Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Setting the (History) Record Straight

First draft of the Declaration
of Independence
Today, July 4, Americans celebrate Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Wrong. Independence from Great Britain and King George III was actually declared July 2, 1776, a date John Adams said would be "the most memorable epocha in the history of America." What were you doing on July 2? Not setting off fireworks or grilling hamburgers, I'll bet. Nope, you're doing that today, which should only be remembered as the date on which the Second Continental Congress approved Thomas Jefferson's final edit of the document. On July 4, 1776, the delegates just voted; they didn't sign anything. (They hadn't signed anything on July 2, either.) The document we call the Declaration of Independence wasn't signed until one month after independence was declared--August 2. Such an important document had to be neat and clean and presentable. What was signed was a formal copy hand-written (probably) by Timothy Matlack, who was an assistant to the Secretary of Congress.
Formal copy signed August 2

Some Americans refer to this day as the "birthday" of the "United States of America". In the very literal sense, wrong again. Congress did not formally adopt our country's name until September 9, 1776. Prior to that, the commonly used name was the United Colonies.

Here's something of interest about July 4. On this day in 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. Respected colleagues during the revolutionary period, Adams and Jefferson had a major falling out and became political enemies during Adams' presidency. The enmity continued throughout Jefferson's presidency, but afterwards the two men renewed their friendship. That friendship lasted until their dying day, when Adams uttered his last words, "Thomas Jefferson still survives." Wrong. Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello. It was the 50th anniversary of the approval of Jefferson's final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams
October 30, 1735-July 4, 1826
Thomas Jefferson
April 13, 1743-July 4, 1826

1 comment:

  1. Tom was a good looking guy!!!! As always, I look forward to your interesting blogs.