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The Fourth, the glorious Fourth
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


July 04, 2007

You have to love a country whose Founding Fathers wanted its citizens, and their descendants, to celebrate their national day by going out and having some serious fun. They even helped set the pattern.

Gen. George Washington issued a double ration of rum to his soldiers. And the traditions of fireworks, food, parades and concerts are as old as Independence Day itself.

John Adams was positively visionary about the nation's birthday. He wrote to his wife Abigail on the night of July 3, 1776, that the event should be marked annually by "pomp and parade, with shews (shows), games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward for ever more."

gif Independence Day

Fourth of July
By Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

All of this, when you come right down to it, was to observe what was basically the adoption of a committee report.

Adams, whose committee it was, thought that Independence Day would be celebrated on July 2, when the Continental Congress unanimously approved a resolution he sent to the floor declaring "that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states."

But the Congress, setting an example that is honored by our lawmakers to this day, dallied in finishing up some related matters, and so July 4 got the honors.

Of immediate importance to the signers of the declaration was seceding from Britain, thus provoking a war with the military superpower of the day -- and the bulk of the declaration is, in fact, a long list of grievances against the British. A day that called for bells, bonfires and fireworks could have just as easily ended on the gallows.

Of far more lasting import was a single sentence in the declaration that succinctly summed up the American ideal: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Imagine: Happiness as a civic goal.

In 1778, the Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia to observe July 4, and part of that celebration was 13 toasts, the first of them to "The United States of America." Hear, hear.

Happy Fourth of July.

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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska