Talk Like a Founding Father This Fourth of July

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Getty Images/Erin McCarthy

Not sure what to talk about at your Flossy Fourth party? Use these bon mots from the founding fathers. 

1. The Words: “Facts are stubborn things.”

Original Context: Said during closing arguments at the Boston Massacre trial by John Adams. An accomplished attorney, Adams was defending the British soldiers on trial for murder.

Say what? That’s right, Adams was the defense attorney for the British Captain Preston and his soldiers. The reason? The defendants could not find anyone willing to serve as counsel and, in Adams’ own words, “…counsel ought to be the very last thing that an accused person should [lack] in a free country.” The facts, as Adam presented them at trial, led to acquittals on the basis of self-defense.

How to Use At Your Flossy Fourth Party: Folks love a good party debate, and America’s Independence Day offers a wonderful array of debatable topics. But plenty of folks love to present points sans substantiation. Clearly, you will be well-read and prepared to provide evidence in support of any claim you make which makes you the perfect candidate to throw down this debate-ending statement on the stubborn nature of factual things. 

2. The Words: “I like a little rebellion now and then.”

Original Context: Thomas Jefferson wrote these words in a letter to Abigail Adams. The topic was the 1787 Shays’ Rebellion and Jefferson’s hope that Shays and his fellow rebels would be pardoned for their actions. “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it were always to be kept alive," he wrote. "I like a little rebellion now and then.”

How to Use At Your Flossy Fourth Party: You’ve enjoyed one scrumptious bite of salsa-laden tortilla chip and are left with another naked chip half. You know how much better the rest of that chip is going to taste if it takes another dive into the salsa. Tossing decorum out the window, you propel that chip, bitten-side-first, back into the salsa for a most rebellious, most satisfying double-dip. Your friend complains. You use Jefferson's words.

3. The Words: “By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”

Original Context: In the late 1760s, a series of 12 letters was published in the Pennsylvania Chronicle lamenting British taxation of the colonies among other perceived injustices. They were signed, simply, “A Farmer.” The contents of the letters spread throughout the colonies and were published as a pamphlet, adding fuel to the growing revolutionary fire. The author of these letters was John Dickinson, a lawyer and legislator who owned Delaware farmland.

This particular quotation is not actually from the letters themselves, but from some song lyrics he penned following the success of the letters. Dickinson was as effective a songwriter as he was a letter-writer: The song was printed in the Boston Gazette and reprinted many times over, serving as a battle hymn of sorts for the colonists.

How to Use At Your Flossy Fourth Party: Perfect to inspire your team when everyone decides it’s a good time to play Red Rover. You can add something about how whoever the other team “sends right over” is going to fall instead.

Find these and more words that made America in We Hold These Truthspart of our Flossify the Fourth collection at the mental_floss online store.



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June 26, 2013 - 7:00pm
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