This month marks the 238th anniversary of the birth of our great nation. From the Boston Tea Party, to Valley Forge, to the British surrender at Yorktown, those must have been some heady times. I can only imagine.
I’ve always been fascinated by the founding fathers. Talk about prolific. These guys come up with not one, but three, hall of fame documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Not too shabby. If the founding fathers were a sports franchise, we’d be talking “dynasty.”
And yet, I can’t help but think that as majestic as these men seem to us, they were still just ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times. In addition to being founding fathers, these men were also fathers, husbands, sons, uncles and more than likely just regular guys.
We’ll never know all the details surrounding that historic Fourth of July in Philadelphia. So who’s to say that the following conversation between John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson didn’t actually take place outside of Independence Hall?
Hancock: It’s about time you got here. Must be 100 degrees in that hall.
Jefferson: One of my horses threw a shoe. Fortunately, I had a spare.
Hancock: The shoe excuse again? You used that at the First Continental Congress.
Jefferson: And I was up all night proofreading the Declaration.
Hancock: You never were a great speller. So, how’s everything at Monticello?
Jefferson: You know. Same old, same old. My son wants his own musket, my daughter’s dating a Redcoat, and my wife wants me to clean out the barn. Like I don’t have enough on my plate.
Hancock: I’ll say. What’s this I hear about you and one of your slaves?
Jefferson: Samuel Adams spreading that rumor again? He oughta stick to brewing beer. And what’s up with Franklin? Still flying those silly kites?
Hancock: Yup. Just waiting for that first lightning strike. I guess the revolution isn’t electrifying enough. Speaking of Franklin, check out this new national currency. He’s on the hundred-dollar bill. Hamilton is on the ten, and Washington is on the one.
Jefferson: Where am I?
Hancock: We’ve got you on the nickel.
Jefferson: The nickel? I write the Declaration of Independence – the Declaration of Independence — and you stick me on a crummy nickel? I don’t think so. How about putting me on a five-dollar bill?
Hancock: Sorry. It’s reserved for a future president.
Jefferson: What about a two-dollar bill?
Hancock: Two-dollar bill? Who’s gonna want a two-dollar bill?
Jefferson: Trust me. Two hundred years from now everyone is gonna be using them. Anyway, here’s the final draft of the Declaration. Just waiting for your “John Hancock.”
Hancock: (Looking over the document) Right off the bat, you’ve got “all men are created equal.” What about the women? Can’t we just change “men” to “people?” And down here under “The Bill of Indictment,” couldn’t we change “merciless Indian savages” to “Native Americans?”
Jefferson: Hey, who’s the writer here? Believe me, 200 years from now no one’s gonna even care.
Hancock: You sure about that?
Jefferson: Of course, I’m sure. I’m Thomas Jefferson. I still can’t believe you put me on the nickel.
Hancock: Get over it. So, you ready to show the document to the delegates?
Jefferson: Let’s do it. I don’t want to miss the fireworks.
And thus a nation was born.
Now, more than two centuries later, we honor these bold revolutionaries who valiantly stood up to the tyranny of an oppressive monarchy. A monarchy that would one day grant knighthood to…Mick Jagger.
Mick Jagger? Standards, please!
Eddie Adelman lives in Belfast.