238 years ago, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. And John Adams envisioned future celebrations of the event. In a letter to his wife, he wrote: “It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It out 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 for ever more.”
A Stilt-Walking “Uncle Sam,” 06/1973. National Archives Identifier 549573
That vision of the future got off to a slow, but no less passionate start. On July 5th 1777, John Adams wrote to his daughter from Philadelphia describing events of the first anniversary: Invited to dine with President Washington aboard the frigate Delaware, Adams wrote: “…we were saluted with a discharge of thirteen guns, which was followed by thirteen others, from each other armed vessel in the river; then the gallies followed the fire, and after them the guard boats. The President and company were saluted with three cheers, from every ship, galley, and boat in the river. The wharves and shores, were lined with a vast concourse of people, all shouting and huzzaing, in a manner which gave great joy to every friend to this country, and the utmost terror and dismay to every lurking tory.”
A fireworks display lights the sky during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Statue of Liberty, 07/04/1986. National Archives Identifier 6421129
Adams continues: “In the evening, I was walking about the streets for a little fresh air and exercise, and was surprised to fine the whole city lighting up their candles at the windows. I walked most of the evening, and I think it was the most splendid illumination I ever saw; a few surly houses were dark, but the lights were very universal. Considering the lateness of the design and the suddenness of the execution, I was amazed at the universal joy and alacrity that was discovered, and at the brilliancy and splendor of every part of this joyful exhibition. I had forgot the ringing of the bells all day and evening, and the bonfires in the streets, and the fireworks played off. Had General Howe been here in disguise, or his master, this show would have given them the heart-ache.”
3 thoughts on “Happy Fourth of July!”
Yes, but Adams intended it to be July 2nd and never celebrated the 4th.
A lovely essay. Thanks so much.
Celebrations are always moments to not forget own history and what it represents. We would like that in Italy there was the ability to not forget it as well as you. With admiration.
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