To Our Harrison Family,
This weekend we celebrate our nation’s independence for the 246th time. Our Main Street is draped in red, white & blue in recognition of the Fourth of July. I’m sure many of our residents are planning their trips to the shore or backyard BBQs with family and friends and of course where to watch the fireworks. A couple of suggestions that are nearby, Washington Township and Woodbury.
As you might have guessed from some of my previous holiday notes to you, I’m a bit of a history buff… especially US History. So, I thought I’d share some fun facts about the Fourth of July.
- The Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted in favor of independence on July 2nd, 1776, and two days later, on July 4th, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of America’s independence and would reportedly turn down invitations to July 4th events in protest.
- Both John Adams (age 90) and Thomas Jefferson (age 83) died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Pretty amazing coincidence, don’t you think?
- The initial celebrations of the Fourth of July were annual readings of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war.
- In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists held annual celebrations of the King’s birthday. By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty.
- Early celebrations included festivities such as concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied by public readings of the Declaration of Independence.
- George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at the Battle of Yorktown.
- Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.
- The Fourth of July was not a federal holiday until 1941. A full 165 years after our country’s Founding Fathers declared independence from Great Britain.
The fact is the road to this historic declaration was not smooth and decisive. It probably would not have happened but for another legendary piece of writing – Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Jefferson, himself, considered Paine the greatest writer of that age. A year prior to the January of 1776 publishing of the pamphlet, most colonists did not favor complete independence from Great Britain. Common Sense changed that and laid the foundation for what would happen that summer.
At Philadelphia’s Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence on June 7th. Heated debate postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution but appointed a five-man committee—including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Ben Franklin to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress formally voted in favor of independence and delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4th.
The Fourth of July celebrates the birth of our nation, in recognition of a free society, where the people have the final say. Though imperfect, our system allows decisions to be made by our elected officials that ultimately must survive the scrutiny of the people…who have the ability, annually, to change the players who make those decisions.
On behalf of our Harrison Township department heads and team members and my fellow Township Committee members, Deputy Mayor Julie DeLaurentis, Committeemen John Williams and Adam Wingate, and Committeewoman Michelle Powell, I wish you and your families a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday.
Together for Harrison Township,