Sunday, June 19, 2011

Independence Day
Happy 235th Birthday America
The Declaration House
In June of 1776, Thomas Jefferson was part of a Virginia delegation that planned to ask the Second Continental Congress to sever its ties from Great Britain. While that historic body was meeting, Jefferson was assigned to a committee that was asked to write a declaration which enumerated the causes that led to that severance.

Finding his lodging in the heart of the city uncomfortable, he removed to the rooms of Jacob Graff. Mr. Graff was a well-known bricklayer who had built his house on the outskirts of town but a year before Jefferson arrived. It's probable that Jefferson had to pay a little extra for the rooms as they came furnished. The Graffs lived in the house while Jefferson undertook his task. Situated on the outskirts of town, surrounded by fields and a stable across the street, the house provided Jefferson with the space and distance from the city he needed for his task.

Working from the Virginia Constitution as well as an extensive knowledge of political theory Jefferson wrote the document in under three weeks. An author at heart, Jefferson squirmed in resentment as the document was redacted during the final week of June 1776 by his fellow delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

Many people believe the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, because that is the day the United States celebrates independence. This is untrue.

Richard Lee proposed the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress on June 7, 1776. The Committee of Five (Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson) began work on June 11. Jefferson wrote the first draft, and the other members of the committee suggested revisions and edits. They presented the completed document to the Continental Congress on June 28, and the Congress passed the resolution on July 2, 1776.

The Declaration of Independence wasn't signed on the 4th of July; the Continental Congress gathered to vote on whether the wording should be corrected or should stay the same. According to some historians, they hurried the process due to the fact that they were overrun by horseflies from the neighboring farm. The first signatures were added in August of 1776 and finished on Jan 18th 1777.

The Declaration of Independence consisted of two parts, a preamble and a bill of particulars. The preamble is the part we generally read. The bill of particulars was a list of almost 2,000 items. Jefferson thought it would be approved on the July 2, but Congress simply made amendments to the bill of particulars. It was finally approved on July 4, 1776 when delegates started signing it.

John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, about the approval:
"The Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the Great Anniversary Celebration."

John Adams wrote to Abigail again on July 3, 1776:
Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony "that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do."You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell'd Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days. On July 2, 1776 the Association known as United Colonies of America officially became the United States of America.

So when was it signed?

Most delegates signed the document on August 2, when a clean copy was finally produced by Timothy Matlack, assistant to the secretary of Congress.

Several did not sign until later. And their names were not released to the public until later still, January 1777.

FAST-FORWARD: On this special day in 1800, the Marine Corps Band played its first public appearance at Tun Tavern, Philadelphia. The Marine Corps Band under the original leadership of Drum Major William Farr was established by the second Marine Corps Commandant, William Ward Burrows. The Marine Corps Band with leadership of John Philip Sousa and other great band leaders, has always been considered the best of the military - it became known as "The President's Own."

William Ward Burrows—born in South Carolina on 16 January 1758—was described by a contemporary, Washington Irving, as a "gentlemen of accomplished mind and polished manner."

Burrows served with the state troops of South Carolina in the American Revolution, before he moved to Philadelphia. There, on 12 July 1798, he was made Commandant of the Marine Corps—newly established by President John Adams.

Commandant Burrows also had a son, Lt. William Ward Burrows II (6 October 1785 - 5 September 1813), was an officer in the United States Navy during the First Barbary War and the War of 1812.

The first Marine Corps units to be organized by the industrious new commandant were those that served in the ships of the fledgling United States Navy. During the first seven months in which Burrows held the office of commandant, the United States embarked on the Quasi-War with the French Republic.

At that time, the headquarters of the Corps was at Philadelphia, then the capital of the country. In addition to organizing his headquarters staff and securing a barracks for transient personnel.

On 4 July 1800, that musical organization first appeared in public at Tun Tavern, in probably the last social function attended by marines while they retained their headquarters at Philadelphia. Burrows reached Washington, D.C., on 15 July, to establish the new Marine Corps headquarters there in the wake of an advance detachment sent down in March to protect the Washington Navy Yard, then under construction.

The remainder of the Marines in Philadelphia were soon shifted down to Washington, and during that time, Burrows received a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel Commandant.

Although the Quasi-War with France continued into the autumn of 1800, Congressional pressure to reduce the cost of a naval establishment frustrated some of Burrows' efforts to establish the Marine Corps on a solid, permanent footing. Nevertheless, the Corps was able to weather the storm because another armed conflict, the Barbary Wars, highlighted the nation's need for Marines.

Burrows resigned his post as Commandant for health reasons on 6 March 1804, and he died exactly one year later, on 6 March 1805. Under his leadership, the United States Marine Corps gained a firm and enduring foundation upon which succeeding leaders built the Corps of later years.