We celebrate Independence Day every year on the 4th of July.
This is a date that many Americans love to celebrate with patriotism and extravagance. But why is it July 4th, and why do some believe it should be a different date?
When Do We Celebrate Independence Day?
Independence Day is celebrated on the 4th of July, although families may take longer periods off for extended holidays to be with family and friends. The date signifies the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the document used by Americans to declare independence from the British. But, there is some debate over the most appropriate date for the celebrations. So, why do we celebrate on the 4th of July, what other dates could have been used, and how do people celebrate?
Why Do We Celebrate Independence Day on July 4th?
On July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted by the Second Continental Congress, having been sent for approval by those that created it. This made everything official, and the date would go on to be associated with the document as it went to print. Therefore, it makes sense for a July 4th celebration of the declaration.
The date has an extra significance that makes it a suitable day for remembering those who fought for the nation’s independence in the American revolution. Thomas Jefferson was a key figure in drafting the Declaration of Independence, having written the first draft that went to Congress for approval. John Adams was another important founder during this period, and each would go on to the role of President of the United States. Both men died on July 4th, 1826.
The Case for July 2nd
July 4th was the date that Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. However, it took a little time to get the document to officials to be reviewed. The actual date of agreement to declare independence from British rule was July 2nd. This date was the catalyst for full independence from Great Britain and set the course for a new way of running the country – the first stop being that approval from those in power.
The 2nd is when the Founding Fathers made their intentions clear. The work by Congress on the 4th made it all official but was more an administrative formality compared to the symbolic moment of the declaration by the Continental Congress.
At the time, there was the expectation by some involved that July 2nd would become a national holiday. John Adams claimed this would be the case and spoke of “the greatest epoch in the history of America.”
Why Not August 2nd?
This is where things get even more complicated when it comes to fixing an appropriate date for Independence Day in America. Many would say that we celebrate on the 4th of July because that is when the Declaration of Independence was signed. But this isn’t the case.
The document’s signing didn’t occur until a month later, on August 2nd, when the approved document was returned to those responsible for its creation for signing. So, if we really wanted to celebrate the day that they put pen to paper with signatures, we would need to switch the date to August 2nd.
When Did the United States Truly Become Independent?
Another date that could have been used as an official holiday and anniversary for American Independence is September 3rd. The Declaration of Independence was made official in July 1776 during the ongoing Revolutionary War. That war would continue for many years, with peace only fully restored in 1783.
On September 3rd, 1783, a group of officials from the British Parliament and a delegation of Americans met in a hotel in Paris. The British party included representatives of the King, while the Americans were John Adams, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin. All three men had been influential in the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the subsequent United States Constitution, and the ratification process for that document. The meeting ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
This treaty was the official declaration from the British that they finally acknowledged the United States as an independent nation. The war was over, and the country was free to govern with its new system of government, collect taxes, expand territories, and do anything else a free country would expect to do.
As this was the finite end to the Revolutionary War and a thick line in the sand, it would make sense to mark September 3rd. However, this would overlook the previous seven years of hard work that went into building the country after the Declaration of Independence. America already saw itself as independent and was essentially waiting for Great Britain to admit it.
Is Independence Day a Federal Holiday?
Independence Day is a federal holiday, which means that government workers get the day off, and many buildings are closed. Businesses may also close and give staff time off too. In his letter about the holiday on July 2nd, John Adams talked about “pomp and parade” concerning “bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other”. This is a pretty accurate description.
The first of these national holidays took place a year from the declaration in 1777 and was more of a funeral for British rule. Today, there is a more celebratory atmosphere with cook-outs, parades, fireworks, and many other patriotic events.
Independence Day Will Always Be the Fourth of July
Whether the date is accurate or appropriate is always up for debate. But, the national holiday has been an annual tradition on July 4th for centuries and is sure to remain that way. We can mark various dates accordingly but keep the big celebrations for the date the founders all agreed to declare independence.