Many Alabamians will enjoy a long Independence holiday this year. It falls on Thursday, so for employees who are off work on Friday, it will be a four-day weekend.

Many Alabama families will enjoy barbecues, trips to the lake or beach, fireworks, and family and friend gatherings.

248 years ago at the first Independence Day (though it was not called that), it was a different scene altogether.

The Declaration of Independence was passed unanimously by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.  No, that’s not a typo. Here is what signer and founding father John Adams said:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

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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.

After independence was unanimously declared on July 2, the “Committee of Five” worked hard for two days to edit the document to be formalized on July 4. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston wrote the final version, with Jefferson as the main editor.

In Philadelphia at the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, the delegates who passed the Declaration of Independence knew that their support might also be their own death sentences.

They knew that soon the British army, the largest in the world, would sail across the Atlantic to occupy the almost defenseless colonies. They knew the colonies did not yet have the soldiers or arms or training to stand against the British. Yet they wagered their votes, their lives, their families, and their futures, on the Declaration of Independence.

Against all odds, the Declaration told the world that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states.”

Most of the people living in the colonies had had enough of British domination, of working and virtually existing at the pleasure of a king they didn’t know and who obviously considered them less than English citizens.

They wanted to be free, to make their own decisions, to govern themselves, and to breathe the sweet air of liberty.

The first celebration of American Independence took place July 7, 1776, in Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress was still meeting.

The ceremony began with a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Then, from the tower of the State House, now called Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell rang out.

The coat of arms of the king of England was taken down. And there was a parade. And cannons boomed. The people, though aware of what lay ahead, cheered! A new nation sprang to life.

That’s what this day is meant to be about.

There were more ceremonies on Aug. 2, 1776, when delegates began affixing their signatures to the Declaration.

So it began. A more elaborate celebration was held there in 1788 after the new Constitution had been ratified. Then, there was a much larger parade, speeches, and a dinner.

But between those two celebrations, in 1776 and 1788, there was much horrible fighting, rivers of bloodshed, the deaths and bankruptcies of many of the signers of the Declaration, families torn apart and businesses and farms destroyed. The freedoms declared by the Declaration — and ushered into fact by the Constitution — were secured at a terrible cost.

What’s Independence Day like today? Do most people actually take time to purposely celebrate our independence in meaningful ways? Even while we are facing threats from inside and out.

What are we fighting for now? Is it anything like what motivated our Revolutionary Army?

Are we still one nation under God, with unalienable rights endowed equally to all — among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Surely this long Independence weekend is a time for all in Alabama who still cherish that original dream, the one for which so many have died, to individually and collectively re-declare our independence from tyranny, despotism, taxation without representation, and debts that no free society should ever bear.

And allegiance to the blood-bought foundation of the government of, by, and for the people . . . people who are determined to live free.

We dare defend our rights.  — Motto of Alabama

(The above op-ed was written by Jim Zeigler and entertainer Pat Boone.)

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler’s beat is the colorful and positive about Alabama. He writes about Alabama people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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