Friday – the Fourth of July – is a day of tradition. Many celebrate the National Day of the United States with tried-and-true favorite activities every year, such as hosting a barbecue with family, listening to the Boston Pops in their annual Fireworks Spectacular, or watching the evening fireworks from the Boston Esplanade.
In no place does the Fourth of July have a more special meaning than it does in Boston. One set of American traditions that we cannot overlook is the traditions of democracy, independence, and fighting for the freedoms of our citizens, a long heritage that started here in Massachusetts and truly found its seat in our state capital of Boston.
Let us look back several hundred years to our country’s origins. In 1620, the Pilgrims sailed to North America to flee religious intolerance and establish a colony with a firm cultural identity. They viewed America as a land of promise where they could be free to practice their religion without any fear of repercussion and were determined to protect those freedoms henceforth. These settlers were the earliest champions of democracy, drawing up the Mayflower Compact to organize themselves into a civil body politic in which issues would be decided by vote. Incidentally, Plymouth Colony, the new home for the Pilgrims, would become the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the future United States.
Fast forward over one hundred years to 1765, in which year the British Parliament began to institute a series of taxes on the colonies without elected representation. With their very foundations rooted in the premise that all should have a voice, our Revolutionary forefathers began to protest.
It was here in Boston that many famous scenes in the fight for Independence occurred. Here, the Sons of Liberty burned records of the vice-admiralty court and looted the home of its chief justice, Thomas Hutchinson; here, an increasingly angry mob and a group of British soldiers met in a clash thereafter called the Boston Massacre; and here, revolutionaries protested the taxes on tea by dumping it into the Boston Harbor. When military strife began, Massachusetts was once again at the forefront of the action, the site of the Battles of Lexington and Concord as well as the Battle of Bunker Hill. Several of the most famous names from that period – Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, just to name a few – were born or rose to prominence in Boston.
So as we well know, the actions and events that took place in Boston during these tumultuous few years had an enormous effect on the eventual decisive adoption of the Declaration of Independence – drafted in part, we might add, by Adams and Franklin, both Boston natives. The legacy of our Puritan forefathers, who fled oppression in order to create better and more equal opportunities, is truly visible on the path to American independence and democracy.
And we as lawyers participate in the tradition of protecting freedoms each and every day through our work to defend the innocent and see justice served fairly. We carry on the proud foundations of this country in the very nature our profession – as such, we must be sure to uphold the spirit of equality toward which the Puritans, the colonial revolutionaries, and we today still strive. Much has changed in the past several hundred years, but this cause remains.
In the festivities that accompany this Friday’s holiday, we must remember that we are commemorating the long and difficult struggle for American democracy – one that started long before the American Revolution. The Fourth of July, the official adoption of the Declaration of Independence, is the pinnacle of that fight and represents the noble tradition of seeking equality, freedom from oppression, and true justice; let us remember this, for it is truly worthy of celebration.