On July 3, 1776, the day before the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, one of the drafters of the document, sensing the immensity of the occasion, wrote a letter to his wife Abigail describing how he believed it would be celebrated in years to come:
“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 and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
Indeed, the nation appropriately celebrated the Fourth of July this year with parades, fireworks and gatherings of friends and families, but how much thought was given to what the fanfare was all about?
This year’s Fourth of July marked the 240th anniversary of the creation of a new form of government when representatives of the original Thirteen Colonies of Great Britain in the western hemisphere took the unprecedented step of declaring independence from their mother country. With reasons laid out in a respectful manner in a Declaration of Independence that became a model for other countries, a new form of government was born, emphasizing freedom and liberty for the governed as opposed to the monarchal domination that had ruled countries for centuries. The founding fathers cautioned that a nation based on “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” would require “eternal vigilance” on the part of the governed.
During this 240th Anniversary Year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, all Americans should be mindful that freedom is not free, nor is it an entitlement, but a fragile blessing that cannot be taken for granted, demanding awareness and personal participation on the part of the governed. As Thomas Jefferson, writer of the document stated, “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
Submitted by Marge Cushing, RTHS president.