The Great American Holiday
( Originally Published 1927 )
AMONG all the holidays of the year, one stands out as preeminently American; one appeals especially to that sentiment of patriotism and national pride which glows in every loyal American heart. Independence Day—the Fourth of July — is observed in every State in the Union as our distinctive national holiday ; and rightly so, for the event which it celebrates is by far the most important in American history—an event no less, indeed, than the birth 0f the nation.
Independence Day celebrates the signing, on the Fourth of July, 1776, of the paper which declared this country forever free from British rule. It had been under consideration for some time by the Continental Congress, assembled at Philadelphia, and final action was finally taken on July 4. From that time forward, the American colonists were no longer rebels in arms against their country, but a free people fighting for their independence.
That the Declaration of Independence was mainly the work of Thomas Jefferson has been established beyond reasonable doubt; and it stands today one of the most remarkable state papers in the history of the world.
At the time of the passage of the act, John Adams wrote to his wife a letter which has become historic. " I am apt to believe," he wrote, " that this day 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever-more."
Bonfires and guns there have been without limit ; and the deaths that have resulted from these celebrations would form no inconsiderable fraction of those lost during the Revolution. For years, the celebration of this great holiday has consisted mainly of meaningless noise ; but there is a steadily growing sentiment in favor of a more worthy observance of the day, as a time when every loyal American should rejoice in the welfare of his country, and recall with pride the manner in which the Nation was established.