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Monday, July 2, 2012

July Independence



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 FĂȘte 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?

Jane Charles
Countess of Content

16 comments:

  1. Hi, Jane.
    Interesting about the 2nd. I'm with you and celebrating from the 2nd through the 4th. Maybe we should throw in the 5th too, for good measure. :)

    This year I'm on-call the 4th of July, so we will be sticking close to home. We used to have a party when we lived in our old house, and maybe some day we will again. But right now, we have no air conditioning and it's no fun to have a crowd and no air. When we had our party, everyone brought a dish and they had to come up with a patriotic name. It was silly, but fun. We played games, shot off a few fireworks at home, then headed to the river for the big display.

    Our town has a week long festival at the riverside park, so we may head down there at least one day this week. They have bands, games for the kids, and carnival rides.

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    1. Samantha,

      Sorry you have to be on call. Hopefully you won't be needed. For many years my husband worked on the 4th. It was nice when he had the day off (very rare). I think a week long festival sounds like a lot of fun.

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  2. We've celebrated in different ways depending on what else is going on. Many times, I've gone to watch the local fireworks show in town. There are a number of them in the area, so I've driven to Addison and climbed up to the rooftops to watch the Kaboom Town show a couple of times.

    This year, we want to avoid the heat, though. So we're having a movie marathon inside, watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in getting ready for The Dark Knight Rises later this month. I think my brother is planning on taking the Monster to see the fireworks in town, though. That's what you've got to do if you've got kiddos. :)

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    1. The heat is a good reason to stay inside. We've been sweltering up here too. Yep, when you have kids, fireworks are almost a necessity. I spent many years in the park on a blanket surrounded by my three kids.

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  3. We usually don't stay up to watch the fireworks because we will have a very cranky daughter in the morning. Maybe when she gets older, we will. Usually we just swim and grill during the day. Great post--have a safe & happy 4th!

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    1. I've never been able to get my children to sleep at their regular time on the 4th. Our neighborhood shoots of firecrackers, bottle rockets and such until midnight sometimes, which always made the dog bark before she tried to get in our lap. It is a shephard/lab mix and is too big to be in anyone's lap. You have a safe and happy 4th too. :)

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  4. Jane, Wow, I knew the declaration wasn't actually signed until August, but I didn't realize July 2 was the day they voted to declare independence. Learn something new every day! Happy 4th of July!

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  5. We live one a lake, and every year they do a spectacular over-water fireworks show. There are so many boats out, you can almost walk between them :-) Looking forward to going again this year!

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    1. Erin,

      That sounds like a lot of fun, especially if you don't want to leave your house and deal with crowds.

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  6. We're celebrating with family this year, and planning a picnic, time on the lake and fireworks! Bigger than the usual grill/sparklers that we usually do!

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    1. Deb,

      Have fun with the family and enjoy the picnic.

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  7. Hey Jane,
    Well, it varies from year to year. When we lived in Louisiana my husband would spend about $100-$200 on fireworks and we would get together with friends and have our on fourth of July celebration. One year I remember it was so smoky from everyone lighting fireworks it looked liked a war zone. When we lived in Cali we would have a BBQ at my parents house, because my dad can cook the best tri-tip & chicken. Now in Montana we got invited to the neighbors, so we will see what will happen this year.

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    1. Melody,

      I had a friend who used to go all out on 4th of July that had an awesome display in his backyard. It was always a fun get together with a bunch of friends, have a cook out, swim, and then the display as soon as it was dark.

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  8. We're celebrating with a cookout (not bbq, ahem, since there's no pig to be had) and nearby town fireworks. :)

    Thanks for sharing those little known facts about our Independence, Jane!

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  9. Marquita,

    Have fun, even if you don't have a pig to bbq ;).

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