The Declaration Of Independence
: INDEPENDENCE DAY
: Good Stories For Great Holidays
BY WASHINGTON IRVING
While danger was gathering round New York, and its inhabitants were
in mute suspense and fearful anticipations, the General Congress
at Philadelphia was discussing, with closed doors, what John Adams
pronounced: "The greatest question ever debated in America, and as great
as ever was or will be debated among men." The result was, a resolution
passed unanimously on the 2d of July; "tha
these United Colonies are,
and of right ought to be, free and independent States."
"The 2d of July," adds the same patriot statesman, "will be the most
memorable epoch 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 Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with
pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and
illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this
time forth forevermore."
The glorious event has, indeed, given rise to an annual jubilee; but
not on the day designated by Adams. The FOURTH of July is the day of
national rejoicing, for on that day the "Declaration of Independence,"
that solemn and sublime document, was adopted.
Tradition gives a dramatic effect to its announcement. It was known
to be under discussion, but the closed doors of Congress excluded the
populace. They awaited, in throngs, an appointed signal. In the steeple
of the State House was a bell, imported twenty-three years previously
from London by the Provincial Assembly of Pennsylvania. It bore the
portentous text from Scripture: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the
land, unto all the inhabitants thereof." A joyous peal from that bell
gave notice that the bill had been passed. It was the knell of British