July 4th Independence Day

Today, on July 4th, 1776, we Americans proclaimed our freedom from Britain. Whether the reasons or thoughts behind the war were justified or not, for the next 7 years our country would be at war, finally ending on September 3rd, 1783.

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Though Thomas Jefferson presented his declaration for signing on July 4th the document was not signed by all of the Continental Congress until August. Travel time and weather prevented all the signatures from actually be done on the same day.

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The Siege of Yorktown ended the war. This could not have happened without the assistance of the French, particularly their navy who kept British rescue ships from reaching the troops trapped inside the fortress. This is not to diminish the efforts of the Americans who were mainly farmers and townsfolk who fought the professional armies from Europe. The few soldiers in America divided themselves being loyal to England and the freedom fighters.

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Though in thought, and mind, we remained very British, we were different simply because of the needs and challenges facing Americans. Europe was set in their life styles while Americans were still discovering new lands.

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Today we celebrate with fireworks, among other traditions, brought on by the Star Spangled Banner, though Francis Scott Key did not write the anthem until the War of 1812, the rockets red glare over the fort at Baltimore. Since it was still against England, I guess it counts!

How to celebrate – Go to a fireworks show. (If you do fireworks of your own be careful. I have seen people blow their fingers off trying to do their own.) Have a picnic. (Which many civilians did while watching the battles take place in front of them during the war.) If just for today, take pride in being American.

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April 13th Thomas Jefferson Day

Thomas Jefferson will always be remembered as the chief writer of the Committee of 5 that crafted the Declaration of Independence.  Though born of Welsh parents and a British citizen, he felt called to help form a new nation that he loved deeply but was well aware of all her faults as well.

Born on April 13th, 1743 he became master of his own destiny at 14 when his father died.  All the proper own was split between two brothers, Thomas recieving Monticello and 5,000 acres.  He graduated from William & Mary College and became involved in legal and governmental issues of his time.  He served in the House of Burgesses as a representative in Virginia.

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When it became clear a seperation from Britan was eminent he joined the Continental Congress as a representative from Virginia.  As one of the Founding Fathers, hecontinued to serve in Congress as the war broke out.  From 1779-81 he was the war Govenor of Virginia.  He was, and would remain, a proponent of democracy, republicanism and the rights of the individual.

In 1785, after the war, he served as the U.S. Minister to France, a very important position in the new government. From 1790-93 he served as the countries first Secretary of State from 1790-93.  It is very unlikely he was ever caught using his personal email to send or recieve emails.

Jefferson and Madison formed the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose The Federalist.  He was very concerned with states having their rights above those of the Federal government.  In 1797 he became the 2nd Vice President of the United States.  He served in that position until becoming the 3rd President of the U.S. in 1801.

As President, serving two terms until 1809, he dealt with the 1st Barbary Pirates War, the Louisiana Purchase, The Embargo Act where Britan was interfering with America trade, and sent Lewis and Clark (1806) on their exploration of the west.

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Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton, who had been married preivoiusly, in 1772.  They had six children but only two fo their daughters reached adulthood.  Martha died in 1782.  Thomas became a very lonely man who apparently found some solice in the arms of Sally Hemings.  Through DNA tested, historians believe the two had several children together.  Sally was a slave.  Though Jefferson deplored slavery he had many slaves used to operate his numerous plantations.  When he left the Presidency he founded the University of Virginia.

He played the violin, was a surveyor, inventor, horticulturist and teacher of mathematics.  In 1785 he wrote, “Notes on the State of Viginia”, considered one of the most important book written prior to the 1800’s.

He was fluent in English, Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish.  He considered himself a Christian as Jesus woud have required, though not terribly religious.

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When the British burned the Library of Congress in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold the government 6,000 books from his personal library to reopen the insitution.  Having given away most of his books he found himself being acollector once again as he could not stand to be without books.

Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of Americas claim to liberty.

How to celebrate:  Read a copy of the Declaration of Independence, Visit the state of Virginia, track Lewis & Clark’s expedition.