If you enjoy birthdays, you ought to enjoy today. After all, it’s America’s 237th, and if we’ve learned anything from our ancestors, we know the Fourth of July — Independence Day — is meant to be a joyous occasion.
It’s one made all the more enjoyable by the fact that just about everyone has the day off. And although this day might have begun with fireworks and might end with fireworks, there’s plenty of time for other activities.
For instance, it shouldn’t be hard to find a few hours to spend at the lake or the pool. Other folks might be taking in a Royals game. Baseball on July 4 screams Americana.
So, for that matter, do hamburgers and hot dogs hot off the backyard grill, or one of the countless sales that accompany any and all holidays on the calendar.
What this isn’t is a day to quibble about whether we ought to be celebrating our independence from England today, a couple days ago, or even early next month. It’s moot now, but it might be something to debate tonight while waiting for one of the big fireworks shows to begin.
The Second Continental Congress did indeed approve the Declaration of Independence on July 4, and some of the key figures may have signed it that day as well, but many historians believe it was signed on Aug. 2. Complicating matters is part of a letter John Adams, a patriot of the first order and our second president, wrote to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776. “The second day of July, 1776,” he wrote, “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 with pomp and solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
The venerable Mr. Adams wasn’t done; “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this country to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
He had the right idea, certainly, and we doubt the precise date was much of an issue during the long struggle to back up the Declaration’s inspiring rhetoric and earn independence. And after the war was won, nation-building — 18th-century style — was the order of the day.
Two hundred and thirty-seven years removed from the first week of July 1776, we of the “succeeding generations” ought to heed Mr. Adams’ guidance and celebrate “from one end of this country to the other…”
Have a great Fourth of July.