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Sunday, July 04, 2010

On Independence Day

Jean Sexton writes:

Independence Day, July 4, is a day celebrated with parades, fireworks, cookouts, and time spent with families. We nearly take for granted our country and its independence. However, 234 years ago, it was a time of risks and fear. As a student of social history, I enjoy reading letters from people. Let's take a look at the letters from one of the most notable letter writers of that era, John Adams.

On July 3, 1776 Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

Yesterday, the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was nor will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony, "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, and as such they have, and of Right ought to have, full power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which other States may rightfully do."

This is well and good as we all know that the resolution became reality. The colonies went to war against England. Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown on October 17, 1781. The Treaty of Paris which officially ended the war was signed on September 3, 1783. Of course Adams did not know what the outcome would be. He had worries and confided them to Abigail:

It may be the Will of Heaven that America shall suffer Calamities still more wasting, and Distresses yet more dreadfull. If this is to be the Case, it will have this good Effect, at least: It will inspire Us with many Virtues, which we have not, and correct many Errors, Follies, and Vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor and destroy Us. The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals.

Today we face difficulties and afflictions. We are in the midst of a recession; people are losing jobs or being underemployed; pay cuts and layoffs abound. We have choices to make: we can wail our miseries to the sky or we can see if we can correct any errors, follies, and vices which have brought us to this condition.

It is a hard thing to consider during this celebration. Yet I have hope, as John Adams did. He also wrote:

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 the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Day's Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

So let us go forth, with hope in our hearts and obey the rest of what Adams wrote about this day. "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."

Happy birthday to these United States.