Last week, we celebrated the 240th anniversary of the birth of our country. In a letter to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776 John Adams said this about the vote for independence, which occurred the day before in Congress. “I am apt to believe that it (vote for independence) 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 (shows), games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
I spent some time on July 4th thinking about how one could so accurately predict how this event would be celebrated in future generations. After all, at the time of the adoption of this declaration, the state of our union was extremely fragile, and by later signing the declaration, these men had effectively signed their own death warrant. Adams however was not on a euphoric high over the vote on July 2. He further noted in his letter to Abigail, “you will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not – I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend the states. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction even although we should rue (bitterly regret) it, which I trust in God we shall not.”
John Adams didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July because he believed it should be celebrated on July 2, the date which Congress voted on the motion for independence made by Richard Henry Lee. (One of whose descendants included Robert E Lee, the Confederate General) In a twist of fate, John Adams died on July 4, 1826 – the same day as did Thomas Jefferson.
John Adams life and letter gives us all something to think about as we celebrate our nation’s independence!