What better way to celebrate the fourth than revealing the truth of some common American independence myths:
1.) Independence Was Declared on the Fourth of July.
Wrong! Independence was declared by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. This is the day according to a letter written by John Adams to his wife Abigail that "will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival." So, why do we celebrate the fourth?
First of all, the Declaration of Independence was adopted on the fourth which is indicated on the document itself. It is believed that is where some of the confusion lies. Basically, the day the document was announced has overshadowed the event itself. Americans first celebrated independence on July 8th with a big party including a parade and firing of guns in Philadelphia.
Secondly, to add to the confusion, a scholar in the nineteenth century came across the letter mentioned above and quietly "corrected" it. So, Adams festival prediction would take place on the fourth instead of the second.
2.) The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4.
A canvas painting by John Trumbull hangs in the grand Rotunda of the Capitol of the United States. It depicts the signing of the Declaration ceremony which supposedly took place on July 4th. Too bad it never happened.
The actual event wasn't all that spectacular. Most delegates signed the document on August 2nd, the same day a clean copy was finally produced by the assistant to the secretary of Congress Timothy Matlack. Several signed later. Their names weren't released to the public until around January 1777. The truth about the signing was discovered in 1884 by historian Mellon Chamberlain.
3.) The Liberty Bell Rang in American Independence.
The story goes that a young boy with blond hair and blue eyes was supposedly posted in the street next to Independence Hall to give a signal to an old man in the bell tower when independence was declared. This scene never happened either. The story was made up by nineteenth century writer George Lippard for a book intended for children called Legends of the American Revolution.
The bell wasn't even named in honor of American independence. It received the moniker in the early nineteenth century when abolitionists used it as a symbol of the antislavery movement. As for the famous crack … it was a badly designed bell and it cracked. End of story.
4.) Betsy Ross Sewed the First Flag.
The house where Betsy Ross supposedly lived may not have been hers. In 1949, the Joint State Government Commission of Pennsylvania concluded in a study that there is no proof she even lived there. If that's not true then what else have we been lied to about?
The story of Betsy Ross sewing our first famous symbol of freedom isn't authentic either. It was made up by her descendants in the nineteenth century. She was just a simple unheralded seamstress.
So, who actually sewed the flag? No one knows. However, we do know who designed it. Records show that in May 1780 Frances Hopkinson sent a bill to the Board of Admiralty for designing the "flag of the United States." While with the hype of the Betsy Ross story he may not get much credit, a small group of his descendants work hard to keep his name alive.
Although the flag we know today was designed by a Ohio high school student in 1958 for a class project. There had been no changes to the flag since 1912 and Robert Heft believed Hawaii and Alaska would soon become official states. His teacher wasn't impressed and gave him a B- but later agreed to bump it up to an A if he could convince Congress to adopt the design. He took on the challenge and a year later Heft asked his congressman, Rep. Walter Moeller, to take the flag to Washington after Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union. Early in 1960, Heft received a call from President Dwight Eisenhower who told him his flag design had been chosen from more than 1,500 entries. Heft was in D.C. on July 4th for the adoption ceremony of his flag. Today, that flag design turns 50 (and yes Robert Heft did get that A)!
5.) John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Died on the Fourth of July.
This one is actually true. Adams and Jefferson within hours of each other both died on July 4, 1826, exactly fifty years after the adoption of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. While this is accurate, there is no proof that Adams dying words were "Jefferson survives." Jefferson actually died hours prior to Adams. So, if he did say it, his final statement would have been false. Also, James Monroe died on July 4, 1831.
6.) July 4, 1776, Party Cracked the Liberty Bell
They may have had cause to celebrate but these patriots didn't ring the Liberty Bell until it cracked on July 4, 1776. The bell itself was poorly made and cracked shorty after its arrival in 1752. Since then, it has been recast and recracked on more than one occasion. The infamous crack it possesses today happened sometime in the 19th Century, an exact date has yet to be agreed upon. The Liberty Bell received it's beautiful name from the abolitionists.
7.) The Declaration of Independence Holds Secret Messages
As much as some love a conspiracy theory, it seems the film National Treasure is pure fiction. Unless it's one of the best kept secrets in our lovely country, there is no map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Same goes for secret messages. None to be found. However, there is something written on the back of the document: "Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776." Why? It acted like an identifier when the document was rolled up for travel and storage.
8.) America United Against the British
A film about the Revolutionary War may gotten a thing or two right. During this pivotal moment in history Americans were pitted against one another. About 15 to 20 percent of all Americans were loyal to the crown. An estimated 50,000 served as British soldiers or militia. Adam Baldwin played such an American in the film The Patriot. They were forced to fight against around 100,000 soldiers in the Continental Army while others tried to stay out of the fight altogether. They must have had their share of awkward moments.
Now that you know the truth behind some of the lies we've been told over the years, have a safe and joyous 4th of July, even if independence wasn't declared on this day.
History News Network,
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