THE INDEPENDENCE DAY PAGE
United States, Independence Day (commonly known as "the Fourth of July" or simply "the Fourth") is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Though the Fourth of July is iconic to Americans, some claim the date itself is somewhat arbitrary. New Englanders had been fighting Britain since April 1775.
At the time of the signing the US consisted of 13 colonies under the rule of England's King George III. There was growing unrest in the colonies concerning the taxes that had to be paid to England. This was commonly referred to as "Taxation without Representation" as the colonists did not have any representation in the English Parliament and had no say in what went on. As the unrest grew in the colonies, King George sent extra troops to help control any rebellion. In 1774 the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia Pennsylvania to form the First Continental Congress. The delegates were unhappy with England, but were not yet ready to declare war.
In April 1775 as the King's troops advanced on Concord Massachusetts Paul Revere would sound the alarm that "The British are coming, the British are coming" as he rode his horse through the late night streets. The battle of Concord and its "shot heard round the world” would mark the unofficial beginning of the colonies war for Independence.
The following May the colonies again sent delegates to the Second Continental Congress. For almost a year the congress tried to work out its differences with England, again without formally declaring war.
By June 1776 their efforts had become hopeless and a committee was formed to compose a formal declaration of independence. Headed by Thomas Jefferson, the committee included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft which was presented to the congress on June 28. After various changes a vote was taken late in the afternoon of July 4th. Of the 13 colonies, 9 voted in favor of the Declaration, 2 - Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted No, Delaware undecided and New York abstained.
To make it official John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock signed his name "with a great flourish" so "King George can read that without spectacles!"
It wasn’t until August 2 that a fair printing would be signed by the members of the Congress, but even that was kept secret to protect the members from British reprisal.
John Adams, credited by Thomas Jefferson as the unofficial, tireless whip of the independence-minded, wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776:
"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."
Adams was off by two days, however. Certainly, the vote on July 2 was the decisive act. But July 4, 1776 is the date on the Declaration itself.
Jefferson's stirring prose, the Declaration of Independence, as edited by the Congress, was first adopted by the July 4 vote. It was also the first day Philadelphians heard the official news of independence from the Continental Congress, as opposed to rumors in the street about secret votes.
-- In 1777, British officers noted the firing of 13 guns, once at morning and 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 the Fourth of July 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 5.
-- In 1781, Massachusetts was the first legislature to recognize the Fourth of July.
-- In 1791, First recorded under "Independence Day" name.
-- In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
SPIRIT OF '76
Originally entitled Yankee Doodle, this is one of several versions of a scene painted by A. M. Willard that came to be known as The Spirit of '76. Often imitated (or parodied), it is a familiar symbol of American patriotism.
"The Star-Spangled Banner", also the USA's national anthem, commemorates the United States flag that was visible by the light of the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air. This view of the flag throughout the night of bomb bursts was inspiring to the captive Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 and it provided hope concerning the ability of the United States to competently defend Fort McHenry.