In 1870 Congress passed a bill that officially recognized July 4th as Independence Day. The following editorial appeared in the Memphis Daily Appeal, July 4 1870.
To-day is the 4th day of July; the anniversary of the escape of Americans from one tyranny, only after a short period to fall into the power of another and a greater, which has sprung up from among themselves at home. Would to God our people, with one common impulse, and with a sense of justice combined with charity, magnanimity and deference to truth, might return to the national anniversary with a determination once more to fraternise, and in liberality one to another grow great and happy. They have twice struck for liberty and the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence--first against Great Britain; and last, with differing views, but the same object, against each other. If the people of the north fought to "preserve" the institutions handed down to them from their fathers, so did those of the South, under a sense of wrong from their brethren, embody for their organic law and defend with their lives and property the same eternal principles for which mankind is destined to contend until liberty is enthroned and established throughout the earth. May we not hope that time, with reflection and reason, may mellow down our animosities and bring us to see that while it is human to err, it is divine to forgive and good to respect the dictates of that philosophy which has the warrant of experience? If we tyrannise, section over section, how else shall it turn up but that we shall grow weak by divisions, and fall? If we were to name all others the traitors to American liberty, we should select him who loved most to disparage and malign after the war in the name of justice and liberty. "Kicking the south out of the Union" was the theme on which a mass of orators and zealots disported themselves anterior to the collision which they thus provoked. And now, trampling down and degrading a people, so as to provoke, instead of a union of heart, eternal hate, is the traitorous mission of which the few are capable who have set themselves to ruining the country. Alas! that the spirit which destroyed pictures, statuary and music, burned schools, lodges and churches, robbed widows and orphans, and hung Wirtz, Mrs. Surratt and the brave Munford, should still survive. Alas! that the living hyenas, who courted no rebels at the cannon's mouth, should invade the sanctuaries of southern dead, and crown with garlands and with pensions those who murdered whom they might have spared.
It is time the honest heart of human nature in this land was speaking out in the language of philanthropy and sanity everywhere. We have all erred--some more than others. But shall we not shake hands and be brothers again in sight of the fields of carnage and over the graves of our common and patriot dead? Aye, and we will venture to go further, and ask shall we not erect our monuments in common, and distribute pensions alike among the survivors of all the martyrs who fell on one side and the other of the shield--one contending it was brass, who saw it from the south, and the other that it was iron, who saw it from the North. The time for governmental amnesty has passed. If the American Government would escape disgrace more eternal than the everlasting hills, it will hasten with too long delayed magnanimity and stoop to conquer to the love of its people, without which it will speedily become powerless. No distinctions are possible--the subordinate and the chief, the living and the dead, are alike guilty of adventurous patriotism. But, while the living may be made to suffer, the dead are beyond the reach of their enemies, even though they still gnash their teeth with unappeasable rage, and trample in safety upon the graves of the heroes.
"They are become immortal, like the gods; for the gods themselves are not visible to us; but from the honors they receive, and the happiness they enjoy, we conclude they are immortal; and such should those brave men be who die for their country."
So spoke the great Roman orator of those who gave themselves for Rome; and so with equal truth may we speak of the brave defenders of the South, who laid down their lives for it, and yet live on forever. He that can distinguish as to their "lost cause" between the living and the dead, can show distinctions without a difference and exhibit his malignity by the absurdity of his inventions. And he who challenges the patriotism of the dead, embitters the hate which he deserves, and writes his name on a scroll of infamy for the contemptuous gaze of his own children. There is no difference between the cases. The time has come to blot out the past. We are willing to accept and cherish the Fourth as our liberty day, if it may be counted in amity. But if it is to be the mere gala day of malignants, and boast of Union-preserving miscreants as their own sole heritage over the liberties which have been handed to their keeping by the brave men of the sword, then we have done with it forever. We shall curse it in our heart of hearts, and welcome the day when the avenging nemesis shall blot it from American annals. The future is all before our young nation; and if it to bring prosperity and happiness to our children, it will be because liberty, equality and fraternity is preserved rather more in than in name. may constitutional liberty survive unscathed and be reasserted by the people. "The Constitution as it was."