The 4th of July, also known as Independence Day, has been recognized as a day of holiday and celebration in the United States since 1941. Typically, the date involves a series of parades, concerts, firework displays and family gatherings across the US. But what is it about this particular date that is so significant? Since 1776, the 4th July has been recognized as the date the Continental Congress voted for independence. Two days later, the historic Declaration of Independence was adopted by 13 different colonies, as written by Thomas Jefferson. We take a closer look at the monumental significance of this date in the history of the US.
The Fourth of July Is Tied to the American Revolutionary War
The Revolutionary War, also known as the American Revolution, began in April 1775 as tensions rose in Great Britain’s 13 North American colonies between local residents and the colonial rulers. What began as a small-scale armed conflict quickly gathered pace, leading to a full-on war between the two nations. Before long, rebels began fighting for complete independence from British rule. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, titled Common Sense, was published in 1776, and it played a key role in stirring up a desire for American freedom from Great Britain.
June 7th: Richard Henry Lee’s Call for Independence
June the 7th, 1776, was a significant historical moment, when Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee proposed a call for the colonies to gain independence during the Continental Congress meeting at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia. Voting for Lee’s bill was postponed, but a five-man committee was subsequently formed to draft a formal agreement outlining a break with Great Britain, made up of Robert R Livingston from New York, Roger Sherman from Connecticut, John Adams from Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.
July 2nd: The Vote for Independence
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Subsequently, on July the 2nd, Continental Congress reconvened and held a new vote for Lee’s proposed bill. Voting was almost entirely unanimous, aside from the New York delegate, who initially hesitated, but later confirmed their agreement. Just two days later, on the 4th of July, Continental Congress officiated the Declaration of Independence. This meant while July the 2nd was the true date when American independence was confirmed, the official documents for the Declaration of Independence were put together on the 4th, making this date the official Independence Day.
It Is a Historical Day of Celebration
The 4th of July became a day of celebration in many parts of the United States from 1776 onwards. These celebrations involved firing on cannons, as well as music concerts and parades, along with public readings of the Declaration of Independence. In the first year of independence, some colonists also held fake funerals for King George III, to represent their newfound freedom from British colonial rule. However, the Revolutionary War was still underway in several American colonies, and it wasn’t until after the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, when the British finally retreated following their defeat, that celebrations spread across the entire US. In this same year, Massachusetts was the first state to make the 4th of July an official public holiday.
The Fourth of July Is a Public Holiday
In 1870, the US Congress officially declared the 4th of July as a public holiday. In 1941, the date became a paid holiday for federal employees. From this date onwards, Independence Day has typically been celebrated with fireworks and family gatherings, along with waving of the American Flag and recitals of the American national anthem. While the political significance of Independence Day is now relegated to history, the date is still widely accepted across much of the US as a day of great patriotism and pride.