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« Ode to Portsmouth: Paradise by the Piscataqua | Page One | Questions about firearms? Ask Professor Gunn »

Independence Day: What would Founding Fathers say?

By John Breneman

The Fourth of July isn't till Thursday, but there sure were some fireworks this week illuminating vital American issues of immigration, the right to vote and the ability to pursue happiness by marrying the person you love.

The Supreme Court fires a rocket into the Voting Rights Act. Ooh! Then sparks celebrations, and tantrums, with its vote on gay marriage. Aah! The Senate blazes forward on immigration reform, igniting opponents in our horribly dysfunctional House. Ooh! Aah!

I'm hoping these political pyrotechnics provide a high-voltage jolt to a democracy badly in need of one — as well as to we the citizens who supposedly run the show.

We are a people suffering a blinding hangover from out-of-control parties — and I don't mean the fun kind.

I'm talking about parties hell-bent on making it harder for certain people to vote. Parties that, in state legislatures across the nation, are obsessed with exerting control over women's bodies — and I don't mean in a fun consensual way.

I'm talking about two parties — run by rich men on the take from even richer men — whose votes are often motivated more by political self-preservation than actually helping our nation.

After the Great Financial Meltdown of 2008 gutted retirement accounts and crashed the economy, we wished Washington would take action to protect us from the inevitable next disaster. Sadly, our fortunes rest in the hands of a Congress that refuses to lift a finger to regulate the big banks.

After Newtown, an overwhelming majority of we the people favored expanded background checks for those buying guns. But the crew we elected to represent us just keeps shooting blanks.

Why, it's enough to make Joe Citizen want to knock back more than one beer with his Fourth of July burger.

And I am not the first chump to suggest that party politics is making a mockery of democracy.

But hey, the Fourth of July is supposed to be about the other kind of party — a celebration of that day 237 years ago when a group of patriots with widely divergent beliefs came together to create their idea of the best country ever.

Can you imagine that very first Fourth of July party? Well, the history books reveal that my early explorations of this very topic date back to the late 20th century...

The year was 1776. Young Thomas Jefferson, 33, threw a barbecue at his house and all the Founding Fathers were there, along with everybody who was anybody during those heady days before the Revolution.

The Washingtons — George, Martha and little Denzel — stopped by with some of Martha's famous "I cannot tell a lie" cherry pie, considered to be the tastiest in the Colonies.

John and Abigail Adams brought a crate of lobsters and their 9-year-old son John Quincy, who played roll the hoop with little Andy Jackson, also 9. Adams' older brother Samuel, 53, wearing a stylish puffy shirt and brown vest, hauled along plenty of his "hand-crafted" Summer Ale.

Young Aaron Burr, 20, brought some pistols in case anyone wanted to duel and old-timer Benjamin Franklin had a box of kites festooned with stripes and stars.

Once most of the guests had arrived at Jefferson's Monticello estate, Paul Revere, 41, galloped up on his horse, Tea Biscuit, screaming, "The British are coming! The British are coming!"

"Just kidding," said the patriotic prankster, who then wandered off to ask Sam Adams for a bottle of Boston Lager.

Meanwhile, Jefferson was playing the consummate host. Garbed in a tri-cornered chef's hat and an apron embroidered with the words, "All menus are NOT created equal," he manned the grill while presiding over a buffet piled with parsnip puffs, stewed rump of beef and roasted bone-in leg of lamb.

"Hey Jefferson," shouted fellow Virginian Patrick Henry, "Give me another corndog or give me death!"

After dessert — with everyone stuffed on Indian pudding and macaroons — Jefferson gathered the group and unrolled some paper with fancy writing on it. He cleared his throat and began reading. "When in the course of human events," he began, "yada, yada, yada... We hold these truths to be, um..."

"Self-evident?" suggested Ben Franklin.

"Yeah that's it, self-evident ... that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of ..."

"Beer!" shouted Paul Revere.

"Chicks!" yelled 18-year-old future president James "Jimmy" Monroe.

"No, Happiness," said Jefferson, who droned on for about 20 more minutes until John Hancock whipped out a quill pen and started signing his name.

"Hey, leave some room for the rest of us," said New Hampshire signer Josiah Bartlett, as Samuel Adams drizzled some beer onto the edges to help give the document that "parchment" feel.

Then the celebration really started to get lively. Thomas Paine implored the revelers to use common sense, but Hancock and Franklin began lighting off crude rockets packed with gun powder that, upon bursting in the air, produced a most delightful red glare.

Our adoption of the Declaration of Independence in that Summer of 1776, certainly put future president John Adams in a partying mood. History shows he declared that henceforth we should celebrate Independence Day with "pomp and parade ... guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

Boom! Ooh, aah!

Count me in. I'll be working all day, but as soon as I'm done, pour me a frosty Samuel Adams.

Because my thirst for that "more perfect union" envisioned by our Founding Fathers will never diminish

* This column appeared in the Sunday, June 30, 2013, Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald. See more.
Twitter: @MrBreneman

Posted on July 1, 2013 12:49 PM | Permalink

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