Today officially marks the beginning of the Fourth of July holiday weekend for me, even though it’s still June and the holiday isn’t this weekend. But I’m a true American patriot and a semi-pro slacker so I’ve decided to take a vacation day on Monday so I can get paid to celebrate ‘Murica for five straight days. What a country!
As a true American patriot I know that the it’s appropriate to celebrate all weekend, not just because you can get “Red White and Blue deals all weekend on new patio furniture” but because the resolution declaring our independence from England was actually passed by the continental Congress on July 2, 1776. That’s a red white and blue fact!
John Adams wrote to his wife on the evening of July 2, 1776, “ The second day of July, 1776, will be most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
To quote Maxwell Smart (and you should always quote Maxwell Smart), “Missed it by that much.”
It turns out that, even in 1776, nothing happens quickly in Congress so it took two days for the scribe to write out the 1337 word document so it was dated on July 4, 1776. That’s a trivia bet you can probably win at your favorite nerd bar, because if you Google how many words are in the Declaration of Independence it will say 1458 words, and that’s correct if you include the signature at the bottom, but the actual declaration is 1337 words long.
If you find someone geeky enough to bet you about how many words are in the Declaration of Independence, you really should fleece them for a few more drinks with a few more Fourth of July facts. Look at it as your patriotic duty to school them on the star spangled facts!
First bet them a beer that they can’t tell you the date the Declaration was signed, then go ahead and order the drink because they’ll get it wrong…if you’ve got a date in mind right now you’re wrong too. You can’t get it right because there isn’t a right answer. Most people will say it was signed on the Fourth of July and they can be excused for saying that…but they should still buy your beer because nobody signed the Declaration of Independence until August 2, 1776.
Even though 50 of the 56 founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence at the official ceremony on August 2, 1776, the last guy to sign it was Thomas McKean in January of 1777. I freely admit that I have no idea who Thomas McKean was but I’m guessing he was kind of like “the most interesting man” in 1776…you just don’t start a revolution without him.
If you bet this right you should have had three free beers so far…you’re welcome, but it’s the Fourth of July so it’s hot and you could probably use another beer. Thus time bet your new friends that they can’t name the Presidents who died on the Fourth of July, then order another beer.
I know what you’re thinking; you know this one because you watched the John Adams mini-series on HBO!! Over two and a half million HBO viewers know that John Adams and his pen pal Thomas Jefferson both dramatically died on the Fourth of July in 1826. So they might get that one right…if that were the complete answer but it’s not! What HBO didn’t tell us was that James Monroe died five years later on July 4, 1831. Three founding fathers that later became presidents died on the Fourth of July, early Americans called it poetically tragic, the British called it karma, I call it another free beer!
This weekend I’m going to spend five days eating watermelon, grilling some beef and drinking a few free beers. After all I’m a true American patriot so I’m going to celebrate my life, my liberty and, if all goes well, I might even pursue a little happiness. Happy Second of July!!
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com.