Happy 4th of July: A Letter from the Founder
Today is the 4th of July. This year the 4th falls on a lovely day of the week, a Thursday, giving everyone across the country, employers especially, a very good reason to take two days off instead of one, thus creating a very long weekend at home.
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Today is also Independence Day – the anniversary of our separation from the King of England nearly 250 years ago, however it is not the day on which the Declaration of Independence was actually signed.
It was on July 2nd that the Lees Resolution for Independence was passed with no opposing votes, and Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was presented, approved and signed by representatives of the Thirteen Colonies. The Declaration of Independence was the Colonies’ formal explanation for why they were breaking away from King George and claimed a new legal right to do so.
Aside from listing twenty seven grievances against the King, Jefferson’s words went further and have become perhaps the most well known statements in the English language on human rights and the most important words in our history:
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Abraham Lincoln made these words the centerpiece of his Gettysburg Address in 1863, and they came to be seen as the moral standard to which the United States should strive.
John Adams was the one who pushed for the selection of Thomas Jefferson to write the original document, and it was with great joy that he told his wife that “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America” and it “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” with “Pomp and Parade […] Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”
While the Declaration of Independence was hailed as the keystone of the new country and read aloud in public, It wasn’t until 1781 that Massachusetts named July 4 an official state holiday.
In protest, John Adams refused to ever attend any independence celebration on July 4th to the end of his life.
Nearly 100 years later, Congress declared it a national holiday in 1870.
Both men lived long lives, and on July 4th, 1826, Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Adams, in Quincy, Massachusetts, died on the same day – the day of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration’s adoption, and the day on which a huge celebration was held in Washington, DC.
Thomas Jefferson was invited to attend but refused by letter. It was the last letter he ever wrote and in it he expressed his hope for his most important work of only fifteen hundred words:
“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be […] the signal of arousing men to burst the chains […] and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. […] All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. […] For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
From all of us at Apartment Therapy and Kitchn, may this be a day on which we remember these principles and put them to good use in our own lives. Additionally, I wish you all a peaceful and happy holiday at home, the creation and sharing of which is one of the most worthwhile things in life.
Best, Maxwell Ryan