Skip to content


What Fourth of July Means to Me – Ronald Reagan - Wolf & Iron

What Fourth of July Means to Me – Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan, July 4th, 1981

What Fourth of July Means to Me – Ronald Reagan - Wolf and Iron

For one who was born and grew up in the small towns of the Midwest, there is  a special kind of nostalgia about the Fourth of July.

I remember it as a day almost as long anticipated as Christmas. This was  helped along by the appearance in store windows of all kinds of fireworks and  colorful posters advertising them with vivid pictures.

No later than the third of July – sometimes earlier – Dad would bring home  what he felt he could afford to see go up in smoke and flame. We’d count and  recount the number of firecrackers, display pieces and other things and go to  bed determined to be up with the sun so as to offer the first, thunderous notice  of the Fourth of July.

I’m afraid we didn’t give too much thought to the meaning of the day. And,  yes, there were tragic accidents to mar it, resulting from careless handling of  the fireworks. I’m sure we’re better off today with fireworks largely handled by  professionals. Yet there was a thrill never to be forgotten in seeing a tin can  blown 30 feet in the air by a giant “cracker” – giant meaning it was about 4  inches long.

But enough of nostalgia. Somewhere in our growing up we began to be aware of  the meaning of days and with that awareness came the birth of patriotism. July  Fourth is the birthday of our nation. I believed as a boy, and believe even more  today, that it is the birthday of the greatest nation on earth.

There is a legend about the day of our nation’s birth in the little hall in  Philadelphia, a day on which debate had raged for hours. The men gathered there  were honorable men hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they  were willing to obey. Even so, to sign the Declaration of Independence was such  an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words “treason, the  gallows, the headsman’s axe,” and the issue remained in doubt.

The legend says that at that point a man rose and spoke. He is described as  not a young man, but one who had to summon all his energy for an impassioned  plea. He cited the grievances that had brought them to this moment and finally,  his voice falling, he said, “They may turn every tree into a gallows, every hole  into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic  in the workshop, they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign  that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, for that  parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the Bible of the rights of man  forever.”

He fell back exhausted. The 56 delegates, swept up by his eloquence, rushed  forward and signed that document destined to be as immortal as a work of man can  be. When they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he was not to be  found, nor could any be found who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone  out through the locked and guarded doors.

Well, that is the legend. But we do know for certain that 56 men, a little  band so unique we have never seen their like since, had pledged their lives,  their fortunes and their sacred honor. Some gave their lives in the war that  followed, most gave their fortunes, and all preserved their sacred honor.

What manner of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were  merchants and tradesmen, and nine were farmers. They were soft-spoken men of  means and education; they were not an unwashed rabble. They had achieved  security but valued freedom more. Their stories have not been told nearly  enough.

John Hart was driven from the side of his desperately ill wife. For more than  a year he lived in the forest and in caves before he returned to find his wife  dead, his children vanished, his property destroyed. He died of exhaustion and a  broken heart.

Carter Braxton of Virginia lost all his ships, sold his home to pay his  debts, and died in rags. And so it was with Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton,  Gwinnett, Rutledge, Morris, Livingston and Middleton.

Nelson personally urged Washington to fire on his home and destroy it when it  became the headquarters for General Cornwallis. Nelson died bankrupt.

But they sired a nation that grew from sea to shining sea. Five million  farms, quiet villages, cities that never sleep, 3 million square miles of  forest, field, mountain and desert, 227 million people with a pedigree that  includes the bloodlines of all the world.

In recent years, however, I’ve come to think of that day as more than just  the birthday of a nation.

It also commemorates the only true philosophical revolution in all history.

Oh, there have been revolutions before and since ours. But those revolutions  simply exchanged one set of rules for another. Ours was a revolution that  changed the very concept of government.

Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the  first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that  government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no  powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.

We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.

Happy Fourth of July,

Ronald Reagan

President of the United States

Older Post
Newer Post
Close (esc)

get 4 free beard oil samples!

Check out all 4 scents and pick a favorite!

shop now

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Added to cart