Our Nation’s Birthday is Just a Few Days Away

If You’re Going to Celebrate It, You Should Know the 

History of What You’re Celebrating

Photo by Frank Cone (Pexels)

So proud American, what are you doing for the 4th of July 2023.  

We can talk about the food, the get-togethers with friends and family, the decorations and the big firework’s displays.  

But here at BoomerGal, before the festivities begin, we’re sitting back and realizing just how truly blessed our country has been because of our founding fathers who fought for and envisioned freedom, then put everything into context with words so we would never forget or give up our rights to that freedom and independence.

It’s worth standing up and holding onto those values.  The best way to celebrate the 4th is acknowledging the history of those values.

I wanted to share what I thought was an excellent summary of the history of Independence Day.  So here goes:

We think of July 4, 1776, as a day that represents the Declaration of Independence, America’s revolutionary Charter of Freedom, and the document upon which the nation’s founding principles was established. But July 4 wasn’t the day that independence was declared. Nor the day that the Declaration was officially signed.

Here is what actually happened.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Trumball’s painting 1819

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the delegates from the original 13 colonies, and the Continental Congress approved the final wording of this incredible document.  This is the day we celebrate the birth of the United States of America.  

To put things in perspective, here are several dates worth mentioning.

APRIL 19, 1775.  The start of the American Revolution.  The first shots were fired between colonists and British troops at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  

JULY 2, 1776.  The Second Continental Congress voted for independence from Britain.

JULY 4, 1776.  Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, which had been drafted by Thomas Jefferson, then edited by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

JULY 8, 1776.  The first public reading of the Declaration took place at the Pennsylvania State House.  Printer John Dunlap made about 200 copies of the Declaration with the date of July 4, 1776, all of which were distributed throughout the 13 colonies.

AUGUST 2, 1776.  The Declaration was signed by the first 56 congressional delegates.

AUGUST 4, 1776.  After all the delegates of the Continental Congress had signed the document, the Declaration of Independence was made official.  

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote these words to his wife Abigail, describing the way he hoped Americans would celebrate their independence.

“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps never was or will be decided among men.  A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony ‘that these United Colonies, are, and of right out to be free independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States might rightfully do…’”

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

A number of years would pass until celebrations of the Fourth of July became more common. Interestingly, it was the death of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson that seemed to promote the idea of July 4th as the important date to be celebrated.  And it was almost a century later, in 1870, that Congress declared July 4th a national holiday.

Here are some fun pieces of trivia.

  • Congress ruled in favor of independence from Britain on July 2, 1776.  On July 4th, two days later, Congress accepted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.
  • Only two men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, John Hancock, president of the Congress, and Charles Thompson, secretary of the Congress.
  • Hancock’s bold signature on the document dwarfed the signatures of the other signers.  Legend says that Hancock wanted the king of England to see the rebellious signature without having to wear his spectacles.
  • On August 2, 1776 the remaining delegates signed the Declaration.
  • In 1870 Congress declared July 4th a national holiday, and in 1938 it was declared a federal holiday.  
  • There is no treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence as a favorite film suggests.  However, the message, “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776” is written upside down on the back of the document.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s original draft was lost and the one eventually signed is the “engrossed” document.  It is kept at the National Archives in Washington D.C. for all to see.  Of the 200 printed copies made by John Dunlap in 1776, only 27 are accounted for.
  • In July 1776, George Washington was in New York with his troops.  On July 9th, he received his copy of the Declaration with a note from John Hancock telling him to share the news with his soldiers.  The men were so excited they rushed over to the Bowling Green and tore down the statue of King George III and fought the British until 1783 for their independence.
  • After the war, Washington hoped to retire and return to Mount Vernon, Virginia.  Instead, in 1789, the electors unanimously voted him in as the first president of the United States.  Because it was such an honor, and he felt a great duty to his country, he accepted.  The members of his first Cabinet included Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state and Alexander Hamilton as secretary of the treasury.
  • The Declaration of Independence made the adoption of an American flag necessary.  Previously, each of the 13 colonies had its own flag.
  • JANUARY 1, 1776.  The first United States flag, the “Grand Union,” was displayed by George Washington.  It became the unofficial national flag, preceding the 13-star, 13-stripe version.
The first unofficial national flag, represented here on a 1968 postage stamp.
  • On June 14, 1777, in the midst of the Revolutionary War, Congress made the Flag Resolution of 1777, stating “The flag of the United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, with a union of thirteen stars of white on a blue field in a circle indicating all colonies were equal.  Official announcement of the new flag was not made until September 3, 1777.
The Birth of Old Glory from a painting by Percy Moran (1862-1935)
  • In 1782, the Congress of the Articles of Confederation chose the colors for the Great Seal of the United States with these meanings.

White for purity and innocence

Red for valor and hardiness

Blue for vigilance, perseverance and justice

  • In 1818, after a few design changes, the United States Congress decided to retain the flag’s original 13 stripes and add new stars to reflect each new state that entered the union.  Today, there are 50 stars for each state, and the 13 stripes remain; it flew for the first time on July 4, 1960. 

I feel it’s only appropriate, if you’re going to celebrate it, you need to know what and why you’re celebrating. It doesn’t matter the age, but I think it’s especially important to share the history with your children and grandchildren.

Photo by Big Bear Vacations (Pexels)

In whatever manner you intend to celebrate the 4th, take a few moments and reflect on the cascade of events leading up to our country’s independence. They are truly inspirational.

OK, now it’s time for the BBQ, beer with hamburgers, ribs and hotdogs, games, raising the flags around your house, and staying safe. Here in SoCal it looks like the 4th of July events will be in full swing and the skies ablaze with all kinds of fireworks. Wherever you are, enjoy the 4th and the great tradition surrounding it.

Happy 4th of July to everyone,

Your BoomerGal, Connie.  Be sure to stay RELEVANT today and always.  

Many thanks to the historical and editorial contribution

By Catherine Boeckman, Almanac Newsletter, Yankee Publishing, Inc., 2023

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