Independence Day: Why is it July 4th?

The Second Continental Congress votes on Independence. Robert Edge Pine (unfinished at his 1788 death), completed by Edward Savage - Historical Society of Pennsylvania, via the US Library of Congress.

The Second Continental Congress votes on Independence. Robert Edge Pine (unfinished at his 1788 death), completed by Edward Savage – Historical Society of Pennsylvania, via the US Library of Congress.

We celebrate July 4th, 1776 as the day our nation was born. But what really happened that day? The surprising answer: not much. At most, some bureaucratic tweaking of the semantics of independence.

In contrast, the idea of independence was already firmly rooted in the American populace. This is evidenced by the 1760s slogan “No taxation without representation,” the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the famous March 1775 rallying cry “Give me liberty, or give me death!” at the Virginia Convention and the initial Revolutionary War fighting between British and Colonial troops at Lexington and Concord in April 1775.

Independence Personified, But When Exactly?

The mundane particulars are that on June 11, 1776, a committee of the Second Continental Congress was tasked with drafting a document that would formally sever ties with the British. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of our nations founding document: The Declaration of Independence. He then sought the editing help of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

July 2, 1776 was the day the Continental Congress approved the resolution to declare independence. On the evening of the July 3rd John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail Adams and declared:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

Read the full rest of the story and see two historic images of the Declaration at MobileRanger.com.

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Julia Gaudinski


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