THE Fourth of July — HISTORICALLY AND PRACTICALLY
An Essay Delivered at the Closing Exercises
of the Academy of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
by Miss A. Dallidet
On the annual coming of our Glorious Fourth, amid so many rejoicings, little do we think of
the sufferings and privations that our forefathers endured, to secure for us that independence
which we so dearly prize and enthusiastically celebrate.
A little over one hundred years ago, the English colonists, the founders of this nation, were
struggling merely for their rights as English subjects; but seeing that there was no alternative left
but absolute submission, or to sever entirely those ties which bound them to the mother country,
they decided upon the latter.
The people of the colonies were descendents of men who had
braved the dangers of this wild and hostile country, rather than bear the oppressions of their
native land; and they inherited from their ancestors that love of liberty which they prized above
all their possessions. So when they felt the oppressive measures that one after the other Great
Britain was taking; the hearts of the patriots were filled with a resolution to resist even by force
of arms. Before this, the colonists had evinced a strong attachment for the Mother Country, they
felt proud of their descent from, and connection with, one of the most powerful nations of
That attachment was severely tried for years. England having been at war with France
had, of course, incurred a heavy debt; and the Ministry, unwilling to become unpopular by too
severely pressing on the resources of the people at home, determined to raise a revenue from the
colonies in America. But as the colonists had no representatives in Parliament, they claimed that
it had no right to tax them. The Ministry of George the Second not only asserted the right, but
Freely was that question discussed throughout the colonies; with great firmness
they maintained that taxation and representation were inseparable, and protested, in the name of
the people, against assumption by Parliament of powers at once destructive of liberty and
inconsistent with the rights to which every Briton was born. The measure that created the most
excitement was the famous "Stamp Act," by which all instruments of writing were to be null and
void unless on stamped paper, on which a duty had to be paid.
It is impossible to describe the
feeling of the colonists when they received information of the oppressive Act — for it appeared to
them that its passage sounded the knell of Freedom in America. The House of Burgesses of
Virginia was in session when the intelligence of the odious measure arrived. Unjust as it was,
there was danger in opposing it, and no one dared to introduce the subject, until at last, Patrick
Henry, the youngest member, after waiting in vain for older men to lead the way, hastily drew up
five resolutions which asserted in strong terms the rights of the colonists, and denied authority of
Parliament to impose taxes upon them; as the speaker and many of the members were royalists,
the reading of the resolutions produced unbound consternation; but Henry, indignant at the
attempt to enthrall his country, delivered such an eloquent speech, that it bore down all
opposition, and the fearless young orator triumphed.
The resolutions were carried. They were
circulated throughout the colonies, and everywhere excited the same determined spirit that they
breathed. The indignation of the people at the passage of the Stamp Act was not confined to
Virginia. Similar resolutions to those of Patrick Henry were passed in New York, Massachusetts
and elsewhere. In New Hampshire the morning of that eventful day, the bells tolled and the
people assembled as for a funeral procession. A coffin bearing the name of "Liberty" was borne
to a grave on the shoulders of eight persons to the sounds of minute guns. A funeral oration was
pronounced, and the coffin was lowered into the grave. Suddenly signs oflife appeared. It was
raised to the surface and bore the inscription, "Liberty Revived." Enthusiastic shouts from the
multitude, and the triumphant sound of the drums and trumpets greeted the resurrection. The
description ofthe numerous ways in which these patriots manifested their disapprobation at the
course that England was pursuing would fill volumes. Suffice to say that they resisted first by
argumentative opposition; then by force of arms, every encroachment of power. Heretofore the
colonists fought only for their rights, but about this time the Virginia Legislature recommended
Congress to declare colonies absolved from their allegiance to the Crown, and similar requests
were made from various quarters, which finally terminated in the adoption of the Declaration of
Independence, at two o'clock on the fourth of July, 1776.
After a long and cruel war, England perceiving that further attempts to reduce America were
fruitless, acknowledged her independence, and articles of peace were signed on the 20th day of
January, 1783. How we must admire the noble spirit manifested by our forefathers, which led
them to endure so many hardships for the years it took to obtain what their hearts longed for —
that freedom for which they sighed, struggled and bled. With freedom, prosperity dawned upon
the colonies and kept on increasing, until at present the United States, from the few ruined
colonies, now covers a vast extent of country, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
Its growth in population, its advance in art, science, internal improvements, and, in fact, in
everything that can make a nation truly great, the United States may proudly stand among the
first of the most enlightened nations of the world. During this long interval of our century, it has
enjoyed comparative peace — with the exception of the Mexican and Civil wars. The latter, one
of the most disastrous conflicts that: ever mged
in any county,W:fS occaslOne<tby the
antagonisms between the Anti-Slavery party of the North and the Southern slave-holders.
During the four years that it lasted, nearly one million lives were sacrificed, and the country
involve in a debt of over $2,000,000,000. The most important result was the abolition of slavery
throughout the hitherto slave-holding States. And now with freedom and equality, it is the desire of every true-hearted American that the
United States may continue to prosper, not like some of the ancient nations, to raise to the
highest zenith of power, then fall and decay, but to continue in its advancement forever.
The Goddess of Liberty, who was before believed to be a fabulous personage, has indeed
chosen this country as her abode. So, let us celebrate the day of her enthronement — the Fourth
of July of each successive year — with patriotic enthusiasm, as long as this nation shall so
eminently stand as the best example of the republican government.
This essay was printed in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, July 14, 1877.