The foundation of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans is the U.S. Constitution, the longest surviving constitution of any nation in history. To be civically unaware is to diminish our freedom, but knowing our history makes us all better Americans. Read our nation’s Founding documents and they will inspire you. – Former Congressman George Nethercutt Jr.
If you’re looking for an unconventional way to celebrate Independence Day this year, you could do a lot worse than to take Nethercutt’s advice and peruse the document that started it all – the Declaration of Independence. Or the Constitution. Or any of the Federalist Papers that formed the basis of that hallowed piece of parchment. There is a great wealth of wisdom in our founding documents, and you might be shocked to see how relevant the problems those great men wrestled with still are today.
It is incumbent on us as stewards of this great nation to know the truth about our own history. Not “truth,” in a partisan sense, but just…the facts. Not the conservative facts or the liberal facts, but just the facts, ma’am. And since a lot of those facts not only get marred by one political viewpoint or another but also by myth and legend and, well, just general nonsense, here are a few things you might not know about the very thing we’re celebrating on the 4th of July. At the least, it might make for some good trivia around the BBQ grill.
Independence was Declared on July 2, Not the 4th
The Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776, which is why we chose this date to celebrate our birth as a new nation. But the second Continental Congress actually voted to break free of British rule two days earlier, inspiring the Founding Fathers – including John Adams – to predict that generations of future Americans would celebrate that date as a “great anniversary festival.” He was right about the celebration, but wrong about the date.
Paul Revere was Not Alone
Every school kid knows about the midnight ride of Paul Revere (or, at least, they used to.) But what goes unmentioned in the legend is that Revere’s ride to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that British troops had arrived with an arrest warrant on April 18, 1775…was not a solo venture. Revere took one route to Lexington and William Dawes took another, splitting resources to make sure word got to Hancock and Adams even if the Brits caught up with one of them. By the next morning, some 40 men had joined the messaging cavalry. Revere was ultimately captured by British troops and then subsequently rescued by American militiamen at Concord, where the infamous “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired. The Revolution had begun.
The Philosophy of the Founders Dated Back Centuries
Politically, you can’t deny that the Founders were radical revolutionaries, willing to become the first nation in history to break roots with its mother nation. But as far as philosophy goes, the Founders were not as original as we sometimes assume. Their ideas about freedom dated back centuries (or longer). That’s not to downplay their glorious writings or their stunning achievements, but rather to demonstrate that while they were bold and (mostly) young, they were also wise and very well read. They knew their history, and they knew how to apply it in such a way that we still benefit from it 200+ years later.