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.
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 sai