Saturday, July 2, 2016

Becoming The United States Of America

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to his wife, Abigail, in Braintree, Massachusetts, about the epochal events of the previous day:
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.
He was referring to the vote of the states in Congress on July 2, to declare themselves independent of Great Britain and creating a new entity, the United States of America.  The vote, by state delegations, was 12-0, with New York abstaining because it had not received instructions from its state assembly.

It turns out that Adams was right about how Independence Day was to be celebrated, but wrong about the date.

On July 4, 1776, the Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, the document publicly explaining the reasons for its decision of July 2.  The Declaration was drafted by Thomas Jefferson over a 3 to 5 day period in late June and edited by his fellow committee members, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman.  To Adams' chagrin, and frequent complaint over the next fifty years, it was the fourth that became the day of celebration "from this Time forward forever more".

Adams closed his letter to Abigail, who was a formidable letter-writer herself (see Abigail Writes Thomas), with these hopeful, but sobering, sentiments:
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.

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