Today in the United States, Independence Day is celebrated on July 4th, and the day is commonly called the Fourth of July. In 1941, it was made a federal holiday, but it people had been celebrating it decades before. The reason Independence Day is celebrated on July 4th is because on that day in 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, two days after voting in favor of the resolution.
At the beginning of the American Revolution in spring of 1775, most colonists were not looking for complete freedom for Britain, but mainly for representation, especially due to “taxation without representation”. Those who did desire complete independence for the colonies were considered to be radicals. It wasn’t long before the idea of complete independence was embraced by many more patriots as they only grew to dislike Britain more and more. Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”, which was published in January of 1776, was a pamphlet that persuaded more and more patriots that America should be given complete independence from Britain.
The Continental Congress met on June 7, 1776 in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania State House, which is now commonly known as Independence Hall for this very reason. Richard Henry Lee, a Virginian congressman, was the first to call for the colonies’ independence by means of a declaration. Congress debated constantly on whether or not they should go ahead and do so. In the meantime, five men (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin,Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman) were appointed to a committee to draft a resolution that declared the colonies’ independence. Thomas Jefferson had penned the majority of it as well.
A few weeks later on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted on the Declaration of Independence and the vote was nearly unanimous in favor. This was because the delegates from New York originally abstained from voting, but later on, voted in favor too. John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail Adams, that same day that July 2nd was a day to be celebrated “by succeeding Generations”. He believed that it should be a day for great celebrations to honor the day they voted on the country’s independence. In fact, he would later on in life decline any invitations to July 4th celebration because of this. Both him and Thomas Jefferson would also die on the anniversary of their independence on July 4, 1836.
Two days later on the 4th of July was when the declaration was formally adopted by Congress. Instead of July 2nd like John Adams wished, the the was celebrated as the day America officially became an independent country. And despite the colonies becoming free in 1776, the war continued on until 1781, but officially ended in 1783.
Prior to the American Revolution, colonists would celebrate the birthday of the king, but the summer of the passing of the Declaration of Independence, many Patriots held mock funerals for the king, King George III! They did it as a symbol go the end of the king‘s control over America.
Right after the adoption of the declarations, Americans all over celebrated with bonfires, parades, and concerts, along with firing muskets and cannons. Public readings also began soon after. The first was on July 8, 1776 in Philadelphia. The following year, the anniversary of the adoption was commemorated for the first time in Philadelphia as the war still went on.
In 1778, George Washington celebrated the day by giving his men double rations of men. Three years later, Massachusetts was the first day to make the 4th of July an official holiday in the state. This wasn’t long before the Battle of Yorktown in September, a key victory for the Americans that led to their ultimate victory in the war.
After the war ended in 1783, Americans continued to celebrate their Independence Day. At the end of the century, there were two major political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Both of which held large parties and celebrations in many of the country’s large cities.
Once again, the U.S. went up against Great Britain, but this time it was in 1812. Following the War of 1812, more and more American citizens celebrated the 4th of July. By 1870, the U.S. Congress made it a federal holiday. And in 1941, it was expanded and became a paid holiday for federal employees.
Since 1776, the holiday’s importance politically has gone down, but it is still an important holiday celebrated by all Americans. Most celebrate with family get togethers, including picnics, fireworks, parades, and more.