On July 3, 1776, the eve of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Founding Father John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, saying the following day would be “the most memorable in the history of America.”
“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade … bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward forevermore.”
So, if you find yourself enjoying a fireworks show this weekend, thank Adams. If, on the other hand, you find yourself this August cursing a neighbor who has yet to exhaust his supply of bottle rockets and Roman candles, blame Adams.
His letter to Abigail proves that he favored “illuminations” as a way to celebrate July 4. However, history does not indicate that Adams suggested to his lovely wife that “on May 15, every vacant building should suddenly become a shoppe peddling illuminations and other forms of explosive devices to every Thomas, Richard and Harriet across the land.”
Nor does history indicate that Adams thought it would be wonderful if Tom, Dick and Harriet were to purchase enough pyrotechnics to allow them to “illuminate” their neighborhoods on July 4, 5 and 6; Sept. 12; and every other day of the year.
Surely if he had, Abigail, by all accounts a sensible woman, would have replied, “The entire year? Oh, John, I love you, but that’s a bit much.”
But 240 years later it seems that when it comes to illuminations, there’s no such thing as a bit much. And I guess when Adams wrote “from this day forward forevermore” he could have meant EVERY day.
He was pretty excited after all.
Like Adams, I love America. And I’m all for pomp and parade. I love organized, professional fireworks shows. And I have fond childhood memories of twirling white hot sparklers in my backyard.
But my love of fireworks begins to wain when the teens across the street decide it will be funny to set off some sort of bomb at 2:30 a.m. June 15. I guarantee they were the only ones in the neighborhood laughing. Fortunately, they moved.
I also start to wish Abigail had destroyed that darned letter when the neighbors behind us light a bottle rocket that flies over their privacy fence and hits my unsuspecting wife sitting on our patio.
I also have a problem when I go outside in the morning and find my roof and yard littered with spent (I hope) rockets and other incendiary devices, though I’m thankful my house stands for at least one more day.
Thanks to John Adams and his cohorts, we Americans have the freedom to do as we please … within reason.
With fireworks, as with many other things, some forget that our freedom, represented by that document signed 240 years ago, isn’t limitless. Our rights do not extend to impinging on the rights of others.
To sum it up, your right to set off bottle rockets in your backyard does not extend to setting my spouse on fire.
So please, if you want to burn down a house, burn down your own. If you want to injure someone, injure yourself. And if you absolutely can’t resist setting off a bomb at 2:30 a.m., be sure to detonate it on the grave of John Adams. He enjoys hearing from his fans at any hour.
Interestingly enough, Adams and Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the fireworks-worthy Declaration of Independence, died on the same day in 1826 — July 4 no less. What are the odds?
The history books tell us they died quietly a few hours and states apart. However, this is nothing but a 190-year-old cover story concocted by the powerful illuminations lobby — not to be confused with the powerful Illuminati.
Actually, on July 4, 1826, Adams and Jefferson were serving as grand marshals for the Independence Day parade in Washington, D.C. As they passed in front of the Capitol, a stray bottle rocket flew out of the crowd and ignited the bunting on their carriage, “illuminating” them both.
Happy Fourth of July!