Thursday, July 3, 2008

Independence Day facts and trivia

Tomorrow we honor what PBS calls "our nation's most cherished document" and of course, what the Declaration of Independence means to the citizens of this country.
Sure we complain about this, that and the other.
And this country has serious problems as we head toward the election of a new president -- an unpopular war or two, a dramatically declining economy and skyrocketing prices for fuel, food and just about everything else.
But we can complain all we want and are free to do so without fear of government reprisal.
So we hang our flags and party on which is probably what George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (pictured) would have wanted us to do.
Indeed, July 4th has been celebrated grandly since 1776 when members of the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the original draft.
However, when we visualize the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock's grandiose signature comes to mind first.
There's a reason Hancock signed on top of the other 55 signatures.
He was president of the Second Continental Congress. reminds us that each one of those rebel signers showed "great courage (as) announcing independence from Great Britain was an act of treason, punishable by death."
Because of that danger, their names reportedly were withheld from the public for more than six months.
But 13 colonies forged together with the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. The battle cry was "no taxation without representation."
While we Americans living in "Crook County" are inundated with taxes to fund ever more outrageous patronage jobs, we can complain as loudly as we want and not be accused of treason because of our forefathers -- and our foremothers who put their own lives in grave jeopardy by supporting the men they loved.
Following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, no surprise, the Philadelphia Evening Post on July 6, 1776, became the first newspaper to publish the entire document.
On July 8, it was read aloud, at noon in public, for the first time, also in Philadelphia.
On July 9, it was read for all to hear in New York, reportedly by order of General George Washington.
And on July 18, 1776, the bold document was "read in Boston accompanied by church chimes and the firing of cannon," according to
We still love noise on July 4th (or we don't like but put up with it).
Still, while holiday-minded Americans have observed the holiday since with its birth year, it took until June 28, 1870, for Congress to pass a law making Independence Day a national holiday.
The Fourth of July has a distinction shared by only four other observances in the United States.
In 1968, almost all general holidays celebrated in the United States were relocated from their original dates to Mondays to give weary American workers those beloved three-day weekends.
However, in addition to the Fourth of July, New Year's Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas keep their own calendar dates.
As an added July 4th note, this week archeologists announced they have located the foundation of George Washington's boyhood home.
Stories have hit the internet and an update, along with a very cool photo, is at,0,4764772.story
Alas, no one has found any cherry tree stump or even an ax handle.
The story of a truth-bound boy named George admitting he chopped down a cherry tree no doubt is apocryphal -- but it's neat anyway.
For all their faults, most notably owning slaves, Jefferson and Washington were key to American independence.
So celebrate, eat a lot, check out those fireworks and don't forget, our foremothers who risked their lives.
While their names appear on none of the freedom documents, their strengths were critical to a way of life we hold dear 232 years after their husbands inked a document for all time.
Happy Fourth of July.

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photo by sarah gross

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Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.