The Fourth of July
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern
One account from Oakham MA details the proceedings of the Fourth of July celebrations of 1797, where the whole town and many members of the surrounding communities gathered together to celebrate with the local veterans. The proceedings opened with a prayer service and speech from the local priest, followed by a meal at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The festivities culminated in a large procession of the veterans through town and much ceremony as each individual unit represented fired off its salute for those gathered. A few years after 1797, one of the veterans preparing to fire off his musket accidentally left his ramrod in the barrel, propelling it across the park and into the roof of the village hotel some distance away.
However, by 1826, the 50 year anniversary, the Fourth was starting to lose some of its immediacy and function as a unifying force in American nationalism. By that point, America was rapidly diversifying both culturally and geographically, with Manifest Destiny already in full swing. As people moved west, cultures were created and redefined, and America as an idea began to take on new meaning, and the unifying force of the Fourth was not quite as prevalent. But this is not to say that the Fourth lost its significance place in American ideology. Over the next two centuries, America would face great challenges, and the language of the founders and the political and emotional force of the Fourth would be used to inspire and guide the American people through thick and thin, as it still does today.