Call the hol­i­day what it re­ally is

The Enterprise - - Community Forum -

Did you ever fall for this old trivia ques­tion: “Do they have the Fourth of July in Eng­land?”

Of course they do. They also have the third and the fifth. They just don’t rec­og­nize it as one of the ul­ti­mate “it’s not me, it’s you” mo­ments in Western civ­i­liza­tion.

The na­tion’s big hol­i­day is com­ing up Wed­nes­day, and would it harm any­one to call it by its proper name: In­de­pen­dence Day? Of course not. What’s more, it might give us a real ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what the hol­i­day is all about.

And dare we men­tion that July 4 is not even the cor­rect date? You can take John Adams’ word for it. “The sec­ond day of July, 1776, will be the most mem­o­rable epocha in the his­tory of Amer­ica,” Adams wrote in a let­ter to his wife, Abi­gail. That was on July 3, 1776.

So why do we cel­e­brate on July 4? Blame Congress, his­to­rian Pauline Maier tells us. “In 1777, Congress didn’t think of re­call­ing the event un­til it was too late to cel­e­brate the sec­ond, and the fourth be­came stan­dard,” she said.

John Adams, who in later years be­came our first vice pres­i­dent and sec­ond pres­i­dent, chose July 2 be­cause the Con­ti­nen­tal Congress voted for a Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence on that day, and no one had greater au­thor­ity to make that call than he did. His “claim to share in the glory of in­de­pen­dence was well founded,” Maier said. “He did far more than Thomas Jef­fer­son to bring Congress to the point of ap­prov­ing sep­a­ra­tion from Bri­tain.”

By July 4, mem­bers of the Con­ti­nen­tal Congress had only to ap­prove a fi­nal draft of the dec­la­ra­tion — and then scram­ble out of Philadel­phia be­fore be­ing felled by ei­ther the heat or the Bri­tish.

The first recorded use of the name “In­de­pen­dence Day” did not oc­cur un­til 1791, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral sources. In 1870, Congress made it an un­paid hol­i­day for fed­eral em­ploy­ees.

Now, of course, it’s a full-blown hol­i­day, wor­thy of all the pomp and cir­cum­stance we can whip up.

And be­cause it’s not so con­ve­niently placed in the mid­dle of the week this time, we thought we’d bet­ter give you a healthy head start on plan­ning if you’d like to see some fire­works.

• St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land will set some off at the end of the next in­stall­ment of its free River Con­cert Se­ries this evening, Fri­day, June 29. The grounds open at 5 p.m., and the mu­sic starts at 7.

• The Hol­ly­wood Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment will light the fuse to­mor­row, Satur­day, June 30, on its 10th an­nual In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion on the car­ni­val grounds at the fire­house off Route 235. Gates open at 5 p.m., with live mu­sic, car­ni­val rides and games be­fore the big show.

• Also that day, there will be a cel­e­bra­tion spon­sored by the Golden Beach and Patux­ent Knolls Civic As­so­ci­a­tion. A pa­rade will be held Satur­day morn­ing, and cap­ping it all off will be fire­works at night. Some roads will be closed in the Golden Beach neigh­bor­hood from 10 a.m. to noon, and from 7 to 10 p.m. Check www.our­gold­en­ for more de­tails.

• And on the ac­tual hol­i­day, Wed­nes­day, July 4, you can see the fire­works dis­play on Solomons Is­land af­ter dusk, around 9:15 p.m. It’s spon­sored by the Solomons Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion.

In the midst of all the cook­outs, fes­ti­vals and fun, though, we should cer­tainly re­main aware of what the hol­i­day is all about in the first place. It’s the 242nd an­niver­sary of when 56 pa­tri­ots signed the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, mu­tu­ally pledg­ing “our lives, our for­tunes and our sa­cred honor.”

You’ll no­tice they didn’t sign the Dec­la­ra­tion of the Fourth.

So let’s drop the or­di­nal num­ber and call it what it is. Per­haps that would help us bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate those who put their lives on the line to se­cure the “un­alien­able rights” of life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness.

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