Sunday, 4 July 2010


A "Letter from America" on this, the day that Americans celebrate getting rid of the King and being their own country, a smart move that Scotland would do well to emulate. My most grateful thanks to Danny once again. Happy 4th of July to you Danny and all American readers.

Independence Day in America is the great historical holiday of the nation. The “Fourth of July” is the time when Americans leave their air-conditioned homes and venture out into the blistering heat of summer to grill hamburgers and hot dogs, play games, and shoot firecrackers. At nightfall, the sky is filled with the bursts of fireworks. It’s a noisy day, and a remarkable one in American history, as Americans celebrate what happened at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia in July of 1776.

The tradition of fireworks on the Fourth of July originated with a letter John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail. Adams had been a leader of the radical faction within the Congress who pushed for a complete break with the Crown, as opposed to a simple petition for redress of grievances.

George Washington had attended the Congress as a part of the Virginia delegation with Jefferson, but had left when he was named to command the Continental Army, such as it was. (Shots had already been exchanged the previous year at Lexington and Concord between the Massachusetts Militia and British Army regulars.) So George Washington wasn't in Philadelphia when the vote for the break with Britain came on July 2.

From an American perspective, independence came with the adoption of the resolution of July 2. It had earlier been decided that a formal declaration should be drafted in the event that full independence were declared. A Committee of Five was appointed which included Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Sherman and Livingston. The task of writing the draft went to Jefferson. And he took the opportunity to compose the soaring prose that became the birth certificate of the nation. On July 4th, the "Declaration of Independence" was adopted by the Congress.

Today, July 4 is celebrated as “Independence Day.” But John Adams had imagined that July 2 would be celebrated as that day when he wrote his letter to Abigail. In it, he said of Independence Day, “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.”

So old John Adams' "bonfires and illuminations" have become the fireworks that light up the sky in America on the Fourth of July.

Famously, the radical revolutionary Adams, who had been on the drafting committee of the Declaration which named King George a “tyrant,” was ironically called upon to learn court etiquette (exactly how and when to bow to King George) so that he could present his credentials as the first American Ambassador to Great Britain.

Later, as the second President, he presided over a troubled one-term administration, sandwiched in time between the towering Washington and the brilliant Jefferson. Political factions had developed after Washington left the scene, and Adams and Jefferson (once great friends) became bitter political enemies. But in later years they reconciled and carried on a famous and historic correspondence.

The final irony came on the fiftieth anniversary of American independence. As July 4, 1826 approached, there was much excitement. Adams was then 90, and Jefferson was 83. About a month earlier, Adams had issued a statement to the press about the upcoming event. Jefferson was very ill, but was looking forward to the Fourth. But as the date arrived, both men lay on their deathbeds. Adams murmured the name “Thomas Jefferson.” Jefferson had been asking “Is it the fourth yet?” Both of the old revolutionaries of 1776, the second and third Presidents of the United States, died on that very day. And on that day, John Quincy Adams, John Adams' second child, was serving as the sixth President of the United States.

As July 4, 1826 had dawned, there were three signers of the Declaration of Independence still living. With the deaths of Adams and Jefferson, only Charles Carroll of Maryland survived. He died in 1832 at the age of 95. And so goes the story of the American Declaration and the Fourth of July.

Pics: John Adams, Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pa, then and now, and the Boston skyline with traditional fireworks.


  1. Is that the same building or did it fall down and get rebuilt? It looks different.

  2. No, the exterior structure is original, and essentially as it was in the 18th century. But the interior was remodeled about 50 years ago to restore it exactly as it was when the Continental Congress met there in 1776 and the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

    The pictures appear different because the old print shows the North Front of Independence Hall (the old Pennsylvania State House...the central structure), as well as the adjoining structures of Congress Hall to the West and Old City Hall to the East.

    The modern photograph shows the South Front of Independence Hall and only a very small bit of the connections to the adjoining structures. The large room where the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention met is the entire east side of the central structure off of a central hallway that runs the entire length of the building between the north and south doors.

    The US (federal) Congress met in Congress Hall (the structure to the west of Independence Hall) from late in 1790 (when the US capital moved from New York City to Philadelphia), until 1800 when the capital moved to the newly built city of Washington.

  3. Thank you. So the capital was New York, Philadelphia, then Washington?

  4. Yes ausamizon, when the federal constitution went into effect in March of 1789, the capital was established at Federal Hall in New York City, where Washington took the oath of office for his first term as President. Then the capital was moved to Philadelphia late in 1790. Washington took the oath for his second term in the Senate chamber on the second floor of Congress Hall in Philadelphia. Late in 1800 the federal government moved to the present Capital in the city of Washington in the District of Columbia.

    Prior to the federal period (under the Articles of Confederation, in the first constitutional period from 1781-1789) the capital was established at (in order) Independence Hall Philadelphia, Princeton New Jersey, Annapolis Maryland, Trenton New Jersey, and New York City.

    And during the revolutionary period (1774-1781), the First and Second Continental Congresses met at various times in Philadelphia (when the British Army wasn't there) and various other places where the British Army was NOT. These included Baltimore Maryland, Lancaster Pennsylvania, and York Pennsylvania. It bounced around a lot during that period, trying not to get hanged by the British for treason....LOL.

  5. Thanks for that Danny. I'm always fascinated in the lives of you Presidents as you know. Well I figure that if you take an interest in our royals we should reciprocate in kind. And your Presidents are more or less your royals. I like the odd ones like President Harrison and Tyler or then Gorover Cleveland the ones we don't hear about all the time. The first Adams is a good one because he was first to get only one term.

  6. Just think, America could have been as strong and as prosperous as Scotland is today if they had not made a decision to leave the wonderful British empire.

    They could have given all their wealth to London and got their pocket money back in return. That must be the correct way to go, have we not been told for hundreds of years that Westminster knows best what is good for us.

  7. Yes Munguin, the presidents are an interesting are your kings. And even the less well known Presidents were often men of considerable talent.

    Indeed, John Adams is a great example. He was a brilliant Boston lawyer who led the country to a break with the British Crown by his leadership of the radical faction in the Second Continental Congress. He worked hard and cared deeply. He represented his country at various times in France and Britain....and on one crossing to France, narrowly avoided a British ship and probable death on a gallows in London. His meeting with King George (when he presented his diplomatic credentials) is the stuff of legend. He recorded his conversation with the King in his journal. The meeting was cordial, and it seems that the King appeared moved by Adams' earnest and conciliatory manner and speech. (When the Queen was here for the bicentennial of the revolution, she quoted from the meeting between Adams and King George.)

    But he had a miserable presidency and made some bad mistakes. So his one term was eclipsed by the two-term giants of Washington and Jefferson. By the end of his term and the bitter election campaign of 1800, he hated Jefferson so much that he left the White House the night before Jefferson was to be inaugurated the next day. Only later did they reconcile. Their reconciliation and resulting correspondence was initiated by Adams. Adams wrote Jefferson that after all that had happened, they should not die before they had explained themselves to each other. Jefferson responded warmly, and the long correspondence which followed is one of the glories of American history and letters.

  8. Good article Danny.

    But forgive this stubborn Unionist as he drinks a toast to Benedict Arnold.


  9. I could listen to Danny talk about American history all night.

    Thanks Danny for the article.

    LOL @ Dean!

    You might have to wait a bit for a response mate. I think Danny off to a cook out, and lots of celebrating.... sans laptop...

  10. Not at that cookout and fireworks display yet, Tris and Dean. A little later this afternoon and evening for that.

    Thanks Dean for the nice comment.

    I surely understand that warm spot in your heart for General Arnold....LOL. I'll even salute the fine service he rendered General Washington in the early years of the revolution from Ticonderoga to Saratoga. Then by all accounts he was poorly treated. So he wasn't ALL bad. ;-)

  11. Aye Dubbieside: Just think. I bet they wished they'd saved their breath to cool their porridge like we did.

    Watch Scotland and weep America .... Right! :-)

  12. Thanks Tris.....nothing better than a little history and a hamburger cookout on the Fourth of July. Take care :-)