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Knowing why we celebrate July 4
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We get very excited in this country when half of the eligible voters turn out for an election. That used to bother me, but I’m OK with that. Many of those people don’t know whom they are voting for or why.

This is really scary, but I’ve had people call my house and ask if I could run down a list of the candidates I was going to vote for. The presumption is they wanted to copy me. I’m flattered someone thinks that much of me, buta that’s a really bad sign.

Some of these are the same people who end up on TV trying to explain why we celebrate Independence Day. Among the answers I’ve heard are that we were declaring our independence from the Nazis, China, Mexico and “The North.” I sincerely hope no one reading this column believes any of those is the correct answer. They are not.

We declared our independence from the king. Again, I hope none of you think I am referring to a black-haired swivel hips man who lived in a mansion on Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis. This also would be an incorrect answer.

The King of England in 1776 was George III.

I have a friend of mine who was also a third. They called him Trey. I think if anyone called King George III anything other than “Your Majesty,” they probably ended up with his head on a tray.

Supposedly, the king did not know some fellows in this new country were writing him a goodbye letter, better known as The Declaration of Independence. Since this happened about 100 years before the first transcontinental telegraph cable and 200 years before the first fax machine, the king wouldn’t know for a little while they wanted out from under his royal thumb.

They laid it out pretty clearly. They didn’t have any direct representation, were being taxed and couldn’t get a fair trial.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation,” they wrote to the king.

We had three Georgians among the signers: Dr. Lyman Hall, a physician and preacher (and namesake of Hall County); Button Gwinnett, a merchant and farmer; and George Walton, who became a lawyer.

Gwinnett, incidentally, was killed a year later in a duel with his political rival, Lachlan McIntosh, a buddy of Walton, who was censured for his role in Gwinnett’s death.

We fought with the British for more than eight years before we got our independence. We had some help from the French, Spanish and Dutch in getting supplies and ammunition.

It’s pretty amazing we eventually made up with the British. They are now one of our best world allies and we have shared many special occasions with them.

Many people often ask: Do they have a Fourth of July in Great Britain? Yes, it takes place after July 3.

This will all make sense later ... hopefully.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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