A Brill Calendar: July 4
Few documents have a closer bond with a calendar day than a hand-written ‘Declaration of Independence’.
On July 4 1776, thirteen British Colonies in northern America convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and approved of a pronouncement that they were entitled to be governed as they themselves saw fit.
The single day broadens into days, weeks, months and years on closer inspection. This Second Continental Congress had already approved a motion of Richard Henry Lee for independence on July 2nd. And some four weeks would pass before actual signing began. When the signatories numbered 56, no more were added, and months had passed. And years would elapse before this day even started to become the greatest calendar-day of the United States of America: after the war of 1812, when the young nation tried – in vain – to stay an outsider to the Napoleonic Wars and had to fight Great Britain again. Creating a patriotic spirit in a nation may take a lot of time.
It is seldom – if not surrealistic so – that any day of recollection and celebration got such a boost as the ‘Fourth of July’ got on July 4 1826, in the early afternoon, just before one o ‘clock, when the main author of the American Declaration, Thomas Jefferson (Shadwell, Virginia April 13 1743) died on his estate at Monticello, the Nation’s 3rd President, and when its 2nd Head of State, John Adams (Braintree, Mass. October 30 1735) deceased a few hours later at Quincy. The last three words of the older of the two gentlemen have been reported: ‘Jefferson still survives..’; John Adams was wrong; but couldn’t know his mistake. (It should be remembered, that the United States of America elected their 1st President, George Washington, only thirteen years after July 4 1776.
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