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Fri Jul 3, 2015, 10:54 PM

The Best Fourth of July Speech in American History - Was Delivered on the Fifth of July [View all]

It was delivered on the fifth of July.

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The most remarkable Independence Day oration in American history was not given on the Fourth of July. And it is little remembered today. But it deserves to be, especially given the searing events in Charleston, South Carolina, last month. Independence Day is rightly a time to celebrate the nation's history and even kick back for a little R&R. But the best orators who have marked the day have understood that our nation’s laurels are not meant to be rested on.

Fourth of July speeches tend to divide into two sorts. The predominant variety is commemorative, celebratory, and prescriptive—solemnized, as John Adams predicted in 1776, “with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”

But in his exuberance, Adams failed to anticipate that the Fourth, as it brought Americans together, would continually threaten to tear them apart. Over the years, celebrations of the Fourth have become a periodic tug of war between commemorations designed to affirm and even enforce the common identity of Americans—out of many, one—and subversive pushback from those obstreperous enough to insist the we are not all free, emphatically not all equal, and certainly not one.

Once the United States had gained its independence, some Americans questioned whether celebrating the Fourth was too much trouble; and it took decades for the revels to pick up steam. But by the Declaration’s 50th anniversary, celebrations commonly included the firing of artillery at sunrise, the marching of volunteer companies, the ringing of church bells, and the parading of labor associations. By the centennial in 1876, the event had reached its apogee. Flags and bunting decorated homes and streets, while Philadelphia, birthplace of the nation, stretched its celebrations across four days, beginning on July 1. In Independence Square, the poet Bayard Taylor evoked Columbia, goddess of liberty, in a newly composed National Ode that was apostrophic enough to induce a case of the vapors. “For lo! she cometh now / With hope on the lip and pride on the brow.”


Read More About the Speech Here.

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Agschmid Jul 2015 OP
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