Happy Birthday America

For those of you who would prefer to listen:

Twelve score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth a new nation. It was an idea, years in the making. A place called Independence Hall in Philadelphia became the birthplace of the United States of America. In the Summer of 1776, the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. Eleven years later, in that same room, the lasting framework of government was created and signed. It is forever known as the United States Constitution. Our nation’s birth came over a year after the war began in Lexington and Concord. 

The idea of American independence from Great Britain gained serious momentum after a guy named Thomas Paine wrote a 47-page piece called “Common Sense.” That was in January of 1776. It lit a fire under what had previously been an unthinkable idea. The first formal proposal for independence reached the Continental Congress on June 7th. It was presented by a Virginian named Richard Henry Lee. The Congress appointed a committee of five delegates to craft an announcement and explanation for its independence. The Congressional delegates adopted strict rules of secrecy to protect the revolutionary cause, fully aware their lives were in danger. 

Thomas Jefferson, widely recognized as a bold and talented political writer, was chosen to pen the first draft. On June 11th, Jefferson hunkered down in his Philadelphia boarding house and began to write. His first draft was presented on June 28th. It went through a review and editing process within the Second Continental Congress. Like most writers, Jefferson did not enjoy that revisionary process. But it was for a great cause, so he embraced it. On July 2nd, 1776, Congress voted to declare independence. Two days later, it ratified the formal text. It became a unanimous declaration, uniting 13 colonies to the formation of statehood. It was a really big deal. The Declaration of Independence was the first formal statement by a nation’s people asserting their right to choose their own government. 

This Declaration of Independence was promptly published. Throughout that Summer, word swiftly spread. The document rode by horseback and traveled by ship. The Declaration of Independence was published in newspapers from Vermont to Georgia. It also made the rounds in Europe. It was very timely. The declaration triggered broad support for the American Revolution and mobilized the resistance against Britain at a time when the war effort was going very poorly.

The words became legend. These stood out: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Fifty-six people signed the Declaration of Independence. There was no formal signing ceremony. In fact, the document was not even signed until August 2nd and took months for all 56 to complete it. The first and perhaps most famous signature was that of John Hancock, whose name became synonymous with an autograph. Hancock was a successful merchant from Boston who was elected the President of the Continental Congress. It’s been said that Hancock wrote his name so large in order for the king to be able to read it without spectacles. The oldest signer was Ben Franklin, putting pen to paper at age 70. The youngest was a 26-year-old from South Carolina named Edward Rutledge. Two future Presidents signed the document. George Washington was not one of them. He was fighting the war. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Presidents 2 and 3, did. It’s believed Thomas McKean of Delaware was the final signature, inked sometime in 1777. One of my ancestors, Charles Carroll of Maryland, signed the document too. These 56 signers courageously put their lives and livelihoods on the line for the cause of American independence. 

Over the course of these two and a half centuries, America has grown in sheer size and significance. Great leaders rose when we needed them most, like Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. Their legacies are as large as their faces on the mountain. They’re watching over, perhaps with pleasure and disgust. Far from perfect, our nation has had its share of great successes as well as failures. The Great American Experiment nearly failed with a civil war. That was the 1860s. The experiment is going through another critical test in these 2020s.

The land of opportunity spurred ideas and innovation. Risk takers emerged with vision and purpose. It was extremely investable. The New York Stock Exchange is rooted in a buttonwood tree on Wall Street dating back to 1792. Ideas got turned into action. Names like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Jobs and Ford changed the American way of life. Companies were formed reaching never before seen size and scale. Brands like Apple, Nike, Disney and Coke can be found in every continent around the globe. An investment in America has paid off big time.

The iPhone just celebrated its 16th birthday. The device debuted on June 29th in 2007. It came at the price of $599. It’s been said that Steve Jobs wasn’t thrilled with the idea of an Apple phone at first. The iPhone was an idea from a French engineer. The iPhone was a highly confidential undertaking, code-named “Project Purple.” Jobs ultimately realized that the overlap of mobile phones and music players would force Apple to get into the mobile phone business. The iPhone changed the world.

16 years later, to the exact day, Apple became a $3 Trillion company. That’s where it stands now. Apple is by far the most valuable company in America. In fact, Apple is now larger than all of the 2,000 combined companies in the Russell small cap index. Something stunning that would definitely make our Founding Fathers proud: Apple alone is also larger than the total British Stock Market, which is valued at $2.98 Trillion. Think about that for a second!
Success was never guaranteed in Cupertino. Steve Jobs was actually fired from the company he started. He later returned to save it from failure and launched one of the most successful reigns in Corporate American history. Apple was a $350 Billion company when Jobs died in 2011. It’s worth nearly 10X that today.

Our Founding Fathers could not even remotely imagine a life like today. Technological advancements have made things faster, cheaper and seemingly easier. But when does life ever feel easy?!? There are always new kinds of difficult. That we can count on.

It was an extraordinary accomplishment our American patriots achieved. Generation after generation pushed and pulled to keep building and shaping what America has become. Far from perfect, it’s better than any other system out there. The goal is to be more perfect, something that’s a constant pursuit. It’s up to us, we the people, to keep carrying it forward. 

The Revolutionary War continued on for 8 long years, ending in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. The treaty granted full independence and recognized the borders of the new United States of America. 4 years later, in 1787, the US Constitution was created. Benjamin Franklin, then at the age of 81, gave his final speech before the Constitutional Convention. He said this: “…when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views.” It was an arduous task to build the United States of America. But Franklin concluded that the Constitution “with all its faults,” was better than any alternative that was likely to emerge.

Legend has it that upon leaving Independence Hall, Ben Franklin was asked by a group of people on the street what type of government had been established. His answer: “A republic, if you can keep it.” That’s been the challenge from day 1. Today, 247 years since the declaration was made, we the people have a tremendous responsibility. We must rise to face the moment and re-commit to being more perfect. There are no guarantees of success. And as Mr. Franklin boldly stated: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, perhaps with a burger and a beverage in hand, it’s also important to remember how it all started and why it still matters. America has been tested time and again and that will no doubt continue. You might think about that night in Baltimore Harbor in 1814. It was a story of survival under serious pressure. That’s the night Francis Scott Key wrote O Say Can You See. Those rockets had a glare. Bombs were bursting in the air. Most important: Throughout the course of the night, despite enemy attack after attack, our flag was still there. That Star Spangled Banner represents something special. It’s our land of the free. It’s our home, of the brave.

Have a nice weekend. The Market has a half day on Monday and will be closed in honor of Independence Day on Tuesday. Our office will track this too. 

Happy 4th of July!


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