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Independence Day: A Miracle In Any Era

July, 4, 2011

Independence Day – A Miracle In Any Era

BOB RICHTER, mysanantonio.com

signing-the-declaration-of-independence

On July 3, 1776, excited and fulfilled as a man can be after putting his life on the line for a cause, future president and current revolutionary John Adams, in a prophetic letter to his wife, Abigail, wrote:

“Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was nor will be decided among men …

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding Generations, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. 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 …”

The note wasn’t particularly eloquent and Adams capitalized way too many words, but he nailed the rest, except for the date. As it evolved, Americans celebrate July 4, the date the Declaration of Independence was formally approved by the Continental Congress, not July 2, when the Founders voted to depart the British Empire.

I’ve wondered in earlier Fourth of July columns if what happened in July 1776 could happen today, given: 1) the demands of mass media to get the news, 24/7; 2) the influence of special interests on politicians and; 3) the feckless partisanship in government. View the events of 1776 through a 2011 prism:

Would Thomas Jefferson’s enemies allow him to be the star, to draft the declaration by himself? Or would they be tweeting and leaking to reporters and gadflies the dirt from inside Independence Hall?

As it was, there was little media coverage (and media). Jefferson’s authorship wasn’t acknowledged publicly until 1784 when the Boston Continental Journal reported it.

Would merchants, tobacco kings and wealthy British loyalists buy opposition to the independence fever, suggesting that maybe you fellas should just slow down; this could be a disaster for the economy.

Would Jefferson and his allies, confronted by such opposition, have walked out and declared a standoff? Would the jealousies and differences have rendered the delegates unable to do something as bodacious as declare independence?

I don’t think a Declaration of Independence would pass today. It would take a miracle akin to Jesus feeding thousands with two fish and five loaves of bread for it to work in 2011.

In fact, it was pretty miraculous in 1776, to declare independence and to actually win a war against the world’s most powerful military. Our Founders were special people, but a little wild and crazy, too. They took a huge chance but created a new kind of nation, a role model for the world, not perfect but, to paraphrase Churchill, better than the alternatives.

Risky? Here’s a conversation, overheard during the signing of the declaration, between delegates Benjamin Harrison, who was obese, and the slightly built Elbridge Gerry, as recorded by delegate Benjamin Rush.

“I shall have a great advantage over you,” Harrison said to Gerry, “when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes, but from the lightness of your body, you will dance in the air for an hour or two before you are dead.”

Yes, crazy. And speaking of miracles, did you know that Jefferson and Adams died on the same day, just hours apart? On July 4, 1826. You can’t make up stuff like that… HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

 

Bob Richter is the Express-News public editor. His opinions are his own. Contact him at 210-250-3264 or brichter@express-news.net.

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1 Comment for “Independence Day: A Miracle In Any Era”

  1. I love it when folks get together and share thoughts. Great website, stick with it!|

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