The Fourth of July explodes with symbolism.
Stars and bars. Fireworks like bombs bursting in air. Parades and pie to celebrate of our country’s birthday.
But that birthday could have been a different day entirely but for the symbols, or hallmarks of our government at work.
We tend to focus on big, sweeping, hat-over-your-heart patriotic feelings today, but we also see beauty in the quirks and consistency of our government, independent of most celebrations.
Our country’s government “officially” started 243 years ago much in the way it continues.
Slightly slow on the uptake, the government took up the war with Britain almost a year after the conflict started.
Independence — an ideal once thought of as radical — ignited skirmishes and slowly spread through the populace.
On June 7, the Continental Congress, made up representatives from the 13 colonies, met.
Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution that called for independence, if in a slightly bureaucratic way:
“Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
June 7, 1776 could have been our birthday. But no.
The resolution sparked heated debate. On June 11, Congress opted to delay the vote, seven colonies to five. (New York abstained)
A committee was formed to draft a formal resolution. Thomas Jefferson was tasked.
Weeks later, Congress reconvened on July 1.
On July 2 the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies (New York marching to the beat of its own snare, again, later to adopt the move).
July 2, too, could have been our birthday.
Founding Father John Adams always thought it should have been Independence Day on July 2 and celebrated it as such.
Jefferson made a few more revisions to the document. Adams and Benjamin Franklin had made some edits.
The Declaration of Independence was “officially” passed on July 4 — our birthday.
A few more bureaucratic points to ponder:
New York didn’t give its support until July 9 because its delegates hadn’t been authorized yet.
Two weeks had to pass for the Declaration to be “engrossed” — written on parchment in a clear hand.
And if the Declaration of Independence is our birthday card, it wasn’t fully signed until August 2 (even then, several signatories signed later than that, or not at all) John Hancock bucked the tidy trend and signed his name “with a great flourish” so England’s “King George can read that without spectacles!”
But therein lies the beauty of our representative democracy. Solving problems in a group of independent thinkers aka democracy can be a slow, exhausting plod. But it’s worth it. God bless America.