At a time in American history when we are seemingly more divided than united, let’s hope that we as fellow Americans can at least make an effort to realize our common heritage . . . a heritage that unites us through steadfast and enduring principles.
Our principles of liberty and equality, limited government, unalienable rights and the rule of law are those such cornerstones we should hold dear as Americans. July 4, Independence Day, must be one of those days when we remember what makes us unique as a nation . . . a nation of laws, not of men.
On July 2, 1776, representatives of the 13 original colonies voted to declare independence from Great Britain, however, it would ultimately be July 4, when the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration, with suggested edits by John Adams and Ben Franklin, was not signed until August, nonetheless, July 4 would be our official day of celebration . . . America’s birthday.
John Adams wrote these words to his wife Abigail. “I am apt to believe that it 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, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
And then, so it was. The following year, Americans began the tradition of celebrating with fanfare the birth of their nation. The Founders would be pleased that, for the most part, we have preserved the tradition of celebrating, but do most Americans still remember why and for what?
Poetically enough, on July 4, 1826, what was the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the only two Presidents who signed it, passed away within hours of each other. Ironically, the two had been intense political opponents, yet had immense respect for each other through their profound love of country. You see, Jefferson and Adams were united by those common enduring principles that should unite us all, despite our complex differences.
Walter Borneman, American historian and author, put it like this. “Yes, no matter where you are, it is the Fourth of July. It is a day that binds us together as Americans. Amid countless hot dogs, hamburgers and fireworks, let us remember our special Fourth of July memories as well as America’s legacy of [246 years]. Let us remember the blessings we enjoy as Americans. Our union has not been perfect, . . . but the American Dream of personal freedom and liberty under a government that champions those values remains the beacon that fires hope for millions around the world. Let this be an Independence Day where we focus less on what divides us and more on what unites us.”