Those of us in the United States usually look forward to the July 4th celebrations, often starting them on the 3rd. In my town there are two separate fireworks displays. The first is on the 3rd in a local park that is usually packed long before dark. There are food vendors, a playground for the kids, performances from different groups, and the municipal band playing patriotic music. People bring their lawn chairs or blankets and spread out along the hillside that faces the stage. Directly behind the stage is the lagoon/lake (if heard it call different things) where the fireworks are shot off. I always preferred this display to the one on the riverfront which takes place on the 4th of July, but not because it is better. Both celebrations always have amazing fireworks. I don’t have to get up early on the 4th to go back to work, I do on the 5th.
But, I wonder if John Adams was right, in that we should actually celebrate on the 2nd.
On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve separation and declared the United States independent from Great Britain. The proposal had been made in June by Richard Henry Lee, and shortly thereafter, a committee was formed to draft the declaration that was first presented on June 28th. A debate was held on July 1st and a final vote was taken on July 2nd.
“Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them, and the state of Great Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” (Journals of the Continental Congress).
Following this vote, John Adams wrote the following letter to his wife, Abigail:
The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).
Well, he got part of it right. The Americans do celebrate with “Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other”, except on the 4th. But, since both days are important, I propose that celebrations begin on July 2nd (today) and continue through the 4th. Who is with me? I wouldn’t mind a three day holiday, especially when it falls in the middle of the week like this year.
On July 4, 1776 Congress approved the final official document, The Declaration of Independence, though many historians believe the Declaration was not signed until a month later, on August 2nd. If that is true (and I don’t really know myself), I doubt the holiday would change.
Another country which has a huge celebration this month is France on the 14th, La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) and commonly le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July). I know it, and most people know it as “Bastille Day”.
The Bastille was a fortress-prison in Paris which was known for holding political prisoners whose writings displeased the royal government, as well as housing a large cache of ammunition and gunpowder.
Prior to the storming of the Bastille, France was bankrupt and headed toward their bloody revolution. On May 5, 1789 Louis XVI convened the Estates-General to hear grievances. The representatives of the Third Estate (common people) decided to break away for the other two, representing the Catholic Church and Nobility. On May 28th the members of the Third Estate began to meet on their own and were gradually joined by some of the nobles and the majority of the clergy. On June 17th they began to call itself the National Assembly and on July 9th began to function as a legislature and draft a constitution.
On July 11th, the king dismissed Jacques Necker, his finance minister, who had previously suggested the king hold a Royal session in an attempt to reconcile the divided Estates. Though the king agreed, it did not take place. As a result, the people became fearful that they, or their representatives, would be attacked and stormed the Bastille to obtain the ammunition and gunpowder. There were only seven prisoners at the time, and ninety-eight attackers and one defender was killed.
Festivities and official ceremonies are held all over France. The oldest and largest military parade is held on the Champs-Elysees on the morning of the 14th.
How do you celebrate the 4th of July? Or, if you don’t live in America, do you have an independence celebration and when is it?
Countess of Content