By WILLIAM J. KELLY
July 4 is the day all Americans should say a prayer of thanks to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. This signing was the beginning of the struggle against the largest power in the world at that time, England. Our ancestors won the battle and in doing so enabled we Americans to have the greatest freedom ever had by men and women on this earth.
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia had previously presented a “Resolution of Independence” to the member states and on July 2, 1776, in closed session, the congress adopted it. The congress then set up a committee of five with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author to write the Declaration. After the committee had agreed on the wording the “Declaration of Independence” as we know it was approved on July 4, 1776.
Some historians say the Declaration was not signed until Aug. 2, 1776, but John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson all said they signed the document on July 4, 1776. I will take the word of these three great men that it was signed on July 4, 1776. The first recorded use of the term Independence Day was recorded in 1791.
Can you imagine this, the town of Bristol, R.I., first celebrated the fourth of July in 1785 and they have not missed a year since that date. This is the longest continuous July 4 celebration in the country. How about this! The small town of Seward, Nebraska, population 6,000 souls, has a very big July 4 program since 1868. It is so great that the population on July 4 swells to 40,000 people. These people deserve our congratulations and are great examples of patriotism to us all.
In New England towns large Bon-fires were set on the evening of July 3 to usher in the July 4 celebration. There was much competition between the towns to see who could build the highest Bon-fire. In Salem, Mass., the largest bofire ever recorded was 40 tiers of barrels high. It took place on Gallows Hill, the site of the executions of 13 women and six men for allegedly practicing witchcraft in the year 1692.
I know you all like hot dogs! You might want to go to Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the hot dog-eating contest. Nathans’ hot dog contest began in 1916. Immigrant groups were arguing about which group was the most patriotic. Nathan came up with the idea that which ever group could eat the most hot dogs that group would be considered the most patriotic. They all agreed and that is how the argument was settled and we still have that contest.
Do you remember that three of our founders who pledged there lives, fortunes and sacred honor to create the United states died on July fourth. They were presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in1826 and James Monroe in 1831. A strange coincidence!
On July 8, 1776 the Liberty Bell was rung to bring attention to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, has launched an annual “Read the Declaration of Independence on July 4 Campaign.” He wants everyone to read the Declaration of Independence on July 4th to their family and loved ones. Quoting Dr. Arnn, “this is important because it is America’s founding document, and the clearest statement of the source of our liberties - GOD, not government. Please obtain a copy and read it to your family, especially teenagers.
John Adams, our second president, in a letter to his wife said that the country should celebrate this day with fireworks, picnics and any way we desired, and so we have. I remember as a boy my father buying me a big shopping bag of fireworks. We were always awakened at dawn by some early bird setting off a very loud firework. It was different then. Young boys could even buy black gun powder out of a barrel at the hardware store to use in homemade cannons. Of course that was after we had used up all our daytime fireworks.
We had Chinese firecrackers, cherry bombs, M80’s, all very dangerous. In the evening we had sky rockets , Roman candles, spin wheels, fountains and sparklers. I think most of those are illegal now in most communities and many towns have banned fireworks. It is probably a good thing because the ban has prevented many injuries from fireworks as well as a lot of building fires.
Today, many big cities and also small towns put on great professional fireworks displays. It’s not the same but you can even stay home and watch the programs on TV. Do both, go live and record the TV. It’s a bit much but New York City has shot off 22 tons of fireworks on July 4. The location of local programs can be found in your newspaper.
Freedom is always challenged by big government. It’s axiom is that big government can do things better for you than you can do those same things for yourself. The fact is, that with few exceptions, each and every thing that big government does for you takes away some freedom and lost freedoms will be difficult to recover. Think about that and use your power, your vote, wisely. Remember this, we have the unalienable rights God grants every person to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Have a safe, wonderful July 4th celebration. Remember, if you love your freedom thank a veteran.
William J. Kelly is a Weatherford resident and regular contributor to Viewpoints.