Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why July 4th?

How did it happen that we came to celebrate July 4 as our nation's Independence Day? The Second Continental Congress actually voted to approve a resolution of independence on July 2, 1776. After making the decision to separate themselves from England, the Congress then set about writing a declaration to set out their reasons for taking this action. They debated and revised the wording of the document for a couple of days, finally agreeing to the wording that has come down to us on July 4.

But it seems that the more important date would have been the date that they actually decided on independence, July 2. John Adams certainly thought that was the important date. He wrote his wife Abigail:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch 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 commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Moreover, most historians agree that the document that we know as the Declaration of Independence was not actually signed until August 2, 1776, one month after the initial agreement to separate from England. So why don't we celebrate either July 2 or August 2 as our Independence Day?

For whatever reason, almost from the beginning Americans celebrated July 4 as the big day. It was the date that stuck in the nation's memory and heart. And so, regardless of the cold hard facts of what was agreed to or signed when, it is the traditional date of  the nation's birth and, anyway, it's the date that appears at the top of that famous document.


We hold this truth to be self-evident: The date doesn't really matter. What matters is the founding and keeping of the republic and July 4 is as good a date to celebrate it as any.

Happy Independence Day!

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