Today we celebrate an incredible moment in the history of mankind, but what exactly are we celebrating? Historians now know that representatives from the American colonies taking part in the second continental congress voted to separate from Great Britain on July 2nd, 1776. They spent two days writing a statement about their decision, which, of course, is the Declaration of Independence, and they approved that declaration July 4th. While conventional wisdom associates the 4th with the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence, historians believe that congress waited until a month later to sign the DOI. Interestingly enough, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail predicting that future Americans would celebrate July 2nd:
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival….” Link: Wikipedia
So, there might be some confusion about the important date, but we are totally sure about everything else right? Well, sadly, historians disagree about lots more, such as the question of whether the second continental congress was filled with freedom loving idealists like my middle school history book said, or if the founding fathers were a band of over-eloquent business men tired of paying taxes like one of my college textbooks said. And now you know the rest of the story.
To add some HORSE to that history…Caesar Rodney of Delaware, who was suffering from face or throat cancer at the time, got word that his vote was needed in order to push the ratification. He rode from Dover, Delaware, through the night and through serious thunderstorms as he came towards what is now Townsend and Middletown, Delaware. Many of the streams were flooded. Riding in the night, through heavy rain and wind! He had to abandon the horse and take a carriage once he got to Cooches Bridge, which is now near Newark, DE. From there he took the “Philadelphia Road” (history is not quite sure how this road went) to the meeting house in Philadelphia being used by the Continental Congress. He arrived in the morning without sleep for 20 hours.
This treacherous journey, undertaken in ill health, required the greatest of reserve, and a horse was the facilitator of the vote that was cast that declared our independence. Today a statue of the horse and Caesar Rodney aboard stands in the center of the city of Wilmington, and was the model for the Delaware quarter, which I had a small hand in helping the Franklin Mint artist design. He came down to my farm and visited to watch some horses in action, and took photographs and borrowed my book, Horses in Motion. He sent me several proofs back and forth in email to correct — we had to move the the hind legs somewhat to get it more of a gallop than the statue is. The horse he used was named “Force Be With You”, a standardbred — how appropriate, since the root horses of the standardbred breed helped to settle and forge this nation both under saddle and in harness. TRUE story!