The Fourth of July Has Nothing to Do with the Military
Laurence M. Vance
The Fourth of July is supposed to be celebrated as Independence Day—the day when the thirteen American colonies officially dissolved the political bands that connected them with Great Britain. As the Declaration of Independence concludes:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
According to the National Archives:
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution “that these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states.” They appointed a Committee of Five to write an announcement explaining the reasons for independence. Thomas Jefferson, who chaired the committee and had established himself as a bold and talented political writer, wrote the first draft.
On July 2, 1776, Congress voted to declare independence. Two days later, it ratified the text of the Declaration. John Dunlap, official printer to Congress, worked through the night to set the Declaration in type and print approximately 200 copies. These copies, known as the Dunlap Broadsides, were sent to various committees, assemblies, and commanders of the Continental troops. The Dunlap Broadsides weren’t signed, but John Hancock’s name appears in large type at the bottom. One copy crossed the Atlantic, reaching King George III months later. The official British response scolded the “misguided Americans” and “their extravagant and inadmissable Claim of Independency”.
On July 19, once all 13 colonies had signified their approval of the Declaration of Independence, Congress ordered that it be “fairly engrossed on parchment.”
On August 2, the journal of the Continental Congress records that “The declaration of independence being engrossed and compared at the table was signed.” John Hancock, President of the Congress, signed first. The delegates then signed by state from north to south.
Future president John Adams wrote to his wife on July 3 about celebrating the nation’s independence:
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.
Adams could never have imagined what Independence Day would become: a day to honor, reverence, and worship the almighty U.S. military.
Just as Memorial Day is Military Appreciation Day No. 1, Veterans Day is Military Appreciation Day No. 3, so Independence Day is Military Appreciation Day No. 2.
Everything about the Fourth of July has been tainted by the U.S. military. On this day, there are parades to honor the military, “salute to the military” celebrations, musical “all-star salutes” to the troops, special military discounts, free meals at restaurants to veterans and active-duty military personnel, articles, blog posts, and speeches insisting that the military defends our freedoms, calls to support the troops, expressions of compassion for soldiers stationed overseas, signs outside of businesses announcing their support for the troops, and pleas to thank veterans and active-duty military personnel for their service.
Even churches get in on the action. On the Sunday before Independence Day, some churches have patriotic services in which they have veterans and active-duty military personnel wear their uniforms to church, recognize veterans and active-duty military personnel during the church service, print the names of veterans and active-duty military personnel in the church bulletin, ask God to bless the troops, pray for the troops to be kept out of harm’s way, show video tributes to the troops during the church services, applaud veterans and active-duty military personnel during the church services, have a military chaplain deliver the sermon, have the pianist play the song of each branch of the military during the offering, have a military color guard parade down the main aisle of the church to open the service, and post on their church signs blasphemous statements about U.S. troops dying for our freedoms like Christ died for our sins.
Yet, in spite of all of this military idolatry, the Fourth of July has nothing to do with the military. It is a day that should celebrate independence, separation, withdrawal, secession, liberty, and freedom—not shooting, bombing, launching drone strikes, maiming, killing, occupying countries, and making widows and orphans for the state.
Patriotism is now equated with profound admiration for the military. It doesn’t matter what where the troops go, how long they stay, what they do when they are there, whether they should go, why they go, or how much it costs to keep them there. Americans love their military no matter what. Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day have something to do with the military, but the Fourth of July has nothing to do with the military.
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from central Florida. He is the author of The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom; War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism; War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy; King James, His Bible, and Its Translators, and many other books. His newest books are Free Trade or Protectionism? and The Free Society.