Each summer, the month of July brings about a whole host of patriotic celebrations to honor the nation we all call home. Although our Fourth of July celebrations have since come and gone, the echoes of freedom ring throughout the nation all year round. In many ways, the Fourth of July marks a starting point; the Declaration of Independence set off a chain of events around the globe that would have consequences for centuries to come. After the Declaration was first read in Philadelphia, PA in 1776, word spread throughout the fledging United States that the nation was declaring its independence at long last. And as the word spread, the very next spot to hear that good news was right here in Trenton, NJ. Now, almost two and a half centuries later, the celebration continues as we honor those who stood before us all those years ago.
On a sunny Friday afternoon, members of the Trenton community gathered at 23 Warren St. for a reading of the Declaration of Independence, the very same spot it was first read over 247 years ago. This event was hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Trenton, alongside support from the City of Trenton. The afternoon’s events featured speeches, song, and celebration to honor the men who first fought for our freedom at the birth of our nation. After guests had the opportunity to hear from a lineup of guest speakers, including Mayor of Trenton, Reed Gusciora, the Declaration was read in its entirety. A number of community representatives took to the stage to share these famous passages, including the mayor, members of City Council, historical reenactors, and a number of other organizations who support our community.
Alex Treece, Club President of the Kiwanis Club of Trenton, shared more about this historic event: “Most have heard of Washington’s famous victory over the Hessians in December, 1776. But many do not realize that Trenton first took the world stage in the fight for independence five months earlier. On July 8th, 1776, Trenton hosted the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence outside of Philadelphia, in front of what was then the Hunterdon County Courthouse, as Mercer County did not yet exist at the time.”
After welcoming guests and visitors to our fine city, Mayor Reed Gusciora stated “This is a historic state capital that took center stage of the Revolutionary War in 1776. And as our former governor Burr liked to remind people, we did all the planning over here and did all the heavy lifting and paperwork in Philadelphia. So today we are going to read that paperwork, and if anyone needs to be reminded of the greatness of the United States, it can be found in the preamble to the Constitution: ‘to form a more perfect union’, acknowledging our faults and that we would always strive to be better, and in the Declaration of Independence, when we do a decent respect for the opinion of mankind. We acknowledge that the world is watching our movements, we acknowledge that we have to set the example of freedom and democracy, and this shows what is great about our country.”
After a stirring rendition of America the Beautiful and the reading of the Declaration, the names of each of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were read, followed by the ringing of a ceremonious bell. As guests departed from the event, there was a sense of patriotism and pride that no doubt ruminated well into the weekend ahead. Around every region of the Capital City, history is interweaved with our day to day lives. The next time you take a walk around downtown, be sure to look around, because a key to the past is lurking around every corner.