Saturday, July 04, 2009

An Independence Day Hodgepodge

It's become something of a tradition around here that I post a collection of Independence Day-related links: in 2007 I highlighted some digitized images of relevant documents (that post is now slightly out of date but the URLs still work), and in 2008 I put together a hodgepodge similar to this one.

- A new issue of Common-place is up: it features several articles on Thomas Paine's reputation then and now.

- In the NYTimes, historian John Gilbert McCurdy examines the bachelor founders. Among them, at least for a time, were Delaware's Caesar Rodney, North Carolina's Joseph Hewes, and Massachusetts' Elbridge Gerry (Gerry married in 1786). McCurdy is the author of Citizen Bachelors: Manhood and the Creation of the United States. In yesterday's Times, lawyer Adam Freedman noted the English roots of our founding document, and historian Kathleen DuVal reminded us of the different political systems deployed by the Indians and Spanish residents of North America.

- Over at McSweeney's, Peter Krinke has a little fun, offering up a lost John Adams diary entry from 3 July 1776.

- In the WSJ, Rachel Emma Silverman reports that a ciphered letter sent to Jefferson in 1801 by his friend Robert Patterson has been cracked by mathematician Lawren Smithline. And the message? "In Congress, July Fourth, one thousand seven hundred and seventy six. A declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. When in the course of human events ..." In the Jefferson papers at MHS are some of Jefferson's own codes and ciphers, which I find endlessly fascinating.

- Last weekend I mused about what it would be like to take Jefferson's recommended reading list to heart. Tom Edsall from the 19th Century Shop emailed to say that they'd recently released a catalog which features a ready-made collection of books drawn from the Skipwith List (comprising about 90% of the titles included there, in correct editions and period bindings). You can read their description here [PDF - the collection is at pp. 41-42 of the PDF, pp. 78-81 of the catalog]. For $525,000, it could all be yours. It's an absolutely brilliant idea.

- I finally decided last night to start watching the HBO "John Adams" series from last spring. I watched the first two episodes, and enjoyed them very much. With the important caveat that they are not entirely accurate (see John's series of Boston 1775 posts), the series was very well cast, and I enjoyed the episode covering the runup to Independence very much.

Enjoy the Fourth, all.

Take John Adams' words of 3 July 1776 to heart: "But the Day is past. 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. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

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