Independence Day: What It Really Meant When It Was First Celebrated.

From Ammo.com.

Every American knows what Independence Day is. Alongside Christmas and Thanksgiving, it’s one of the few holidays that hasn’t fallen prey to having to be celebrated on the closest Monday, rather than the actual day it falls on. However, less known is the history of the Fourth of July as a holiday. How did the celebrations emerge and what is the history of this, America’s birthday?

Few know that the 13 Colonies actually legally separated from the mother country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, on July 2nd, not July 4th. This was the day that the Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. After voting in favor of independence, the Congress then turned toward the actual drafting of the resolution, which we known today as the Declaration of Independence. It was on July 4th that Congress approved the resolution.

For his part, John Adams believed that July 2nd would be the day to be celebrated throughout the ages in the United States. While his prediction was two days off, his prediction of how the day would be celebrated is pretty close to the mark:

“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.”

Independence Was Radical

In 1775, when independence first became discussed in the Congress, total independence was considered a very radical option among many. “Common Sense,” by Thomas Paine, however, radically changed the political mood of the country. If independence was “radical,” then Paine was successful at radicalizing a significant portion of the incipient country. It was on June 7, 1776, that Richard Henry Lee, the delegate from Virginia, first introduced the motion to declare total independence from the United Kingdom. A vigorous debate ensued, the final result of which was a five-man committee (Thomas JeffersonJohn Adams, Benjamin FranklinRoger Sherman and Robert  R. Livingston) charged with drafting a document detailing the causes of separation.

When the time came to vote on the Declaration of Independence, the vote was nearly unanimous – every state voted in favor, except for the delegate from New York who abstained, but later voted in favor, of the resolution.

What’s more, while it’s commonly believed that the Declaration was signed on the 4th, it’s actually more likely that it was signed on August 2, 1776, despite the recollections of Thomas Jefferson and some of the other signatories. Only two of the signers eventually became President of the United States: the aforementioned Adams and Jefferson. Calvin Coolidge is, thus far, the only President to be born on the Fourth of July, in the year 1872.

Early Independence Day Celebrations

It didn’t take long for the newly independent nation to begin celebrating its birth. In 1777, Bristol, Rhode Island, became the first town to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. At dawn and at nightfall, 13 gunshots were fired in remembrance. The July 18th edition of The Virginia Gazette notes a celebration filled with feasting, gun salutes, music, parades and, yes, fireworks. Ships were decked out with red, white and blue bunting for the occasion.

Another early celebration took place in 1778, when General George Washington issued a double ration of rum to his soldiers, as well as an artillery salute. Meanwhile, in France, there were celebrations as well. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a celebration for the Americans living in France while on their ambassadorial duties. While we generally celebrate Independence Day on whatever day of the week July 4th falls on, in 1779 when it first fell on a Sunday, celebrations took place the following Monday.

July 4th was first officially declared a statewide celebration by Massachusetts in 1781. This set the precedent of states declaring that it was a day to be celebrated. In 1783, Salem, North Carolina, held what it claims to be the first public celebration of the holiday, with a suite of music by Johann Friedrich Peter. This was documented by the Moravian Church, and there are no earlier records of public (i.e., government) celebrations of the holiday prior to this event.

In 1870, Congress declared that Independence Day would be an unpaid holiday for all federal workers. Some 58 years later, in 1938, Congress changed the holiday from unpaid to paid.

It was the War of 1812 that saw Independence Day celebrations becoming widespread and common. This was due to an overall upsurge in patriotism and nationalist fervor during what was effectively a Second War of Independence against Great Britain.

Thomas Jefferson, who was not born on the Fourth of July, but died on it, was invited to a 50th anniversary celebration of Independence Day in the nation’s capital. Jefferson was extremely ill at the time and declined the invitation in what would be his last letter ever. In doing so, however, he stated his belief that American independence carried significant weight not just for the United States, but for the entire world, writing:

“All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. …For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

Unlike other patriotic holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day, there is no underlying spectre of loss, sacrifice and death with Independence Day. July 4th is a day of celebration for its own sake. So has it always been. There’s nothing wrong at all with partaking in the revelry of fireworks, hot dogs and (if you’re on a capable military base) gunshots. The Founding Fathers, if they fought for anything, wanted you to have at least one day where you could revel in the excess and largesse provided by their struggles.

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A Holiday Safety Message From Everytown Which We Should All Read.

I’m very lucky.  Every year when the holidays roll around I’m one of those people who will spend time with a loving, supportive family, entertain and visit friends and even attend an office party from which, if I’m careful, I can drive myself home.  But the holidays also mark a time when many of us don’t do so well; we are alone, or depressed, or drink too much during this and other times of the year.  Some of us don’t have family, don’t have friends, the Thanksgiving dinner if we’re lucky, is consumed at a shelter or in the street.

everytown logo               I’m sure you, like me, have responded to requests for donations to this or that program which will bring some cheer into other people’s lives.  Americans are generous, we like to help those in need.  I’ll pay for some dinners to be served at a halfway house, my neighbor runs Toys for Tots at our local KofC.  Which is why I was heartened to see that Everytown has just posted a Holiday Safety Message on its Be Smart campaign.  Because gun accidents, more than any other kind of safety issue, are chilling and scary events.  And if you don’t believe me, just ask the residents of Hayden, ID, who had to find the strength to get through the Holidays last year after a young and vigorous Mom was shot dead in Walmart by her two-year old son.

The Everytown holiday safety message continues a safety campaign started last year which tries to remind parents that there are ways to deal positively and properly with the risks of guns.  It’s a no-brainer to lock guns up when they’re not being used; ditto keep them unloaded around the home and, most important, always keep guns out of the hands of kids.  Children are naturally curious, they have no sense of risk or fear, they teach themselves about the world by touching everything around them and for sure this includes guns.

The gun industry has been promoting its own brand of gun safety largely through the ChildSafe program run by the NSSF.  The program distributes gun locks and safety literature and encourages parents to talk to their children about safe behavior around guns. But what this program does not do is tell parents to talk to other parents about their guns.  And this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, because parents who send their children to play at someone else’s home have a right to know whether that home is safe.  And like it or not, no matter what the NRA says about the benefits of gun ownership outweighing the risks, the fact is that a home with a gun inside it is a home where a gun accident could take place.

In 2013, the last year for which we have good data, 16,864 Americans were the victims of non-fatal, unintentional injuries from guns. Now listen carefully: 14,886 were males and 16,326 were over the age of 15.  In other words, when it comes to accidental shootings, what we are really talking about are boys and men playing with their own guns. Now don’t get me wrong; every life is precious and nobody should endure the heartache and pain of losing a life, particularly the very young. But gun safety, when all is said and done, is a function of the fact that we are humans which means we are careless and we forget.  The real value of Everytown’s holiday safety message is that it serves as a reminder that a memory lapse with a gun can have a terrible effect.

If there’s one thing the pro-gun community has decided is that groups like Everytown are just promoting gun safety to disguise the fact that the real goal is to confiscate all guns.  Let me break it to the pro-gun folks gently – there wouldn’t be any reason for Everytown to talk about gun safety if gun owners would all lock up their guns.