The Sibly horoscope for the USA lacks a credible historical basis, as do the Lynes, Penfield and Rudhyar charts. All of these popular maps are calculated for the afternoon or evening but in 1976 historian Paul Smith revealed the historical significance of a letter dated July 4, 1776 showing that Congress approved the Declaration of Independence in the morning. Smith’s discovery was celebrated in the historical community but in the astrological community, his finding was, for the most part, ignored. Let us examine the events of July 4 closely and we will understand why respected historians like Julian P. Boyd, who, for most of his life, accepted Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that the Declaration was passed in the evening, had to change his way of thinking.
Charles Thomson, the unanimously appointed Secretary of Congress, kept records of Congressional proceedings since its first meeting on September 5, 1774. These records, kept in what was then called the secret Journal, can be found in what is today called Journals of the Continental Congress. Calling it the order of the day, Thomson prepared a daily schedule of items for Congress to act upon. As each item was disposed of, whether it was a resolution, the appointment of a committee or a letter from George Washington to be read aloud, the secretary recorded each item of business in the order in which it was introduced. Thomson’s last entry in the secret Journal for July 3, 1776 instructed the delegates to resume activity at 9 a.m. on July 4.1 Thus, any July 4 USA horoscope calculated prior to that time is historically inaccurate.
The morning of July 4 was relatively cool due to heavy rains on the first and second. Sunshine accompanied a pleasant southeasterly breeze.2 Virginia delegate Thomas Jefferson arrived at the State House promptly having just enough time to take the temperature before the proceedings began. At 9:00 a.m., his thermometer read 721⁄2 degrees Fahrenheit.3
Two days earlier, British troops had landed on Staten Island. The delegates thought they would eventually march into the city of brotherly love. Congress quickly approved the first order of the day, a resolution to supply flints for the soldiers of New York and a request that Maryland and Delaware immediately dispatch their militia to Philadelphia. With that done, it was time for debate on the Declaration to resume. Once the closing arguments ended and the Declaration had been passed, Congress did not adjourn but instead attended to fourteen other matters of business. According to Paul Smith, once the Declaration had been adopted,“… Congress next came to a decision on a ship employed in the Continental navy, listened to the reading of an important three-page letter from General Washington, and then appointed a committee consisting of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania delegates to confer on the defense of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”4
Let us review the events of July 4, pretending, as many astrologers believe, that Congress actually approved the Declaration at 5:10 p.m. The approximate timeline for the first five items of business would look something like the following:
- 9:15 a.m.—Congress passes a resolution to supply flints for the soldiers of New York and a request that Maryland and Delaware immediately dispatch their militia to Philadelphia.
- 5:10 p.m.—After debating for several hours, Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence.
- 5:30 p.m.—Congress reaches a decision on a ship employed in the Continental Navy.
- 5:50 p.m.—Charles Thomson finishes reading a three-page letter from George Washington.
- 6:10 p.m.—Congress appoints a committee of four delegates to confer with the Committees of Safety and Inspection regarding the defense of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
At some point during this day, Robert Livingston, one of three delegates on the appointed committee, drafted a letter pertaining to the fifth item that begins as follows, “Philadelphia, July 4th 1776, Gentlemen, The Congress this morning directed us to confer with the Committees of Safety and Inspection…”
Notice that the fifth item of the day, approved after the Declaration of Independence had already been adopted, was decided in the morning. If the Declaration of Independence, the second item of the day, was adopted at 5:10 p.m., how could the fifth item of the day possibly have been approved in the morning? Yet, Livingston’s letter, addressed to the Lancaster Associators, says that Congress adopted the Safety and Inspection resolution “this morning.” If the Declaration of Independence had really been approved at 5:10 p.m., the fifth item of the day would have passed around 6 p.m., not in the morning. Are we to believe that Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin and the two other delegates who signed the Lancaster Associators letter could not distinguish morning from evening? That is too ridiculous to even consider. This letter once and for all time proves the Declaration of Independence could not possibly have been adopted in the afternoon or evening.
After presenting some of this information in the November 22, 2009 issue of the ISAR newsletter, I wrote, “It now seems clear that any USA astrological chart cast for the afternoon or evening of July 4, 1776 is out of sync with historical fact. I have never known of any advocates of an afternoon chart to mention or even acknowledge the existence of the Lancaster Associators letter. Perhaps, that is because most of them are unaware of it. Those advocates who are aware of the letter and yet still insist on using an afternoon or evening chart should explain themselves.”
Unfortunately, no one stepped forward to recognize the Lancaster Associators letter. Advocates of Lynes, Penfield, Sibly and Rudhyar were unanimously silent about the matter. As far as I know, no supporter of these charts has ever acknowledged Livingston’s letter or its historical significance. I am inclined to believe none of them ever will. If they did, they would have to admit the USA horoscope they use is historically inaccurate. Why is that so difficult? I think this is a perfect example of what Donald E. Watson calls “autistic certainty.” Watson defines autistic as “self generated without reference to external reality,” and certainty as “the unequivocal conviction that a particular belief constitutes true knowledge.” According to Watson, “Though knowledge of reality cannot be certain, persons influenced by autistic certainty are certain that they are privy to the unknowns of the universe. Their certainty is supported solely by the primal premise of self-reference:
- I would not believe something that is not true. o I believe [this].
- therefore, [this] must be true.”5
Advocates of the Rudhyar chart, who are familiar with the Lancaster Associators letter but ignore its historical implications, appear to be under the influence of autistic certainty. Otherwise, I think they would explain themselves.
This was not my first encounter with autistic certainty among astrologers. In ISAR newsletter, volume 373, a Sibly advocate made an interesting claim: “About a time for the signing of the US Declaration of Independence, we inquired directly to the Library of Congress information service, and received a response indicating that according to records of the Philadelphia Historical Society housed there, the final signature on the Declaration of Independence was applied 1776, July 4 at 5:10 p.m. LMT. The time correlates with the chart drawn and published by Ebenezer Sibly, relocated to Philadelphia.”
Of course, I knew the information provided by the astrologer was erroneous. For one thing, there is no Philadelphia Historical Society housed at the Library of Congress. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, which publishes The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, is located in Philadelphia, not Washington, D.C. I was amazed that the astrologer managed to come up with the exact time the so- called “final” signature was attached to the Declaration even though no historian has ever been able to ascertain that information.
After contacting the Library of Congress, the Digital Reference Team confirmed that all available evidence indicated the Declaration of Independence was approved in the morning and the signing began on August 2, not July 4. There was no mention of a specific time. I forwarded a copy of that email to the ISAR newsletter and it appeared in volume 374. The Sibly advocate, however, admitted he could not find the email he said the Library of Congress sent him. In the following weeks, several astrologers presented historical evidence that the information he provided was inaccurate. In spite of overwhelming proof that he was wrong, the Sibly backer clung to the belief that the signing took place on July 4.Thus, when supporters of an afternoon or evening July 4 USA horoscope ignored my request for an explanation of the Lancaster Associators letter, I wasn’t surprised.
Informed historians familiar with Livingston’s letter now report as historical fact that Congress approved the Declaration of Independence in the morning. According to Garry Wills, author of the prize winning book Inventing America, “Paul H. Smith has found another error, traceable to bad memory, in Jefferson’s notes on the July 4 debate. Jefferson says the Declaration was discussed all day and into the evening but the secret Journal shows it was passed in the morning.”6
On July 2, 1776, Congress declared independence from the mother country when it passed a resolution proposed by Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee. The document asserts, “…these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States…and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” Lee’s Resolution is truly a declaration of independence. Thomas Jefferson initially did not call his essay the Declaration of Independence. He originally titled it “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in General Congress Assembled.” Once the New York delegates agreed to support it on July 19, its title was changed to “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America” and that is still the official title of what is today called the Declaration of Independence.
Did the Declaration of Independence, which merely gives the reasons for separating from Great Britain on July 2, really signify the birth of the USA? After all, it is not so much a declaration of independence as it is an explanation as to why Congress officially declared independence two days earlier. The July 4 Declaration of Independence was printed and circulated to several assemblies, conventions, committees, councils of safety and commanding officers of the Continental troops. It was then proclaimed in all thirteen states. Lee’s July 2 Resolution of Independence was not. This is why most Americans erroneously think independence was first declared on July 4. The majority of Americans are somewhat familiar with the July 4 document but not the July 2 paper. Had Lee’s Resolution rather than the Declaration of Independence been printed and circulated to influential groups, Americans would undoubtedly observe Independence Day on the second of July. According to Samuel Adams, however, it was not the Declaration of Independence or even the July 2 Resolution of Independence that made America an independent nation. It was the war. On April 3, 1776, he wrote the following to Dr. Samuel Cooper, “Is not America already independent? …Can nations at war be said to be dependent either upon the other?”6
The author of the Declaration of Independence agreed with Samuel Adams. In his notes concerning the Congressional debates of June 8 and June 10, 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “That the question was not whether by a declaration of independence, we should make ourselves what we are not; but whether we should declare a fact which already exists.”7 On June 1, 1776, John Winthrop wrote to John Adams, “I have often wondered, that so much difficulty should be raised about declaring independence, when we have actually got the thing itself .”8 In a letter dated June 23, 1776, John Adams wrote back to Winthrop, “It is universally acknowledged that we are (at this very moment) and must be independent states.”9 If the states were already independent on June 23 and before, then it could not have been the July 4 document that made them so. Lee’s July 2 Resolution of Independence confirms what the founding fathers already knew, “…these colonies are (at this very moment)…free and independent states.”
Garry Wills account of the history of the Declaration of Independence is the most accurate of any historian I am familiar with. I hope astrologers who believe America was born on July 2 or 4 will give careful consideration to his words. According to Wills,“… the memory of those involved in the drafting, amending, voting on, and signing the Declaration proved to be dim, contradictory, and even nonexistent. Why was that? The beginning of wisdom in this matter is to realize that the men who debated and passed the Declaration of Independence did not think of it as one of the more important duties on their crowded agenda. They were not trying to enunciate a new theory of government, or to found a nation, or write national charter. I do not mean simply that the document was less important than the act of declaring the colonies independent on July 2. Even that act, as it appeared to the men who had to take responsibility for it, was not important for its own sake. It was a means to an end… It was not done to found a new nation—the colonies took special measures to prevent that. It was not done to make the colonies self-governing—they were already that in fact… there was only one motive… that made declaring independence look attractive. It was a necessary step for the securing of foreign aid in the ongoing war effort.”10
Indeed, the primary audience for the Declaration of Independence was not the American people or even the British government. The words of the Declaration were aimed primarily at the French government in hopes of obtaining from it military and financial assistance. Wills states that the Declaration “…was a propaganda overture, addressed primarily to France…but the Declaration was not read much, nor studied at all, in France. The Declaration had a loftier destiny ahead of it—but an accidental one, and one still far down the road as men busied themselves with laws and armies in the critical months of 1776.”11
Should America’s birthday be observed on July 2, the day Congress officially declared independence or on July 4, the day Congress explained the reasons for declaring independence on July 2, or neither? If it was the war that brought independence to the colonies, as Samuel Adams apparently believed, America’s birthday should probably be observed on July 6 for on that day in 1775 Congress passed the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, a document historian John Hazleton called “…in effect, a declaration of war.”12 Since I agree with Samuel Adams, the American chart I prefer is Philadelphia, July 6, 1775, 5:25 p.m. LAT.
In conclusion, I would like to compare the Declaration on Taking Arms (DOTA) chart to one of the evening Declaration of Independence horoscopes. I have chosen the one suggested by Barry Lynes calculated for 4:47:09 p.m. EST because Lynes’ justification of this map seems to personify the autistic certainty discussed earlier. America was born on July 4, 1776; he insists and further states that, “Any reasonable, honest, impartial and scientific person who examined the obvious, simple evidence would come to that conclusion.”13 In other words, if you think America’s birthday is not July 4, you are unreasonable, dishonest, biased and unscientific. (Both bi- wheel charts appear on the next pages.)
Lynes, who cites Jefferson’s notes as proof Congress approved the Declaration in the evening, believes one of the reasons July 4 is America’s birthday is because Saturn made an exact transit to the USA natal Sun at 13 Cancer 18 on August 9, 1974, the day President Nixon resigned from office. That appears to be a good argument if one uses the tropical zodiac. To those of us who prefer the sidereal zodiac his argument is not so convincing. The Sun’s sidereal longitude at 4:47:09 p.m. EST on July 4, 1776 was 21 Gemini 41. Sidereal Saturn did not transit that longitude until September 4, 1974, nearly a month after Nixon resigned.
If you use the DOTA chart, you will notice that transiting Pluto at 10 degrees and 30 minutes sidereal Virgo on August 9, 1974 made a partile (orb within 1 degree or less) conjunction to USA’s Saturn at 11Virgo 20. To me, a transiting Pluto-natal Saturn conjunction seems like a much better indication of a presidential resignation than a transiting Saturn-natal Sun conjunction.14 Lynes notes that transiting Saturn’s conjunction to the USA’s Sun is a rare occurrence, happening every 29 to 30 years. However, transiting Pluto’s conjunction to USA’s Saturn is even rarer, occurring every 247 to 248 years. You might say transiting Pluto’s conjunction to natal Saturn is as rare as an American president resigning from office. In fact, no United States President had ever resigned until this particular transit, but you will not see this unless you use the DOTA chart and the sidereal zodiac. If you use the tropical zodiac and the Lynes chart, or any July 4, 1776 map for that matter, you will notice transiting Pluto and natal Saturn were about 10 degrees apart on August 9, 1974. That was definitely not a partile conjunction.
- 1 Chauncey Ford, editor, Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Volume 5, Government Printing Office, Washington: 1904, p. 509.
- 2 John H. Hazleton, The Declaration of Independence: Its History, Dodd, Mead and Company, New York: 1906, pps. 156, 165 and 169. Hazleton quotes from the diary of Christopher Marshall, an influential Philadelphia citizen.
- 3 Henry Randall Stephens, The Life of Thomas Jefferson, Volume I, J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia: 1871, p. 179.
- 4 Paul H. Smith, “Time and Temperature: Philadelphia, July 4, 1776” in The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, October 1976, p. 296.
- 5 Donald E. Watson, “Autistic Certainty” in Telicom XL, 7:43, April 1993.
- 6 Garry Wills, Inventing America, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston: 2002, pps. 343-344.
- 6 Hazleton, p. 46. 7 Ibid., p. 113.
- 8 Ibid. p. 52.
- 9 Paul H. Smith, editor, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, Volume 4, Library of Congress, Washington: 1995, p. 298.
- 10 Wills, p. 325.
- 11 Ibid., p. 333.
- 12 Hazleton, p. 39.
- 13 Barry Lynes, “The Birth of America: Part I”
- 14 According to astrologer James Eshelman, “Transiting Pluto’s nature is basically separative, whether from people, ideas, institutions, lifestyles or whatever.” (Interpreting Solar Returns, ACS Publications, Inc. San Diego: 1985, p. 46.) My own personal research shows that more American presidents are born with Saturn in a major Gauquelin power zone than any other planet. Please refer to my article “Saturn: Planet of Presidents?” in the August 9, 2010 issue of Today’s Astrologer.
Gary Noel is the author of Reinventing Astrology (American Federation of Astrologers). In 2003 and again in 2006, the American Federation of Astrologers presented him with the LCDR David Williams Award for his contributions to Today’s Astrologer magazine. He lives in Paris, Texas and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.