Independence Day (2)

“On July 4, 1776, we claimed our independence from Britain and Democracy was born. Every day thousands leave their homeland to come to the "land of the free and the home of the brave" so they can begin their American Dream.

The United States is truly a diverse nation made up of dynamic people. Each year on July 4, Americans celebrate that freedom and independence with barbecues, picnics, and family gatherings. Through the Internet we are learning about and communicating with people of different nations, with different languages and different races throughout the world. Bringing the world closer with understanding and knowledge can only benefit all nations.

We invite all nations to celebrate with Americans online this Fourth of July.

Happy Birthday, America!”, - that’s what Americans say to all people in their country.

Independence Day is regarded as the birthday of the United States as a free and independent nation. Most Americans simply call it the "Fourth of July," on which date it always falls.

The holiday recalls the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. At that time, the people of the 13 British colonies located along the eastern coast of what is now the United States were involved in a war over what they considered unjust treatment by the king and parliament in Britain. The war began in 1775. As the war continued, the colonists realized that they were fighting not just for better treatment; they were fighting for freedom from England's rule. The Declaration of Independence, signed by leaders from the colonies, stated this clearly, and for the first time in an official document the colonies were referred to as the United States of America.

It is a day of picnics and patriotic parades, a night of concerts and fireworks. The flying of the American flag (which also occurs on Memorial Day and other holidays) is widespread. On July 4, 1976, the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was marked by grand festivals across the nation.

Independence Day 2001 commemorated the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

The United States Declaration of Independence was an act of the Second Continental Congress, adopted on July 4, 1776, which declared that the Thirteen Colonies in North America were "Free and Independent States" and that "all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved." The document, formally entitled The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,[1] explained the justifications for separation from the British crown, and was an expansion of Richard Henry Lee's Resolution (passed by Congress on July 2), which first proclaimed independence. An engrossed copy of the Declaration was signed by most of the delegates on August 2 and is now on display in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C.

The Declaration is considered to be the founding document of the United States of America, where July 4 is celebrated as Independence Day and the nation's birthday. At the time the Declaration was issued, the American colonies were "united" in declaring their independence from Great Britain. John Hancock, as the elected President of Congress, was the only person to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. It was not until the following month on August 2nd that the remaining 55 other delegates began to sign the document.

US President Abraham Lincoln succinctly explained the central importance of the Declaration to American history in his Gettysburg Address of 1863:
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

The Declaration of Independence was first published in full outside North America by the Belfast Newsletter on the 23rd of August, 1776. A copy of the document was being transported to London via ship when bad weather forced the vessel to port at Derry. The document was then carried on horseback to Belfast for the continuation of its voyage to England, whereupon copy was made for the Belfast newspaper.

The first edition of the Declaration of Independence was reprinted at London in the August 1776 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine. The Gentleman's Magazine had been following American issues for many years, and its editors (Edward Cave and, subsequently, David Henry) were close to Benjamin Franklin in particular, publishing several of his writings on electricity. The Declaration itself was followed in the September issue by "Thoughts on the late Declaration of the American Congress", signed only "An Englishman". The author identified certain absurdities (as he saw them) contained in the now famous words of the preamble. Most notably, he pointed out the document's inconsistency with the fact that slavery and government was still being practiced in America (emphasized in the following excerpt):

We hold (they say) these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal. In what are they created equal? Is it in size, understanding, figure, moral or civil accomplishments, or situation of life? Every plough-man knows that they are not created equal in any of these....That every man hath an unalienable right to liberty; and here the words, as it happens, are not nonsense, but they are not true: slaves there are in America, and where there are slaves, there liberty is alienated. If the Creator hath endowed man with an unalienable right to liberty, no reason in the world will justify the abridgement of that liberty, and a man hath a right to do everything that he thinks proper without controul or restraint; and upon the same principle, there can be no such things as servants, subjects, or government of any kind whatsoever. In a word, every law that hath been in the world since the formation of Adam, gives the lie to this self-evident truth, (as they are pleased to term it) ; because every law, divine or human, that is or hath been in the world, is an abridgement of man's liberty. (The Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 46, pp. 403–404)

The significance of Fourth of July has inspired speeches, literary works, and musical compositions. These patriotic songs have become staples of U.S. Independence Day celebrations. They reflect the nation’s history and the contributions of immigrants to the country’s diverse culture. On the Fourth of July, outdoor evening concerts usually are followed by fireworks. For Americans, strains of John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” or George M. Cohan’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy” evoke memories of the 4th of July.

Sometimes called the first American song, “My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free” was written by Francis Hopkinson, an early American composer and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” written in 1814 by lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key and declared the national anthem in 1931, is invariably played on Independence Day. The song’s refrain recalls the early struggles of a nation.

Until “The Star-Spangled Banner” was designated the official national anthem in 1931, the United States had a second national anthem called “Hail Columbia.” The music for “Hail Columbia” came from The President's March, written by Philip Pfeil (or Phile) to commemorate Washington's inauguration. The words were written by Joseph Hopkinson, the son of Frances Hopkinson, mentioned above.

Less than two decades after the debut of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Reverend Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” (adapted from the British national anthem “God Save the Queen”), which became a patriotic staple.

“America the Beautiful” appeared as a poem in 1895, written by Katharine Lee Bates, a professor at Wellesley College. In the early 1900s, it was set to music by Samuel A. Ward and achieved national popularity.

Sources

1. Armitage, David. "The Declaration of Independence and International Law." William and Mary Quarterly 2002 59(1): 39-64. Issn: 0043-5597 Fulltext online at the History Cooperative
2. Armitage, David. "The Declaration of Independence in World Context." Magazine of History 2004 18(3): 61-66. Issn: 0882-228x Fulltext in Ebsco. Discusses the drafting of the Declaration and the international motivations that inspired it, the global reactions to the document in its first fifty years, and its afterlife as a broad modern statement of individual and collective rights.
3. Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. (1854-78), vol 8 online edition
4. Barthelmas, Della Gray. The Signers of the Declaration of Independence: A Biographical and Genealogical Reference. McFarland, 2003. 334 pp
5. Becker, Carl. The Declaration of Independence: A Study on the History of Political Ideas (1922), online edition
6. Boyd, Julian P. The Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text (1945)
7. Alan Dershowitz; America Declares Independence. 2003.
8. Ellis, Joseph J., ed. What Did the Declaration Declare? Bedford Books, 1999. 110 pp. online review
9. Gustafson, Milton. "Travels of the Charters of Freedom." Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration 2004 (Special Issue): 8-13. Issn: 0033-1031
10. Jayne, Allen. Jefferson's Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy and Theology. U. Press of Kentucky, 1998. 245 pp. online review
11. Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. Vintage, 1997.

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