By John, We’re Celebrating Independence Day the Wrong Day
Ask most Americans what day Congress signed the Declaration of Independence Day, and (if they don’t zone out) they’ll boast, “The 4th of July.” Then you can point and laugh at them for failing as a patriot.
No, don’t do that. That wouldn’t be very nice.
Congress didn’t sign the Declaration on July 4th, because they’d already signed it days before. Which, begs the question: why?
Perhaps that’s the day we celebrate U.S, Independence because that’s the day we all get off of work. Wait, that didn’t make any sense.
Maybe we get that day off because that’s the day of the national holiday or because that’s the day we light fireworks? I mean, are we supposed to believe these facts are all some crazy coincidence?
The national holiday is July 4th for a good reason, one we’re gonna get down to in short order. First, let’s back up to something called the Revolution.
Hard to believe, but only about one year before the signing of the Declaration, most Americans were happy with the Brits running things.
Oh sure, there were a few loudmouths in every town who would get drunk and talk of revolution, but those folks were radicals. The good people of the 13 Colonies knew that King George had their best interests in order.
Sure, the British taxed the Colonies, but they also provided security in the form of the British Army.
Then a fella named Thomas Paine published a little pamphlet titled, Common Sense. Paine’s pamphlet questioned the British authority in the Colonies.
It wasn’t some rant, either. Paine posed moral and logical arguments in his pamphlet. The first version was published on January 1776, by Anonymous.
Common Sense spread via anyplace Americans gathered, often read aloud by someone caught up in all the, well, common sense. It’s amazing how fast a tide can turn.
By June of that same year, Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House in Philly. A delegate from Virginia, Richard Henry, motioned for independence.
The Continental Congress devolved into a raucous debate, only stymied by the appointing of a committee.
A few familiar names made that group: Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), John Adams (Massachusetts) Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Roger Sherman (Connecticut) and Robert R. Livingston (New York).
The Congress tasked those men to draft a formal statement justifying the succession of the Colonies from Britain.
It was on July 2 the Continental Congress voted on the issue. The result of that vote was almost unanimous, a long way to come since the year prior when only radicals suggested such ideas.
Note: This wasn’t a public house. It was the Continental Congress.
To John Adams, July 2nd was our Independence Day. He even wrote his wife, saying that the 2nd “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”
In fact, Adams so thoroughly felt this way that, as the legend goes, he refused invites to Fourth of July parties in later years.
So how did we wind up with the 4th as the day? That was the day each of the 13 Colonies ratified the Declaration of Independence. The first big party was in Philly, the city of brotherly-getting-down-and-partying, in 1777.
In the years that followed, more and more people celebrated on the day that mattered to them, the day everyone agreed to the plan.
After the War of 1812, when the U.S. invaded Canada to fight the Brits again, patriotism took a big step up.
In 1870 we made the day official. Congress declared the 4th a federal holiday. By 1941, it became a paid federal holiday. That decision prompted all the grumpy people who wanted another day off to go work for the DMV. (Just kidding; they’d already been working there since 1931, bless America.)
Considering the divisions of the nation from this last election, it will be interesting to see what happens this year. In all likelihood, we’ll see much of the same as years past.
Families will get together, grill some meat, drink some beer, and go to work the next day a little sun kissed.
If you see someone with a burn on the 5th, don’t point and laugh. Shake that person’s hand for being a patriot.