The Second or the Fourth?

Published 9:55 pm Friday, June 30, 2017

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day on Tuesday, a few facts and quotes, beginning with one note that has nearly been lost to history:

  • Perhaps Independence Day should actually be celebrated on July 2. That’s the day, according to the National Archives, when the Continental Congress voted for independence. The Declaration of Independence was dated two days later, July 4, 1776, but it was not actually signed until Aug. 2 that year, although some of the 56 delegates who eventually signed the document were not present for that meeting.
  • In fact, John Adams, in a July 3, 1776, letter to his wife, Abigail, indicated that he thought July 2 would long be a big day in America. “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…. with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.”
  • John Hancock signed the Declaration first — and, memorably — largest and in the middle, because he was president of the Congress. The other delegates signed by state delegation, starting in the upper right corner below the text and continuing in five other columns. Thomas McKean of Delaware is believed to have signed last, according to the National Archives.
  • Recognizing the great national pastime of fireworks on the Fourth of July, William H. Rideing wrote the following in “Fire-Crackers and the Fourth of July” in 1874: “A good many elderly people are afflicted with dreadful head-aches on the Fourth of July; but I suspect they don’t mind it very much, for in every puff of blue smoke that wreathes itself under their noses, they see a boy’s or a girl’s happy face.”
  • In a nod to another great Independence Day tradition, Erma Bombeck wrote: “You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”

You can get a full load of patriotism in Suffolk on Tuesday.

The annual Eclipse Fourth of July celebration includes a bake sale at Ebenezer United Methodist Church beginning at 9 a.m., a parade at 10:15 a.m., free games and bounce houses beginning at noon, a raft race at 3 p.m., music at 6:30 p.m. and fireworks at 9 p.m.

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The city’s official Fourth of July Extravaganza takes place beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Constant’s Wharf Park, where there will be a children’s area with games, crafts and inflatables; cornhole; vendors with food and merchandise; music by the band Hotcakes; and, starting at 9 p.m., an extended fireworks show that will include the fireworks last year’s rain caused to be canceled.

Parking is available at First Baptist Church parking lot, 237 N. Main St.; City Hall, 440 Market St.; and Mills E. Godwin Courts Complex, 150 N. Main St. A shuttle will run from 5:15 to 8:20 p.m. and resume after the fireworks.

Get out and enjoy the Fourth. John Adams would be proud, even if he got the date wrong.