of thousands of patriots including George Washington.


Fly your flag today! July 4, 2012

July 4, 2012

Fourth of July: NPR has already read the Declaration of Independence, PBS is ready to broadcast the Capitol Fourth concert  (maybe a rebroadcast is available, if you’re off at your own town’s fireworks — check your local listings), your town has a parade somewhere this weekend, or a neighboring community does, and fireworks are everywhere.

Remember to put your flag up today.

Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag -- Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

Last flag on the Moon: Astronaut Eugene Cernan and the U.S. Flag — Apollo 17 on the Moon (NASA photo)

Also:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of Apollo 17 landing site

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photo of Apollo 17 landing site

This is mostly an encore post, but I so love that photo of the flag with the Earth in the distance.

Happy birthday, Kathryn!

Tip of the old scrub brush to Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and the cast of thousands of patriots including George Washington.


Quote of the moment: John Adams, celebrating the 2nd of July

July 1, 2011

“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . 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.”
John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

1776 filled the calendar with dates deserving of remembrance and even celebration.  John Adams, delegate from Massachusetts to the Second Continental Congress, wrote home to his wife Abigail that future generations would celebrate July 2, the date the Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from Britain for 13 of the British colonies in America.

Two days later, that same Congress approved the wording of the document Thomas Jefferson had drafted to announce Lee’s resolution to the world.

Today, we celebrate the date of the document Jefferson wrote, and Richard Henry Lee is often a reduced to a footnote, if not erased from history altogether.

Who can predict the future?

(You know, of course, that Adams and Jefferson both died 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1826.  In the 50 intervening years, Adams and Jefferson were comrades in arms and diplomacy in Europe, officers of the new government in America, opposing candidates for the presidency, President and Vice President, ex-President and President, bitter enemies, then long-distance friends writing almost daily about how to make a great new nation.  Read David McCullough‘s version of the story, if you can find it.)

Update, July 4, 2013: You may want to check the updated version of this post, with more links, and even more history.

2015 edition, with more links for teachers and historians, here.


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