I was just listening to a discussion on NPR about how John Adams, if he had his way, would have had us celebrating Independence Day on the 2nd of July, not the 4th. Because it was on July 2, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence, after much wrangling and editing, was approved by a vote of the Continental Congress and ready for John Hancock’s big bold signature. Adams was, by all accounts, a bit of a humorless sort, a stickler for doing things by the book, and the kind of guy who probably did spend the next fifty years telling anyone who’d listen that we’d gotten it all wrong.
But then, the miraculous coincidence of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson passing away on the 4th of July, 1826, within hours of one another, exactly 50 years later…well, that fact alone is reason enough to keep celebrating our nation’s glorious beginning on the 4th. And as my mom always said, never spoil a good story with the truth.
Meanwhile, I’m going to go ahead and presume that they got the date right on this historic marker, pictured below. It gives a sense of how fast things got rolling, back when the embattled farmers of Lexington and Concord fired the shots heard ’round the world, in April of 1775. Fast forward just 10 weeks from that momentous clash of King George’s army and a bunch of ragtag idealists out Mass Ave way, and you’ve got George Washington taking command of the not-yet-named nation’s army, under an elm tree. One year minus one day ahead of the 4th of July, 1776, right down the street from where I live.
What I love about this marker is that it’s right in the middle of the intersection of two busy streets in my home town. And it’s only because I started going on early Sunday morning walks that I ever happened to cross this street on foot, at a time when I wouldn’t get mowed down by traffic. Who knew that this most momentous of occasions and places is memorialized by a lowly manhole cover?