JULY 1999

For our March / April '99 column I returned to our March / April '88 newsletter, wherein we explored the origins of April Fool's Day. I promptly expanded the article, sent it off, and -

Well, perhaps the subject matter jinxed us. At any rate, our Server began experiencing severe difficulties at this time, so that not only did that column not see print, but there would be no new online newsletter until June of '99, when we were finally up and running with a new, more reliable server. This was the first of the two aforementioned online "glitches".

The second "glitch" occurred in the Spring of 2002, when circumstances forced me to retire from the folklore racket for a time. When I returned in April of this year (2003), it seemed appropriate to start things off with that "lost" online column, and so the expanded "April Fools Day" column will be found in the archives under April 2003.

In June the newsletter and column returned. I realized that, though the New Millennium would not technically start for another year and a half, we were nevertheless six months away from bidding farewell to the 1900's. It seemed like a good time for a look back, so I created a little "farewell column", calling it "Should Auld Acquaintance".

I liked it so much I subsequently revived it for the official dawning of the 21st Century, expanding it in the process.

Now it was July, and the time seemed right to reuse another classic from the 80's - the story of Independence Day.

Independence Day


. . or the Fourth of July, as it's alternately known. Funny thing about that is that at least three other dates would be much more appropriate to hang the phrase "Independence Day" upon.
The only significant thing that happened on July 4th, as a matter of fact, is that the Continental Congress decided that Thomas Jefferson's wording of the Declaration was Good Enough for the King, and grammatically OK as well.
My own somewhat belated nominees for a more Historically Accurate Independence Day are June 7, June 28, July 2, and July 8.
Here's why . . .
As you no doubt are aware, the fact that an entire year passed between the first shots of the Revolution and July 4, 1776 would seem to indicate that the colonies initially had no desire whatsoever of becoming an Independent Entity. The soldiers were simply fighting for a fairer shake from Mother England.
The real Revolutionaries were doing their fighting on paper. A relatively large scale propaganda campaign was waged during that first year, spearheaded by Thomas Paine's pamphlet "Common Sense", and it was only after quite a lot of electioneering and debate that the idea of actually separating began to be seriously entertained.
Yes, the American Revolution was sold to the colonists - which explains a lot of things when you think about it . . .
Anyway, June 7, 1776 is the day that Richard Henry Lee (relative of Robert E.) offered the first resolution that the colonies declare themselves "free and independent States". This resolution led eventually to the writing of the Declaration of Independence -
Which was presented in the form we know and revere to the Continental Congress on June 28, 1776!
Put that in your Fourth of July and light it.
As if that weren't debunking material aplenty, Independence was officially declared, not on the 4th, but on the Second of July. In fairness, Congress did approve Jefferson's wording of the thing on the Fourth, as previously mentioned, but the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence did not take place until July 8th, when a congressman named John Nixon read the now immortal words to a "great concourse of people".
At that time the King's Arms (as in Coat of Arms, the King being geographically elsewhere) were taken down and placed on a pile of casks, and burned amid great rejoicing, huzzas, drinking, bonfires, ringing of bells, firing of guns and cannons, etc.
And to quote Mrs. John Adams, writing twelve days later: "Thus ends royal authority in this State - and all the people shall say Amen!"