A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tomorrow is July 4: A Few Relevant Notes

Is it the fourth?

Those were Thomas Jefferson's last words on July 4, 1826: He died on the 50th anniversary of his Declaration of Independence. That would be remarkable enough, but his old rival politically (but friend and avid correspondent in retirement), John Adams, also a member of the Declaration's drafting committee, died on the same day, the 50th anniversary. I have always wondered how America's second and third Presidents managed to do that, one in Virginia and one in Massachusetts.

But they did, and tomorrow is indeed the fourth, and a holiday.

The third and final installment of my three-part account of the 1916 surrender at Kut will go up late this evening, after which I intend to enjoy the long holiday weekend. I thought though that I might remind you of a few past posts that may be relevant for the anniversary of American independence:

From 2011: "For the Fourth: The First to Recognize US Independence: The Sultan of Morocco."  In 1777. The trouble is, the Continental Congress didn't hear about it for some time and responded in 1780.

Also from 2011, since this year the fourth falls during Ramadan: "Thomas Jefferson's Iftar." Jefferson postponed a dinner for the Tunisian Minister until sundown in 1805.

I have not read Denise A. Spellberg's 2013 Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders, but it would also seem to be relevant reading for the Fourth.

And the words of the Declaration itself prompted me last year to note (since Egypt's coup was July 3): "On July 4, May Egypt's New Government Remember What Morsi Forgot."

But I shouldn't preach: my own government often fails to live up to the ideals of Jefferson's truly revolutionary document. (As, of course, did the slaveholder who wrote that all men are created equal.) Yet other colonial peoples have followed our model, all too often without our support.

Kut Part III is coming tonight, and then after that I'll see you Monday.

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