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The Meaning of Independence Day



What is the legacy of the Declaration of Independence and its self-evident truths of equal and unalienable rights? Our ebook, “The Meaning of Independence Day,” explores the ideas behind the American Founding and their significance for our present personal freedoms and national flourishing. 

The ebook contains over 50 selections, from colonial times to the present, chosen and arranged to illuminate a series of themes: declaring, securing, and maintaining independence; the promise of the new republic; seeking a more perfect union (with special attention to securing equal rights for African Americans and women); and celebrating the holiday and remembering its national promise. Each selection includes a brief introduction by the editors with guiding questions for discussion.

Independence Day: An American Holiday
The Origins and Traditions of Independence Day
Woodrow Wilson, “The Meaning of Liberty”
Calvin Coolidge, Speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the Nation, July 4, 1942
Ronald Reagan, “What July Fourth Means to Me”

Declaring, Securing, and Maintaining Independence
Independence Declared
A Brief History of Independence
Francis Hopkinson, “A Pretty Story”
Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Paul Revere’s Ride” 
Patrick Henry, “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death”
Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms
George III, A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition
John Adams, From The Autobiography
Declaration of Independence
   LESSON PLAN: Anne Continetti, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Lesson on the Declaration of Independence
Samuel Adams, “No Other Alternative Than Independence”
John Adams, Letters to Abigail Adams, 1776

Songs of the Revolution
“Yankee Doodle”
John Dickinson, “The Liberty Song”
Thomas Paine, “Liberty Tree”
Nathaniel Niles, “The American Hero”
William Billings, “Chester”
Henry Archer, “The Volunteer Boys”
“The Rebels”

The War for Independence
George Washington, Letter to Congress, 1775
Thomas Paine, The Crisis, No. 1
David Ramsay, Oration on the Advantages of Independence
Samuel Shaw, Letter to His Parents, 1779 
James P. Collins, Account of the Battle of Kings Mountain
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Old Esther Dudley”
James Thacher, The Siege at Yorktown 

A New Republic
John Adams, Letter to H. Niles, 1818
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., “A New Eden”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “My Kinsman, Major Molineaux”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Republic”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Concord Hymn”
Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Independence Hall
Horace Mann, Fourth of July Oration

A More Perfect Union
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Ode”
Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
Langston Hughes, “Freedom’s Plow” 
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
   LESSON PLAN: Anne Continetti, Understanding and Analyzing the Gettysburg Address
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, The Declaration of Sentiments
   LESSON PLAN: Anne Continetti, “All Men and Women Are Created Equal”
Anna Howard Shaw, “The Fundamental Principle of a Republic”
Martin Luther King Jr.,  “The American Dream”
James Russell Lowell, “Fourth of July Ode”

The Fourth of July: A Holiday Celebrated and A Promise Remembered
William Cullen Bryant, “The Antiquity of Freedom”
Walt Whitman, “America”
Daniel Webster, Eulogy for Adams and Jefferson 
Walt Whitman, “The Centenarian’s Story”
Sarah Josepha Hale, “The Soldier of the Republic”
Walt Whitman, “The Last of the Sacred Army”
Mark Twain, Speech on the Fourth of July, 1872
O. Henry, “The Fourth in Salvador”
Samuel Francis Smith, “My Country, ’Tis of Thee”
Sarah Orne Jewett, “A Village Patriot”
John Updike, “The Fourth of July”
Wendell Berry, “Independence Day”

APPENDIX: Leon R. Kass, “Abraham Lincoln’s Re-founding of the Nation”

ABOUT THE COVER: Unveiling the Statue of Liberty by Edward Moran

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