One of the co-signers of the Declaration of Independence and later President of the United States, John Adams wrote his wife in 1776 this little note talking about something he thought was going to be kind of a big deal:
The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Adams was referring to the date that the Continental Congress actually voted in principle to declare independence from Britain. If the delegates had been willing to sign Thomas Jefferson’s declaration document that day in Philadelphia instead of subjecting it to additional editing, Adams would have been spot-on about July 2nd. But the extra two days proved to be worth the wait.
Jefferson represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. He had traveled to Philadelphia from Williamsburg, one of the most important seats of commerce, education and culture in all of the Colonies. Williamsburg was where some of the bravest men of their times conceived and advanced some of most compelling arguments for the revolution. It’s place in U.S. history is such that there may be no more appropriate place in the Union to celebrate July Second … er, Fourth. And there may be no better place to gain perspective on those times.
Indeed, Williamsburg offers more to vacationers than just an opportunity to watch fireworks in a historically relevant setting. It offers the opportunity to walk the same grounds as the men and women responsible its historic relevance.
Of course, everyone knows about the Williamsburg historic district, the biggest and most important living history museum in the United States. The combination of relics and faithfully restored buildings provide the setting for re-enactment of everyday life in the city that was Virginia’s colonial capital from 1633 to 1780. Those streets look the same as when Jefferson walked them. And you’ll find the July Fourth events and fireworks truly befitting of this special place.
Williamsburg also is home to the College of William & Mary, which has bred politicians and political punditry from Jefferson to Jon Stewart. Founded in 1693, the College of William & Mary is the second-oldest university on American soil and can trace its original plans to the 1620s, more than a decade before the founding of Harvard University. A stroll of the area known as the Ancient Campus passes three buildings that predate the American Revolution by decades—including the Sir Christopher Wren Building, completed in 1700, the oldest collegiate building in the United States.
In addition, Williamsburg is the top point of the Virginia Historic Triangle, which also features Jamestown and Yorktown. If you’re coming to Virginia to experience American history, you might as well immerse yourself.