Friday, July 04, 2008

Celebrating Independence Day -- Happy Fourth!

Dear OOTJ,
Happy Independence Day! As an officially Grumpy Old Librarian, I had considered publishing a diatribe about the many ways in which our wonderful country has gone off the tracks. However, after reading the Seymour Hersh essay in this week's New Yorker (read it here), describing the Bush Administration's maneuvering to set up an invasion of Iran, I was so mad and upset, that the GOL had to lie down and take a nap.

So, after a refreshing nap, it seemed rather churlish, not to speak of depressing, to focus on negatives on a day that should be a celebration. I do love our country, even when I am mad. I thought about how every time I read much history, it turns out that what looked like a better time in our history turns out to have been at least as corrupt, as party-politics, and as driven by self-interest and a cynical outlook. Even that's kind of cold comfort -- taking the long view, it turns out that there never was an idyllic past.

So, we'll just look at the bright side. I stopped by the wonderful Library of Congress This Day in History site. If you go, remember that it changes every day, so it'll look different tomorrow. The LOC has its own archive here, or you can check the Way Back Machine Internet Archive to see if they took a snapshot of the page for July 4, 2008.

The first celebration of July 4th was in 1777, and John Adams described the events in Philadelphia in a letter (text at Library of Congress here) according to Adams, the celebration was only thought of on July 2, and so there was not time for a sermon, "as every one wished." Wow, how times have changed! But in some respects, that first, rather spontaneous celebration would be quite familiar. All day, church bells were ringing. All the big ships in Philadelphia harbor were decked out in the colors of the many nations represented. The sailors ranged themselves across the yardarms and rigging. And at 1 PM, as Washington, Adams and members of the "Marine Committee" were taken up the river in a ship, all the ships fired 13 gun salutes. Crowds of people formed along the docks and streets, "huzzaing." And at dinner, music was provided by a band of Hessians captured in the Battle of Trenton. They had a parade of some soldiers and artillery that were passing through town on their way to camp. After dark, nearly every house had candles in the window, and bonfires made the night bright. They even "played off" some fireworks.

The picture is courtesy

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