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Quotations for & about
In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls. ~Robert J. McCracken
It is very inspiring, my friends, to come to this that may be called the original fountain of independence and liberty in America and here drink draughts of patriotic feeling which seem to renew the very blood in one's veins. ~Woodrow Wilson, Presidential Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914 July 4th
Liberty is the breath of life to nations. ~George Bernard Shaw
The Declaration of Independence! The interest which in that paper has survived the occasion upon which it was issued; the interest which is of every age and every clime; the interest which quickens with the lapse of years, spreads as it grows old, and brightens as it recedes, is in the principles which it proclaims. ~John Quincy Adams (1767–1848), "The Declaration of Independence"
The Fourth of July orator does not drink water between his rests and pauses. He disdains any fluid short of champagne and brandy, which seem to invest, not only himself, but his subject, with additional spirit. Your temperance cold-water orators are apathetic patriots at a dinner-table, being too definite and punctilious to stir up the mass. Sentiments red-hot from the furnace of the heart, and words as strong as Sampson's locks are in demand. Milk and amiability are good things in their way, but to‑day aque vitæ and enthusiasm suit the popular system. All the time this mental fire is going on inside, the fireworks and guns are blazing away incessantly without; squibs sometimes fall at the orator's feet, and if, like Charles the Twelfth, he does not move at the burst, he is unanimously voted as a fearless champion of the Rights of Liberty. Viva! ~Henry Howard Paul, "Fourth of July in the United States," 1851
Make room, all ye kingdoms, in history renown'd,
Whose arms have in battle with victory been crown'd,
Make room for America, another great nation;
She rises to claim in your councils a station...
With glory immortal she here sits enthroned,
Nor fears the vain vengeance of Britain disown'd...
~Francis Hopkinson (1737–1791), "American Independence"
July is an intensely warm month in the States, and by some weather-freak, the fourth, of all days, is the very fiercest. ~Henry Howard Paul, "Fourth of July in the United States," 1851
You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. ~Erma Bombeck
A statistician made a few calculations and discovered that since the birth of our nation more lives had been lost in celebrating independence than in winning it. ~Curtis Billings
The Fourth of July, when we get to play our favorite American guessing game — fireworks or gunshots? ~Author unknown
Day of glory! welcome day!
Freedom's banners greet thy ray;
See! how cheerfully they play
With thy morning breeze,
On the rocks where pilgrims kneel'd,
On the heights where squadrons wheel'd,
When a tyrant's thunder peal'd,
O'er the trembling seas...
O let freemen be our sons;
And let future Washingtons
Rise, to lead their valiant ones,
Till there's war no more.
~John Pierpont (1785–1866), "Independence"
For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail? ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Is American Independence over when the last Fourth of July rocket dies in the darkness? Independence ascends stage by stage, from its infancy in political freedom, on toward a vigorous youth of material and economic emancipation, while the Delectable Mountains of the future beckon us to a national maturity... ~W.J. Cameron, 1937
That which distinguishes this day from all others is that then both orators and artillerymen shoot blank cartridges. ~John Burroughs
Hail! Independence, hail! Heaven's next best gift,
To that of life and an immortal soul!
~James Thomson, Liberty, A Poem, 1734 [Scottish poet. Of British freedom.
What was that cluster of stars that fell with a sudden hiss into the blue waters of the bay. A sky-rocket? True—it is time for the fireworks to commence; and now we shall have the really brilliant phase of the festivities of this day of jubilee. Bang! bang! bang!... Turn an ear to the city, and the noise is terrific. Glance along the vista; how the little shooting-crackers sparkle and coruscate, as if the stars had condescended to come upon earth, and have a regular jolly row, just for the fun of the thing. ~Henry Howard Paul, "Fourth of July in the United States," 1851
All we have of freedom, all we use or know —
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.
~Rudyard Kipling, The Old Issue, 1899
It is a queer custom, this setting-off of fireworks, but it is observed in many countries; among others, in England on the Fifth of November, in China on New Year's Day, and in South America on all suitable and unsuitable occasions. ~William H. Rideing, "Fire-Crackers and the Fourth of July," 1874
Wake her with the voice of cannon—give her colors to the morn!
Make the day right glorious that saw the nation born;
Born to a life supernal, like the bird of storied fame—
From the ashes of dead empires springs her altar's sacred flame.
~Elizabeth M. Griswold, "The Nation's Birthday," in Spring and Summer School Celebration, edited by Alice M. Kellogg, 1895
The United States is the only country with a known birthday. All the rest began, they know not when, and grew into power, they know not how.... There is no "Republican," no "Democrat," on the Fourth of July, — all are Americans. ~James Gillespie Blaine
To the sages who spoke—to the heroes who bled—
To the day, and the deed—strike the harpstrings of glory!
Let the song of the ransom'd remember the dead,
And the tongue of the eloquent hallow the story.
O'er the bones of the bold,
Be the story long told,
And on Fame's golden tablets their triumphs enroll'd,
Who on freedom's green hills freedom's banner unfurl'd,
And the beacon-fire rais'd that gave light to the world.
~Charles Sprague (1791–1875), Ode for the Fourth of July, 1827, sung at the celebration in the Exchange Coffee-House in Boston
It is the love of country that has lighted and that keeps glowing the holy fire of patriotism. ~J. Horace McFarland
Whiz go the rockets, cleavingly into the air with many a snap, crack, and whir! Some shower silver stars, others red—as if a cherubim had thrown away a handful of rubies—perhaps green, orange, and blue. How magnificent the spectacle! High and loftily it mounts, like the impatient bolt of a war-horse; gradually the sound diminishes; we hear a gentle report, like a pistol discharged high in the air, and then the scattered lights dance on the bottom of the darkness, with fairy-like brilliancy. Now they flicker and run in grotesque circles; all expire save one, which seems coquetting with the air currents—ah! its turn has come; like a bright hope quickly crushed, it has fled, and all again is dark and solemn above. ~Henry Howard Paul, "Fourth of July in the United States," 1851
We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. ~William Faulkner
Suddenly it occurred to me to ask, "Do you remember the first Fourth of July?" For, you see, being wholly American at heart, how could I imagine there had been any Fourth until the famous one of 1776? ~Lucy C. Lillie, "Memories of the Fourth," Harper's Young People, 1885 June 30th
[I]t behooves us as true Americans to enter the splendid new movement which is endeavoring to make the Fourth over from a day of shallow jingoism and unmeaning brutality and carnage into a day of initiation into the meaning of true citizenship and a festival of deep and genuine and beautiful patriotism. ~Robert Haven Schauffler, 1912
How dark the sky looked! how shining and bewildering the stars! We would look from the artificial lights flashing forth among the trees in our street to those lamps of heaven swung above us, and perhaps we wondered where all those who had given us our freedom were now. ~Lucy C. Lillie, "Memories of the Fourth," Harper's Young People, 1885 June 30th
In childhood the daylight always fails too soon—except when there are going to be fireworks; and then the sun dawdles intolerably on the threshold like a tedious guest. ~Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, 1930s [Note: In its original context, this excerpt is referring to fireworks on Guy Fawkes' Day, not the U.S.A. Independence Day.
From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring.
~Samuel F. Smith, "America"
[F]ireworks had for her a direct and magical appeal. Their attraction was more complex than that of any other form of art. They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger; above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty and makes it touch some spring in the heart which more enduring excellences cannot reach. ~Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, 1930s [Note: In its original context, this excerpt is referring to fireworks on Guy Fawkes' Day, not the U.S.A. Independence Day.
Among all the holidays of the year, one stands out as preëminently American; one appeals especially to that sentiment of patriotism and national pride which glows in every loyal American heart. Independence Day — the Fourth of July — is observed in every State in the Union as our distinctive national holiday.... the American colonists were no longer rebels in arms against their own country, but a free people fighting for their independence. ~Anonymous, "The Great American Holiday," in Our American Holidays: Independence Day, edited by Robert Haven Schauffler, 1912
To-morrow is Hell-fire Day, that English holiday which we have celebrated, every Fourth of July, for a century and a quarter in fire, blood, tears, mutilation and death, repeating and repeating and forever repeating these absurdities because neither our historians nor our politicians nor our schoolmasters have wit enough to remind the public that the Fourth of July is not an American holiday. However, I doubt if there is a historian, a politician, or a schoolmaster in the country that has ever stopped to consider what the nationality of that day really is. I detest that English holiday with all my heart; not because it is English, and not because it is not American, but merely because this nation goes insane on that day, and by the help of noise and fire turns it into an odious pandemonium. The nation calls it by all sorts of affectionate pet names, but if I had the naming of it I would throw poetry aside and call it Hell's Delight. ~Mark Twain, 1908
Somehow the Fourth had its quiet moments, too, even for little feet and childish voices, and small hands stole into each other as we sat looking at our fire-works with a sense that independence was a fine thing to declare. ~Lucy C. Lillie, "Memories of the Fourth," Harper's Young People, 1885 June 30th
Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago a bunch of guys got together on the Fourth of July and decided — because they didn't have any cherry bombs — they would declare some self-evident truths. ~The West Wing, "Jefferson Lives" [S5, E3, 2003], writing credits Carol Flint and Josh Singer, spoken by the character President Jed Bartlet
My patriotic heart beats red, white, and blue. ~Author unknown
I wish with all my heart that we could adopt the Fourth of July as the Festival Day of the whole English-speaking race. If this suggestion should seem strange to Americans, it is not unfamiliar to many Englishmen. We consider that the triumph of the American revolt against George III was a vindication of the essentially English idea of democratic self-government, and we believe that we have benefited by it almost as much as the Americans. It taught us a lesson which made the British Colonial Empire a possibility... our Government has forgotten the principles of George Washington, and has gone back to the principles of George III.... I have always repudiated the idea that Americans should be allowed to monopolize the Fourth of July. It is one of the great days... in the celebration of which all members of the English-speaking nations should participate. ~W.T. Stead, "England and the Fourth of July," in The Independent, 1900 July 5th
Once more the air is stirred by drifting flakes of emerald fire that, illumining the space around, reveal tens of thousands of spectators collected, with up-turned eyes, gazing at the pyrotechnic wonders. Up bound the serpents—orange and brazen. How they twizzle and fizzle with their bright curves in the soft night air! Then the Roman candles pop out the little red balls of fire, suggesting to the mind an endless visitation of electrical sugar-plums. The wheels flash and dart forth their spiral threads of light.... This grand display is the omega of the day's expenditure of gunpowder. ~Henry Howard Paul, "Fourth of July in the United States," 1851
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. ~Thomas Paine
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.... with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore. 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. ~John Adams, letter to wife Abigail, 1776 July 3rd, Philadelphia
Where liberty dwells, there is my country. ~Benjamin Franklin
There was one bursting now, a delicate constellation of many-coloured stars which drifted down and lingered in the still air.... The final rocket went up, a really large one, a piece of reckless extravagance. Its sibilant uprush was impressive, dragonlike; it soared twice as high as any they had had before.... The sparks from the rocket came pouring down the sky in a slow golden cascade, vanishing one by one into a lake of darkness. ~Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, 1930s [Note: In its original context, this excerpt is referring to fireworks on Guy Fawkes' Day, not the U.S.A. Independence Day.
We need an America with the wisdom of experience. But we must not let America grow old in spirit. ~Hubert H. Humphrey
Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. ~Moshe Dayan
Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed — else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower
May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country! ~Daniel Webster
He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself. ~Thomas Paine
Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have. ~Harry Emerson Fosdick
This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. ~Elmer Davis
Let freedom never perish in your hands. ~Joseph Addison
Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. ~Albert Camus
It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you. ~Author unknown, sometimes attributed to M. Grundler
If our country is worth dying for in time of war let us resolve that it is truly worth living for in time of peace. ~Hamilton Fish
Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all!
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.
The most patriotic man, ladies and gentlemen, is sometimes the man who goes in the direction that he thinks right even when he sees half the world against him. It is the dictate of patriotism to sacrifice yourself if you think that that is the path of honor and of duty. Do not blame others if they do not agree with you. Do not die with bitterness in your heart because you did not convince the rest of the world, but die happy because you believe that you tried to serve your country by not selling your soul. Those were grim days, the days of 1776. Those gentlemen did not attach their names to the Declaration of Independence on this table expecting a holiday on the next day, and that 4th of July was not itself a holiday. They attached their signatures to that significant document knowing that if they failed it was certain that every one of them would hang for the failure. They were committing treason in the interest of the liberty of 3,000,000 people in America. All the rest of the world was against them and smiled with cynical incredulity at the audacious undertaking. Do you think that if they could see this great Nation now they would regret anything that they then did to draw the gaze of a hostile world upon them? Every idea must be started by somebody, and it is a lonely thing to start anything. Yet if it is in you, you must start it if you have a man's blood in you and if you love the country that you profess to be working for. ~Woodrow Wilson, Presidential Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914 July 4th
Many politicians are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim. ~Thomas Macaulay
Freedom is not enough. ~Lyndon B. Johnson
Freedom is never free. ~Author unknown
Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence...? If you have, you will know that it is not a Fourth of July oration. The Declaration of Independence was a document preliminary to war. It was a vital piece of practical business, not a piece of rhetoric; and if you will pass beyond those preliminary passages which we are accustomed to quote about the rights of men and read into the heart of the document you will see that it is very express and detailed, that it consists of a series of definite specifications concerning actual public business of the day. Not the business of our day, for the matter with which it deals is past, but the business of that first revolution by which the Nation was set up, the business of 1776. Its general statements, its general declarations can not mean anything to us unless we append to it a similar specific body of particulars as to what we consider the essential business of our own day.
Liberty does not consist, my fellow citizens, in mere general declarations of the rights of man. It consists in the translation of those declarations into definite action. Therefore... reading its business-like sentences, we ought to ask ourselves what there is in it for us. There is nothing in it for us unless we can translate it into the terms of our own conditions and of our own lives....
The task to which we have constantly to readdress ourselves is the task of proving that we are worthy of the men who drew this great declaration and know what they would have done in our circumstances. Patriotism consists in some very practical things—practical in that they belong to the life of every day, that they wear no extraordinary distinction about them, that they are connected with commonplace duty. ~Woodrow Wilson, Presidential Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914 July 4th