This was, of course, the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, not yet President of the United Sates. Though the document was not yet fully signed, July 4th was the date on which we would forever celebrate our Independence Day, the severing of foreign rule.
In the early days the 4th was not a federal holiday. In fact, no federal holidays even existed. The early celebrations, scattered throughout the colonies in a rag-tag fashion, nonetheless, possessed all the same qualities as today's celebrations of Independence Day. We equate the 4th of July with explosions and the early ones were made by canons - less graceful than the explosion of graceful fireworks that we see today.
The flag that unfurled was not the red, white, and blue of our celebrations today, but the one raised by George Washington, called the "Grand Union" flag. It bore the British (! !) cross of St. George and St. Andrew on a blue field with thirteen red and white stripes.
Then as now, however, there has always been the biggest explosion of all - political rhetoric and oratory, otherwise known as hot air. The political football called the 4th of July was always tangled in politics. Celebrate Independence Day? Any politician would want to lay claim to that. The fervor to claim responsibility was so intense that until Jefferson was elected president, the Federalists denied that he had written the Declaration of Independence. Then, as now. Some things never change.
Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence.
A Renaissance man, whose equal the United States has yet to produce, he was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase, acquiring those lands where what is arguable America's greatest contribution to the culinary world developed - Cajun and Creole cooking. Jefferson wanted to be remembered for the Declaration of Independence and for establishing the University of Virginia. Though Jefferson's taste in food ran to the French, when you barbecue that all-American burger on the Fourth of July, a nod of the head Thomas Jefferson's Recipe for Ice Cream.
In an oddly noted coincidence, Thomas Jefferson died at his home in Monticello on July 4th, 1826. On that same day, up in Quincy, Massachusetts, John Adams also died.
Shortly before his death Jefferson wrote: "...for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."
John Adams on Independence
In a letter to his wife, Abigail, John Adams, one of the founders and the second President of America writes:
"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 [sic] in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
Happy 4th of July.
Happy Independence Day.