Fourth of July a celebration of our freedom

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 1, 2001

Bands will play; firecrackers, pop. Dads will fire up grills; grannies, make apple pies. The glorious Fourth of July will bring forth red, white and blue and stars and stripes, from flags to paper plates, a rousing patriotic palette.

Independence Day in many ways has retained the celebratory atmosphere that our forefathers wished for it, unlike many other national holidays that have lost luster or meaning through the years.

The Fourth is fun. It’s about freedom. It’s about fortunate people who reap the benefit of a fertile land spreading from sea to shining sea. It’s about the founding of a nation based on ideals that cause every generation of Americans pain as they struggle with the promise that the dream belongs to all.

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&uot;We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.&uot;

A boisterous Fourth is what the sometimes stodgy Massachusetts patriot John Adams envisioned for the celebration of Independence Day. Adams, a signer of the Declaration and the second president of the United States, in 1776 called for &uot;pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forevermore.&uot;

Adams and his successor in the presidency, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, the author and also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, left a Fourth of July legacy of enormous proportions, fitting certainly for the two giants they were in the nation’s history.

The two men, not always allies in their active political years, became warm friends through a fascinating correspondence during the last years of their lives.

In 1826, political leaders planned a grand celebration of the 50th anniversary of Independence Day. All living signers of the Declaration would be invited to the Jubilee. Several were alive in addition to Adams and Jefferson. None was able to attend.

Asked ahead of time to contribute a toast, Adams said, &uot;I will give you, independence forever!&uot; Asked whether he wanted to elaborate, he answered, &uot;Not a word.&uot;

Jefferson, for his part, spent hours writing an eloquent reply to the 1826 invitation and in so doing created one of the most beautiful documents of his career, including these words: &uot;the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.&uot;

Time was running out for the two old patriots. Weak in body, they were serene and sure of mind. They could not have planned a more poignant mark in the history of their country, as they breathed their last breaths on that extraordinary July 4, 1826. The deaths on the same day of the revered Adams and Jefferson, on that special Jubilee of an event to which they were not only witness but instrumental, had an extraordinary effect on the 12 million Americans alive then.

The 2001 celebration on Wednesday will mark 225 years since the signing of the Declaration. It should be a fun-filled, flag-flying day. Some pomp would be fine, as would a toast to Adams, to Jefferson and to freedom.

Joan Gandy is special projects director of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3549 or by e-mail to