Fourth of July: The peo­ple’s hol­i­day

The Saline Courier - - OPINION -

“Congress shall make no law ... abridg­ing the freedom of speech, or of the press ... . ” — From the First Amend­ment to Con­sti­tu­tion

On July 2, 1776, the Sec­ond Con­ti­nen­tal Congress met in the beau­ti­ful Penn­syl­va­nia State House in Philadelph­ia. On the agenda was the Lee Res­o­lu­tion put for­ward by Richard Henry Lee of Vir­ginia and sec­onded by none other than John Adams.

The res­o­lu­tion de­clared that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and in­de­pen­dent States, that they are ab­solved from all al­le­giance to the Bri­tish Crown, and that po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tion be­tween them and the State of Great Bri­tain is, and ought to be to­tally dis­solved.”

The res­o­lu­tion was voted on and ap­proved. The United States, as it would come to be called, was born.

Fa­mously, Adams recorded the oc­ca­sion in a let­ter to his wife, Abi­gail. Adams wrote that “The Sec­ond Day of July 1776, will be the most mem­o­rable Epocha, in the His­tory of Amer­ica. 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.”

Af­ter the vote, Adams, Jef­fer­son, and Ben Franklin formed a com­mit­tee to draft the new na­tion’s for­mal Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence.

The Dec­la­ra­tion was changed many times, but it was fi­nally ap­proved by on July 4, 1776, with Jef­fer­son get­ting credit as its au­thor. He car­ried that honor to the grave where he had it carved into his head­stone at his home, Mon­ti­cello. The Rev­o­lu­tion wasn’t over for at least an­other seven years un­til the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

The next step was to setup a gov­ern­ment for all 13 states to rat­ify. The Ar­ti­cles of Con­fed­er­a­tion were used un­til they proved too weak and dif­fi­cult to en­force since the fed­eral gov­ern­ment then had very lit­tle power.

So, James Madi­son, Gou­ver­nor Mor­ris, and oth­ers drafted the present Con­sti­tu­tion in 1787 but it took a while for nine of the 13 states to rat­ify it. It was all done by 1789.

The Con­sti­tu­tion writ­ten so long ago has en­dured be­cause like the na­tion it­self. The Con­sti­tu­tion has evolved with the times.

It has 27 Amend­ments to date.

From that first July 4 to this one, the United States has seen cen­turies of vic­to­ries and fail­ures but it has al­ways come back stronger than it was be­fore.

How­ever, we must re­mem­ber that our an­ces­tors didn’t just de­clare their in­de­pen­dence from the king of Great Bri­tain. In their minds, George III was a tyrant who un­fairly im­posed his will upon them. Since then, the United States has been the en­emy of tyrants and would-be dic­ta­tors around the globe.

We the peo­ple must re­mem­ber to op­pose those who would divide us through fear, vi­o­late our Con­sti­tu­tion, and un­der­mine our democ­racy by at­tack­ing our free­doms and those “hud­dled masses” seek­ing a new life here.

Also, re­mem­ber the im­mi­grants, who like Alexan­der Hamil­ton and count­less oth­ers, have helped weave the fab­ric of our Na­tion from the very be­gin­ning. In 1883, a poet named Emma Lazarus said it best with her poem, “The New Colos­sus,” on the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teem­ing shore. Send these, the home­less, tem­pest-tost to me, I lift my lamp be­side the golden door!”

— Emma Lazarus, “The New Colos­sus,” 1883

CODY BERRY

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