Take time to remember your history on Independence Day

Greenwich-Voices-DadakisThis Friday is July 4th and that means that across America we will celebrate our nation’s founding in 1776.

The place to be in Greenwich for this wonderful day of celebration will be the plaza in front of Town Hall. Starting at 9 a.m. hundreds of our fellow townspeople will gather for the annual raising of the Stars and Stripes. This ceremony, which was first imagined by Bea Crumbine, dubbed by First Selectman Peter Tesei to be “Greenwich’s goodwill ambassador,” is a great way to kick off the long weekend with pride and gratitude.

Each of us learned in school that the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 formalized America’s separation from Great Britain that had been underway since the first shots of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord in 1775.

It’s important to remember that Connecticut citizens played a large role in that signing. Of the 58 signers, four were Connecticut citizens. These Connecticut patriots believed strongly in ending the tyranny that Britain had rained down on the colonists. By adding their signatures, they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their honor to this fledgling country which, they had no way of knowing, would become the greatest and most compassionate nation in all of human history.

Connecticut’s signers were Samuel Huntington, Roger Sherman, William Williams and Oliver Wolcott. While these men didn’t later join some signers at the highest echelon of the new government —two signers would become president of the United States (Adams and Jefferson) and three would become vice president — Connecticut’s signers nonetheless played a vital role in the new democracy.

Samuel Huntington, was the seventh president of the Continental Congress and went on to become Connecticut’s 18th governor, serving a decade in office before his death in 1796. Huntington had limited schooling, was mostly self-educated, eventually being admitted to the bar and serving as chief justice of Connecticut’s Superior Court.

Roger Sherman chose a path taking him to the nation’s capital, first in New York and then Philadelphia. Sherman was a charter member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving two years before moving to the United States Senate in 1793. Sherman, like Huntington, had little formal education but went on to join the bar becoming a judge and college professor.

Oliver Wolcott was an educated man, having studied medicine at Yale. Considered a keen military mind, he commanded 14 Connecticut regiments with New York’s army and headed a brigade in the capture of Burgoyne, which was a critical early colonist win. He became the 19th governor of Connecticut, but died after two years.

William Williams was a merchant and graduate of Harvard Law School, which was quite an accomplishment in those days. He was the son-in-law of Connecticut Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, who also was the second speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The evening before the Continental Congress was to sign the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his wife, Abigail, predicting how Independence Day would be viewed in the future. He prophesied, “I believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival …solemnized with pomp, parade … and illuminations.”

Greenwich will follow Thomas Jefferson’s prognostication with two illumination displays. The fireworks will be held Saturday, July 5, simultaneously at Binney Park and Greenwich Point as night falls.

But please, as you celebrate Independence Day with your barbecues and softball games, flag raisings and, yes thank you President Jefferson, your illuminations, take a few minutes to reflect on the courage these men exhibited defying Great Britain. While it looks so right from the perspective of 2014, back then the signers were committing treason, for they were British citizens fighting their own country. Signing was a true act of courage.

Enjoy your Fourth.

 

Ed Dadakis is a former chairman of the Republican Town Committee and has spent more than 30 years serving on the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). He may be reached at [email protected]

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