As we prepared our yearly issue celebrating Fourth of July, I couldn’t help but wonder how much festivities have changed since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Turns out, not a lot. We Americans still like our pomp, parades and pies, as did the Founding Fathers.
“The traditions of shared meals, patriotic decorations, and explosive fireworks have existed from the very beginning,” according to Taylor Research Group. “Even George Washington participated in traditions we still see today, when he issued extra rations of rum to his soldiers, ordered a celebratory cannonade, and hosted a gala dinner during the Continental Army’s own 1778 celebration in camp.”
It’s interesting to note not all Founding Fathers thought July 4 was the appropriate date to celebrate the nation’s independence. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of declaring independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence officially was adopted two days later, marked by the ringing of the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
At the time, John Adams predicted July 2, not July 4, would be the date remembered by history.
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail. “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.”
Adams for the rest of his life refused to celebrate Independence Day on July 4. He even turned down invitations to festivals and events commemorating America’s birthday, according to historians. Still, his predictions about celebrations were accurate.
And though apple pie is the all-American dessert, we couldn’t resist featuring a cherry pie on the cover in homage to the famous myth about Washington, as a child, chopping down his father’s cherry tree.
According to the myth, ironically invented by one of Washington’s biographers, the nation’s first president was 6 years old when he received a hatchet as a gift and damaged his father’s cherry tree. His father discovered what he had done, became angry and confronted the young Washington, who said “I cannot tell a lie … I did cut it with my hatchet.”
Washington’s father embraced him and rejoiced that his son’s honesty was worth more than a thousand trees, or so the legend goes.
It’s a nice story, but didn’t actually happen, according to the National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. Still, there’s some truth about the president’s penchant for cherries and his lifelong enjoyment of the classic pie made with the fruit. And that’s worth celebrating.
This year, Coast Monthly celebrates our nation’s roots. Coast Monthly writer Martha Justice sets the table for a celebration harking back to colonial times. And in this issue, you’ll meet members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution and learn what motivates them to serve their communities and nation.
However you celebrate Fourth of July, we wish you a safe and happy holiday.