By NEMS Daily Journal
The week of Independence Day almost always changes the pace of work and planning for free time because our whole country is focused on the unique events leading to and following July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence, passed in secret on July 2, became a public document followed quickly by widespread celebration in the newly created nation severed from Great Britain.
Later, the incomparable John Adams,, the second president, wrote to his wife Abigail Adams that those early days of July “will be the most memorable epoch 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Many American towns and cities, especially since the unparalleled American Bicentennial festivities of 1976, spread their revelry across several days fully in the spirit of Adams’ exhortation for grandeur in acknowledging political and personal freedom.
One of the great speeches of the era was delivered by Patrick Henry on March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond. These excerpted remarks ring with the spirit of the time:
“The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery …
“Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. … Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House?”
“… There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free … we must fight!
“There is no retreat but in submission and slavery!
“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace. But there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Independence Day is the holiday from which all the other national days are derived and is worth a week of reflection and celebration.