Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Growing up, July 4 is explained as the day America gained its independence from England. We celebrated in my neighborhood with a water fight, cult-d-sac BBQ and in the old days, fireworks and a bon fire. But it was not until much later that I started questioning what July 4 was. It was also a day that happened 442 days into the Revolutionary War. As a child learning this from my father (who himself is not a great teacher, but I digress) I was confused. Why would the Constitutional Convention wait until the middle of the war to declare independence? And why as Americans do we celebrate July 4, and not August 9, the day the Declaration was actually signed, or September 3, the day the Treaty of Paris was signed as our day of independence? It didn’t quite make sense.

And I still don’t really have these answers. So it is time that I answer them. It is my way of celebrating America since every firework show in Colorado has been cancelled because of the fires.

The first shots of the Revolutionary war were fired in Concord Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. It wasn’t until the spring of 1776 that support for independence swept through the colonies. A five-person committee was established to write the declaration, although Thomas Jefferson wrote a majority of the document, drawing heavily from the philosophy of John Locke.

July 2, 1776 the Constitutional Convention voted to support Virginiaian motion for independence. On July 4, 1776, 12 of the colonies officially supported the Declaration, and after some rewording New York approved on July 19, 1776. But the Declaration was not even signed until August 9, 1776.

After I researched the history of the federal holiday, I realized that it has been celebrated in a way since 1777 when thirteen gunshots were fired in salute. In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize July 4 as a state celebration. In 1791, the first record of July 4 as Independence Day occurred. In 1870, Congress made Independence Day the day became a federal unpaid holiday, and in 1938, the day became a paid federal holiday.

After all this research I realized I don’t have an answer for why we celebrate July 4 as Independence Day. What I do know is that today is the day the Declaration of Independence was voted on, and that document serves as one of the greatest documents ever written. And, according to this article by the Wall Street Journal, in the next 100 years, other nations and people would issue 200 similar documents to the American Declaration of Independence. That is certainly something worth celebrating.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

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