The oldest celebration of the U.S. Independence Day, hence the celebration of the 13 American colonies’ approval of the Declaration of Independence from the British Crown, is the Bristol Fourth of July Parade. Also known as the Military, Civic and Fireman’s Parade, the celebration in Bristol, Rhode Island, has an impressive age, being first attested in 1785 and taking place uninterruptedly until today. The celebrations in Bristol are not limited to July 4th, but also include a series of events that span a period of three weeks, starting on June 14th each year (Flag Day) and culminating with the traditional parade of military men, firemen and the civilian population, which attracts 2-300,000 visitors each year. While this celebration is historically the oldest, today Independence Day is celebrated with pomp throughout the Unites States, as well as anywhere in the world where there are communities of Americans and sympathisers/followers of the ideas included in the important historical document that informed the world, in 1776, about the emergence of a new independent state.
The mention of the oldest celebration of the U.S. Declaration of Independence encourages us to offer a brief review of this event that marked universal history. Traditionally, July 4th has remained for posterity the day of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, even though its approval within the Continental Congress that brought together the representatives of the 13 American colonies took place two days earlier, on July 2nd. John Adams, one of the “founding fathers” of the U.S., wrote to his wife, on 3 July 1776, the day after the famous Declaration of Independence was voted, recounting in detail that had this historical document been approved earlier, it would have had a major impact on historical developments: “Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven Months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious Effects . . . We might before this Hour, have formed Alliances with foreign States. — We should have mastered Quebec and been in Possession of Canada …. You will perhaps wonder, how such a Declaration would have influenced our Affairs/…/.” Adams goes on to describe the historical advantages that the approval of the Declaration the day before brings, and concludes thus: “But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it. — The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken
People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished. — Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act. — This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.” In fact, historical research in the dossier of this important document convincingly shows that some states (colonies) or some of their representatives applied their signatures after July 4th too, in line with some developments that had their purpose and meaning (the consent of the congresses of some states or even the changing of their makeup forming new majorities of adherence to the Declaration).
The generous ideas included in the U.S. Declaration of Independence at the same time reflect the spirit of the time – it’s the age preceding the French Revolution of 1789, in a “century of lights” that put an end to the historical Middle Ages and opened the road to the generous affirmation of the equality of people, of fraternity and liberty – and the American states’ aspiration to be full masters of their own fate, to promote republicanism at the rank of doctrine for state organisation and to promote the values loudly expressed throughout the world. The U.S. independence of 1776 is basically the first event that consecrates, in the “century of lights” that developed in Europe and across the Atlantic, the entry into the new historical era in which the values of individual freedom, republicanism and liberalism are loudly expressed and the will to defend them at any cost is loudly assumed. The message of those days is valid today too, and, in the current “Pax Americana” era systemically affirmed for decades, it represents tonic encouragement and support wherever ignorance and the lack of freedom develop under the protection of tyranny and arbitrariness. The Declaration represents, in itself, the civic right and duty to build, anywhere in the world, “a City upon the Hill,” as the U.S. founding fathers managed to do in 1776.
Some of the ideas that dot this declaration deserve being read in order to understand the visionarism and the suitability with the perennial aspirations of human nature that the founding fathers demonstrated:
“in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,”
“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. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
“whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”
“when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security”
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, /…/, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies /…/as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
“Have a Happy Fourth of July!”