In 2020 the Fourth of July will not feel like the joyous celebration it usually is.
With a pandemic decimating our world, many Americans will forgo celebrating in large groups. But what are we celebrating? A brief resume of the reasons for the celebration will help our understanding.
Anyone with internet access can go to Wikipedia to learn about the taxes placed on the American colonies by the British Parliament, and the complaints of the colonists. Unrest over these taxes led to rebellious actions by some colonists, followed by an increasing number of British troops being sent to the colonies. Ultimately, the colonists in Massachusetts Bay colony were storing arms and ammunition, which the British troops were determined to confiscate.
In April 1775 this led to the battles of Lexington and Concord, “the shot heard ‘round the world,” which began the war we know as the American Revolution. As the sentiments for war grew stronger, 12 of the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress in October 1775, to try to appeal to England for a redress of their grievances.
When that didn’t work, a Second Continental Congress met and ultimately agreed that separation from the “mother country” was the best solution. Thus, the Declaration of Independence was agreed to on July 4, 1776. It was celebrated with ringing bells and cannonades as the news made its way from Philadelphia to Massachusetts and New Hampshire on the north to Georgia on the south. The American Revolutionary War would continue for seven more years until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 and the last British troops left New York in October of that year.
The independence of the former British colonies in the new world was a grand experiment in self-governing with an elected head of state, elected legislative bodies and an independent judiciary, which together form a system of checks and balances. This system has stood for 244 years. It isn’t a perfect system, but the founding fathers made provisions for adjustments to it as our understanding of the rights of the individual and the responsibilities of the government change.
We celebrate because we have those inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.
We celebrate because the first constitution of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, did not truly form a united country. Our forefathers wrote the Constitution of the United States, which gave us “a more perfect union,” providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare and ensuring the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
We celebrate because, when the system fails a part of our population, we can challenge and change that part of the system.
Most of all, I celebrate July 4th even through all the tribulations of 2020, because I believe that we will get through them as a country. A COVID-19 vaccination will be found. And the tragedies of racist behavior will bring forth meaningful dialogue and changes in our attitudes, which will bring about changes to our laws, so that we will begin to live up to the promise of Liberty and Justice for all.
Frances Stachour is the president of the Bloomington Historical Society. She has 17 ancestors who have been proven to be patriots of the American Revolution.