Sons of the American Revolution
Meeting Notice and News, Summer 2012
Misc. notes from chapter officers
Revolution History note
Misc. reminders and information
Our next meeting will be held on Sept. 15th in the private meeting room of the Piccadilly Cafeteria, located at 11810 Dale Mabry Highway North, Tampa, Florida (813-963-1660). Meetings begin at noon but members arrive as early as 11:30 for a time of camaraderie. The speaker for Sept. will be Dr. Ed Silbert, a retired Associate Professor of History from U.S.F.
One of the duties of the Chapter Chaplain is to send cards to
our members that are sick. If you know of anyone that I need to send a card to,
please mention it at our next meeting. Another duty is to send a sympathy card
to the family of a member who has passed away. I have been remiss in these
areas and am asking your help. I need your input.
Jack C. Bolen
American Revolution Notes:
What better topic for this summer newsletter than what happened the first week of July, 1776. Even though it had been over a year since Lexington and Concord, many members of the Continental Congress still hoped for reconciliation with England. In fact, while several motions for independence had been placed on the floor, none had been seconded, so the matter had not even been officially debated.
That changed on June 7, 1776 when Virginia moved that “these colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” Massachusetts seconded the motion and the matter was now on the floor. Congress then made two important decisions; first, it appointed a five man committee to write a report outlining the reasons for the separation. Second, it declared a 3 week recess so members could get instructions from their home states.
Unlike today, members appointed or elected to Congress from the various states were required to vote according to instructions they received from their state legislatures. While some were “free agents”, most were not and several states did not have instructions on independence. For Example, Connecticut’s representatives had instructions to vote no if the measure was introduced by a New England state, but to vote yes if the measure was introduced by a state outside of New England. Thus, since Virginia made the motion, Connecticut was now a yes.
During the next three weeks, the committee went to work. While Thomas Jefferson was the primary draftsman, John Adams and Ben Franklin offered advice and did some preliminary editing of the draft.
July 1, 1776was the date set for debate on the issue. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania spoke for several hours in the morning arguing against independence. When he finished, John Adams rose to give the argument in favor. Following both speeches there was more debate and more questions from members. Finally, in the early evening, it was time to vote. Two votes would need to be taken. For the purposes of debate, the Congress had resolved itself into a committee of the whole house. So, first, the measure had to be voted out of committee and then a final, binding vote would be taken.
The result of the first vote was 9-2 with one abstention and one state divided. The two no votes were Pennsylvania and South Carolina. The abstention was from New York which had yet to receive instructions on how to vote. Delaware’s delegates were free agents. There were three of them—2 in favor and 1 against; one of the “for” votes being Caesar Rodney who had gone home ill. The Pennsylvania delegates were also “free agents” and their internal vote had been 4-3 against. Since Congress had also decided that the vote had to be unanimous, two of those votes would need to be changed before the final vote, as well as South Carolina’s. And, what to do about Delaware? Without instructions would New York vote no since it had no authority to vote yes? So, it was decided to postpone the official vote until the following, day, July 2, to allow Caesar Rodney to return and to give the members time to digest the events of the day.
No one wrote anything down and we have no records of the conversations that undoubtedly went on in the taverns in Philadelphia on the evening of July 1st. If any promises or deals were made we will never know that either. What we do know is that when the official vote on Independence was taken on July 2, the vote was 12-0 in favor. Caesar Rodney rode through a rain storm to be there for the vote. New York decided that even though they could not vote yes, that did not mean they had to vote no. Only 5 of the Pennsylvania delegates showed up on the second and therefore Pennsylvania’s vote was 3-2 in favor. The other two members sent word they were indisposed. And, in the interest of unanimity and not wanting to be the state that stood in the way, South Carolina changed its vote. So, on July 2, 1776, by unanimous vote the Continental Congress declared the English colonies in America free and independent states.
That evening, John Adams wrote to Abigail “The second day of July...will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. ... It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports; belles, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”Yes, July 2nd is Independence Day.
Once the measure was adopted, the members began to look at the committee report and spent the rest of July 2, all of July 3 and part of July 4 making changes and editing the report. In some cases entire paragraphs were removed. In other places, it was a matter of adding a word here or taking out a word there. In the early afternoon of July 4, with everyone now satisfied with wording of the document, Congress adjourned.
It was not until Congress reconvened in early August that members put their names to the committee report, by then known as the Declaration of Independence. And since members arrived at different times during that week, they simply added their signatures as they showed up.
Most people are familiar with the painting showing the Declaration being presented and with others showing the great signing event. When the large picture, that now hangs in the rotunda of the capitol in Washington, DC, was sent on a nationwide tour in the 1820’s, it stopped in Boston. John Adams was still alive and the artist wanted his opinion. Adams said “I do not know if it is good art, I do know it is bad history. The event you have pictured never happened.”
There you have it. July 2nd is Independence Day and July 4th is the day the committee’s report was approved. So whether you celebrate on July 2nd, July 4th or both, remember, in August 1776, when they signed, they were indeed pledging their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor.”
(ed. note.—space does not permit an explanation of how, why and when July 4th became the holiday, not July 2nd. Perhaps, if the members are interested, I could present it as a talk in fall.)
Below is the tentative program schedule for the 2012-2013
year. As always send along any suggestions for speakers.
Sept. Constitution Day speaker DR. Ed Silbert
October EMT/Fire Medal and Law enforcement medal
November CAR (tentative)
December Installation of Officers
Misc. Reminders and Notes:
Chapter Website—always remember you can find information about the chapter and programs on the chapter website. http://www.patriot-web.com/
Another newsletter and meeting reminder will be sent out the first part of September. It will include any additional information concerning activities around Constitution Day.
The Color Guard of the Tampa Chapter will march in the 4th of July Parade in Lutz. Turn out and support your Color Guard!
With best wishes for a wonderful summer,
Tampa Chapter, SAR