The 4th of July is our nation’s birthday, essentially. I’d say September 3rd 1783 is the birthday, the end of the revolution. So I guess in my perspective July 4th 1776 is more the conception date.
Regardless, it is a much loved and celebrated holiday. It means many things to many people. It was NOT the day the Declaration was signed by our founding fathers, much to some people’s confusion. It was the date the Declaration was ratified, essentially put in action.
At the time it was not a unanimous vote either. New York had not approved but they did by July 9th. On July 4th, the document was a rather edited and sloppy affair. After it was approved, it then had to embossed. This means, transcribed in beautiful clear print and on parchment. It was not printed on hemp, for those that love to think that.
August 2nd, 1776 is the day most signed the document, but not all. This is the date of the painting we all see and in our minds think happened on July 4th. It wasn’t. Seven were not present to sign. Five of those signed later. Two, never did. Distances were much harder then. Travel was not easy or fast and after the adoption of the Declaration, it was not as safe either.
There were many copies made in the days after adoption and sent out to the 13 colonies. These were printed in news papers and posted by those who supported the cause. The news got out fast. Those who made the decision became known. Those who signed the document were betting their and their families lives on winning independence. Those who made the decision to leave Britain were traitors to Britain.
The decision to leave England and go to war was not a unanimous decision or universally supported. There were MANY loyalists. In some areas, there were more loyalists than revolutionaries. This is why Paul Revere did not go riding through the countryside yelling. “The British are Coming!” They were all British. And many were loyal to the king.
There have been stories that there were many copies of the Declaration. This is not quite accurate. The copies printed starting on the night of July 4th and distributed to the colonies and newspapers were called Dunlap Broadsides. They were printed by John Dunlap, thus the name. These predate the official signed copy so they are the older versions but they were not official or identical.
There were likely 100s of the Broadsides made but only 26 are known to exist today. One was found hidden in a picture bought at a yard sale for $4. It sold for 8.1 million dollars.
As the war started with the declaration, independence was not gained until 1783. At the time of the declaration we had no military. We had no flag. We had no commander of the military yet. It was a step, which luckily in that day, was given time to develop into preparations since war in those days was a slow meticulous affair, largely due to slow travel.
The national anthem was not part of this war. “Defense of Fort McHenry” was originally a poem written during the war of 1812. The well known story is that Francis Scott Key was watching the bombing of Fort McHenry and wrote a poem about the joy of seeing that the flag still flew over the fort in the morning.
The poem was converted to a song by marrying it to an already known British song by John Stafford Smith; a Brit living in London. In other words, the marrying of the two to form our eventual National Anthem, was done by an Englishman in London, not by an American.
The National Anthem was not really used until the Civil War, and only unofficially. The Navy was the first to adopt its use in 1889. Meanwhile and previously, there had been many songs used at formal national events. These included “Hail Columbia”, “My Country tis of Thee” which was different lyrics to the British national anthem. [a theme is clear] and “America the Beautiful”.
It was not until March 3, 1931 that the National Anthem became official. In simpler terms, our National Anthem is not even 100 years old.
As I mentioned, when we declared our independence, we also had no official flag. We used what is known as Continental Colors. This had a union jack style upper left quadrant reminiscent of the British flag with the red and white stripes we know of today, but not officially or consistently 13. Any number of stripes were found. At the start of the war, there were not 13 colonies.
We also borrowed the red white and blue colors as part of our heritage with Britain. The flag design was incredibly close to The East India company. There is debate about the influence but I find it undeniable. It is too complex to be a coincidence.
On June 14, 1777 there was a decision by congress to form an official flag. This was more a Naval ensign rather than a national flag but it is close to what we know. Thirteen stars and stripes but the stars were in rows not a circle. There were many variations since there were very few regulations. The number of points on the stars also varied. There are examples of 5, 6 and even 7 pointed stars.
The stars in a circle did not appear until 1792. The story regarding Betsy Ross did not appear until 1876. This was a story retold by her grandson he himself did not hear until the 1850s. It is, like much history, fiction. There is no evidence Betsy Ross had any role in the design of the flag in her day, especially since there was no design of the flag in the day. This was a grandson making his grandmother famous. Not history.
The flag evolved and changed often. The “star spangled banner” Key wrote about had 15 stars and 15 stripes. There was no official plan until 1818 when the number of stripes were held at 13 and the number of stars would reflect the number of current states. Even then, the designs did not change with each new state. They jumped in clusters. There was also no official design for star arrangement until the 48 star pattern.
There is no official flag. The code [not law, there are no flag laws] states that any previously accepted design [the changes in stars and variations in pattern as well as early examples of stripes] is acceptable.
For those of you who are very patriotic, you may want to read the flag code. I know many very patriotic people who violate the flag code daily. Most frequently, it is in violation to use the flag pattern as clothes. It makes me cringe when I see it especially coming from some of us who claim to be the experts on patriotism.
The 4th of July to me is a day of national pride. I know many who celebrate it even though they are not American. I know some who don’t change anything for the day, which is also fine. Notice the first amendment. But the more important thing than codes and history and official anything is to recognize that this is a nation born seeking what they felt freedom from tyranny and wanting independence.
We didn’t defect due to taxation, we taxed ourselves to fund the revolution itself. So we need to get that idea out of our heads. We left Britain for many reasons, and the one regarding taxes was that we were taxed, yet had no representation in British Parliament. Remember the battle cry was “No taxation without representation.” Not, “No taxation but gimme roads and schools and a massive military and claim to be the defender of social security with magic monopoly money.” Ironic considering Washington DC, which is home to our own congress and president and 650,000 residents has no representation. Maybe The District of Columbia (DC) is British.
We also did not invent democracy, or republics. We organized it in a way that is similar to parliament. Parliament is a republic and voted on in a true democratic way in most nations. Our organization is unique today as it was then. The formation of states was and is unique at the time but closely mimicked. This was due to the idea that some states wanted independence alone, not as part of a union. They did not trust a central government.
We built a nation of emigrants. We asked for those others didn’t want, fleeing tyranny, wars, oppression and fear We asked for and sought those who were looking for a fair shake. Those looking for a better life for their children and willing to work hard were welcomed then. It has built us to who we are and like it or not, we are a product of over 100 nationalities and 1,000s of cultures. We have and love hamburgers and tacos and french fries (not french BTW) and drive very American made Japanese cars and very foreign assembled American cars … you get it. I hope. Some of you …
So we eat out at Mexican restaurants, and get Chinese take out. We embrace Italian and German and French food. Under our first amendment we have churches next to synagogues next to masques next to temples. We speak many languages and relish being individuals. Those who fear others because they are different, are very scared people. I wonder if they have noticed their own shadow is not like them.
To me this day is about unity. In spite of the hatred people love to express patriotism and use to divide over issues of little importance, this is a single nation with a single people of unlimited cultures who come together on one day and say, We the People…
In the summer of 1776, this nation was conceived. We sought freedom, not freedom of taxation. Those who signed that document could have been traitors and and were almost all lawyers. Several died at the hand of the British as traitors. Loyalty is an amazing thing, but rewriting history is not loyalty. Our flag was originally ordered in 1777, not 1776 and it evolved many times. There is no official flag of the US. There is only a current flag which means it will change. The national anthem is not even 100 years old and it was converted from a poem by an American, by a British man in England.
On this day I shall fly my 48 star flag. I wont celebrate fear or absurdity and ignorance that seems to be what some people here seem to think is patriotism, I shall celebrate my ancestors, some of who were here when Tennessee was the western frontier and their courage. I will, as necessary, look back to find courage and mark this day of recognition.
“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