Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 4, 2014

For the red, white, and blue


Vic Fleming

Let’s start this column with holiday quiz:

1. Who immortalized Paul Revere’s “midnight ride” and how?

2. Which body of water did Washington and his men cross on Christmas 1776?

3. According to legend, who sewed the first American flag?

4. Who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner”?

5. Which European countries fought for the colonies and which did not?

6. What was thrown into Boston Harbor in 1773 and why?

7. Who was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence?

8. Which state whose name starts with V was not one of the original 13 colonies?

9. How did John Adams explain to Abigail the colonies’ defeat at Long Island?

10. What was the approximate population of the 13 colonies on July 4, 1776?


On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, that the “second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable … in the history of America.” He went on to predict that July 2 would “be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival, … as the day of deliverance. … It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations ….”

So, how’d he miss it by two days? Why is July 4 our day of days? Because that’s what’s in the official paperwork. It’s the date that is written on the Declaration of Independence, a document written two days (or maybe even only one day) after Congress, in closed session, approved “the resolution of independence.” Moreover, most historians seem to agree that the Declaration itself was actually signed on August  2, almost a month after the date that seems to be commonly believed.

That may or may not detract from the irony involved with the deaths, 50 years later, of two of the signers. Former Presidents Adams and Jefferson died hours apart on July 4, 1826. Another Founding Father, former President James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831. 

According to Wikipedia, on July 4, 1777, in Bristol, Rhode Island, 13 gunshots were fired as a salute. On the same day in Philadelphia, an official dinner for the Continental Congress was held, with toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.

And it just kind of grew from there. In 1870, Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees. In 1938, it became a paid federal holiday.

Happy Independence Day!


Quiz answers: 

1. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in a poem

2. The Delaware River 

3. Betsy Ross

4. Francis Scott Key

5. Spain, France, and the Netherlands fought for the colonies. Germany fought for England.

6. Tea, as a tax protest

7. Jefferson

8. Vermont

9. “In general, our Generals were outgeneraled” (letter of Oct. 8, 1776)

10. 2.5 million

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.