Independence Day is one of the most treasured holidays in America, and it’s almost here! Here are three interesting facts about the 4th of July that you might not know, as well as a mini-history lesson about the renowned George Washington (and his equally-famous last will and testament).
Three Fun Facts about the Fourth
First, did you know that the 4th of July was not the actual date that the Founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence? If you want to be annoying at your family barbecue, you can point out that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence was on July 2nd, with another, formalized document being signed on August 2nd. The 4th is the date that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration.
If that last fact was a bit of a buzzkill, this one won’t be. It turns out, the colonists’ celebrations on the Fourth of July contained pretty much the same level of wildness as they do now. All the pent-up frustration over high taxes and colonial strictness led to pretty raucous parties once the colonists were free. For example, the Virginia Gazette, a paper that circulated in 1776, reported that Americans toppled a statue of King George and melted it into bullets. They also hosted huge bonfires where they burned King George in effigy and held fake funerals for him. Oh, and there were tons of fireworks even then as well.
Thirdly, even the troops in the colonies were able to celebrate during the Revolutionary War. George Washington, sensing that his army was low on morale, ordered a double ration of rum to be served in all the camps to celebrate the Fourth.
A Little Bit About George Washington
George Washington is perhaps one of the most fascinating leaders in all American history. He actually somewhat accidentally started the French and Indian War —or, at least, he was responsible for the shot over the bough that set it off.
Washington had just gone through a fierce battle that ended in the death of a French military leader, Commander Jumonville. Despite this death, Washington did not win the battle, and the loss was largely due to his errors and naivety. His letter of surrender, detailing Jumonville’s death, was somehow received by the French and translated by a Dutch soldier.
But, this post-battle letter was translated incorrectly. Instead of translating that the war was the ambiguous cause of Commander Jumonville’s death, the Dutch soldier read the letter as Washington “assassinating” Jumonville. Because Washington was, in 1754, a British colonist, this was considered an act of aggression (casus belli) to justify war. It ignited the tensions between the French and British, effectively kicking off the French and Indian War, which snowballed into the Seven Years’ War. The British won both and sent the French packing.
For a short time, anyway.
But tensions were brewing with the Americans. The British soldiers sent over to fight the War with the French were paid more than the Americans. This was really expensive, as was the whole conflict in general. So, the British enacted the Stamp Act in 1765.
It was this Stamp Act that pushed American colonists to the edge. The extra money going into King George’s pocket deeply angered the colonists, and when other taxes followed (such as the infamous Tea Tax), that led to, well, a revolution.
So, in a strange, winding way, George Washington was a catalyst for the wars that led to Americans throwing down the gauntlet against the British. And now, centuries later, here we are on the Fourth of July.
The Estate of George Washington
There is a custom of Washington’s that you too can emulate. No, it’s not starting a Revolution, but it is similar to how he organized his life. Washington was a meticulous planner when it came to wrapping up his affairs. He was very ill in 1799, and he wrote one of the most famous last wills and testaments of all time. He made two copies, giving one to his wife, Martha, and throwing another in the fire. The will was deeply personal, granting land to loved ones, particularly his wife, and releasing debts his family members, even distant relatives, owed to his estate.
He took care of his loved ones, and you can too. Contact an estate planner about setting up a trust (a probate-free way to plan out your affairs). Through careful planning, you can emulate Washington’s responsibility and dedication to his family and friends.