Today is July 4th, American Independence Day. Americans have been a patriotic people from the very beginning. In May of 1776, three secret delegates from the Second Continental Congress, paid a widow named Betsy Ross a visit. The men were George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross. They were interested in creating an official flag for the new country of the United States of America. Betsy worshiped at the same church with George and Martha Washington and her pew was right next to theirs. She had also done some seamstress work for General Washington. He produced a rough sketch of what they had in mind. Betsy, who was a gifted seamstress, reportedly, “demonstrated how to make a five point star in a single snip.” She was hired on the spot and in late May or early June, the flag was finished.
Meanwhile, the Declaration of Independence was being written, mostly by Thomas Jefferson. There seems to be debate about the date it was signed by everyone, but Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams signed it on July 4th, 1776. Franklin was seventy years old at the time.
It was read aloud for he first time on July 8,1776 in Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell rang, summoning everyone to come and hear it. It was printed in newspapers all across the thirteen colonies very soon after it was written. Freedom of the press has always been very important to this country. It was also translated into German by July 9th. Immigrants have always played a huge role in our country.
On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a flag resolution which stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the 13 United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Americans have always been serious about our flag.
On July 4, 1777, Philadelphia celebrated the first commemoration with the reading of the Declaration and fireworks. Early fireworks were re-purposed military munitions. Other cities followed suit. In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to officially recognize Independence Day. Congress made it a federal holiday in 1870.
In 1778, George Washington gave his soldiers extra rations of rum to celebrate the day. Now you know where the 4th of July cocktails come from.
While the Revolutionary War officially lasted from 1775-1783, there were many tensions that remained with Britain and unresolved issues, which resulted in the War of 1812 which lasted for two-and-a-half years. After that, our relations with Britain headed to where they are today. It was during that war that Francis Scott Key penned the “Star Spangled Banner.” He was captive on a ship in the Baltimore Harbor all night long with the constant sights and sounds of gun and cannon fire. The fight lasted for 25 hours. He thought the fort was doomed for sure. But, he was wrong. “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light.”
That flag was still proudly flying, representing a fierce American spirit that simply refused to give up. There really isn’t a reason in the world that the rag-tag Americans should have beaten the powerful British, twice. Yet, they did. It’s a feat we are still proud of to this day and that’s why on this day, some 238 years later, we still celebrate the 4th of July and all of those who made it possible.
We fly flags and have barbecues and picnics. We watch fireworks and sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” which by the way, always gives me goose bumps. We spend time with family and friends and celebrate all of our freedoms and what it means to live in this great country and we pray for God’s continued blessings on us. Happy 4th of July!
Have an awesome day!