What Would the Founding Fathers Think?
I have never really considered the Fourth of July to be a holiday, at least not on the level of Christmas. I suppose this is because for most of my life I have been in school, with no obligations during the summer. The Fourth of July, with all its fanfare and fireworks, was little more to me than an elaborate message that the summer mega-holiday was half way over.
Despite my perspective, Independence Day does have the one thing that legitimate holidays need to have: Tradition. For me, as well as many others I’m sure, the Fourth of July traditions include watching explosions in the sky and eating food that is bad for you, like fried chicken and pizza. As with most other holidays, many people use it as an excuse to behave in ways they not normally would.
Along with fireworks and fried food, Independence Day usually brings enough patriotic rhetoric that you would think the holiday itself is trying to win an election. Politics aside, I have found myself wondering what the founding fathers that are so often mentioned would think of our modern Independence Day festivities.
Benjamin Franklin would love it. Any time you mix alcohol and science, i.e. beer and fireworks, would be a fun time for Franklin. That is, if he could pull himself away from his smartphone. Ben Franklin seems like he would be that kind of guy.
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson would be fighting, as they often did. Both would agree that the liberty to own fireworks should not be transgressed upon, but Jefferson would be glad that at least it is the state governments that make fireworks illegal. Hamilton would then insist that the federal government should make that legislation. They would fight, and ruin the time of anyone that happened to be near them.
I think Thomas Jefferson himself would be upset by the modern day Independence Day. He would not be put off by the party-attitude of so many of his ancestors, but by the fact that it is not a standard tradition to read the Declaration of Independence out loud from every street window and balcony.
Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, would be happy to see the nation celebrating a single national holiday, but definitely would not want anything to do with any balconies. I know, Abe Lincoln is not a founding father, but he deserves to be in the club. You tell Abe Lincoln he isn’t a founding father.
Like Jefferson, James Madison would be upset that people don’t read historical documents on Independence Day. Instead of reading the Declaration, Madison would want to hear people quoting from the Constitution, and not just the, “We the People,” part. Madison would also insist that the national holiday be on June 21 instead of the July 4th. It makes sense; the Constitution was not ratified until June 21, 1787, marking the true birth of the United States. But the “Twenty-first of June” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, and no one would make a cool alien movie out of Constitution Day. Also, people like historical holidays that commemorate the beginning of wars, like the Revolution, more than those that would have us remember the end of boring political conventions.
Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis is lurking in the shadows, plotting his revenge. And Calvin Coolidge would be there, bragging to everybody about how he is the only president to be born on the Fourth of July, to which everyone would respond that they do not care.
And George Washington, as the father of our country, would look upon it all with a frown on his face. He isn’t angry, just disappointed. And his false teeth taste terrible.