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Monday, June 06, 2005

The 4th of July and Interesting Things

The 4th Of July And Interesting Things

By Forrest W. Schultz

What has rarely ever been mentioned in the zillions of articles, books, and speeches about the 4th of July is one of the most interesting and astonishing things which has ever happened in American history, namely that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826, exactly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776! Jefferson was 83; Adams was 91. This amazing fact is significant not only for the obvious reason that Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence but also for these little known additional reasons: (1). John Adams was a member, along with Jefferson, of the five-man committee appointed by the Continental Congress to compose the Declaration; and (2). John Adams was the chief advocate for its adoption in speeches he delivered to the Continental Congress. Another interesting thing is that, surprisingly, the committee did not regard the composition of the Declaration as being that important, for which reason this responsibility was delegated to Jefferson, who, at 33 years of age, was the youngest member of the committee and therefore the low man on the totem pole

Although I have known these facts for many years, it was not until recently that I learned that many Americans in 1826 believed that there was a profound theological significance in the fact that Jefferson and Adams both died on July 4 of that year. I made this discovery in reading the excellent biography of John Adams written by David McCullough [John Adams (N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 2001)]. McCullough quotes two prominent Americans of that time as illustrative examples: John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams (who was President at the time) and the famous orator Daniel Webster.

“That John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had died on the same day, and that it was, of all days, the Fourth of July, could not be seen as mere coincidence: it was a ‘visible and palpable’ manifestation of ‘Divine favor’, wrote John Quincy in his diary…, expressing what was felt and would be said again and again everywhere the news spread.” [McCullough, op. cit., p. 647] “In the weeks and months that followed, eulogies to Adams and Jefferson were delivered in all parts of the country, and largely in the spirit that their departure should not be seen as a mournful event. They had lived ‘amid the hosannas and grateful benedictions of a numerous, happy, joyful people’ and on the nation’s fiftieth birthday, which, said Daniel Webster in a speech in Boston, was ‘proof’ from on high ‘that our country, and its benefactors, are objects of His care.’”
[ibid. p. 648] It would be an interesting research project for a historian to locate, document, and publish these theological interpretations.


There are many other interesting things about Jefferson and Adams which I could mention as well as many interesting things about other matters of American history. I have them all collected in my head right now: some day I will write them all down. I am writing this paper not only to pass along the interesting 4th of July fact noted above but also to express my concern that so many history courses and history textbooks are boring because they omit interesting things. The next time July 4th rolls around I intend to set forth a Declaration of Independence from Banality and a Declaration of Freedom for Inclusion of Interesting Things in History !! The same principle applies to local history as to national history. You can take action on this locally by finding out something interesting about the history of your town or county and then making it known. We did just that in the little town of Grantville, Georgia where I live in 2002 when we conducted a 70th Anniversary re-enactment of the robbery of the Bank of Grantville in 1932, which became famous because of the many interesting things connected with it.

Let me now conclude this paper by delving into the foundation of the matter. The ultimate reason why there are so many interesting things in history (and in nature) is even less known that the interesting things themselves because it has been egregiously omitted from the doctrine of God in our systematic theologies. This ultimate reason for the abundance of interesting things is very simple, yet very profound, and can be easily stated in three words: “God is interesting”. Amen.

Forrest W. Schultz has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary. He has had an interest in the interesting things in science and in American history for a long time. He has also been concerned for a long time about the lack of attention to the attributes involved in the aesthetic aspect of God: His beauty, artistry, creativity, imagination, and “interestingness”, and has expressed that concern in his theological research.

Note: this paper is an abridged version of an article with the same title which was published on pages 2 & 3 of the July 2002 issue of the Chalcedon Special Report.



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