Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.
On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country. Here are some interesting facts about this holiday:
- In July 1776, about 2.5 million people were living in the newly independent nation.
- John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, was the first signer. This merchant by trade did so in an entirely blank space making it the largest and most famous signature - hence the term John Hancock, which is still used today as a synonym for signature.
- Benjamin Franklin (age 70), who represented Pennsylvania, was the oldest of the signers. Franklin County, Pa., had an estimated population of 151,275 as of July 1, 2012. Edward Rutledge (age 26), of South Carolina, was the youngest.
- In 2012, we imported fireworks worth $218.2 million from China, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($227.3 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $11.7 million in 2012, with Israel purchasing more than any other country ($2.5 million).
- In 2012, we imported American flags with a total value of $ 3.8 million. The vast majority of this amount ($3.6 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.
- Fifty-nine places contain the word "liberty" in the name. Pennsylvania, with 11, has more of these places than any other state. Of the 59 places nationwide containing "liberty" in the name, four are counties: Liberty County, Ga. (65,471), Liberty County, Fla. (8,276), Liberty County, Mont. (2,392) and Liberty County, Texas (76,571).
- Last year, we traded $109.8 billion between the United States and the United Kingdom, making the British, our adversary in 1776, our sixth-leading trading partner today.
- At 6.3 billion pounds, odds are the beef, hot dogs, steaks and burgers you will enjoy on this holiday will come from the Lone Star State, which accounted for nearly one-sixth of the nation's total production, followed by Nebraska (estimated at 5.1 billion pounds) and Kansas (estimated at 3.8 billion pounds).
Enjoy Independence Day! And let's remember that in every corner of the United States, men and women speak out freely with no fear of retribution. That is not the case in many nations of the world.