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US Independence Day on July 4: How America won its freedom 246 years ago

Free Press Journal logo Free Press Journal 03-07-2022
John Trumbull's painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress © Provided by Free Press Journal John Trumbull's painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress

In the United States, Independence Day is celebrated on the Fourth of July every year - a day that represents the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.

“Taxation without representation!” was the battle cry in America’s 13 Colonies, which were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament.

As dissatisfaction grew, British troops were sent in to quell the early movement toward rebellion. Repeated attempts by the Colonists to resolve the crisis without military conflict proved fruitless.

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 the American Revolution started 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 happened on July 4th, 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.

The following day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed, and on July 6, The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the extraordinary document.

A symbol of liberty

The Declaration of Independence has since become the US’ most cherished symbol of liberty.

In June of 1826, Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Roger C. Weightman, declining an invitation to come to Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It was the last letter that Jefferson, who was gravely ill, ever wrote. In it, Jefferson says of the document:

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. …For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

How is it celebrated?

The 4th of July is now an important holiday in the United States. Americans celebrate by participating in parades and going to events and concerts where patriotic songs, such as “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land,” are played.

At night many people gather in parks to watch fireworks, displays of colorful lights exploding in the sky.

Americans also enjoy the 4th of July by having barbecues or picnics with their family and friends at home or at a local park. They grill hot dogs, hamburgers, and other meats or vegetables. They eat potato salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, watermelon, and a variety of desserts. S

ince the 4th of July is during a school break, Americans often take a vacation during this national celebration.

Families travel to many places in the U.S. to visit national parks, the mountains, beaches, and large cities. They go camping, visit theme parks, and stop at important national historic sites.

Many people also visit Washington D.C., the nation's capital, to celebrate the 4th of July. This holiday is an American favorite because it is a fun birthday celebration of the United States.

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