I hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July. After the parades, cookouts and fireworks, I came across some interesting details about the holiday, courtesy of the daily email from The Writer’s Almanac —
[July 4th] marks the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The document was approved and signed on July 2, and was formally adopted on July 4; John Adams always felt that the Second of July was America’s true birthday, and wrote to his wife, Abigail, that the date “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” He envisioned “Pomp and Parade […] Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” He reportedly refused to appear at annual Fourth of July celebrations for the rest of his life, in protest. He died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration’s adoption – as did Thomas Jefferson, who had written most of the document.
It was traditional in the British Colonies to celebrate the king’s birthday every summer, with bonfires, parades, and speeches. During the summer of 1776, they held mock funerals for King George instead – with bonfires, parades, and speeches. They also read the Declaration of Independence aloud as soon as it was adopted. Philadelphia held the first formal Independence Day celebration in 1777, with bells and fireworks; in 1778, General George Washington called for double rations of rum for the troops, and in 1781, Massachusetts was the first to name July 4 an official state holiday. Congress declared it a national holiday in 1870.
Jefferson turned down a request to appear at the 50th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C.; it was the last letter he ever wrote, and in it he expressed his hope for the Declaration of Independence:
“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. […] 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.”
The details of history are always the most fun.
From The Writer’s Almanac, July 4, 2016, http://writersalmanac.org/