We celebrate American Independence Day on the Fourth of July every year. We think of July 4, 1776, as a day that represents the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.
- But July 4, 1776 wasn’t the day that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence (they did that on July 2, 1776).
- It wasn’t the day we started the American Revolution either (that had happened back in April 1775).
- And it wasn’t the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence (that was in June 1776). Or the date on which the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain (that didn’t happen until November 1776). Or the date it was signed (that was August 2, 1776).
So what did happen on July 4, 1776?
The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. They’d been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes.
July 4, 1776, became the date that was included on the Declaration of Independence, and the fancy handwritten copy that was signed in August (the copy now displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) It’s also the date that was printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation. So when people thought of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 was the date they remembered.
In contrast, we celebrate Constitution Day on September 17th of each year, the anniversary of the date the Constitution was signed, not the anniversary of the date it was approved. If we’d followed this same approach for the Declaration of Independence we’d being celebrating Independence Day on August 2nd of each year, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed!
Now that you have that “Little bit of History,” under your belt, go out and celebrate this day with ice cream, flags waving and parades down Main Street. Light up those BBQ grills and invite the neighbors over. Perhaps you can play a little Independence Day Trivia! And when the day is over and fireworks lights the sky, be thankful for all you have living in this wonderful nation where you are allowed free speech and the ability to express your opinions….because there are a lot of places in the world you can’t do that.
Happy 4th of July to all.
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