Natty Shafer Law

Utah lawyer for criminal and immigration cases


The Date of Independence Day

Lee's Resolution, which declared, "these United Colonies are... free and independent States...."

Lee’s Resolution, which declared, “these United Colonies are… free and independent States….”
(click to enlarge)

Tomorrow is Independence Day, and Utah, like every other state, will participate. However, the fourth day of July, in terms of American Independence, is not particularly important. The Continental Congress declared independence on July 2, 1776 when it finally voted on and passed the Lee Resolution. Contemporary newspapers immediately reported the news, making the delivery of a written declaration a mere formality, which did not even happen until November 1776.

Indeed, John Adams thought July 2 was the day that would be celebrated. In a letter dated “Philadelphia July 3d. 1776,” Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail:

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. 

To his credit, Adams more or less foretold how we would celebrate Independence Day, but he selected the wrong date. So why do we celebrate July 4? The date of July 4 is the day the draft of the Declaration of Independence was approved. Thomas Jefferson was such an elegant and moving writer that the Declaration of Independence, instead of being a mere legal formality, turned out to be one of the most important political documents ever. When the date July 4, 1776 was affixed to the top and copies circulated throughout the colonies, July 4 became the date the public remembered. In 1870, when Congress first declared several days as national holidays, it selected July 4 as the day for Independence Day.

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The Official Name of Presidents’ Day

Or is it President’s Day or maybe Presidents Day? As Hendrik Hertzberg explained a few years ago, it’s none of the above:

Ever since 1968, when, in one of the last gasps of Great Society reformism, holidays were rejiggered to create more three-day weekends, federal law has decreed the third Monday in February to be Washington’s Birthday….Just to add to the Presidential confusion, Washington’s Birthday is not Washington’s birthday. George Washington was born either on February 11, 1731 (according to the old-style Julian calendar, still in use at the time), or on February 22, 1732 (according to the Gregorian calendar, adopted in 1752 throughout the British Empire). Under no circumstances, therefore, can Washington’s birthday fall on Washington’s Birthday, a.k.a. Presidents Day, which, being the third Monday of the month, can occur only between the 15th and the 21st. Lincoln’s birthday, February 12th, doesn’t make it through the Presidents Day window, either.

So I hope you enjoyed Washington’s Birthday (Observed).

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Off Topic: Super Bowl Still Using Roman Numerals

Sunday is Super Bowl 46, but the NFL insists on calling it “Super Bowl XLVI.” What’s up with that? I’m sure this was very avant-garde back in 1969, the year of Super Bowl 3, which was the first time the NFL called it the “Super Bowl.” Super Bowls 1 & 2 were contemporaneously called the “AFL–NFL World Championship Game” and retroactively renamed.

Anyway, it’s no longer cute, NFL, and I refuse to play along. Everyone else should give it a try. It’s liberating.