These Truths Blog
Celebrating the Fourth of July
In a letter to his wife, Abigail on July 2, 1776, John Adams wrote of the plans for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “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. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all of the Means. And, that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction.” (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142)
Adams would be elated to know that 236 years later, Independence Day is the most celebrated secular holiday in America.
Those of us who are hard at work bringing The Museum of the American Revolution to life at 3rd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia are committed to helping others not only remember but also understand why this day should be commemorated with joy.
It is our job here to tell the very real and personal stories of a very long and hard war. A war courageously undertaken by America’s original greatest generation.
From the privates in the ranks to the leaders in local communities and statehouses, their overriding goal was to create a new type of society—one founded on the simple, but bold idea that the American people could govern themselves. No one knew exactly how this would be achieved, yet they knew it was viewed as treasonous. They willingly risked their lives and fought with courage and conviction, achieving a victory that still seems miraculous.
For those who brought this nation into being, , the Declaration of Independence did not signal the end or even the beginning of war. What was solemnized on July 4, 1776 was the aspiration to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.
The hardships and sacrifices of those who waged the American Revolution were extreme; their victory was a triumph of ideals that not only defined America, but transformed ideas of nationhood and citizenship around the globe.
What those who declared our independence, and those who fought for it ultimately achieved, are “Rays of ravishing Light and Glory” that will be reflected in the skies above town squares and great cities across America this week. Yet, the ideas and ideals of democracy are cause for jubilance every day.
Happy 4th of July!