As America prepares to celebrate Independence Day with hamburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, and fireworks a week from today, we will be doing it two days late. 237 years ago the Second Continental Congress declared its independence from Great Britain on July 2nd, 1776. Happy Independence Day everyone!
The controversy began 237 years ago, when our founding fathers voted to declare our independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. The original proposal was submitted in June of that year by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia.
After the original declaration was signed, attention was turned to the formal ‘Declaration of Independence,’ which was penned by five men. The principal author was Thomas Jefferson. The reworded document was signed on July 4th, 1776.
On July 3rd, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail:
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Well, he was close. The date on the final Declaration of Independence was July 4th, though the original draft had been signed on the second. From the very beginning, the newly pronounced country celebrated the fourth of July as “Independence Day.”
Historians have disagreed on the actual date that America claimed its independence from the mother country. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all claimed that the day was July 2nd.
The majority of historians have determined that the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence was completed on August 2, 1776, a month after the original document had been signed.
One of the odd coincidences concerning our founding fathers is that two of the original signatures of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, died on July 4th, 1826, exactly 50 years after the document had been signed. They had both been Presidents of the new nation.
Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third President in a row who died on this memorable day. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only President to have been born on Independence Day.
The 4th of July is the most celebrated as the most patriotic day of the year. From small towns to major cities, parades decorated by hundreds of American flags line the route. Fireworks exhibitions of major proportions light up the skies of even the smallest hamlet.
Some interesting facts about Independence Day:
In 1777, thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once at morning and once again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
In 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France.
In 1779, July 4 fell on a Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5th.
In 1781 the Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.
In 1783, Moravians in Salem, North Carolina, held a celebration of July 4 with a challenging music program assembled by Johann Friedrich Peter. This work was titled “The Psalm of Joy”.
In 1791 the first recorded use of the name “Independence Day” occurred.
In 1820 the first Fourth of July celebration was held in Eastport, Maine which remains the largest in the state.
In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
In 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.
The courage of our founding fathers declared us independent from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. There is no importance attributed to the actual date. The fact that we celebrate Independence Day is dear to the hearts of every American. Enjoy the celebration, and remember the courage of those who gave us what we have been privileged to experience for 237 years.
The Guardian Express