Jim Lee: Guest Columnist
Happy Fourth of July or, more accurately, happy Independence Day.
This is one of only two holidays that come to mind commonly called the date it occurs rather than the event it commemorates. The other is, of course, Cinco de Mayo.
How often do any of us refer to Independence Day? It’s always something like, “Have a good Fourth of July,” or “Don’t forget to buy a fifth on the third for the Fourth.”
Maybe we call it by the date because it’s our country’s birthday, and birthdays are always remembered by the date. For a long time, though, this was not considered our beginning as a nation.
March 5 has been considered by many to be our national birthday, and the Fourth of July was not a legal holiday until the 165th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress as the document that officially claimed independence from Great Britain. The Revolutionary War had been going on quite a while by that time, but it was a fight for rights as Englishmen, not a fight for separation.
July 4 was not the date those 56 brave men signed the document, knowing they were committing treason against the Crown. Nor was it the date the document was written. Thomas Jefferson (with the help of other committee members) wrote it June 11-28. Not all the signatures were on it until August. The document was publicly proclaimed on July 8, 1776, in Philadelphia.
The first elaborate celebration of the event occurred on July 4, 1788, following ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America.
For 13 years following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Boston commemorated Independence Day on March 5. Why, you ask? Well, here’s an answer:
In Boston, Independence Day honored those who fell in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. It was hardly a massacre with five people dying of their wounds, but it was a rallying point for the fed-up colonists.
A protest of the Townshend Acts (indirect British taxes) turned violent. The Boston confrontation of 1770 can be called the start of the American Revolution.
Celebrating American Independence on March 5 may not be so far-fetched after all. Would we have July 4, 1776, without March 5, 1770?
Let’s proudly display our flags today, but how about an encore on the Fifth of March?
Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio in Portales. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: