A Good Day by Ira Schwartz

Ira Schwartz
The day started as did most days in Philadelphia in July, hot and humid. As the sun flared above the horizon the citizens of the small town slowly went about their daily chores never realizing the significance this day, July 2nd 1776 would hold for generations to come.
At the Pennsylvania State House the caretaker opened the shutters at the back of the room allowing the musty night air to flow out and the hot, humid air outside to flow in. Carefully he checked the fifty or so desks resting neatly in uniformed rows, making sure each had enough paper and pens for the coming days work. He did not want a repeat of John Adams half hour tirade about the lack of sufficient pen and paper to get the day’s work done. He tried not to giggle when he remembered Ben Franklin’s reply, “John there may not be enough pen and paper in all the colonies, nay the world, to satisfy your voracious appetite when it comes to putting pen to paper.” Thank God for Benjamin Franklin. Then he looked up at the great clock quietly resting over John Hancock’s desk. The two large hands indicating it was 7:30. Today’s session was scheduled to begin at 10 o’clock sharp which usually meant delegates started showing up around 11:30. The caretaker sighed and shook his head sadly as he slowly exited the room, closing the large double doors behind him.
Benjamin Franklin and John Adams slowly made their way down the crowded cobblestones streets, heading towards State House. Franklin walked with a noticeable limp, Philadelphia’s high humidity causing his gout to flare up painfully. Both had not slept well and both were in exceptionally bad moods. Adams was worried about today’s vote, fearful they would not get the necessary “Yeas” to declare independence from England. He was growing weary of the constant debates over every single line in Tom Jefferson’s Declaration. Franklin, seeing the concerned look on his friends face managed to smile through the pain and slap Adams good naturedly on the back. “Think positively Mr. Adams, Cesar Rodney arrived early this morning.” Adams eyes lit up and his mind began to race but then a trouble look crept over his tired face. “Is he feeling any better?” Franklin shook his head. “No, he is much worse. I’m surprised he was able to make the trip at all. I’m afraid our friend won’t live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labors” The two continued silently through the crowded marketplace, their thoughts on their sick friend and the daunting task they knew was ahead of them.
As Franklin and Adams enter the congressional chambers in State House, they both could see Jefferson and Dickenson, standing in a corner by a window, STILL arguing over Richard Henry Lee’s Articles of Independence. Franklin shook his head, “John I swear Mr. Dickenson can argue a point almost as long as you.” Before Adams is able to reply John Hancock rises and taps his gavel loudly, the sharp sound echoing across the noisy room.
“Settle down everyone. Settle down. It’s going to be another hot one today and we still have a lot of work to do before we can go home.” “Or to the tavern.” A voice shouts out from the back. As laughter fills the chamber Hancock, without missing a beat, replies, “And you will be buying Mr. Morris.” The laughter grows louder as the delegates take their seats.
The debate over independence roared on through the hot and sweltering afternoon. Patience was in short supply as tempers flared. Finally around 3 o’clock the great debate ends as Pennsylvania yields and gives its consent to the resolution for independence. An hour and a half later the resolution officially passes 12-0 New York, as always, abstaining. As cheers erupt around the room John Adams looks solemnly over at an equally solemn John Hancock. Hancock stands and slowly walks over to Adams. “What have we done Mr. Adams?” As Adams stands and wipes the sweat from his brow a sly smile crossing his face. “I think what we have done here today will be remembered for generations to come. Let us hope they will be “fond” memories.”
The great chamber was now still and silent, lit only by the flickering glow of the oil lamps. No longer did the speeches made by the day’s great orators echo through these hallowed halls, their great words replaced by the sounds of the evening breeze whistling through the chambers open shutters. Suddenly the two large doors slowly creaked open and a tired man carrying a lamp shuffles in. The caretaker holds the light higher as he walks to the center of the room and looks out to the debris filled chamber. He sighs when he sees the desks and chairs strewn about; the mountains of paper littering the floor and the half filled mugs of ale and beer scattered everywhere. As he makes his way towards the windows in the back the sound of distant thunders rumbles through the room. He places the lamp down on a nearby table and closes the shutters one by one before carefully extinguishing all the lamps. Slowly he heads back towards the front stopping by a desk with several sheets of paper neatly stacked on top. Gently he reaches down and picks the top sheet up. The caretaker lifts his spectacles as he strains to read the writing. He notices that most of the first paragraph has been scratched out and rewritten making it almost impossible to read. But the second paragraph was virtually untouched and written bolder than the rest.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” he reads aloud in a hoarse voice. “That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
While he doesn’t understand some of the words he does understand the meaning behind them. Slowly a smile spreads across his face as he carefully places the paper back down. So this is what they have been yelling and screaming about for the last two months; this is what all the commotion has been all about. As lightning flickers across the room the caretaker looks up at the great clock, the two large hands indicating it is 7:30. He pauses a moment and thinks that it’s been a very long day….but assuredly a good one. He picks up his lamp and makes his way back to the large doors, steps out of the chamber and gently closes them behind him.
The night did not bring much relief from the blistering heat and high humidity of the day. Even the late evening thunderstorm which passed through the city so violently only served to add to the already unbearable humidity. Adams tossed and turned uncomfortably in bed before finally getting up around 1:30. He walked over to his desk and lit the small lamp. With a frustrated yawn he sits and begins writing to his dear wife Abigail:
“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony “that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other
Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.”
You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell’d Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days. On July 2, 1776 the Association known as United Colonies of America officially became the United States of America.”
He added in a second letter later that night:
“But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
On a hot, sweltering July day 234 years ago 55 men, in fear of their lives, put differences aside and came together to give birth to a new nation. Later that day they all stood proud of what they had done. For one brief moment they truly were the first citizens of the United States of America. Then they all went to the local tavern and got rip roaring drunk.
In ending, Frank and I wish that you all have a happy and safe Fourth of July.
Copyright 2010 by Ira Schwartz.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

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14 Responses to A Good Day by Ira Schwartz

  1. Deborah A. Cook on July 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Same wishes to the both of you. Nice job Ira, very enjoyable read.

  2. Craig Covello on July 3, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Ira:
    Nicely written. I felt like I was there. Have you written any books? If not, you should consider it.

  3. Ira on July 3, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Trying to work on one now but I've had a pretty successful screenwriting career. In fact Frank produced my first movie. Glad you liked it. Have a happy and safe 4th.

  4. Anonymous on July 4, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Thank you for the post! I would very much like to read the book that you are working on… and what was the name of that movie you wrote that Frank produced for you?

    Sorry that I'm so ignorant – I'm a HS math teacher in MO. :D

    Thanks again!
    Happy 4th!!
    Lisa Jones

  5. Ira on July 4, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Hi Lisa…You're a HS math teacher and I am sure you're not ignorant. To do what you do takes a lot of brain power and guts and I'm sure you have plenty of both. The movie I wrote and Frank produced is called "In The Shadow of the Cobra" starring Sean Young and Rutger Hauer. Unfortunately you won't find it yet it's still in a black hole we call post production litigation. However I did do a second film about tornado chasers in the mid west called "Devil Winds" It stars Joe Lando and Samantha Eggert. It's not a bad movie but the script was better. (Standard writers lament)Thanks for the comment and have a Happy and Safe 4th. And please continue to frequent our blog.

  6. henryfox148 on July 4, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

  7. Deborah A. Cook on July 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    translation: Long drive straight toward the planet 's people , the inverse falter on the road in the gorge who achieve their goals more easily

  8. Anonymous on July 5, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Thank you for the information, Ira. I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching HS math. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with students. They have incredible energy and curiousity. When I'm feeling old, I get in my car and drive to work! This will be my 20th year! :D

    Thanks also, Frank, for maintaining this website and providing an opportunity for us to connect and learn…

    Lisa

  9. Anonymous on July 6, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    On July 2, 1776 the Thirteen Colonies, by virtue of the Second Continental Congress, voted to approve a resolution for independence resulting in the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. And things went relatively well until 1915-1920 when Woodrow Wilson, a “leading?” intellectual of the progressive era, segregated the armed services, the lunch counters and told people of color they were intellectually unqualified for Princeton. History was rewritten with special people of color, women and slaves, patriots all of them, all but erased from the school, history and legislative documents.

    George Washington, the one man who truly never wanted the weight of history on his shoulders, the man who only wanted to farm, but never denied the call of destiny, the one President who is head and shoulders over every other President of the United States, but is hardly known, understood or remembered beyond the “lie about the Cherry Tree.” Why is history allowed this false characterization? What he and our founding fathers gave us, and is truly in jeopardy now, was faith in a spirituality, the “true” meaning and purpose of the constitution and the historical “truth” that the founding fathers were not bigoted white people they were first and foremost patriots. What should be remembered on Independence Day and is slowly fading into obscurity is;

    Samuel Adams, the father of the American Revolution, who said “We have proclaimed to the world our determination to die freemen, rather than live slaves.” Sounds like abolitionism and he is remembered as a “beer.”

    George Washington was truly the indispensable man to America, who again and again returned to the field of battle in the political and battle field arena in defense of “his” country. There are non who can match his resume. George Washington was a very unique individual in that he did “unite” America.

    Few are made fully aware of the distinguished roles of many patriots of color who have been purposefully pushed into the shadows of history. This must be rectified. Peter Salem, a man of color, once a slave, was a Battle of Bunker Hill hero, as witnessed by Col. Trumbull. At the Battle of Lexington a clergyman of color, Jonas Clark gathered his congregation against the best trained army in the world and “fired the shot heard round the world.” Many were wounded and some died that day including Prince Estabrook, a slave, a Minutemen Private. Prince Whipple, a patriot of color, is in front of the boat in Emmanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” James Armistead Lafayette was the first African American double spy. Frederick Douglass was quoted as saying “I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.” If he were alive today he would counsel us “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” This puts the lie to victimization. Joseph Hayne Rainey was the first African American to serve in the United States House of Representatives. Abolition and the woman’s vote was part of the Constitution, clouded over time with the issue of property rights. In 1776 both blacks and whites resisted segregation. Richard Allen, a minister of color, pushed to segregate black congregations from white control and racism won out. At one time the legislature of Texas was 60 to 70% black. Find that in any history book!

    Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, started the first network of racially integrated schools. James Madison was the Father of the Constitution. What would the Fourth of July be without him?

    And no Fourth of July celebration should ever be tolerabel, complete or worthy without mentioning the wonderful, the patriotic, the brave and courageous women, some behind some very influence men, women like Abigail Adams, Betsey Ross, Martha Washington, Prudence Wright, Elizebeth Zane, Emily Geiger and many more.

  10. Anonymous on July 7, 2010 at 7:36 am

    In addition to the above observations, if you don't know a lot of history read this.
    Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

    Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

    Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?

    Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.

    Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners ; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

    Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

    Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. . . .He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding.

    His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

    Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

    At the battle of Yorktown , Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. . . . . . He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. . . The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

    Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. . . The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

    John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. . . .Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.
    . . . . . : So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots.

    It's not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: freedom is never free!
    It's time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball games.

  11. Ira on July 7, 2010 at 8:03 am

    I thought we celebrated the 4th of July as Americans. Celebrating our freedom from England as a whole. All those names you mentioned are listed in many history books and have been remembered for what they contributed. All you have to do is watch any number of shows on the History channel to see that. As far as the founding fathers being racist white men? If you judge them by todays standards most were. But they can only be judged by the standards of the time in which they lived. In the 1700's slavery was tolerated but not accepted by all. Horrendously violent debates in the Continental Congress over that very issue almost lead to the Declaration of Independence NOT being signed. You seem to know a lot about history but you don't seem to be well informed. The truth about Washington has been told many times in many books and on numerous documentaries. Most know about the part Sam Adams played in the revolution and understand the sacrifices the hundreds of woman played in the fight for freedom. And those brave men of color you mentioned are no longer in the shadows of history but are taking their place, front and center with all the rest of the AMERICANS who sacrificed so much so you and I can have this discussion today. Is the presentation of historical events perfect? By no means but it is 1 billion times better today than it was when I was in school. The contribution of black Americans, as well as Chinese, Irish, English and dozens of other ethnic groups, in the construction of this great country IS what America, you and I and all the rest, is all about. No one in their right mind would deny history it's due and those that would are uninformed and need a quick dose of reality. Thanks for the comment. They are always welcome and appreciated.

    Ira

  12. Ira on July 7, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Anonymous you really shouldn't believe everything you read in widely circulated emails. Lets begin with the 5 you say were captured and tortured. First of all none of the five died while in British custody. Four were captured as MILITARY prisoners of war, not because they signed the Declaration. Richard Stockton of New Jersey was arrested because he signed the Declaration but was later pardoned and released when he signed allegiance to King George III.

    Twelve had their homes burned and ransacked. That's true but there is no evidence to indicate this was because they signed the constitution. What happened to them happened to hundreds of thousands of people during the war. I could go on and on with the inaccuracies of the above comment but I will simply list one of a number of websites that disputes them all. http://www.snopes.com/history/american/pricepaid.asp

    That email you copied is the very thing I was talking about in my above response. Inaccuracies accepted as fact. Welcome to the internet everyone.

    Ira

  13. Anonymous on July 7, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Many long ago learned that to “prove” the historical accuracy of the “Ten Commandments” is impossible. Yet let those who disbelieve beware. It matters little from where or who excites the imagination. Those who quibble with “internet inaccuracies”, often a valuable research, generally are hiding from the internal truth of the matter, only available if you let the intellect rise above the noise. We all know, and many a screenwriter will confirm, that given enough time and research we can deny or prove anything. You missed some salient truths that only dwell in the heart, soul and spirit often framed in homilies, myths and children’s stories. Look for the silver lining, it is invaluable. Do not hesitate for even a moment to imagine that our forefathers suffered greatly for our existence. That, my friend, is a “truth.”

  14. Ira on July 7, 2010 at 9:03 am

    And that my friend was never denied either in my article or my comments. While imagination and myth is essential it should still always be part of the truth. And as a screenwriter I do agree if you look long enough you can prove or disprove anything. But the truth, as we know it, is still the truth. Scientific truths not withstanding.

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