As to what we did to celebrate this holiday, we did a 1776 musical celebration. Susan has a well-loved copy of the book on her shelf, two separate cast recordings, a VHS and a DVD in her house. Alyssa has a DVD currently located in another state, and, failing that, a phone connection to Susan.
In a surprising turn-around, we recommend a watch and read policy for 1776 (rather than read then watch), but do go get a copy of the book! You can read a historical note, the complete Declaration of Independence with its changes noted, AND a select bibliography (woot!) in addition to all of your favorite lines (and excluded song lyrics, like the entire "Time's Running Out" number).
Now, if you haven’t seen a performance (movie counts) of this show yet, get on it. It’s a musical about the writing and revising of the Declaration of Independence, and most of the founding fathers we learn about in school are present, singing and dancing (or walking in dramatic ways). You can watch it for the fun of seeing historical figures in a musical, or you can watch for its remarkably good history. (As a bonus READ THIS, a perfect follow-up is David McCullough's John Adams, which has to have been written for the 1776 fans based on the number of times Abigail Adams' request for pins comes up in the first chapters.) Here are some youtube links to help start your own enjoyment of 1776:
Both of us love the darker more political scenes of the delegates debating slavery late in the musical. Arguably the best song sequence is the young delegate, Edward Rutledge, speaking words that Thomas Jefferson wrote about the "peculiar institution" of slavery, and then singing about the hypocrisy of the northern colonies' delegates, who may not have slave plantations but who have made their fortunes from being slavers or investing in the slave ships. It's absolutely mesmerizing.
One of Alyssa’s favorite lighter scenesis Richard Henry Lee, the delegate from Virginia who is not Thomas Jefferson, explaining to John Adams and Benjamin Franklin why he will be able to convince the Virginian legislature to propose independence (it’s because he’s a LEE, DAMMIT).
It’s a big deal for Virginia to present a resolution on independence because up until this happens, the only colonies that seem to care about independence are those radical ones in New England. But rather than just come out and say to Lee, “Hey, buddy, why don’t you start proposing independence? Massachusetts can’t get a vote, and we know you do care about this issue…” Franklin drops unsubtle hints until Lee is fired up to dance and sing about how great his old rich family is. In case you haven’t heard, he’s a Lee. Another half dozen Lees are notable (even a hundred years before the most famous Lee of all, Robert E. Lee).
That’s just the way things roll in 1776. There’s plenty of sober political debate, but then somebody jumps on a desk/park bench/staircase landing, and the singing brings it all home.
Anyway, here are screen caps for the cut sequence at the end of the Lee number. (It's only included on the laser disc, in case you were wondering where the shots came from.) Even without music Richard Henry Lee rocks.
Franklin: Do you think so? I think I just played him so he'd go get a resolution on independency without owing him any favors.
Adams: At least he'll be traveling for a week. After the last interminable three minutes of dancing, I never want to see that guy again.
Adams: . . . I was saying?
Susan's favorite lighter sceneis the playful debate between Adams, Jefferson and Franklin over the new National Bird of America. It too has a song! (No dancing. Can't have everything.)
Jefferson thinks this could be a good idea.
Jefferson and Adams check that they heard right.
Franklin: Oh yeah.
Hahahaha. Yeah. "Praise."
In any case, Happy Day That Is Two Days After Independence Day!