Patriotic song’s surprising inspiration

Most people in the United States celebrate the 4th of July, but do you know exactly why the holiday is so important to our country? Imagine how you would feel if someone older than you (maybe an older sister or brother) kept telling you what to do all of the time and kept taking more and more of your allowance. That is how the colonists felt in the years leading up to 1776. Great Britain kept trying to make the colonists follow more rules and pay higher taxes. People started getting mad and began making plans to be able to make their own rules. They no longer wanted Great Britain to be able to tell them what to do, so they decided to tell Great Britain that they were becoming an independent country. (To be independent means to take care of yourself, making your own rules and providing for your own needs.)

The Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and they appointed a committee (a group of people working together to do a specific job) to write a formal document that would tell Great Britain that the Americans had decided to govern themselves. The committee asked Thomas Jefferson to write a draft (first try) of the document, so he worked for days, in absolute secret, until he had written a document that he thought said everything important that the committee had discussed. On June 28, 1776, the committee met to read Jefferson’s “fair” copy (he put his best ideas together and wrote them neatly.) They revised (made some changes) the document and declared their independence on July 2, 1776. They officially adopted it (made it theirs) on July 4, 1776. That is why we call it “Independence Day.” Congress ordered that all members must sign the Declaration of Independence and they all began signing the “official” copy on August 2, 1776. In January of the next year, Congress sent signed copies to all of the states.

The Declaration of Independence is more than just a piece of paper. It is a symbol of our country’s independence and commitment to certain ideas. A symbol is something that stands for something else. Most people can look at a certain little “swoosh” and know that it stands for “Nike.” Well, the signers of the Declaration of Independence wanted the citizens of the United States to have a document that spelled out what was important to our leaders and citizens. They wanted us to be able to look at the Declaration of Independence and immediately think of the goals we should always be working for, and about the people who have fought so hard to make these ideas possible. The people who signed the Declaration risked being hanged for treason by the leaders in Great Britain. They had to be very brave to sign something that would be considered a crime! So every time we look at the Declaration of Independence, we should think about all of the effort and ideas that went into the document, and about the courage it took for these people to stand up for what they knew was right — independence!

“The Star Spangled Banner”

The Defense of Fort McHenry
by Francis Scott Key
20 September 1814

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:

‘Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Posted in 2012, Holidays.

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