Playing With Fire

WHAT LASTS a couple of seconds, ravishes the eye, and calms the soul? Americans have known since 1608.

A tugboat pushes us slowly past the waterfront of Fall River, Massachusetts. Lined up on the steel decks of two barges are twelve hundred mortars packed with explosive charges. Overhead, evening sunlight drapes white mountains of summer clouds. Read more »

Making Sense Of The Fourth Of July

The DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE is not what Thomas Jefferson thought it was when he wrote it—and that is why we celebrate it

 

John Adams thought Americans would commemorate their Independence Day on the second of July. Future generations, he confidently predicted, would remember July 2, 1776, as “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America” and celebrate it as their “Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

 
 
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The First Fourth

John Adams was certain the second of July would be celebrated “by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” Writing to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776, the day after the Continental Congress had voted momentously for independence from Great Britain, Adams said of July 2: Read more »

The Glorious Unsafe Fourth

It was a day when all the rules were off, and danger was part of the fun.

When laws against the use of fireworks became prevalent, there came an end to an American institution that once was firmly built into every boy’s life, making patriotism seem a joyous and understandable thing. Youngsters today do not even know the phrase, yet it was not so many years ago that a “Glorious Fourth” was as much a part of the calendar as a Happy New Year or a Merry Christmas.Read more »