While Americans celebrate the birth of their country, Canadians are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, the first permanent settlement in New France. David Hackett Fischer reflects on the city's history and importance.
"This week, we the people of North America are staging two celebrations. The Fourth of July is the 232nd birthday of the United States, and it will be observed as John Adams prescribed in 1776: a "day of deliverance" in more ways than one, with "solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty ... pomp and parade ... shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."
In Canada, today, another ceremony will mark the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, the first permanent settlement in New France. The ancient city has organized a party that John Adams could not have imagined, with months of festivities, fireworks and performances. And this morning, at precisely 11, the hour when Samuel de Champlain and company were thought to have landed at Quebec, bells will peal across Canada, from Newfoundland to Vancouver.
These "great anniversary festivals," as Adams called them, are about many things. They commemorate the founding of new societies and the formation of cultures that flourish today. But they also celebrate ideas, which are the true touchstones of our way of life, more than any material foundation."