Dan Smith: Remember our history as nation observes birthday
This Thursday marks the 237th birthday of the United States of America. You can always argue the dates, and you would be right on a few of them that differ from July 4, 1776.
July 2 is a more accurate date set forth by our forefathers, but they had a delay for two days and the Fourth prevailed.
The Fourth of July was when we declared our independence. We were not a nation yet, we were just telling the British we were. It took until 1789 to really become the United States of America, and that is the real birthdate of our nation.
Up until that time, we were just running around, planning and fighting. We did put our money where our mouths were, and made it so.
The population in July 1776 was 2.5 million. Today we have 316.2 million people.
I often try to imagine what America was like in those days. You could travel from Florida to New York and only see farm land and few people — unless you came into the city central areas as you traveled. Of course you would be on horseback or buggy as you went. You would not be able to recognize any roads or few landmarks and would have to stop and ask for directions more times than not.
It would also take a lot longer to get from point A to point B. The mountain region, like Sevier County, was very remote. Not many people lived across the Appalachian Mountains in those days. It was mostly European traders and trappers that inhabited the area.
The Cherokee Indians lived in Cades Cove and farmed the land there. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the Ogles, and other names we know today, settled in Sevier County. And the rest is history.
There were 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. There was a committee of five that made up the core of the signers: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. These men drafted the constitution.
John Hancock was the first signer and people have always thought that he signed it bigger than anyone else because he wanted King George to know what he did. There is no proof of that. He may have just signed it that way, while the others simply signed it smaller on purpose.
Franklin was the oldest of the signers, at age 70. Edward Rutledge was the youngest, at age 26. Two future presidents signed: John Adams, the second president, and Thomas Jefferson the third. Both of these men died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing.
Today the United Kingdom is our sixth largest trading partner at $109.8 billion annually. It costs us about $3.8 million a year to import American flags to sell. Some $3.6 million of that goes to China, which makes most of our flags. We only export $614,115 worth of our flags, with Mexico buying $188,824 worth of them.
The first flag of the Colonists was called the Grand Union. It had 13 red and white strips with a field that consisted of the Scottish and English flag superimposed together. There were no stars at that time.
Little by little the colonists left off the British parts and arranged the field on the flag with white stars for each colony. They were weaning themselves from Britain. Many of the colonists at this point were born in the colonies and considered themselves Americans, not British. They had never been to England nor were they familair with their ways.
They were becoming Americans. Aren’t you glad they did?
I could go on about some of these interesting facts about the founding of our nation. I hope I’ve put you in a patriotic spirit for this Thursday.
I’ll leave you with this fact which I learned while at Disney World this past February. At Epcot’s Festival of Nations, in the Moroccan exhibit, I learned that Morocco was the first country to recognize America as a nation. They have been our friends the longest of any nation.
Raise your standard this Thursday!
— Dan M. Smith is a Cincinnati native and Gatlinburg resident. He is the author of two novels. His son is serving in the Air Force. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.