“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin
The tradition goes back to 18th century. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, voted nearly unanimously for independence from Great Britain (New York, a Tory stronghold, abstained at first, but later joined the fold).
Two days later, delegates from the thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, written largely by Thomas Jefferson, who would later become the third President of the United States. Jefferson was one of five Continental Congress members assigned to draft the document. Ben Franklin and John Adams both declined to make the first effort, so the job fell to Jefferson, who was considered to be the most persuasive writer. His draft was subject to numerous edits by members of the committee and of the Continental Congress.
Since 1776, July 4th has been celebrated as the birthday of American Independence with festivities including fireworks, parades, and backyard barbecues. But, typically, the holiday was not without controversy. The second American President, John Adams, thought July 2nd was the correct date and apparently refused invitations to attend July 4th celebrations. In one of American history’s stranger coincidences, Jefferson and Adams, intense political rivals, both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The fifth American President, John Monroe, died on July 4th, 1831 and Calvin Coolidge, the 30th, was born on July 4, 1872.
Before the Revolution, colonists had celebrated the King’s birthday with ringing bells, processions, bonfires and speeches. Instead, in the summer of 1776, some held mock funerals for George III to symbolize the triumph of liberty over the monarchy. The story that a young boy was posted next to Independence Hall to signal an old man in the bell tower to ring the bell when liberty was declared in 1776 was concocted in the middle of the 19th century by the author of a children’s book appropriately titled Legends of the American Revolution. The Liberty Bell did not ring on the first Independence Day. The truth is that the bell was not even named to honor American independence from Britain. It was named in the early 19th century by abolitionists as a symbol of the antislavery movement. Its famous crack was the result of bad design.
The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to publish the Declaration of Independence on July 6, 1776, and first public readings, accompanied by concerts, bonfires, and the firing of cannons and muskets, began July 8. Philadelphia, home of the Continental Congress, held the first official celebration of July 4th in 1777, while the Revolutionary War was still ongoing. In 1781 Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.
Following the nation’s second confrontation with Great Britain, the War of 1812, July 4th celebrations became more widespread. Congress made it a federal holiday in 1870 and, in 1941, Congress expanded the provision to grant federal employees a paid holiday.
MENU: JULY 4 BARBECUE
Sam Adams lager, American wines
Coffee and tea
“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be…the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … to 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 undiminishing devotion to them.”
Thomas Jefferson, June 24, 1826, Monticello