Happy Fourth

July 4, 2011 • 5:11 am

. . . and have pity on those of us who are working (I haz a deadline).

According to a new Marist poll (the complete data are  here), only 58% of Americans know that our independence was declared in the year 1776 (26% were unsure and 16% thought it was another year).  The uncertainty is greatest among the young: only 31% of those under 30 knew the correct year, which jumped to 75% for those between 45 and 59.

As to which country we declared independence from, only 76% knew it was Great Britain (19% were unsure and 5% declared a different country [!]).

44 thoughts on “Happy Fourth

  1. …well as you WOULD ruin some perfectly good tea by steeping it in seawater, we really had no choice but to expell you from the Empire!

    1. …and expelling me for putting two ‘l’s where one is the norm. I have an OBE – Ordered out of the British Empire!

        1. You’ve got to be kidding. I won’t even drive on the Ronald Regan Tollway here, unless I absolutely have to.

          I suggest something more along the lines of the Nixon Monument.

  2. “…which jumped to 75% for those between 45 and 59.”

    Well, yeah. ‘Cause we had to live through the Bicentennial.

    I’d bet a high percentage of those not knowing what year we declared independence, are the same ones touting the Declaration of Independence as proof that the US was founded as a christian nation.

  3. Oh yeah I forgot it was the fourth of July, congratulations guys, though it’s nearly over here. Only another hour and half to go. Do you get a public holiday or something?

  4. And kudos to Jerry (though I am not surprised) for knowing that you gained independence from the United Kingdom (aka GB) and *not* from ‘England’.

      1. Great Britain is the island containing England, Scotland, and Wales. It’s not actually a country.

        1. Great Britain was a country between 1707 and 1800, and was the country from which the USA gained independence.

          1. Yes, the country from which the USA gained independence was the Kingdom of Great Britain, not the UK

          1. Brittany is ‘little’ Britain, settled by Britons who left Britannia in post-Roman times, whereas Great Britain is ‘greater’ Britain. A lot of Bretons (from Brittany) took part in the Norman conquest and they are distinguished in charters etc by their nationality from Norman, French & Flemings. But I digress – as usual!
            Happy natality USA – may your future be godless!

    1. The UK did not exist in 1776. At the time, it was “England and Wales” and Scotland in the Kingdom of Great Britain.

      But it’s not remotely incorrect to say that we gained independence from England. That has always been the seat of power.

      1. The OED has the first use in the following quotation from 1737 in the Gentleman’s Magazine for Oct. 609/1, “I have more Reason to oppose it, than any Man in this House, nay perhaps than any Man in the United Kingdom.”
        You are correct – the Act of Union made England and Scotland into one ‘United Kingdom’; the 1800 Act said “The said Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland shall..be united into one Kingdom, by the name of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.” Now perhaps on the way out!

    2. Great Britain is correct, the United Kingdom is incorrect. The UK didn’t exist until 1800.

      1. Not quite. It was the United Kingdom of Great Britain. It would be interesting to see how many of the “correct” 76% actually answered “England”.

        The 1776 question has always struck me as a bit dodgy, though. The US didn’t actually become independent until the war *finished* in 1783.

    1. Or, because I am a Brit living in the US, I have all these history factoids memorised so I can answer correctly each time I am asked what the difference is between England, Britain and the UK! (and on one memorable occasion ‘Europe’ as well – but this was the person who didn’t know there had been a first world war)

      1. “the person who didn’t know there had been a first world war”

        You’d think that having had a WWII would have given that away.

        1. Even though, granted, calling World War 1 a “World” war, is probably a bit presumptuous in the eyes of non-European people.

        2. Yep, but I think they thought it was 2nd world war as in 3rd world/developing world sort of thing – I must admit I didn’t pursue it.

        3. Wasn’t WWI referred to as the “Great War” until WWII came along? Other names change, too, sometimes depending on the locality, just like flora and fauna. The “French & Indian War” seems in transit to “The War for Empire” these days.

      2. “I am asked what the difference is between England, Britain and the UK!”

        As a Dutch-American I’m often asked a similar thing: what’s the difference between Holland and the Netherlands. The answer is difficult, because it depends on whether you’re Dutch or not. Just like the meaning of ‘Yankee’ depends on whether you’re American or not.

        1. I think I know this – mainly because of the football world cup (the team was referred to as ‘Holland’) – Holland is one of the provinces that make up the Netherlands and has become a synecdoche for the whole country?

          1. Well.. yes and no (told ya!). To DUTCH people ‘Holland’ usually refers to a part of the country in the west. Not just one province, but actually two (South Holland: capital The Hague, where the Queen lives and the government resides) and North Holland: capital Haarlem, but also home to the capital of the Netherlands: Amsterdam).
            To non-Dutch people, ‘Holland’ refers to the entire country. And Dutch people let non-Dutch people do that. We even put ‘Made in Holland’ on our export products, even when they’re made in other provinces than North or South Holland.
            So, if a Dutch person asks a person from, say, Limburg (Southern Dutch province) if he’s from Holland, he will answer negatively. If a foreigner asks him the exact same question, he will answer positively.

  5. Alas. A librarian asked me on Friday how old the US was. I said we could subtract 1776 from 2011 and that would give us a good approximate date. She said “ok, but why use 1776 as your starting point?” I thought she’d asked me that because she was getting ready to bring some Howard Zinn-ish bit of history that was going to change the way I thought about the beginning of the Revolutionary War. But no. She just didn’t know the date, 1776.

          1. Well, in that case, DO let’s get started on it:
            I for one, love BOTH: I’m married to a librarian -well, she has a Master of Library & Information Science degree-), and I use Wikipedia on a daily basis: just like Google search, it often makes my work a whole lot easier.

            1. Ah – a proper librarian then. I am not that although I work in a library. It is a bit like the theology in the next post – life is too short to waste a year or two on all the teeeeedious stuff it involves having already studied for 5 years. Properly I am a stonemason – I did an apprenticeship for that. As you can tell, really my career lies in ruins.

  6. The uncertainty is greatest among the young: only 31% of those under 30 knew the correct year, which jumped to 75% for those between 45 and 59.

    Hypothesis: those of us who were old enough to understand what the Bi-Centennial celebration in 1976 was all about know the significance of the year 1776. Those who were too young (or not yet born) might not know.

    2011 – 1976 = 35

    If we assume a ten-year old would understand the Bi-Centennial’s significance

    35 + 10 = 45 years old

    The data seems to support my theory. Damn I love science. I’m going to assume the poll doesn’t include people older than 59 because they were taking naps.

  7. All holidays have become sale days. I’m not saying that is wrong or right, I don’t care, but in my first 12 years of school, holidays were not “days off’ from school. Usually one class would present a skit to commenorate Washington, Lincoln, May Day, Columbus or Armistice Day, i,e we went to school. May day was a biggy with acually dancing the May Pole in the Gym; my first chance to wear LONG, white pants. Somtimes we were dismissed early and I don’t remember Religion intruding in any of them except maybe Armistice when Veterans attended, a prayer maybe and then taps were played with an echo played in a distant classroom. I also had to memorize Paul Revere’s ride but that was in ’75 and rhymed with, “hardly a man is now alive” but we all knew Independance was not decalred until the following year. That was 70 odd years ago and I remember them all, including dates, etc.

  8. I have a problem with the questions:

    1. In which year did the United States declare its independence?

    2. On July 4th we celebrate Independence Day. From which country did the United
    States win its independence?

    These are either trick questions or poorly thought out. The United States didn’t declare independence from anyone. The United States didn’t exist until 1787. 11 years after the unified 13 colonies declared their independence from Enland. Really, poll questions are going downhill these days.

    1. Nice try, but the 1776 Declaration of Independence refers to the 13 colonies as “the united States of America”.

  9. I took a theology course titled “Christology” which, for some reason, went into the history of the bible and how it was written. I learned a couple of things in the course which I found valuable, one of which was to further cement my disbelief. More importantly, the mish-mash of languages and translations that occurred even before the council of Nicea in 300bc where christian church was established and much of the current canon was “baked”. The fact that everything christians read in the bible today are translations of translations of translations which had little to no “quality control” and was very often peppered with interpretations and the whim of regionalized scribes.

    So I guess my point is that, some theology is useful, if only to debunk more sophisticated believers with their own non-sense.

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