OTD in History… August 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress delegates sign the Declaration of Independence

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… August 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress delegates sign the Declaration of Independence

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history August 2, 1776, the delegates of the second Continental Congress sign a printed copy of the Declaration of Independence ratified on July 4. On this day, the majority of the 56 Congressional delegates signed their names to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence. For order, they signed by geographic area from the Northern states down to the South. President of the Congress, John Hancock’s signature was in the middle followed underneath by the five rows of signatures, which according to the History Channel, “began with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia.” As the Constitution Center indicates, “August 2, 1776, is one of the most important but least celebrated days in American history.”

Fewer delegates were present at the Congress on August 2 than the July 4 ratification 45 to 49 respectively, Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry were absent on that day and could not sign. While, not all the delegates were excited to sign the document, “John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign, New York was the most reluctant state to endorse independence, they were among seven delegates present at the ratification, who did not sign the declaration. Although, “Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina,” opposed the Declaration of independence but signed the document “to give the impression of a unanimous Congress.” Among the delegates who signed the declaration after August 2, were Richard Henry Lee, George Wythe, Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean, Matthew Thornton, and the seven additional delegates added to the convention after July 4.

The movement towards independence began in earnest in late 1775, when reconciliation with Britain seemed impossible with a banning of trade with the colonies. Benjamin Franklin started hinting of independence to France in December 1775. Independence talk reached a fever pitch when Thomas Paine published his pamphlet Common Sense in April 1776 arguing for independence. By June, the Continental Congress first brought a vote for independence finally doing so at the start of July. On July 2, the second Continental Congress meeting in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia voted to sever ties with Great Britain’s monarchy and declare the 13 colonies independent; they ratified their vote on July 4, the day the nation celebrates American Independence each year.

In June 1776, Virginian Richard Henry Lee introduced the resolution which 12 of colonies voted in favor to “dissolved the connection” with Britain, with only New York abstaining. (McCullough, 150) Lee first introduced the resolution on June 7, but New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina were not willing to break with Britain at that point. On June 11, Congress appointed a five-member committee to draft a declaration of independence and causes for separating from Britain, consisting of “John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia,” with Jefferson designated to write the document.

Jefferson decided the document needed to convince the colonists of the need for independence and fighting in the revolution. He stated that government is a social contract with its citizens to protect their rights, “the natural rights of life, liberty, and property, for populist reasons Jefferson replaced to the “pursuit of happiness.” He derived the natural rights argument from political philosopher John Locke, who used in 1668, during Britain’s Glorious Revolution. Jefferson indicated when the government fails to fulfill the contract; it is “self-evident” that the people can break from the government.

The preamble’s most famous line was “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.” Most of the document, however, was a list of grievances to King George III justifying independence and the Revolutionary War. Historians Frank W. Thackeray and John E. Findling in their book Events that changed the world in the eighteenth century noted, “The Declaration of Independence is deservedly famous in American history. One would hardly expect to find in it an unbiased resume of grievances; it was meant as propaganda aimed at the undecided both in America and abroad, especially the French.” (Thackeray and Findling 98)

Congress reviewed the document’s final draft on June 28, and on July 1, the Congress took up the vote for independence again, however, they needed an unanimous vote, and waited for the next day, July 2, to vote. Jefferson submitted his revision to what was the Declaration of Independence, and the Congress ratified and published it on July 4 as a Dunlap Broadside officially severing ties with Britain and declaring independence. The Congress had printer John Dunlap make 200 copies of the Declaration. On July 8, Colonel John Nixon of Philadelphia read the document “to the public for the first time in Independence Square.” On July 19, the Congress ordered the Declaration engrossed and inscribed by all members of the Continental Congress, and most signed the copy on August 2.

Although independence leader John Adams of Massachusetts originally thought July 2, the day Congress voted for independence would be celebrated writing, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” the day Congress adopted the Declaration, July 4, remains the official day celebrated for the past 242 years. Adams wrote to his wife Abigail of the vote on July 3, “Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, whichever was decided in America, and a greater question perhaps, never was or will be decided among men.” Adams also predicted Americans would continue celebrating the date, “I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] 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.” However, the date Adams referred to was July 2.

The declaration of Independence’s purpose was practical but its impact far greater not only to the then newly formed United States of America but for other nations looking for a Democratic ideal. Historian Joseph J. Ellis in his book American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic identified the significance of Jefferson’s first sentence. Ellis analyzed, “We can say with considerable confidence that these were destined to become the most potent and consequential words in American history, perhaps in modern history. They became the political fountainhead for all the liberal reforms that would seep out and over the nation, and eventually much of the world.” (Ellis, 56) On January 18, 1777, printer Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore printed out the final official copy of the signed Declaration of Independence was printed, it was the first time the delegates names who signed were made public.

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Ellis, Joseph J. American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. New York: Vintage Books, 2008.

McCullough, David. 1776. London: Allen Lane/Penguin Books, 2006.

Thackeray, Frank W. Events That Changed the World in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

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OTD in History… July 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress declares American Independence from Great Britain

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History… July 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress declares American Independence from Great Britain

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, July 2, 1776, the second Continental Congress meeting in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia voted to sever ties with Great Britain’s monarchy and declare the 13 colonies independent. The movement towards independence began in earnest in late 1775, when reconciliation with Britain seemed impossible with a banning of trade with the colonies. Benjamin Franklin started hinting of independence to France in December 1775. Independence talk reached a fever pitch when Thomas Paine published his pamphlet Common Sense in April 1776 arguing for independence. By June, the Continental Congress first brought a vote for independence finally doing so at the start of July. Although independence leader John Adams of Massachusetts originally thought the day Congress voted for independence would be celebrated writing, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” the day Congress adopted the Declaration, July 4, remains the official day celebrated for the past 242 years.

Virginian Richard Henry Lee introduced the resolution which 12 of colonies voted in favor to “dissolved the connection” with Britain, with only New York abstaining. (McCullough, 150) Lee first introduced the resolution on June 7, but New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina were not willing to break with Britain at that point. On June 11, Congress appointed a five-member committee to draft a declaration of independence and causes for separating from Britain, consisting of “John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia,” with Jefferson designated to write the document.

Jefferson decided the document needed to convince the colonists of the need for independence and fighting in the revolution. He stated that government is a social contract with its citizens to protect their rights, “the natural rights of life, liberty, and property, for populist reasons Jefferson replaced to the “pursuit of happiness.” He derived the natural rights argument from political philosopher John Locke, who used in 1668, during Britain’s Glorious Revolution. Jefferson indicated when the government fails to fulfill the contract; it is “self-evident” that the people can break from the government.

The preamble’s most famous line was “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.” Most of the document, however, was a list of grievances to King George III justifying independence and the Revolutionary War. Historians Frank W. Thackeray and John E. Findling in their book Events that changed the world in the eighteenth century noted, “The Declaration of Independence is deservedly famous in American history. One would hardly expect to find in it an unbiased resume of grievances; it was meant as propaganda aimed at the undecided both in America and abroad, especially the French.” (Thackeray and Findling 98)

Congress reviewed the document’s final draft on June 28, and on July 1, the Congress took up the vote for independence again, however, they needed a unanimous vote, and waited for the next day, July 2, to vote. Jefferson submitted his revision to what was the Declaration of Independence, and the Congress ratified and published it on July 4 as a Dunlap Broadside officially severing ties with Britain and declaring independence. On July 19, the Congress ordered the Declaration engrossed, inscribed by all members of the Continental Congress, most signed the copy on August 2.

Adams wrote to his wife Abigail of the vote on July 3, “Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, which ever was decided in America, and a greater question perhaps, never was or will be decided among men.” Adams also predicted Americans would continue celebrating the date, “I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] 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.” However, the date Adams referred to was July 2.

The declaration of Independence’s purpose was practical but its impact far greater not only to the then newly formed United States of America but for other nations looking for a Democratic ideal. Historian Joseph J. Ellis in his book American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic identified the significance of Jefferson’s first sentence. Ellis analyzed, “We can say with considerable confidence that these were destined to become the most potent and consequential words in American history, perhaps in modern history. They became the political fountainhead for all the liberal reforms that would seep out and over the nation, and eventually much of the world.” (Ellis, 56)

SOURCES AND READ MORE

Ellis, Joseph J. American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. New York: Vintage Books, 2008.

McCullough, David. 1776. London: Allen Lane/Penguin Books, 2006.

Thackeray, Frank W. Events That Changed the World in the Eighteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998.

 

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Georgia

Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton

 

North Carolina

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

 

South Carolina

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton

 

Massachusetts

John Hancock

Maryland

Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton

 

Virginia

George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

 

Pennsylvania

Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross

Delaware

Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean

 

New York

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

 

New Jersey

Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark

 

New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple

 

Massachusetts

Samuel Adams

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

 

Rhode Island

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery

 

Connecticut

Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

 

New Hampshire

Matthew Thornton

Back to Main Declaration Page

History Buzz July 4, 2013: 10 fascinating facts about the Declaration of Independence

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

10 fascinating facts about the Declaration of Independence

Source: Philly.com, 7-4-13

John Trumbull´s famous painting is often identified as a depiction of the signing of the Declaration, but it actually shows the drafting committee presenting its work to the Congress. (Wikipedia)

John Trumbull’s famous painting is often identified as a depiction of the signing of the Declaration, but it actually shows the drafting committee presenting its work to the Congress. (Wikipedia)

John Trumbull´s famous painting is often identified as a depiction of the signing of the Declaration, but it actually shows the drafting committee presenting its work to the Congress. (Wikipedia)

Gallery: 10 fascinating facts about the Declaration of Independence

1. Is Independence Day really July 2?

2. July 4 is when the Declaration was adopted

3. Six people signed the Declaration and also the Constitution

4. But they didn’t sign the Declaration on July 4th!

5. So what if I stumble upon a lost version of the Dunlap Broadside at a flea market?

6. OK – when was the Declaration actually signed?

7. The Declaration’s association with Independence Day came from a lapse of memory

8. The Declaration suffered from a lack of early respect

9. The Declaration and Constitution were hidden away during World War II

10. There really is a message written on the back of the Declaration of Independence….READ MORE

History Buzz July 4, 2011: Obamas & Nation Celebrate Independence Day 2011

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: JULY 4TH, 2011

STATS & POLLS

  • Celebrating Independence Day: Americans come together for Fourth of July festivities in the District and throughout the region…. – WaPo
  • How well do you know the Declaration of Independence? Take our quiz: Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the independence of the United States with fireworks, parades, and picnics. But how much do people know about the 1776 events that are being cheered? Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence…. – CS Monitor, 7-4-11

IN FOCUS

  • Obama thanks troops at July 4 party on South Lawn: Telling U.S. troops that “America is proud of all of you,” President Barack Obama marked the Fourth of July holiday by hosting a barbecue and concert for military members and families on the South Lawn of the White House.
    The president and his family – wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia – greeted more than 1,200 guests from a White House balcony Monday evening. After brief remarks, the first couple stood in the driveway and shook hands with visitors.
    “You represent the latest in a long line of heroes who have served our country with honor, who have made incredible sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy,” Obama said. “You’ve done everything we could’ve asked of you,” he said, also recognizing the “families that serve alongside of you with strength and devotion.”… AP, 7-4-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Fireworks, parades, 62 hot dogs: US celebrates 4th: The U.S. marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, fireworks, barbecues — plus presidential campaigning, a White House birthday and competitive eating….
    The holiday is celebrated as the nation’s birthday, but it also was Malia Obama’s 13th birthday. The president’s eldest daughter had to share her parents with hundreds of others as Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama invited troops and their families to attend a special barbecue and USO concert on the South Lawn.
    Some of the Republicans hoping to replace Obama in the White House spent part of the day campaigning in states where presidential politics are as much a part of the holiday as fireworks and barbecues…. – AP, 7-4-11
  • A Fireworks Show for the Nation: Fireworks will be illuminating the skies in cities across the country on this July 4 holiday.
    Among the classic destinations for Independence Day displays, the fireworks show on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has long been a go-to for pyrotechnic enthusiasts.
    A Tennessee-based company called Pyro Shows is on its ninth year of designing Washington’s fireworks celebration. We talked to Tom Stiner about what goes into pulling a pyrotechnic show of this magnitude.
    Set against the backdrop of the Washington monument, the event includes “A Capitol Fourth” concert, which you can watch on many PBS stations starting at 8 p.m. ET…. – PBS, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July Celebrations Draw Families, Troops and Presidential Hopefuls: SUMMARY Americans at home and abroad celebrated Independence Day with parades, barbeques, and fireworks. Judy Woodruff reports on how Americans celebrated Independence Day here and abroad.
    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States marked its birthday today, the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with parades and fireworks, plus competitive eating, presidential campaigning, and a new teenager at the White House.
    The party started late last night, midnight, to be exact, in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The tiny mountain town kicked off the Fourth of July in classic fashion, with banners, music, and plenty of kids up past their bedtime.
    Today, in cities across the country, preparations were under way for a robust celebration, unpacking fireworks and prepping the stages…. – PBS Newshour, 7-4-11Mp3

QUOTES

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks over the National Mall, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 7/4/10

Barack Obama: Today we are celebrating our country, honoring our troops, and enjoying a little BBQ. From all of us at Obama 2012, have a wonderful Fourth.

George W. Bush: Laura and I wish our fellow Americans a happy 4th of July. On this anniversary of our independence, we give thanks for our freedom. We salute the men and women in uniform who defend it. And we ask for God’s continued blessings on the United States.

John McCain: Independence Day Message: I was honored to join General David Petraeus today at a re-enlistment ceremony in Afghanistan for 235 of our brave troopers on this, America’s 235th Independence Day. It was both humbling and inspiring to share this day with so many young Americans who have committed their lives to a cause greater than themselves — the freedom and security of our nation.
As we gather today for backyard barbecues and community events this 4th of July, let us pay tribute to our troops in harms way, their families who miss and love them so dearly, and all the heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend the nation we love.
Have a safe and joyful 4th of July, and God Bless America!

Michelle Obama: What You Can Do to Support Military Families: Good morning, This Independence Day, I hope you’ll join me and my family in recognizing both our brave men and women in uniform and their families for everything they do to protect our country and our way of life.
We know that when our troops are called to serve, their families serve right along with them. For military kids, that means stepping up to help with the housework and putting on a brave face through all those missed holidays, bedtimes and ballet recitals. For military spouses, it means pulling double-duty, doing the work of both parents, often while juggling a full-time job or trying to get an education.
That’s why, a few months ago, Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor, and serve our military families. Our troops give so much to this country and they ask us for just one thing in return: to take care of their families while they’re gone. So we’ve put out a call to action. We’re urging all Americans to ask themselves one question: What can I do to give back to these families that have given so much?
To answer that question you can go to JoiningForces.gov and learn more about how you can get involved. And you can get started right now through Operation Honor Card by pledging to spend a certain number of hours serving military families in your community. – WH, 7-4-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

An illustration shows Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams reviewing a draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson (left), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Illustration courtesy Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Library of Congres

  • Valerie Strauss: Top 5 myths about July 4: Back by popular demand (well, I like them), here are the top five myths about Independence Day, adapted from George Mason University’s History News Network:
    1. Independence was declared on the Fourth of July.
    2. The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4.
    3. The Liberty Bell rang in American Independence.
    4. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.
    5. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the Fourth of July…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July: Nine Myths Debunked Paul Revere didn’t ride solo, for one: Many time-honored patriotic tales turn out to be more fiction than fact. On the Fourth of July—today marked by a continent-spanning Google doodle—here’s a look at some memorable myths from the birth of the United States.
    1. The Declaration of Independence Was Signed on July 4
    2. Paul Revere Rode Solo
    3. July 4, 1776, Party Cracked the Liberty Bell
    4. Patriots Flocked to Fight for Freedom
    5. The Declaration of Independence Holds Secret Messages
    6. John Adams Died Thinking of Thomas Jefferson
    7. America United Against the British
    8. Betsy Ross Made the First American Flag
    9. Native Americans Sided With the British… – National Geo, 7-4-11
  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: What our Declaration really said: Our nation confronts a challenge this Fourth of July that we face but rarely: We are at odds over the meaning of our history and why, to quote our Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted.”
    Only divisions this deep can explain why we are taking risks with our country’s future that we’re usually wise enough to avoid. Arguments over how much government should tax and spend are the very stuff of democracy’s give-and-take. Now, the debate is shadowed by worries that if a willful faction does not get what it wants, it might bring the nation to default.
    This is, well, crazy. It makes sense only if politicians believe — or have convinced themselves — that they are fighting over matters of principle so profound that any means to defeat their opponents is defensible.
    We are closer to that point than we think, and our friends in the Tea Party have offered a helpful clue by naming their movement in honor of the 1773 revolt against tea taxes on that momentous night in Boston Harbor…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Special: Independence Daze – A History Of July 4th: Everybody knows that July 4th celebrates our nation’s beginnings. But for the first 94 years of our existence, the 4th wasn’t an official holiday at all. The Declaration of Independence itself sat untended in a dusty archive for 150 years. So how did Independence Day become the holiest day on our secular calendar? And why do we observe it with hot dogs, fireworks and mattress sales?
    In this hour, the History Guys explore the origins and curiosities of July 4th. They reveal the holiday’s radical roots, and look how the Declaration’s meaning has changed over time. They also consider how the Declaration’s messages about liberty and equality have been embraced by the descendents of slaves. And, as always, they take calls from BackStory listeners looking to the past to understand the America of today.
    Highlights Include:
    Historian Pauline Maier (“American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence”) contrasts the sections of the Declaration of Independence that mattered to the Founders with the sections that matter today.
    July 4th chronicler James Heintze (“The Fourth of July Encyclopedia”) recounts the early days of celebrating independence, with a special focus on explosives.
    Historian David Blight (“Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee”) analyzes Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” widely known as one of the greatest abolitionist speeches ever…. – KUOW, 7-4-11
  • On the Fourth, a declaration we still must live up to: MORE THAN 130 British ships had set sail from Nova Scotia on June 9, on their way to the rebellious American colonies. The king of England had hired thousands of German mercenaries. The British penalty for treason was death and confiscation of one’s estate. These were some of the things on the minds of members of the Continental Congress as they met in Philadelphia to debate independence 235 years ago.
    “And yet,” writes the historian Pauline Maier, “as the British began to bring the greatest fleet and the largest army ever assembled in North America into action against the Americans, Congress devoted the better part of two days to revising the draft declaration of Independence. Wars, it understood, were not won by ships and sailors and arms alone. Words, too, had power to serve the cause of victory.”
    The Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today, wasn’t even an official act of government. The Continental Congress had voted for independence on July 2. The July 4 Declaration, drafted mostly by Thomas Jefferson, was meant as inspiration for the soldiers and to justify and explain a drastic action against the crown to a divided and worried public. To be cynical about it, it was in some ways an early exercise in spin control, especially in its over-the-top excoriation of King George III’s alleged offenses. But in time it became — to use the title of Professor Maier’s 1997 book on the subject — “American Scripture,” with an impact on the national consciousness that far exceeded its revolutionary role….. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Victor Davis Hanson: America trusts its citizens: Putting confidence in individuals, and not the state or the bureaucracy, is what makes the U.S. an exceptional nation.
    For the last 235 years, on the Fourth of July, Americans have celebrated the birth of the United States, and the founding ideas that have made it the most powerful, wealthiest, and freest nation in the history of civilization.
    But today, there has never been more uncertainty about the future of America – and the anxiety transcends even the dismal economy and three foreign wars. President Obama prompted such introspection in April 2009, when he suggested that the United States, as one of many nations, was not necessarily any more exceptional than others. Recently, a New Yorker magazine article sympathetically described our new foreign policy as “leading from behind.”
    The administration not long ago sought from the United Nations and the Arab League – but not from Congress – authorization to attack Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. Earlier, conservative opponents had made much of the president’s bows to Chinese and Saudi Arabian heads of state, which, coupled with serial apologies for America’s distant and recent past, were seen as symbolically deferential efforts to signal the world that the United States was at last not necessarily preeminent among nations.
    Yet there has never been any nation even remotely similar to America. Here’s why. Most revolutions seek to destroy the existing class order and use all-powerful government to mandate an equality of result rather than of opportunity – in the manner of the French Revolution’s slogan of “liberty, equality and fraternity” or the Russian Revolution’s “peace, land and bread.”… – PA Inquirer, 7-4-11
  • Around America, a spirited Fourth: In the nation’s capital, revelers celebrated the Fourth at the Mall in Washington. Festivities included a parade and fireworks.
    President Barack Obama thanked U.S. service members and their families Monday by hosting them on the South Lawn of the White House for a patriotic cookout and fireworks display.\ “After all that you do for our country every day, we wanted to give you guys a chance to get out of uniform, relax and have some fun,” Obama said.
    And fun was the order of the day as Americans celebrated Independence Day around the nation with flags, fireworks and food.
    Monday evening, revelers along the Hudson River readied for the Macy’s annual fireworks show, which usually attracts around 2 million people each year.
    In Washington, a display on the National Mall was scheduled to light up the night sky with the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop.
    In key states around the nation, GOP presidential hopefuls for 2012 spent the day meeting with supporters at various events.
    Meanwhile, the rest of us settled in for a summer day as, well, American, as apple pie…. – CNN, 7-4-11
  • July 4th Menus in Years Past: July 4th cake Our idea of what types of food to serve on July 4th is pretty clear: hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, and a red-white-and blue dessert, perhaps, like the festive cake pictured.
    But how was Independence Day celebrated in the early days of the new republic? Food historian Sandra Oliver has delved into the past for answers, and was happy to share her findings with Epicurious.
    The news of Independence took time to trickle down through the country, she says, and celebrations were low-key local observances. “That’s pretty much the case for the first 30 or 40 years or so,” says Oliver…. – Epicurious, 7-4-11
  • Charles Cohen: History Bits About the Declaration of Independence and Its Main Author: For this July 4th Independence Day, we asked a historian to share a few stories about the Declaration of Independence and the people who drafted it.
    Charles Cohen, a professor of history and religious studies at U-W Madison, says there was genius behind Thomas Jefferson and others who crafted the document establishing the United States.
    But Cohen says misconceptions have also arisen about the Declaration and its authors…. – WUWM, 7-4-11Download Mp3
  • Some of the signers are obscure but Declaration of Independence endures: When you set off fireworks this holiday, remember to say “thanks” to William Whipple. Or tip your hat to Caesar Rodney as you throw hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. William who? Caesar what? Not exactly household names are they? But without them, and 54 other men like them, people wouldn’t have July 4 off from work, much less a country.
    At a crucial time 235 years ago, those 56 men signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, telling King George III theywere “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” The document was a momentous step, and the signers were the movers and shakers of their time. Yet, history has not been kind to many of them.
    “Some are well remembered, but the rest of them unfortunately go down in history as footnotes,” said Broome County Historian Gerald Smith…. – Press Connects, 7-3-11
  • What does our “Declaration of Independence” really mean?: Shocked again! Did YOU hear the news report that only 58% of us (Americans) know when our Declaration of Independence was signed on TV news last evening? The TV report continued to announce that a quarter of us (Americans) do NOT know from whom our founders declared INDEPENDENCE! Do YOU know?
    And now it is dawning the 4th of July 2011, the 235th anniversary of our DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE from GREAT BRITIAN. Did YOU know 1776 was the year? Did YOU know that GREAT BRITAIN was the “mother country” from which we did declare our INDEPENDENCE?
    The BRITISH “Daily Mail” online specifically puts its focus on our lack of knowledge as to whom we declared our INDEPENDENCE from, “While 76 per cent correctly said Great Britain, 19 per cent were unsure, and 5 per cent mentioned another country.”… – Gazette Extra, 7-4-11
  • Eric Slauter: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: How did these words become the most important in the Declaration of Independence? The answer starts with a small band of motivated Americans.
    In America’s revolutionary history, no document is more iconic than the Declaration of Independence, the short but sweeping statement issued by Congress on July 4, 1776, severing bonds with Britain and launching the Colonies on their path to independence.
    But what does the Declaration of Independence actually declare? For most Americans today, the answer is embodied in the opening sentence of the second paragraph: “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.�
    Perhaps no sentence in American history is better known or has had a greater impact than these powerful words about equality and rights. It is no wonder then that schoolchildren memorize this sentence, that adults consider it the founding creed of America’s civil religion, or that this and other newspapers will highlight these words on their editorial pages tomorrow…. – Boston Globe, 7-3-11
  • Steven Greiert: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Steven Greiert, a history professor at Missouri Western State University, said a surprising number of people confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, which came more than a decade later.
    “I think it’s very important that Americans spend time looking at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to really understand what went on at that time,” Dr. Greiert said. “Know the difference between the two documents.”
    The document that declared the states independent from British rule meant something different to the men who drafted it than what it means to citizens today. “All men are created equal” was written by men who owned slaves, and nearly 100 years before the 15th amendment, which prohibits denying a person (male) the right to vote on “account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
    “What they really were saying was that all white men should have equal opportunity,” Dr. Greiert said of the drafters, many of whom were wealthy landowners. Women wouldn’t be considered “equal,” where voting was concerned, until 144 years after the Declaration of Independence was written…. – News Press Now, 7-4-11
  • Michael Steiner: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Michael Steiner, a history professor at Northwest Missouri State University, references the study of historian Richard Shenkman, who said the public has a hard time accepting that the Founding Fathers “stooped to playing politics.” The public might also have a hard time swallowing that the founders didn’t approve of a popular vote for presidential elections.
    “Less well known is that the Founding Fathers didn’t particularly want the Electoral College to make the decision either,” wrote the author. “The expectation was that in most cases the electors would deadlock, throwing the contest into the House of Representatives.”
    Dr. Steiner said the more his students read about the Founding Fathers, the more human the drafters become.
    “And I believe that’s a good thing,” he said. “We create this mythic infallibility around them that is simply inaccurate. We want them to be better than they were. But they were normal living and breathing human beings like you and me. Thank goodness.”… – News Press Now, 7-4-11
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