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Independence Day

The Independence Day holiday is upon us as we celebrate 237 years as a free nation.

This is one holiday that has truly been celebrated every year since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first anniversary of the signing, 1777, thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once at morning and once again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island. But it was the city of Philadelphia that had the type of fanfare that has become iconic of the holiday. There was an official dinner for the Continental Congress, but also toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decorated with red, white, and blue fabric in the harbor.

American Colonists intimately understood the difficulty of separating from British control. In many ways, the Americans of the era philosophically agreed with British culture and ideology. A large percentage had family members in England. The turning point happened when the Parliament of Great Britain imposed taxes with the Stamp Act of 1765. According to British law, it was illegal to tax British subjects without representation, and the Colonists took a stand and formed the Continental Congress.

The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from September 5 to October 26, 1774. It comprised fifty-six delegates from twelve of the Thirteen Colonies that would become the United States of America (Georgia abstained because it needed British military protection at the time).

By the time the Second Continental Congress met on May 10, 1775 in Philadelphia, the American Revolutionary War was already underway. The Battles of Lexington and Concord had begun in April that year, at the same time the delegates were making their way to Philadelphia.

The Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that declared the United States independent from Great Britain. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision. While the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, the Declaration was finally approved July 4, 1776, after debate and revisions.

Representation and democratic processes are worth fighting for today as they were during the American Revolution. The seven Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity and personal courage were embodied by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the members of the Continental Congress, and by those who took up arms to fight for what would become the United States of America.

At a time when the colonies were not even a nation and lacked a unified army, those fighting proved their loyalty to the idea of a constitutional republic, to each other, and the new nation.

Those Revolutionary Soldiers learned by example the importance of respect when GEN George Washington fulfilled the obligation of taking care of the troops and leading honorably. As president, he served two terms, and fulfilled the duties of a civilian leader with integrity.

Selfless service and personal courage might be the most poignant values that the Revolutionary Soldiers and leaders possessed. They were willing to fight and die for what was not yet even a nation, all the while knowing that if they did not die in battle, they would be tried for treason if defeated by the British.

Our own backyard experienced Revolutionary history firsthand. In the American Revolution, the Marquis de La Fayette, known mainly as Lafayette, served as a Major General in the Continental Army under George Washington. For his contributions to the American Revolution, many cities and monuments throughout the United States bear his name. He fought valiantly in many engagements, including the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, as well as visited the small hamlet known as Harmer’s Town in Northeastern Maryland. He commented that the area reminded him of the French seaport of Le Havre, which had originally been named Le Havre-de-Grâce. Inspired by Lafayette’s comments, the residents incorporated the town as Havre de Grace in 1785.

While you enjoy time off and gather with family and friends, remember the true meaning of this holiday – the wonderful quality of life and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

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