John Adams was SO wrong about the Fourth of July? You just heard about it in 2021?

July 4, 2021

John Adams, by By John Trumbull, 1793. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
John Adams, by By John Trumbull, 1793. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . 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.”
John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

Surely John Adams knew that July 4 would be Independence Day, didn’t he?

In writing to his wife Abigail on July 3, John Adams committed one of those grand errors even he would laugh at afterward. We’ll forgive him when the fireworks start firing.

1776 filled the calendar with dates deserving of remembrance and even celebration. John Adams, delegate from Massachusetts to the Second Continental Congress, wrote home to his wife Abigail that future generations would celebrate July 2, the date the Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from Britain for 13 of the British colonies in America.

Continental congress DSC_0607
Scene of the crime — Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Second Continental congress approved the resolution to declare the colonies independent from Britain – (Photo credit: National Park Service)

Two days later, that same Congress approved the wording of the document Thomas Jefferson had drafted to announce Lee’s resolution to the world.

Today, we celebrate the date of the document Jefferson wrote, and Richard Henry Lee is often a reduced to a footnote, if not erased from history altogether.

Who can predict the future?

(You know, of course, that Adams and Jefferson both died 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1826. In the 50 intervening years, Adams and Jefferson were comrades in arms and diplomacy in Europe, officers of the new government in America, opposing candidates for the presidency, President and Vice President, ex-President and President, bitter enemies, then long-distance friends writing almost daily about how to make a great new nation. Read David McCullough‘s version of the story, if you can find it.)

(Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Another history issue that arose in conversations today — I thought everyone knew this.)

More, and Related articles:

The Lee Resolution.
The Lee Resolution, passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776 – Wikipedia image (Wait a minute: Are those numbers added correctly? What are they?)
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Flag etiquette for the 4th of July, 2021

July 4, 2021

Did you really need a reminder to fly your flag today? The elves and bookworms at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub were hoping to get a whole weekend off . . .

A few questions came my way this morning at a gathering. So, this post from 14 years ago seems appropriate.

Every kid should learn this stuff by third grade, but it’s clear from what we see that they don’t.

Flag flying in front of U.S. Capitol (East side) LOC photo

So here’s a quick review of dos and don’ts for display and behavior toward the U.S. flag on this most flag-worthy of days, the 4th of July. With a few comments.

1. Fly your flag, from sunup to sundown. If you’re lucky enough to have a flagpole, run the flag up quickly. Retire it slowly at sunset. Then go see fireworks.

2. Display flags appropriately, if not flown from a staff. If suspended from a building or a wall, remember the blue field of stars should always be on its right — the “northwest corner” as you look at it. Do not display a flag flat.

3. Salute the flag as it opens the 4th of July parade. In a better world, there would be just one U.S. flag at the opening of the parade, and the entire crowd would rise as it passes them in a great patriotic, emotional wave — civilians with their hands over their hearts, hats off; people in uniform saluting appropriately with hats on. It’s likely that your local parade will not be so crisp. Other entries in the parade will have flags, and many will be displayed inappropriately. A true patriot might rise and salute each one — but that would look silly, perhaps even sillier than those sunshine patriots who display the flag inappropriately. Send them a nice letter this year, correcting their behavior. But don’t be obnoxious about it.

4. Do not display the flag from a car antenna, attached to a window of a car, or attached in the back of a truck. That’s against the Flag Code, which says a flag can only be displayed attached to the right front fender of a car, usually with a special attachment. This means that a lot of the National Guard entries in local parades will be wrongly done, according to the flag code. They defend the flag, and we should not make pests of ourselves about it. Write them a letter commending their patriotism. Enclose the Flag Code, and ask them to stick to it next time. Innocent children are watching.

5. Do not dishonor the flag by abusing it or throwing it on the ground. It’s become popular for a local merchant to buy a lot of little plastic flags and pass them out to parade goers. If there is an advertisement on the flag, that is another violation of the Flag Code. The flag should not be used for such commercial purposes. I have, several times, found piles of these flags on the ground, dumped by tired people who were passing them out, or dumped by parade goers who didn’t want to carry the things home. It doesn’t matter if it’s printed on cheap plastic, and made in China — it is our nation’s flag anyway. Honor it. If it is worn, dispose of it soberly, solemnly, and properly.

That’s probably enough for today. When the Flag Desecration Amendment passes — if it ever does — those parade float makers, National Guard soldiers, and merchants, can all be jailed, perhaps. Or punished in other ways.

Until that time, our best hope is to review the rules, obey them, and set examples for others.

Have a wonderful 4th of July! Fly the flag. Read the Declaration of Independence out loud. Love your family, hug them, and feed them well. That’s part of the Pursuit of Happiness that this day honors. It is your right, your unalienable right. Use it wisely, often and well.


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