7 Facts You Should Know About July 4

7 Facts You Should Know About July 4

Image: John Trumbull’s painting, The Signing of the Declaration of Independence, has been in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol since 1826.

What will President and Mrs. Trump do on July 4?

The White House, July 4, 2013.

The White House is adding a live concert on the South Lawn to its annual Fourth of July celebration. The 90-minute event is made possible by a partnership between the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation. It’ll feature performances by artists Sara Evans, pianist Lola Astanova, “American Idol” finalists Jax and Jonny Brenns, and the U.S. Marine, Navy and Air Force Bands. The Hallmark Channel will broadcast the show. It’s scheduled to air at the same time as PBS’ annual broadcast of a concert and fireworks from the National Mall.

President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, are also hosting a picnic for military families. The first lady says the concert will help Americans “tune in from their homes and be part of the festivities.”

Who actually drafted the Declaration of Independence?

On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed a “Committee of Five” to draft the Declaration of Independence for review by the Congress sitting as a Committee of the Whole. The Committee of Five consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. The Committee assigned the duty for writing a first draft to Jefferson.

In their respective memoirs, both Adams and Jefferson took credit for the writing of the draft that the Committee of the Whole began to consider on July 1, 1776.

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to dissolve ties to Great Britain by a vote of twelve delegations in favor and one abstention by the New York delegation because they had no authority to vote in favor of independence. The New York Legislature ultimately gave its delegation authority to vote in favor of independence on August 2, although the vote was declared retroactive to July 4 in order to commemorate that day as the date of independence of the American colonies from Great Britain.

During the deliberations of the Committee of Five, the Committee of the Whole, and the Second Continental Congress assembled, there were many principles taken from the writing of English philosopher John Locke’s Second Treatise On Government, although clearly the central tenet of the United States of America and ultimately the Constitution was always that all lawful power derives from the people and must be held in check to preserve their freedom.

During the deliberations of the Committee of Five, the Committee of the Whole, and the Second Continental Congress assembled, there were many principles taken from the writing of English philosopher John Locke’s Second Treatise On Government, although clearly the central tenet of the United States of America and ultimately the Constitution was always that all lawful power derives from the people and must be held in check to preserve their freedom.

In whose handwriting is the Declaration of Independence?

Timothy Matlack, the scribe of the Declaration of Independence.

While it is not entirely certain, historians believe Timothy Matlack, Clerk to Secretary of the Second Continental Congress Charles Thomson, was likely the scribe of the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Matlack, who was 40 in 1776, had spent most of his life in Philadelphia and was a political leader urging American Independence from British rule long before the formal Declaration. Matlack was a beer brewer who also was a master penman, hiring his services for preparation of legal documents such as title instruments and marriage certificates.

Matlack remained a leader in Pennsylvania until his death in 1826.

How the Declaration of Independence storage works

The Declaration of Independence sits in a case above the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the Rotunda at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence is stored in a titanium case with inert argon gas in order to prevent damage to the parchment and ink. The Declaration sits behind tinted bulletproof glass. The entire display, along with the engrossed original of the United States Constitution, actually sits on a gigantic elevator in the Rotunda in the National Archives. The elevator lowers to 50 feet below the floor into a “Charters Vault” designed to withstand a nuclear attack. The display lowers the full 50 feet in less than 10 seconds in an emergency, such as the September 11, 2001, attack. The National Archives lowers the display into the Charters Vault each night.

July 4 in history

Of course, July 4, 1776 was the date when the Second Continental Congress voted with 12 of the 13 colonies giving their approval to a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

Fifty years later, on July 4, 1826, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two of the primary draftsmen of the Declaration of Independence, died on the same day. Adams was the second President of the United States while Jefferson was the third. Both men were great intellects but were about as different in temperament and appearance as two men could be.

July 4, 1863, was a major turning point in the American Civil War. In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia suffered a major strategic defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg against the Union’s Army of the Potomac under the command of General George Meade. General James Longstreet, commander of Lee’s First Corps, had expressed grave reservations about spreading the reach of the Confederate forces and about the attack against the Union forces on Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was a major advocate of the “offensive-defense” in which a commander moves his forces into a strategically offensive position while awaiting the defender to attack those forces from a tactically-weak position.

Arguably, the greater Confederate defeat occurred when the fortress at Vicksburg fell on the Mississippi River on the same day. General Ulysses Grant’s maneuvers to attack Vicksburg from the east (or behind) reveal what a brilliant logistical commander the hard-drinking and heavy-smoking Grant actually was.

52 years of open government? Don’t think so

July 4, 1966, was an important date in the history of efforts to make the giant bureaucracies many people refer to as “the government” more transparent, as President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas signed the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. section 552, into law. “FOIA,” as many people now know it, became the model for many state governments such as Texas to adopt their own governmental transparency legislation late. Texas finally adopted transparency legislation in 1993 when the Legislature approved the Texas Open Meetings Act and the Texas Public Information/Open Records Act.

FOIA required federal agencies to make available for public inspection their opinions, statements of policy, interpretations, and staff manuals not otherwise published in the Federal Register. Additionally, Section 522(a)(3) of FOIA requires federal agencies to make available any records to a person who “reasonably describes such records.”

Both FOIA and Texas’ Open Records Act have actually broadened with time with the exception of the “homeland security” exemption, which came into existence after the September 11, 2001 attack that has limited public inspection of certain types of documents.

Musical film 1776

The musical film 1776 is actually a terrific introduction to American history, because it’s fun to watch and well done. Yes, the historical accuracy of the screenplay has suffered much fire over the decades since the movie, starring William Daniels and Howard Da Silva, came out in 1972.

The show does, however, introduce the viewer to many of the issues that faced the United States of America as the American colonies left the British Empire and during the pre-Civil War era. Anyone interested in politics or history looking for some relaxation would enjoy this movie.

 

Comments

comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login