By Raymond Shipley
In June 1776, American colonists were engaged in revolutionary struggle against Great Britain and faced with the decision of autonomy. On July 2nd the Continental Congress voted in favor of total separation from Britain, and on July 4th the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. This historic day has come to be known as the Fourth of July and Independence Day to patriotic Americans.
When the Revolutionary War began in April 1775 many colonists did not wish for complete independence from Great Britain. Having an initial desire for self-rule was seen as radical; however, as the war waged on such idealism was stoked by the overall hostility of the conflict and writers such as Thomas Paine in his "Common Sense," which was published early in 1776. It was Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee who introduced a motion calling for the colonies' independence on June 7 at what is now known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Although Congress postponed the vote it appointed a five-man committee - Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York - to draft a formal statement of justification for breaking with Great Britain. On July 2nd the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee's resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation initially abstained). In fact, John Adams believed July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate American Independence Day; however, July 4th marked the day Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, and although the vote took place on the 2nd it was the 4th that was celebrated as the birth of American Independence. Both Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the 50th Anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
Before the Revolutionary War, colonists held annual celebrations of the king's birthday; however, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated independence by holding mock funerals for King George III to symbolize the death of the monarchy's hold on America and the triumph of liberty. Festivities included concerts, parades, bonfires, firing cannons and muskets and the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence. George Washington also ordered double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781 Massachusetts was the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.
After the American victory against Great Britain in the War of 1812, celebration of Independence Day became even more widespread. United States Congress made July 4th a federal holiday in 1870, and in 1941 it was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees. Celebration of the Fourth of July remains to this day an important symbol of American patriotism.
This July 4th get out and celebrate the birth of the greatest nation this earth has ever known with family and friends. With family, food and fireworks raise that red, white and blue symbol of freedom in salute to the courageous men and women who stood for liberty against tyranny. Happy Fourth.