On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote a letter from Philadelphia to his wife, Abigail, back home in Massachusetts. It ended with this passage.
“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. It ought to be commemorated, as the 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.
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. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
He got the date wrong, choosing the date Congress passed the Lee resolution, proposed in early June by Richard Henry Lee, on instructions from his home state of Virginia,
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
Instead the country ended up celebrating the date, still a day in the future as he wrote, when Congress adopted its statement of the reasons for its resolution, its Declaration of Independence.
Adams was not a great president and, it seems to me, not a very nice man. But he had his moments.
The country he helped found is not, in spite of its frequent assumption to the contrary, the only country in the world. It is an outsized mixture of good and bad, of hope achieved and hope denied. The older I get, the odder it seems. But it is mine. And it too has its moments. Like the Fourth of July.
Happy and Glorious Fourth to you all. (Including even my Canadian friends)