Thursday is the Fourth of July, one of my favorite holidays. John Adams said we should celebrate with parades and fireworks. In my family we eat fried chicken, cucumber sandwiches and watermelon and watch the fireworks over the horizon. We also watch 1776, the film of the Broadway musical comedy. Every year I worry that we won’t get the Declaration signed.
There’s no way we could win.
We went up against the finest military force in the world with a bunch of undisciplined loners, many of whom were only here because they couldn’t make it back home. Let’s face it. Why on earth would you come to the absolute boonies if you were rich and comfortable already?
I was listening to John McCullough talk about history Sunday. He was deploring the ignorance of too many of our citizens about how we got here. I can’t remember who said that anyone who doesn’t know history is doomed to repeat it. Also, while we’re about it, in order to know where we’re going in the future, we have to understand the past. Too many of us don’t. History isn’t about dates. It’s about people. Benjamin Franklin was as womanizer. John Adams had the temperament of a scorpion that’s been poked with a stick. Thomas Jefferson died close to bankruptcy. The continental congress was people, and they were annoyed.
We were supposed to ship all our raw materials back to Britain, let them fabricate the lamps and the candlesticks and the woolen and linen fabric, then sell everything back to us at exorbitant markups. Paul Revere, one of the greatest silversmiths of this or any other age, was not best pleased with that.
We were not charmed to find half a dozen rough soldiers billeted at our homes without so much as a request. We were expected to feed and house them at our expense. Really? Soldiers eat like locusts, and are not known for being quiet when they come in at night from the tavern.
Basically, we felt like everybody’s cross-eyed stepchild. I suspect the initial reaction to the declaration in England was surprise, followed by the fury of a parent at an ungrateful brat of a child. Followed, of course, by the desire to punish said brat.
The moment this bunch of farmers and merchants and cobblers signed the declaration, every one of them signed his own death warrant for treason.
I would have refused to touch that quill, thank you very much, and ridden out of Philadelphia as fast as my horse could canter. But then I’m a coward. No doubt some of them figured they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling it off, but they signed anyway, because it was the right and honorable thing to do. They squabbled, snarled, and snapped at one another. By some miracle they got it done.
Because they felt it was the right thing to do. Amazing. What a concept.