July Fourth approaches again, which makes me very happy for three main reasons:
• Summer is my favorite time of year.
• I love fireworks and hamburgers.
• Most importantly, I think it is wonderful that the U.S. celebrates the day, 235 years ago, that it came to be an independent nation rather than a British colony.
My recent trip to Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia, has made me even more enthusiastic about the birth and subsequent history of what, in my opinion, is the greatest democracy in the world. The way Americans have always fought for what they believe in does the nation great credit, and I find it a particularly attractive personality trait (luckily for my American husband!).
As the great American author Mark Twain said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of fight in the dog.”
The formation of the United States of America has no real comparison in history or the rest of the world. Colonization of the country has made America what it is today. From the short lived Viking settlements in Greenland in the 11th century, followed by the early Spanish expeditions in the late 15th century and my English ancestors in the early 17th century, much of America was occupied by the Spanish, English and French by 1776. The Declaration of Independence only applied to the 13 British colonies of which Georgia was the most Southern.
Colonization came at great cost to the Native Americans. It has been estimated that more than the first 150 years after Columbus’ voyage in 1492, 80 percent of Native Americans died through massacres, grueling forced labor and old world diseases to which they had no natural immunity.
Of course, many people came to the “New World” from Europe not only to seek economic opportunities but wanting religious freedom to practice their faith openly. Many of the colonies that became the U.S. were settled by men and women of deep religious convictions who were dismayed at their government’s interference with their religious beliefs.
America, of course, strives for a separation of the roles of church and state and indeed the very First Amendment of the Bill of Rights says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibition of the free exercise thereof” in order to protect those freedoms.
Despite the desire to keep religion out of government, the Founding Fathers were clearly committed to defining the importance of God in their country, as the Declaration of Independence famously states that “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”
I admire and love the fact that most Americans really embrace these beliefs – and that the pursuit of happiness is not just seen as a “nice to have” by Americans but as an “unalienable right” – how fabulous!
As an English resident in Georgia, one of my funniest experiences was when a sweet girl working in a bank asked me if we celebrate July Fourth in England.
“Oh yes,” I joked. “We always celebrate losing our American colonies through the war of independence in 1776 with a day of national mourning.”
I am not really sure that she appreciated my British sense of humor, and she probably didn’t like studying history in high school either.
So enjoy July Fourth. And while you remember the history of this great nation, don’t forget that, as a wonderful Southern gentleman once told me, Independence Day is also a celebration of the American right to stay home and barbecue.
God bless America!
Francis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009 with her American husband, Carl, and English dogs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lesleyfrancispr.com.