Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Facts About the Fourth

With so much time off in the summer one thing my family enjoys doing is catching up on our movie watching.  Of course, when I say “family” I am not including John.  He will watch one every now and then but most of the time while we’re watching movies he’s busy writing and/or researching.  He’s working on a book about our town’s history.  We’re a small town so you’d think it wouldn’t take so long but you’d be surprised.  

Meanwhile, I’ve spent quite a bit of time upstairs getting my cinema fix on.  The other night I talked Ren into watching Sneakers with me (she didn’t want to so I told John-Heath he could watch Band of Brothers in her room.  Knowing that he would constantly be reenacting every scene of BoB she decided being in the media room with me was the lesser of two evils.  I know.  I can be devious like that).  When we finished she asked if I would watch National Treasure with her.  Turnabout is fair play, I suppose.

Because we are history geeks buffs, this movie is a favorite of ours and because today happens to be the Fourth of July, the day we Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom I thought I would list some facts about the document and the holiday which honors it.

1.)  The Declaration was adopted, after final revisions, on July 4, 1776.  Technically, however, the 13 original colonies had already voted to remove themselves from England’s rule on July 2, 1776.  In fact, John Adams thought that July 2 would become “the most memorable epocha in the history of America.”  He was off by two days.

2.)  There is some speculation as to whether the Liberty Bell - which would not be known by that name until some time later - was even in a usable condition and could be rung at the time.  If it did, it was one of many bells to ring out on July 8, 1776 to summon people to the Pennsylvania State House (later renamed Independence Hall) for the first public reading of the Declaration.  

3.)  The Liberty Bell has been housed since 2003 in the Liberty Bell Center, which is across the street from Independence Hall.  Incidentally, it was here at the LBC that I had a slight run-in with a none-too-nice federal agent who lacked any and all people skills in 2004 when a security screening machine kept beeping as I would try to walk through.  Finally, on the fourth try (and just seconds before being handcuffed) I stepped through without any beeps, bells or whistles.  If you get the chance to go, I would highly recommend a trip to Philadelphia.  Just beware certain unfriendly agents.

3.)  Not only did John Adams (our 2nd president) and Thomas Jefferson (the author of the original document and our 3rd president), both signers of the Declaration die on the 4th of July, they died on the same 4th of July.  In 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration, they died hours apart.  Though Jefferson died first, Adams was unaware of this and his last words are reported to have been “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

4.)  Signing the Declaration was, of course, viewed as an act of treason by King George III.  Benjamin Franklin famously said at the signing, “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

5.)  In addition to Franklin, who at 70 was the oldest signer, 55 other men signed the Declaration - but not all at the same time.  The first was John Hancock, the last was Thomas McKean in 1777.  By the way, did you know that actress Reese Witherspoon is a direct descendent of signer John Witherspoon?

6.)  Once the Declaration had been adopted 200 official copies were made by printer John Dunlap.  Today, only 26 of these are known to remain, one of which was found tucked behind a $4 picture bought at a flea market in Pennsylvania in 1989 and sold most recently in 2000 for $8.14 million.  

7.)  On July 4, 1977 our family received a second reason to nephew Jonathan’s birth.

So, happy 4th to you all and happy birthday to Jon!!!

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1 comment:

Lyndy said...

I love the history info! I was on a business trip a few yrs ago n Philly & got to see the bell - cool !