Monday, July 4, 2016

4th Of July In The Old West

Happy 4th my friends! 

One of our nation's founding fathers and second president, John Adams wrote that the Fourth of July "ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."

Following its adoption, the Declaration was read to the public in various American cities. Whenever they heard it, patriots erupted in cheers and immediate celebration of all sorts would follow.

A year after the signing in 1777, it is said that Philadelphia celebrated the signing and our declaring our independence by ringing guns, firing guns, setting off fireworks even while our War of Independence dragged on, The tradition was widespread and was taking place throughout the war in spite of hard times.

In the Old West, the 4th of July was celebrated as well. From the smallest mining camps to towns to the bigger cities, Americans had picnics and dances, gatherings for speeches, rodeos, horse races, foot races, turkey shoots, parades, and more. There were historical pageants, and later baseball games, watermelon-eating contests, and even regional specific traditions started to come about like clam bakes and celebrations at beaches. The city of San Francisco was known to shoot off fireworks over the water on its coast over near the Cliff House.

It may be a surprise to know that even in the 1800s, Native Americans who had thrown their allegiance to the United States celebrated the 4th of July with rodeos, pow-wows, gourd dance, war dances, stomp dance and many other dances. And yes, the pageantry of those celebrations is legendary.

Yes indeed, John Adams, wrote to his wife, Abigail, "I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."

From Texas to Montana, from California to Maine, as for south as the Florida keys, to Hawaii and Alaska, we have done exactly what John Adams said we would do.

I read this and happily pass it on to you:

"In 1868 the Nevada mining camps of Hamilton and Treasure Hill comprised of a few hardy miners and even fewer women. However, it was decided that they would have a 4th of July celebration.

They formed the flag committee, the music committee and the dance committee. The music committee’s job was simple, yet complicated. There was only one man in town who had a musical instrument, a violin. The complication was that he tended to get drunk. So, they had to regulate the flow of whiskey to the musician.

The dance committee comprised of all the women in town…a total of two. Like volunteer committees sometimes do, the flag committee waited until the last minute to get a flag. And then it was to late to travel the 120 miles to the nearest store. So, good ol’ American ingenuity took place. They found a quilt with a red lining, and some white canvas material. A traveling family camped nearby had a blue veil.

This was doubly good because the family included a mother and four girls which meant more women for the dance. But the girls didn't have shoes, making it impossible to dance on the rough planked floor. So, a collection of brogan shoes was taken up among the miners.

On the 4th of July, a parade formed at Hamilton and with the makeshift American flag proceeded to Treasure Hill. Speeches were made. Sentiment ran high."

I read where they decided to form a new town called the White Pine Pioneers. Unfortunately, as with many mining towns of the time, the town disappeared. But whether its a Nevada mining camp with a "few hardy miners and even fewer women," or an Arizona town where rodeo and a town size bar-b-q picnic was held with all of the townspeople attending, Americans old and new celebrated our declaring independence in the Old West.

So if anyone asked what they did in the Old West to celebrate the 4th of July, tell them that raised hell and drink, they dances and listened to orators who spoke about the greatest of being unencumbered by government. They fired of guns and rang bells and lit candles, all really understanding that their grand-parents and great-grandparents suffered under the yoke of oppression of a government who saw themselves as something akin to slave owners instead of simply a governing body.

While today, probably because of our horrible educational system, many do not even know why the 4th is even celebrated, or the significance behind this day. Thankfully, there are still many of us who understand that today we take a moment to celebrate and reaffirm our nations beliefs.

This day is the anniversary of our birth as a nation. It is the day when a small single page document changed the entire coarse of human history. Yes, we did that!

John Hancock, the president of the Second Continental Congress, was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence. Hancock's sprawling signature is prominent on the document, "just so King George can read it!"

And yes, all 56 men who ultimately signed the Declaration showed great courage as they put their lives on the line with their signature. Remember that they were America's representatives and by their formally announcing America's desire for independence from Great Britain, that in itself was in fact an act of treason which was punishable by death. Add to that that the mere fact of writing such a piece of paper and putting their names to it, they were looking to be hanged,

The one page document that would get them hanged was a Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson and revised by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and William Morris. And yes, today America's Declaration of Independence itself has become one of the most admired and copied political documents of all time.

The Declaration of Independence is our justification for revolution. Its assertions that all men and women are free under God encapsulates the ideal of the American Revolution, citing grievances against the government of Great Britain and King George.

I don't know if they really understood it at the time. I really don't know if those who risked their lives and honor to pen their death warrant really understood what impact that document would have on the entire world.

It is said to be a landmark philosophical statement that affirms that since all people are creatures of God, or nature, that we all have certain natural rights, or liberties, that cannot be violated. And yes, since that 4th of July in 1776, our Declaration of Independence and our American Revolution have inspired freedom-seeking people all over the world to do the same.

Why you ask? Read this and then ask yourself if this doesn't strike a cord that goes to the very heart of all men and women who don't like to be bound in any way?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

This is the idea that we celebrate today. This is what we thank God for.

Our Declaration of Independence speaks to who mankind is in that it speaks to our desire to be free. It asserts as a matter of Natural Law, the ability of a people to assume political independence. It acknowledges the reasons that independence is reasonable, explicable, and it is clearly explained.

Our Declaration of Independence outlines our general philosophy of government that justifies revolution when government harms the natural rights of the people. Natural rights meaning not rights "granted" by governments, but by God.

Our Declaration of Independence explained Americans' rights and liberties. And yes, the world has not only agreed but has said that they to have rights and liberties and that their governments need to change or step aside.

Yes, besides inspiring all men and women to be free, this is the part of our Declaration of Independence that has inspired celebration for more than 200 years -- including during the period of the Old West where American individualism was at its best and maybe just a handful of Americans were there to celebrate with.

Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. I know how I would celebrate the 4th of July. With a glass of tea and some Lynyrd Skynyrd. A little "Free Bird", anyone?


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