Here are two of the most memorable July 4th moments in American history. In the first, John Adams writes to his wife Abigail in 1776 about his hope for a great July 4th celebration in the future. In the 2nd, the great orator, Senator Frederick Douglass, makes a passionate anti-slavery speech on the Senate floor.

Both of these statements are the words of great American patriots, and yet each is far different. One is celebratory while one is mournful. What they have in common is a recognition that July 4th is a special day in American history, and they both foretell a better future in the midst of upheaval.

First is John Adams moving letter to his beloved wife Abigail at the birth of a revolution.

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.

You can read the full text of Frederick Douglass’ speech on July 4th 1852. The most recognized passage from it is as follows, although it does not convey the full complexity of his presentation.

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

This is an OTA and Open post.