Thursday, July 4, 2013

American Independence Day

“(O)n the Fourth of July 1814, there were moored in the quiet and newly discovered harbor of Honolulu, three American merchant ships, engaged in the north-west trade, the Isabella … the O Kane (O'Cain) … and the Albatross. … King Kamehameha I, who, in his royal double canoes, each seventy-live feet in length, manned by two hundred brawny arms, always first boarded each vessel, and taking command, brought her within the harbor.”

“In the afternoon, a royal banquet was prepared, such as the days of Kamehameha I only witnessed, and mats and tables spread on the open plain, just in rear of the Catholic Church lot” (at that time “from where Nuʻuanu street now is, towards the Palace, was then an open plain, without a dwelling, the only houses were along the beach and up the valleys.”)

“His Majesty, the warm friend of the foreigner, had ordered his servants to prepare liberally for the feast, and the tables and mats were loaded with all that royal beneficence could provide. It was a grand day.  … Ten thousand natives crowded around to witness the feast.  Such was the first 4th of July ever celebrated in the Hawaiian Kingdom.”  (The Friend, August 19, 1856)

Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Here are a couple myths about the 4th of July and the Declaration of Independence:

#1 Independence Was Declared on the Fourth of July

America's independence was actually declared by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.  The Lee Resolution, also known as the resolution of independence, was an act of the Second Continental Congress declaring the United Colonies to be independent of the British Empire.  Richard Henry Lee of Virginia first proposed it on June 7, 1776; it was formally approved on July 2, 1776.

So what happened on the Fourth? The document justifying the act of Congress - Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence - was adopted on the fourth, as is indicated on the document itself.

#2 The Declaration of Independence Was Signed July 4

Hanging in the grand Rotunda of the Capitol of the United States is a vast canvas painting by John Trumbull depicting the signing of the Declaration. Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams wrote, years afterward, that the signing ceremony took place on July 4. When someone challenged Jefferson's memory in the early 1800s Jefferson insisted he was right.  However, David McCullough remarks in his biography of Adams, "No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred at Philadelphia."

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.

American Revolutionary War

By the time the Declaration of Independence was adopted in July 1776, the Thirteen Colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) and Great Britain had been at war for more than a year.

That war lasted from April 19, 1775 (with the Battles of Lexington and Concord) to September 3, 1783 (with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.)  It lasted 8 years, 4 months, 2 weeks and 1 day; then, the sovereignty of the United States was recognized over the territory bounded roughly by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west.

In the Islands at the Time

At the time of the American Revolutionary War, the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and (4) Kauaʻi and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.

Shortly after Kalaniʻōpuʻū's death in 1782, Kamehameha began his conquest to unify the islands under his rule.  After several battles on several of the islands, and subsequent agreement with King Kaumualiʻi of Kauaʻi, Kamehameha became sole ruler of the Islands in 1810 (a couple years later, on the continent, the US and Britain engaged in the war of 1812.)

The image shows the signed Declaration of Independence.

Happy Fourth of July!

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