"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." - Declaration of Independence.
246 years ago, 56 delegates huddled in Independence Hall, declaring the formation of a new nation with a government represented by and for the people.
The Fourth of July - also known as Independence Day or July 4th - has been celebrated since 1941. However, the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Since then, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence.
When the war first started in 1775, these young, hungry colonists who wanted complete independence were considered radical. However, within a year, the number of colonists favoring independence grew in numbers. June 7, 1776, when the Continental Congress met at the location (now known as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies' independence.
After heated debate, the Congress postponed the vote on Lee's resolution, and a five-man committee was appointed to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of the solution in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). John Adams wrote to his wife that July 2 "will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival”. Two days later, the Continental Congress formally adopted Declaration of Independence, which was written largely by Jefferson. Thus, the 4th became the day that's celebrated as the birth of American independence.
Did you know? John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date to celebrate the birth of American independence. He even turned down invitations to appear at July 4th events. Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence - July 4, 1826.
Early Fourth of July celebrations and traditions
During the summer of 1776, some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a way of symbolizing the end of British hold on America and the triumph of liberty.
Other celebrations and traditions included concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets. The first annual commemoration of Independence on July 4, 1777 was held in Philadelphia, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war.
In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.
After the Revolutionary War, Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allowed the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity.
The tradition of fireworks on the 4th of July began in the first annual commemoration in Philadelphia in 1777. They fired a 13-gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies, and the exhibition of fireworks began and concluded with thirteen rockets. The same night, the Sons of Liberty set off fireworks over Boston Common.
After the war of 1812, the tradition of patriotic celebration became widespread and the Congress made July 4th a federal holiday in 1870. In 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees.
Over the years, the Fourth of July remains an important national holiday and an undeniable symbol of patriotism. It's also emerged as a major midsummer holiday and became an occasion for family get-togethers, as well as other leisure activities, such as boating, barbecues, and fireworks.
Why celebrate Fourth of July?
The United States of America is a nation founded on Christian principles. Today, despite its imperfections at times, the American standard is the beacon of hope for most people in this world. The ideals of America is still worth fighting for, to this very day, now more than ever. Today, just like every Fourth of July, is a reminder of the freedom and liberty our Founding Fathers fought very hard for, and that we must continue to fight and uphold the words that began it all -
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Let freedom ring.