“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
With those words, Thomas Jefferson set out the precepts that would form the most successful government the world has ever known. Today we celebrate the 243rd anniversary of a small gathering of brave men who boldly signed their name to the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that they could be signing their death warrant.
Let’s take a look at one of the most pivotal and important days in U.S. history, courtesy of military.com.
“Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers,” according to military.com.
“What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in ‘self-evident truths’ and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.” Click here to read a transcription of Jefferson’s most enduring effort.
On July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which led to the formation of the United States. Each year on the fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic event.
Military.com has a few interesting facts about the Declaration of Independence. Here are two:
Who authored the Declaration of Independence?
Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, which was then edited by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Jefferson took their edits and incorporated them into what would become the version finally adopted.
Independence Day should have been July 2
July 2, 1776, is the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence. John Adams, in his writings, even noted that July 2 would be remembered in the annals of American history and would be marked with fireworks and celebrations. The written Declaration of Independence was dated July 4 but wasn't actually signed until August 2. Fifty-six delegates eventually signed the document, although all were not present on that day in August.
In addition, military.com offers a list of fun facts about July 4th. Here’s a look:
- 2.5 million - In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation. Source: Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970
- 311.7 million - The nation's estimated population on this July 4th. Source: U.S. Census Population clock
- $4 million- In 2013, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($3.9 million) was for U.S. flags made in China. Source: Flag Manufacturers Association of America
- $781,222 - Dollar value of U.S. flags exported in 2013. The Dominican Republic was the leading customer, purchasing $160,000 worth. Source: Flag Manufacturers Association of America
- $302.7 million - Annual dollar value of shipments of fabricated flags, banners and similar emblems by the nation's manufacturers, according to the latest published economic census data. Source: 2007 Economic Census
- $223.6 million - The value of fireworks imported from China in 2011, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($232.5 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $15.8 million in 2011, with Australia purchasing more than any other country ($4.5 million). Source: Foreign Trade Statistics
- $231.8 million - The value of U.S. manufacturers' shipments of fireworks and pyrotechnics (including flares, igniters, etc.) in 2007. Source: 2007 Economic Census
I offer this brief look at the history of July 4th in light of an unsettling conversation I had with the lady who cuts my hair. I went in for a shearing prior to Memorial Day and as always, we started talking. She said, “There’s some kind of holiday this weekend, right?”
Yep, I said. It’s Memorial Day. “What’s that about?” she asked.
She had no idea why we recognize Memorial Day, even though her father is a Vietnam veteran and is buried with military honors in Fort Logan National Cemetery. More unsettling, when I gave her the history of Memorial Day, that it was established after the Civil War to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, she didn’t know what the Civil War was.
My sincere hope is that she’s the outlier and that most Americans have a better grasp of the history of this great nation. But I wonder if we’ve lost sight of the vision our founding fathers had for the government and nation they established.
So today, we celebrate the 243rd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Let us remember the brave men and women who formed and fought a revolution to establish the United States of America, the greatest nation and system of government the world has ever known.
More importantly, let us never forget.