In 1870, Congress made July 4, Independence Day, a federal holiday. The holiday was to commemorate the Declaration of Independence which the Secod Continental Congress voted on and passed on July 2, 1776 and declared on July 4, 1776.
The declaration, which began with, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The separation was that of “the thirteen united States (colonies) of America” from Great Britain.
A day after the Second Continental Congress was approved, one of America’s Founding Fathers wrote home to his wife telling her he believed “(Independence Day) 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.”
He was right and wrong.
Adams was speaking of July 2, the day the Second Continental Congress passed the vote, instead the day of celebration became the day it was declared, July 4. However, he was right about “the great anniversary Festival.”
There will be parades, ball games, fireworks and tons of eating during the many Independence Day celebrations.
Americans will pig out on over 150 million hot dogs, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC). If you lined all the hot dogs consumed on July 4 they would stretch from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. five times. Another interesting fact, 61% of Americans prefer beef hot dogs, 12% like pork hot dogs, and 7% prefer turkey.
On the fourth there will also be over $1 billion spent on beer, and more than $825 million spent on fireworks.
Some 50 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes for the Fourth. Some will travel to spend the holiday firing off fireworks with relatives. Others will travel to firework shows and some will travel away from the fireworks.
Independence Day is an expensive holiday, however the real cost was paid between 1775-1783. As Americans, still under the thumb of King George III, decided they wanted to be free.
Some 230,000 soldiers served in the Continental Army during that time, according to historyofmassachusetts.org. There were no more than about 48,000 soldiers fighting at one time, but they left their homes, their families and fought for freedom. An estimated 24,000 never made it home. Of those 8,000 died in battle while around 16,000 died from starvation or illness.
Since then thousands of other Americans have died protecting the ideals our forefathers declared on that July 4 over 240 years ago.
Freedom, democracy, the American ideal has not come, nor has it been maintained without hard work and sacrifice.
“Democracy,” Adams once wrote, “while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
One has to wonder if our present political divide, our demand to have it our way or no way, and our over-sensitivity is not our democracy’s suicide note.
Hopefully, as the fireworks explode and the hot dogs are eaten we remember the real reason we are celebrating and the true price paid. Hopefully, we come to our senses before it is too late.