Today in the United States we celebrate Independence Day, the day we mark our declared Independence from the British Empire. In actuality, our day of celebration is actually slated two days after the initial vote for independence. Some folks even enjoy poking fun at John Adams who, in a letter to his wife penned on July 3, remarked that July 2 would be the date Americans celebrated in the future.
July 4 was the day the full document was approved and when Congress ordered the document to be type-set, printed, and distributed. Around 200 broadsides were created, which were then distributed throughout the now-former Colonies. One by one those who voted on the famous declaration signed their name to an official written copy. Most signed in August of 1776, but the last signature was added only in 1781!
Most people don’t know this, but after the Revolution the Declaration of Independence fell into general disfavor. Once the old world is toppled, after all, the words of revolution make it more and more difficult to build up anything new. As the date approached 1800, and the French Revolution grew out of control, many Americans began to shy away from the rhetoric of the Revolution – it was no longer politically expedient. Certainly the words “all men are created equal 1” certainly came to haunt the country as it dealt with the self-inflicted horrors of slavery. It certainly rings as a warning today as many Americans seem to feel perfectly comfortable believing Mexicans, Muslims, and “losers” 2 to be less than truly human.
Perhaps we need a bit more of the revolutionary rhetoric in our day. Not to tear our society apart 3, but to act as the appropriate level of tension in it’s ligaments – reminding us the ideals fought for in the 18th Century aren’t anywhere near fulfilled.
- And back then it really did mean men. ↩
- To quote someone who, I still cannot believe, is going to be a major party presidential candidate this Fall. ↩
- I get the general impression, helped along by militia radicals who take over federal facilities, there are a number of people who are actually looking forward to war with the Federal Government as a glorious reassertion of rights. You have only to look at the death tolls from the American Civil War to understand these people are delusional. A general armed conflict in the USA would be an utter blood bath. If that many people, with less sophisticated technology and a less-densely populated countryside, could be killed in the 19th Century what do you think the casualty numbers would be in the 21st? ↩