Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Our country's birthday (?)

It's July 4th. Independence Day. Do you know where your flag is?

Truth be told, we don't own one. While I'm committed to the ideals that were written into our constitution and its amendments, I can't find any compelling reason to wave our nation's flag in this modern era. I don't see any evidence that our federal government is sincere in promoting the values that I hold dear. George Washington notably warned against certain activities during his farewell address: 1. Don't form entangling alliances. 2. Beware of party divisions. 3. Do not run up a national debt. Ladies and gentlemen, we are zero for three.

If we really want to commemorate something about July 4th, we need look no further than John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Two of our nation's founding elite, their relationship with each other had its highs and lows. Alexander Hamilton worked through back channels to increase the acrimony that existed between the two over federalism. JA and TJ became the respective heads of the first two major political parties: the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Thomas Jefferson was John Adam's Vice President, but this was before the two top administrators of the executive branch ran on the same ticket. While in high office, they had many disagreements. The conflict between the two, once comrades in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, escalated to the point that they stopped talking to each other until they were very old men. They started a written correspondance that lasted until their deaths, and that's how we return to this very special day. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the day we picked to commemorate the founding of our nation.

By the way, July 4th is an arbitrary date to celebrate the United States. Independence was declared unanimously, but secretly by Congress on July 2nd. John Adams himself believed that July 2nd would be the day marked by the birth of a nation. In his own words...

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch 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 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."

The wording on the Declaration was adopted by Congress on July 4th, and the document itself was actually dated July 4th. John Hancock, president of Congress, signed it on July 4th, and sent it to the printers. However, a final copy was only signed by all who appear on August 2nd, and this was kept secret to avoid reprisal by British authorities. (Thanks Wikipedia)


** Post revised with thanks to Chris with his comment below. Thank you for pointing out the lack of clarity in my original post.


Anonymous Chris said...

Independence was declared on July 2, true, but the full Declaration was not adopted by the Continental Congress until July 4, 1776 at the Pennsylvania House. Additionally, the top of the Declaration itself is dated July 4, 1776. The date isn't arbitrary.

One additional comment about displaying the flag: I think of it not as support of the current government, but as honoring our nation's history and ability to remain independent these 230 years.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Gotcha. Thanks for the input. I originally said that the celebration of the birth of our nation on July 4th was "a matter of convenience." That was a subjective interpretation that in retrospect seems incorrect. I do, however stick by my assertion that the true birthdate of the US is July 2nd 1776.

Your point about displaying the flag is well-taken. I recognize that there are multiple interpretations of the symbolism involved in doing so. In this case I wouldn't begrudge anyone else the choice or action that I myself have decided not to make.

10:57 PM  

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