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July 3, 1776 Letter

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John Adams was born on October 30, 1735, in Quincy, Massachusetts. He was a direct descendant of Puritan colonists from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He studied at Harvard University, where he received his undergraduate degree and master’s, and in 1758 was admitted to the bar. In 1774, he served on the First Continental Congress and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. Adams became the first vice president of the United States and the second president.

Stout elderly man in his 60s with long white hair, facing partway leftward

John Adams (1735-1826) was instrumental in negotiating in favor of independence at the Continental Congresses (1774-78), signed the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams’ famous letter of July 3, 1776, in which he wrote to his wife Abigail what his thoughts were about celebrating the Fourth of July is found on various web sites but is usually incorrectly quoted. Following is the exact text from his letter with his original spellings:

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 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 the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

“(The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

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Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence – committee presents draft to Congress. Adams is depicted at center with his hand on his hip.

In 2008, HBO produced a mini series about the life and times of John Adams. I believe it is masterly told. If you have a chance to watch it, I recommend you do. Here is a clip.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrEeSVN8B1dzg8AHBQPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=john+adams+and+youtube&fr=yhs-pty-pty_email&hspart=pty&hsimp=yhs-pty_email#id=14&vid=70024796465575d49ca28d01df056de8&action=view

So today is July 4th, and it is time to celebrate our country’s birthday. What are we waiting for? Let the party begin!

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Happy Birthday, America!

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In 1783, President George Washington remarked, “The citizens of this country are, from this period, as the actors on a most conspicuous theater, which seems to be peculiarly designed by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity.”

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And with his background of leadership in the founding of our country, he knew the men that he had worked and fought with.

We have the privilege of celebrating the anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence this week. Twelve colonies had representatives who signed this document, and New York followed suit in August. It was after the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, in fact 442 days after these events in Massachusetts.

The signers were men of conviction who, by signing their names, put themselves, their families, and their land at major risk. Here are some facts that inspire me to remember them.

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Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Forty-two signers had served in their colonial legislatures. Twenty-two were lawyers—although William Hooper of North Carolina was “disbarred” when he spoke out against the Crown–and nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins had been Governor of Rhode Island. Although two others had been clergy previously, John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend–he wore his robes to the sessions. Almost all were Protestant Christians; Charles Carroll of Maryland was the only Roman Catholic signer.

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Seven of the signers were educated at Harvard, four each at Yale and William & Mary, and three at Princeton. John Witherspoon was the president of Princeton and George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary, where his students included the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.

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Seventeen of the signers served in the military during the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson was a colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment and then commanded Virginia military forces at the Battle of Yorktown. William Whipple served with the New Hampshire militia and was one of the commanding officers in the decisive Saratoga campaign. Oliver Wolcott led the Connecticut regiments sent for the defense of New York and commanded a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne. Caesar Rodney was a Major General in the Delaware militia  and John Hancock was the same in the Massachusetts militia.

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Five of the signers were captured by the British during the war. Captains Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton (South Carolina) were all captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780; Colonel George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his incarceration at the hands of British Loyalists and died in 1781.

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Colonel Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote John Adams that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy–compelled to remove my family five times in a few months, and at last fixed them in a little log house on the banks of the Susquehanna . . . and they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians.”

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Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war. The son of John Witherspoon, a major in the New Jersey Brigade, was killed at the Battle of Germantown.

Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis’s New York home was destroyed and his wife taken prisoner. John Hart’s farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Thomas Nelson (both of Virginia) lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort, but were never repaid.

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It sounds like it is time for a standing ovation of several minutes to honor these men, doesn’t it?

Dr. Peter Marshall once said, “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” I believe those signers took the opportunity to do what was right.

With leaders like this that we call the Founding Fathers, we have the privilege to sing “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and many others.

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And it is a day to party, to celebrate the birthday of the country we call home, the United States of America!

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My family had a regular menu for July 4th, and mine is always similar. It was always cold watermelon, barbeque, baked beans, potato salad, deviled eggs, and peach cobbler. Sometimes a churn of homemade ice cream was added, just because.

You probably have your favorite day all planned by now, too, by spending time with family and friends.

Happy birthday, America! Happy Fourth of July to all of you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q65

 

 

 

 

Faith of the Founders

When the 56 Signers of The Declaration of Independence signed their names to that document, each knew they were committing treason against the British Crown.  If caught and captured, they risked death. But death would not be swift. It would be by hanging to the point of unconsciousness, then being revived, disemboweled, their body parts boiled in oil and their ashes scattered into the wind. Our Founding Fathers valued freedom, for themselves and their posterity, to the extent that they found this fate worth the risk.

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Second President John Adams said, “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity…I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

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The Declaration of Independence identified the source of all authority and rights as “Their Creator,” and then accentuated that individual human rights were God-given, not man-made.

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In that core group of delegates, according to public record were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Pres- byterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists,  Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and 3 deists (those who  believe in an impersonal God), who gave the world its initial impetus but then left it to run its course).

Pictured above: Thirty-three-year-old Thomas Jefferson wrote most of this document. In approximately two weeks, he penned it in two rented rooms in the home of Graff, a noted bricklayer.

The universal words were carefully chosen, but it was individuals who signed their names. The Declaration of Independence was seditious and a break-up letter never to be forgotten.

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What were their professions? Twenty-five were lawyers or jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers or large plantation owners. One was a teacher, one a musician, and one a printer. These were men of means and education, yet they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.

Their commitments were heart-felt. As Abraham Clark said, “Let us prepare for the worst. We can die here but once.”

Five were captured by the British and brutally tortured as traitors. Nine fought in the War for Independence and died from wounds or hardships they suffered. Two lost their sons in the Continental Army. Another two had sons captured. At least a dozen of the fifty-six had their homes pillaged and burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. The British jailed Francis Lewis’ wife for two months, and that and other hardships from the war so affected her health that she died only two years later.

Thomas Heyward, Jr., Edward Rutledge, and Arthur Middleton, all of South Carolina, were captured by the British during the Charleston Campaign in 1780. They were kept in dungeons at the St. Augustine Prison until exchanged a year later.

Such were the stories and sacrifices typical of those who risked everything to sign this precious document. They were soft-spoken men of means and education who were passionate about their country. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged:

“For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” 

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The basement of Independence Hall in Philadelphia once served as the city’s dog pound, and the second floor was once the home to Charles Wilson Peale’s museum of natural history. Windows were kept tightly closed, so that others could not hear their discussions. It is said that the elder statesman, Benjamin Franklin, would intentionally trip other delegates from his aisle seat. Serious, thoughtful, careful were the discussions, and sometimes quite loud.

“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight!

The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I Am Not A Virginian, But An American!” Patrick Henry

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And it happened here in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This is why we celebrate July 4, 1776.