John Adams’s Vision of Patriotic Reverence

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that 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 with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means….”*

Two hundred and forty years ago, John Adams wrote a heartfelt and passionate letter to his wife, Abigail, prophesying his beliefs for the day celebrating our country’s independence. From his own sacrifices and convictions that we should become a free nation with no allegiance to Great Britain, his words are full of heightened emotion and reverence. He believed “we the people” would never cease being or fail to feel patriotic; yet, over time, our country has evolved and shifted in its beliefs. National pride is no longer defined as having a blind trust in what our leaders tell us to do; instead, it is a brand, a feeling within ourselves to stand like John Adams and feel connected to something much bigger than topography or geography. In fact, patriotism is never affected by our politicians’ failures, or new government policies, election outcomes, or the state of the economy. The patriotic feeling we have is expressed through our historical knowledge, words, and consistent actions.

The Declaration of Independence

Five individuals were appointed to “draw up a declaration” of freedom. The committee included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson.   At a time when our country fought tyrannical rule, our founding fathers carefully chose language and phrasing to proclaim our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as to state what to do when the government no longer preserved those rights. The document is worth reading again to feel impassioned by the courageous beliefs of our founding fathers.  

The American Flag

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act to establish an official flag. The act stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” It is believed the drawing of the design of the first flag was created by New Jersey delegate, Francis Hopkinson; yet, Betsy Ross was asked by General George Washington, Robert Morris, and her husband, George Ross, to design the “first” flag.   It wasn’t until August of 1949 that Harry S. Truman officially declared June 14 as Flag Day.

The history is just as important as knowing the customs of displaying, lowering, and disposing of our flag:

  • At sunrise, raise the flag only on sunny days, lower and properly fold at sunset.  
  • Whether the flag is displayed vertically or horizontally, the stars and stripes should always appear in the top left corner.
  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground or floor.
  • Carry the flag aloft and free, and not flat or horizontal.
  • To assist in proper disposal, contact your local VFW or Boy Scouts.  

A Call to Service

In John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, he stated the historical words, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” As Americans, we are dedicated to giving our time, energy, and expertise in the name of service. While there are countless community, state, and national projects that need people, there are other calls that require a pledge, a uniform, a promise of time, and the willingness to die for freedom. Regardless of your calling, a strong civic ethic promises that “life may not be easy; yet, it will be rich and satisfying.” (John Kennedy)

In any town or street on July 4th, our flag will be seen waving in glory, and crowds formed to observe the festivities. It is a day of song, standing with hand over heart, and a feeling of pride in our history and name. July 5th may just be another day; yet, how will you show your patriotism every day of the year?

(*Abigail and John Adams, Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

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