Monday, July 4, 2011

John Adams

The 2nd 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

From a letter dated July 3, 1776, to his wife, Abigail.  The Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain on July 2, and approved the wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4.  So why don't Americans celebrate July 2 instead of July 4?

Oddly, both Thomas Jefferson (the author of the Declaration of Independence) and Adams (who spoke eloquently in favor of its adoption on the floor of the Continental Congress) died on the 50th anniversary of its approval -- July 4th, 1826.  The two men had become bitter political rivals after the United States won its independence.  Adams narrowly defeated Jefferson for the Presidency in 1796, while Jefferson returned the favor four years later.  The bitterness seems to have eventually faded, but Adams' true feelings may have been shown by his final words -- "Thomas Jefferson still survives."  (Adams was wrong -- Jefferson had died a few hours earlier.)

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