- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2018


America owes much to the press. It, too, is a founder and shared in the declaration of our freedom.

The best-known among America’s Founding Fathers — Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and Hancock, to name a few — depended on an newspaperman to spread the word of our secession from Great Britain and the beginning of our nascent republic. Meet that man, whose name is John Dunlap.

An Irishman, he worked under the apprenticeship of his uncle, William Dunlap, printer and Philadelphia bookseller, who 10 years prior to the Declaration of Independence had placed the business in the hands of his nephew. Barely 24, Dunlap began publishing the Pennsylvania Packet, a weekly newspaper. In 1776, he also secured a lucrative contract from the Continental Congress.

The American Revolutionary War had been wreaking havoc for more than a year before Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, et al. accepted the task to write a declaration, and on July 2, 1776, handed their draft stating as much to the Congress assembled in Philadelphia. However, like the federal legislative caretakers of today, they disagreed, and so it took an additional two days to agree on the final decree. Since July 4, 1776, that day of agreement has been known as Independence Day.

Printing of the public declaration fell to John Dunlap after John Hancock, the president of Congress, signed a copy and the secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson, attested Hancock’s signature. It’s estimated that Dunlap printed 200 broadsides of the Declaration. One of the 25 known surviving copies is in the hands of the National Archives.

Dunlap also proved his allegiance to America by fighting with the First Troop Philadelphia Cavalry, and he saw action alongside George Washington in the American Revolution Battles of Trenton and Princeton.

Dying a few months after the start of the War of 1812, Dunlap didn’t witness America defeat the British yet again, and he didn’t get to hear Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which still today, brings to life the remarkable resilience of Americans — whose land people seek from sea to shining sea in search of a better life.

The exact anniversary of America’s difficult birth is not always crystal clear, however. John Adams, the first to have a son follow in his presidential footsteps, wrote to his closest adviser, wife Abigail, mother of John Quincy, and set July 2 as the day of historical significance.

In a three-page letter dated July 3, 1776, Adams wrote:

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. … I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

Let’s not quibble over whether July 2nd or July 4th is the actual day of our nation’s birth.

Let’s be thankful the Founding Fathers agreed to agree, and that John Dunlap was there to spread the (non-fake) news.

Birthdays call for celebrations to held on more than a single day, anyway.

Happy Birthday, America!

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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