On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress declared independence. George Washington declared that day that “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves....The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.” A useful reminder for us, in a week when we rightly celebrate a Declaration, a document embodying a great idea, that speech needs to be backed up by arms, and that all still depends on the "courage and conduct" of our armed forces.
Meanwhile, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, written the next day, John Adams forecast that generations of Americans would celebrate July 2nd:
"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."
Of course, July 4, the date the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted, became Independence Day rather than July 2. This slight variance is perhaps emblematic of the way the new nation never quite turned out the way John Adams hoped. But surely we should still take note of the 2nd, if only as a warm-up for the 4th, when the "Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations" will take place in earnest.
And we might note that Adams's central example of the ways to celebrate American independence is ... Guns. And no mention of background checks! One expects Mayor Bloomberg to start running ads against him in Massachusetts.