ShareThis Page
Tom Purcell: Illuminating independence |

Tom Purcell: Illuminating independence

| Monday, July 2, 2018 8:49 p.m

“Burgers on the grill, great discounts at retail stores and amazing fireworks — that’s why I love the Fourth of July!”

“It’s a grand time, to be sure — the day every year that we celebrate American independence and the birth of our country. And there are lots of interesting fun facts about the Fourth.”

“Such as?”

“According to the Continental Congress voted on the Declaration of Independence, which listed our grievances against King George III and explained to the world why our 13 colonies sought independence from Great Britain, on July 2, 1776 — not July 4.”

“It did?”

“So to speak. The congress voted for a resolution of independence on July 2. It voted for the actual Declaration of Independence on July 4. Founding father John Adams, who would become our second president, believed our independence should be commemorated on the Second, not the Fourth.”

“Our politicians disagreed on basic stuff like that even back in 1776?”

“They disagreed widely on many matters small and large, just like now. In any event, though Adams did not get his wish on when Independence Day should be celebrated, he did get his wish on how it should be celebrated. He’s a key reason we enjoy amazing fireworks displays all over our great land every year.”

“He is?”

“On July 3, 1776, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, he said: ‘I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. … It 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.’”

“Way to go, Johnny!” says that immediately after its adoption, the Declaration of Independence was read in public, followed by festivities that included ‘concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets,’ just as Adams had wished.”

“I think we should fire off muskets every year!”

“According to The Boston Globe, Boston and Philadelphia held ‘illuminatory’ celebrations on July 4, 1777. American University professor James Heintze, author of an extensive Fourth of July history, told The Globe that Boston lit off fireworks and shells and that Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital, fired cannons, artillery and small arms before ending the night with ‘a grand exhibition of fireworks.’”

“How cool is that?”

“After the Revolutionary War, Americans celebrated the Fourth in towns and villages all over the new nation. In 1783, Boston became the first city to designate the Fourth of July an official holiday. says the U.S. Congress made the Fourth a federal holiday in 1870, and in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees.”

“And the ‘illuminations’ Adams wished for are as much a part of the Fourth as hot dogs and apple pie!”

“They sure are. And if John Adams or any of the other Founders could see how well their fledgling nation has blossomed since July 4, 1776, one thing is for certain.”

“What’s that?”

“Fireworks would go off!”

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, lives in Library. His books include “Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood” and “Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClanahan mystery. Visit him on the web at Email him at:

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.