Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Translate complex financial concepts into easy-to-understand terms! You'll find reprints of Financial Insights articles that once appeared in GCFlash in our Financial Glossary.
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A Brief History of Independence Day
We observe July 4th as Independence Day in celebration of America's declaring freedom from British rule by virtue of the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in 1776. However, only a few delegates actually signed the Declaration of Independence on that day.
Surprised? I was. Although some delegates did sign the document on July 4th, most delegates actually signed the document on August 2, 1776. In fact, there are many days in 1776, and in the preceding years, that contributed to the creation of the United States of America, which is what we commemorate by celebrating Independence Day. The following is a brief history of these events.
By 1774, the American people were tired of British rule. The call-to-arms of "taxation without representation" was heard throughout the 13 colonies. America was fed up with having to pay taxes to King George III, but having no representation in British Parliament and having no say in how they were governed.
In an effort to work out their differences with Great Britain, delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies met in Philadelphia at the First Continental Congress. The delegates discussed their grievances and petitioned King George III for relief.
Throughout the next two years, unrest continued to grow. In response, King George III sent troops to the colonies in order to quell the mounting hostilities.
In June of 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Delegates reviewed a resolution of independence proposed by Richard Henry Lee of the Virginia colony. The resolution contained three parts: a declaration of independence, a call to form foreign alliances, and a plan for confederation. The Continental Congress appointed three committees, one to deal with each of the three parts of the resolution.
A Committee of Five was appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence. The document would formally sever ties with Great Britain and declare the American colonies as free and independent states. The committee was comprised of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and William Livingston. Jefferson, considered to be the most eloquent writer of the group, was to be the primary author of the document.
On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met again. This time the delegates formally voted in favor of the resolution of independence that had been proposed in June. By adopting this resolution, the delegates created the legal separation between the colonies and Great Britain. The Committee of Five was still revising the Declaration of Independence, so although the vote was approved, the formal document was still being drafted.
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. However, only a few of the delegates actually signed the Declaration on this date. The most notable one was John Hancock.
Copies of the Declaration of Independence were widely distributed on July 5th and on July 6th. The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence. The first public reading of the Declaration was held in Philadelphia's Independence Square on July 8th. And it wasn't until August 2, 1776, that the majority of the remaining delegates signed the Declaration.
On July 4, 1777, citizens of Philadelphia celebrated the 1st anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by ringing bells, firing guns, and lighting bonfires and fireworks. Celebrations were modest this first year since the war was still ongoing. After 1783 when the war ended, July 4 became a major patriotic holiday and celebrations typically included speeches, military events, parades, fireworks, and the traditional bell ringing and gun firing.
Over the years, celebrations have grown. In 1870, Congress formally established Independence Day as a holiday. And in 1938, Congress reaffirmed it as a federal holiday with full pay for federal workers. Today, the traditional gun firing has fallen out of practice (luckily), but many people still celebrate the day with fireworks, decorations, concerts, parades, and family picnics or barbeques.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Independence Day, take some time to reflect on the effort and sacrifices our founding fathers made in establishing this great nation. Have a safe and happy holiday.
We the People
So begins the legal document that forms our national government and fundamental laws, guaranteeing basic rights for its citizens.
The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787 to replace the Articles of Confederation. Our original governing document created a nation comprised of states operating like independent countries, similar to the European Nation. It wasn't exactly what our forefathers had in mind.
Welcome to History 101. It's been quite some time since most of us have been in school. Time clouds our memory when we try to recall the details of such epic nature.
Today's students learn history in an entirely different manner than previous generations. History is sometimes rewritten to illustrate a current world event through a differing viewpoint. One example is the CSCOPE curriculum adopted by the Texas Education Agency where the Boston Tea Party protesters are portrayed as terrorists rather than revolutionaries seeking independence from a tyrannical government as we were taught years ago.
Somewhere in between lies the truth, as is typical when two different sides of any issue are argued. Yet the middle ground won't get its share of media coverage. Emotions flare at the extremes, making juicy news stories the public will devour. And the ratings keep the momentum building.
What does this have to do with our Constitution?
Everything. Those on the left think it needs to be adapted to today's world. That our founding fathers couldn't have possibly envisioned a time when technology would evolve as it has to adequately protect our basic rights.
Right-thinkers see it under attack by a government growing too big to handle. That political greed thirsts for power denied them by the current law of our land, who seek to change those Amendments that restrict their ultimate control.
Somewhere in the middle lies the vision of our forefathers, who crafted this document with the foresight to realize there may come a time in history we could face such division, and attempted to protect the citizens in case it should transpire.
Let's take a look at the actual Constitution of the United States of America, sans the emotional extremes.
Our Constitution created a federal government stronger than that of the individual states. It provided for three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. The system established checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power.
We had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution as school children. How many of you remember it? Refresh your memory:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
The People of the United States needed the establishment of these statutes. It serves to protect us from the whims of political folly over the course of time. Human nature is fickle. What sounds like a good idea today may not prove to be tomorrow.
We've had strong leaders throughout our history. They invite debate among their peers to assure they're making decisions based on all of the facts, not merely their own judgment. They aren't afraid to make difficult, unpopular choices if deemed in the best interest of America.
We've also had those who understand their power is vested in those who elect them. They rule by what they deem to be the voice of the people. The problem being they only hear the voices that shout the loudest, not necessarily those most knowledgeable on the subject itself.
Political winds shift. Our Constitution stands firm to protect us from wavering and becoming uprooted by its gusts.
The body of our Constitution is comprised of seven Articles defining each branch of government; its responsibilities; requirements of its elected officials; the process to elect its officials; terms of each office; our judicial system; the rights of each State; the method to adopt future amendments; and ratification of the document itself.
Ten amendments were added to the Constitution in 1791. Called the Bill of Rights, the amendments guaranteed citizens basic individual rights. To date, a total of 27 amendments have been added to the governing document.
It's these rights that have become the subject of debate. Quiz time: How much do you know about our Bill of Rights? Match the Amendment with the right it guarantees. Correct answers appear below in today's Flash Fact.
Amendments have been added over the years as circumstance dictates. They've defined voting rights, timeframes for elections, establishment of the electoral college, prohibition and subsequent repeal, succession of power should the President die or be removed from office, and addressed various other issues confronting the American people.
Amendment XXVI lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971 when men were drafted to fight in Vietnam at that age, but not yet permitted to elect the leader who would send them there.
Most recently, Amendment XXVII, ratified in 1992, prohibited Congress from voting a raise for themselves. Any variance in compensation could not take effect until the next election of representatives has been inaugurated.
How long has it been since you read the U.S. Constitution? This Independence Day may be a good time to share it as a family. Take some time between the barbecue and fireworks to remember what makes America such a great nation. Find a copy online here.
Tip of the Week
On July 4, 1963, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the ringing of bells signifying freedom at 2 p.m. to commemorate Independence Day nationwide. A movement is underway to restore this tradition. Encourage your neighbors, churches, civic buildings... anyone with a bell to join in. Celebrate our freedom by ringing a bell!
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