This Fourth of July, you may be celebrating the Nation’s freedom with fireworks, picnics, and parades. If so, you will be celebrating as the Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams intended.
Thomas Jefferson penned those words in the spring of 1826 after falling gravely ill. He was referring to the Declaration of Independence, which had been signed 49 years earlier in Philadelphia.
John Adams remarked that Independence Day “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.”
Along with their compatriots in the Revolutionary War, these men faced incredible odds and created the foundation for a country established on the principles of the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Amidst the celebration, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the facts surrounding July 4, 1776 – the day our great country was considered born.
- The Continental Congress actually voted on the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. July 4, 1776 is the day the Declaration was adopted by the Continental Congress, with the actual signing ceremony occurring on August 2, 1776.
- Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. It was edited by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
- Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826; 50 years after Independence Day.
- The first anniversary drew fireworks, a 13-shot cannon salute, and jubilee in Philadelphia. However, it wasn’t until the War of 1812 that the date was widely celebrated across the Nation.
- Dating back to 1785, Bristol, Rhode Island is home to the oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration.
- In 1776, there were an estimated 2.5 million people living in America. As of July 2014, there were approximately 318.4 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th a state holiday, and Congress declared Independence Day a federal holiday in 1941.
Across the United States, Americans joyfully celebrate the anniversary of our first Independence Day. Fireworks burst in the sky, red-white-and-blue banners hang from porches, and Old Glory waves proudly all over the country. Meanwhile, Sailors remain vigilant in supporting operations at sea around the globe. They continue to build upon a maritime legacy that began in the early years of American independence, as Navy ships were commissioned to protect American merchant vessels from attack as they sailed to grow the Nation’s economic growth.
Maybe more than any time in history, our Nation’s continued security and prosperity demands a strong U.S. Navy.
This need harkens back to our founders having the insight to recognize the United States as a maritime nation and the importance of maritime forces, including the requirement in our Constitution that Congress “maintain a Navy.”
Founding Father John Adams noted in 1776 that he was, “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 while so much has changed through the years – ships, aircraft, people, and definitely the world – the Navy’s enduring mission has remained clear. We maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.
So on this Fourth of July, the Surface Force celebrates America’s birthday through tradition – by providing a global presence, safeguarding key transit lanes so commerce, goods, and information can flow unfettered by maritime threats. Seapower has been, and will continue to be, the critical foundation of national power and prosperity and international prestige for the United States of America.
Happy Birthday, America!