No, It is NOT the ‘July Fourth’ Holiday, and Stop Saying It Is!

It is well known that John Adams had imagined that July second would be the day that future generations of Americans would remember as their day of independence from England, the nation’s birthday, if you will. It was, after all, on the second that it was proclaimed “(T)hat these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

But it was two days later that those gathered in defiance to the King declared a “Declaration of Independency” thereby adopting the famed document that carefully delineated the natural rights by which they claimed independence followed by a list of grievances that would explain why they invoked those rights.

So what are we celebrating? Is it our birth as a nation or are we celebrating the document of Independence? Early celebrations were mixed and a bit confused on that point. Additionally, celebrations on July fourth weren’t that common for a time after the Revolution was over. At first, not many felt a need to celebrate something that had happened and was over. It was time to move on from war in many American’s eyes.

Then again, not many Americans had much interest in the Declaration itself until the 1790s when the emerging parties began to vie for bragging rights over who wrote it. The Democratic Republicans proudly held that their leader, Thomas Jefferson, was the author of the document while the Federalists reminded everyone that their leader, John Adams, was also a member of the committee that drafted the document and that he, as much as Jefferson, had his stamp on the Declaration of Independence.

As the fame of the document and interest in it grew in the new United States of America, so too did a focus on celebrating the nation’s separation from England. By the time the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration neared in 1826, Independence Day had become a common day for celebration. And, despite a brief period in the South during and after the Civil War, the holiday atmosphere has grown and remained strong to this day.

The answer to the question above, then, is that we celebrate both the famed document and its purpose for having been drafted. We celebrate our birthday as a nation as well as those stated principles that announced to the world what we were and what this new nation was meant to represent. And so, it is properly Independence Day that we celebrate — a celebration both of the document and its famous ideas as well as our separation from England and the birth of our nation.

But one thing is sure, it is not “July Fourth” we celebrate. The fourth day of the seventh month is an inconsequential number. We are not celebrating a fourth day of anything and the bland, uninformative title of “July Fourth” should be banished from our minds as meaningless.

Why forget that title? Aside from the fact that we aren’t celebrating the numerology of the day, calling it “July Fourth” does nothing toward informing the world and our fellows of what it is we are celebrating. Do we celebrate December 25th, or do we Celebrate Christmas? Worse than a lack of identification, calling this sacred holiday merely “July Fourth” also dims from our minds the great purpose for which the holiday stands.

Yes, Independence Day is more than a number and more than just a birthday party. It is the heralding of a new set of principles by which all men everywhere can declare their own freedom. It is the assertion that all men are created equal and have been given that status by God. Further, that because these rights have been bestowed upon us by God, we have the right to insist that government serve us and that we mustn’t be yoked to serve government.

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

These were revolutionary concepts upon which to build a nation and it announced to the world that our revolution was a common cause for all mankind, not just we Americans. That day we declared that all men everywhere have the right to cast off the oppressive government and live free.

Without doubt, these are heady concepts. And these are the high principles that we celebrate on Independence Day each year, that holiday that just happens to fall on the fourth day of July.

So, let’s cast off this bland appellation of “July Fourth” for a holiday of such important ideas. Let us proudly call it “Independence Day” so that we can keep in the forefront of our minds those great ideas we hold up as something worth celebrating.

It isn’t “July Fourth,” so let’s stop celebrating that holiday. It is Independence Day and nothing less.

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Posted by on July 4, 2014.
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Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago-based freelance writer, has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and is featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com and BigJournalism.com, RightWingNews.com, CanadaFreePress.com, RightPundits.com, StoptheACLU.com, Human Events Magazine, among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a frequent guest on talk-radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events.He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book "Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture" which can be purchased on amazon.com. He is also the owner and operator of PubliusForum.com. Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions, EMAIL Warner Todd Huston: igcolonel .at. hotmail.com"The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it." --Samuel Johnson

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  • jim_m

    I think it’s time to transition from celebrating what we have to remembering what we had.

    • Ken in Camarillo

      But if that’s the case, remembering so we know what it is we must strive to recover.

  • yetanotherjohn

    Country Song for the Fourth of July

    Squeak the fife and beat the drum,
    Independence day is come!!
    Let the roasting pig be bled,
    Quick twist off the cockerel’s head,
    Quickly rub the pewter platter.
    Heap the nutcakes, fried in butter.
    Set the cups, and beaker glass,
    The pumpkin and the applesauce.

    Send the keg to shop for brandy;
    Maple sugar we have handy.
    Independent, staggering Dick,
    Noggin mix of swingeing thick.
    Sal, put on your russet skirt,
    Jotham, get your /boughten/ shirt,
    Today we dance to tiddle diddle.
    –Here comes Sambo with his fiddle;

    Sambo, take a dram of whiskey,
    And play up Yankee doodle frisky.
    Moll, come leave your witched tricks,
    And let us have a reel of six:
    Father and mother shall make two;
    Sal, moll, and I, stand all a-row,
    Sambo, play and dance with quality;
    This is the day of blest equality.

    Father and /mother/ are but /men/,
    And Sambo–is a citizen.
    Come foot it, Sal–Moll, figure in,
    And, mother, you dance up to him;
    Now, saw as fast as e-er you can do,
    And father–you come o-er to Sambo,
    –Thus we dance, and thus we play,
    On glorious independent day.–

    Rub more rosin on the bow,
    And let us have another go.
    Zounds! as sure as eggs and bacon,
    Here’s Ensign Sneak and Uncle Deacon,
    Aunt Thiah and their Bets behind her,
    On blundering mare, than beetle blinder.
    And there’s the ‘Squire, too, with his lady– Sal, hold the beast, I’ll
    take the baby.

    Moll, bring the ‘Squire our great armchair; Good folks, we’re glad to
    see you here.
    Jotham, get the great case bottle,
    Your teeth can pull the corn-cob stopple.
    Ensign,–Deacon, never mind;
    ‘Squire, drink until you’re blind.
    Thus we drink and dance away,
    This glorious Independent day!

    Royall Tyler 1798

    So if you have a problem with calling it July 4th, how about Independance Day or Independent day?

    p.s. Should we mention 5th of November or Cinco de Mayo to him?

    • jim_m

      Should we mention 5th of November or Cinco de Mayo to him?

      Those are not our holidays. I think the point is that by not calling it Independence Day we ofter forget what it is that we celebrate.

      • Brucehenry

        I can’t speak for john, but if I could, I’d say “Some of these are jokes.”

        • yetanotherjohn

          5th of November is also known as Guy Fawkes day (aka gunpowder plot) in England. Cinco de Mayo you could make a strong argument is more a US holiday than a Mexican holiday. The point being that there are other holidays designated by their calendar dates that people don’t seem to have as much problem with.

          If you trace the naming of the holiday, independence (or independent) day started off slightly stronger than July 4th, then july 4th gained strength until in the first half of the 20th century Independence day was almost not used and now Independence day is gaining steam. This post is just the national mood swinging towards one name vs another.

          If you look at what John Adams wrote about July 2nd (because he hadn’t counted on the print date being more widely known than the signing date) you will notice something missing from modern ceremonies.

          “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.”

          We tend to have everything but solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. Illuminations would be called fireworks now. If you don’t watch the BBQ closely, you get a bonfire pretty quickly. I guess Ed Sullivan was older than I thought with his “Tonight, we have a really big shew”.

          Perhaps we should start a movement to call it Deliverance Day (cue the music).

          • jim_m

            The difference in the dates of 7/2 and 7/4 is that the Continental Congress approved the Resolution on the 2nd and then approved the Declaration on the 4th. They were two separate but related actions.

            What Adams (and in fact almost all of the Continental Congress including Jefferson) misunderstood is that the public would be more affected by the Declaration, which laid out the colonies’ grievances, than by a simple resolution, despite the fact that the resolution was the actually decision point that separated the colonies from the crown.

            In fact if you read the resolution it makes clear that the Declaration is subsidiary to the resolution.

    • Brucehenry

      That is awesome. Where did you get that?

      • yetanotherjohn

        Poems like that are all over the internet. I believe that one came of a Univ. Mich historical discussion site.

        • Brucehenry

          I looked up “Royall Tyler” on Wikipedia and the lifespan fits with the subject matter and the antiquated language of the poem, plus the guy was a playwright (not called a poet on Wiki). He seems to have had a rather scandalous life; seems to have been a real cad.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royall_Tyler

    • sshiell

      If “Cinco de Mayo” is in reference to the Mexican Independence Day then you need to go back to your history books. September 16 is Mexico’s Independence Day.

    • sshiell

      As far as the 5th of November is concerned, what does Guy Fawkes Day have to do with independence?

  • jim_m

    Of course, technically, the Continental Congress approved the Resolution of Independence on July 2nd

    Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

    That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

    Richard Henry Lee proposed the resolution on June 7th and it was tabled for 3 weeks while some state delegations secured the permission to vote for independence and the committee of 5 could write the Declaration so that it would be ready when the matter was voted upon. (as an aside can you imagine anyone in our current congress capable of writing such a critical document in only 3 weeks? These idiots can barely sign their own names.)

    John Adams, who seconded the motion, wrote:

    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.

    Of course we have always celebrated independence on the 4th when the Declaration was approved.