Don’t Try This at Home

One of my earliest memories was of the Fourth of July when my grandfather, an ex-marine, made some kind of homemade cannon/mortar out of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans with the tops and bottoms cut out. If I remember correctly, he’d duct tape them together, pour some lighter fluid down the tube and ignite it, making a big boom. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. Of course, my overprotective mom got pissed off (I had to have been under five years old), but I egged him on to do it over and over.

He died on the Fourth of July when I was five years old, so when I hear all of the booms going off this time of year, I always remember him.

Disclaimer: Don’t go out and try to make your beer can cannon; just don’t. I’m not advocating that; SOFREP certainly isn’t advocating that. Our attorneys here would hang me from a yardarm, and besides, I don’t want anyone getting hurt. Have a safe and happy Fourth.


So, how did we get from being British subjects to having a holiday where we get to blow stuff up, cook out, and take Monday off of work? Glad you asked. Independence Day has been a national holiday since 1941, but its roots go back way further than that. As you probably have heard by now, on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Independence from King George. Two days later, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence as drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

An old school Fourth of July parade with horses down a dirt road. Port Roberts, Washington State, USA. Image Credit:

Going back a bit from that, during the time of the first battles of the Revolutionary War in April 1775, not every American colonist wanted complete independence from Great Britain. Those who did were considered to be radicals. Rebels. About a year later, however, most colonists had come around, several harboring increasing hostilities towards the British. This was partly due to revolutionary sentiments spread by men like Thomas Paine, as espoused in his 1776 pamphlet, “Common Sense.” SOFREP described this document as a form of early Psy Ops. Be that as it may, it successfully got the population riled up.

Women dressed in their patriotic best for July 4, Washington, DC, 1919. Courtesy of GHI/Universal History Archive via Getty Images

On June 7, 1776, the Continental Congress met in Independence Hall (at that time known as the Pennsylvania State House) in Philadelphia. That day Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence. As you might imagine, a heated debate ensued after floating such an essential idea like this. But, unfortunately, what he was proposing was considered by the British to be treason, and treason was punishable by death.

Congress tabled a vote on Lee’s resolution but did appoint a five-person committee (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert R. Livingston) to draft a formal statement justifying the break from Great Britain. The Continental Congress met again on July 2 and voted in favor of Lee’s resolution. However, the vote was not unanimous; at first, the New York delegation abstained (no comment) but later gave the idea the thumbs up.

Later that day, a forward-looking John Adams wrote to his wife and future first lady Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

An American tradition. Chowing down on hot dogs on the Fourth of July. Image Credit:

Historians recently found an early draft of Adam’s letter that also referenced the need for a hot dog eating contest “somewhere in the vicinity of New York City” to “exhibit to the world our tenacity and bounty.” Still, apparently, these lines were scratched out and never made it to his wife.

OK, so I might be kidding about the hot dog eating, but Adams really did mention guns and “illuminations.” The Fourth was meant to be a fun holiday, a celebration.

So, go out there, eat some good food, maybe have a beer or two, and thank our founding fathers and the men who fought the Revolutionary War for what they did for us.

Stay safe.