Not many holidays have multiple names. True, if you say them in different languages they do, but not when they’re all in English.
We speak here of the upcoming July 4th. Or, the Fourth of July. Or, Independence Day. Internationally, it also is known as the National Day of the United States. That’s four.
School children are taught that July 4, 1776, is when we declared our independence from England. Technically, perhaps, but that actually was done two days earlier when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution that had been proposed the month before by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring the United States independent from the rule of Great Britain.
Congress then turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, the written statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. It debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it on Thursday, July 4, the day that became one of celebration and commemoration.
That isn’t exactly what all the Founding Fathers had in mind at the time. On July 3, John Adams had written to his wife, Abigail (underlining for emphasis):
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch 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 forever more.”
While we enjoy our picnics, fireworks, parades, and games, let’s take a moment to reflect on the tremendous achievement that was wrought 240 years ago this weekend.