Most Americans, especially school children can tell you that America’s birthday is July 4th. And since 1776 we have celebrated the fourth. But is that really the right day?
The Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. The thirteen colonies had sent delegates because of the unhappiness with British rule and heavy taxes placed on them by the king. But not everyone was unanimous. Many supported remaining a British colony.
War had broken out in April 1775 and there had been skirmishes with British troops known as Red Coats, for the color of their uniform. So why do we not celebrate our independence every April?
By June of 1776 the colonies met in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia. It was Richard Henry Lee who made the motion for independence on June 7th, 1776. So why not celebrate June 7th?
After much debate the Continental Congress adopted a declaration claiming that the colonies should be free. That was on July 2nd, 1776. Delegate John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other. “ Adams was so passionate about July 2nd that the rest of his life he refused to take part in July 4th events. So why not celebrate July 2nd?
It was Thomas Jefferson who is credited with drafting the Declaration of Independence. His document was adopted and signed by the delegates to the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. The New York delegation did not sign on that day, but later did sign. John Hancock signed first in great big bold letters. He is quoted as saying “There, I guess King George will be able to read that without his spectacles!” So why not celebrate July 4th?
It took the country until 1870 to make July 4th an official federal holiday. And it was not until 1941 that Congress granted a paid holiday on July 4th for all federal employees.
On July 4th, 2017 we will celebrate the 241st anniversary of the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence. Around here, John Adams’ idea of a celebration will be expanded to include grilling, boating, and other forms of relaxation. The Journal hopes you will celebrate, have fun, see some old friends, and most of all have a safe Fourth of July!