The United States of America celebrates July 4 as its Independence Day. It was on this day in 1776 when 13 colonies formally declared their independence from Great Britain. However, the decision was made on July 2 the same year in a vote by the Continental Congress.
On July 4, the Congress issued the Declaration of Independence which justified the occasion as one aiming at "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind". For many, the document was more of an one related to the foreign policy which stated the governing principles to determine the colonies' break from London and the future government of the new country.
The Declaration of Independence was prepared by a Committee of Five with late US president Thomas Jefferson as its main author.
Incidentally, both Jefferson and his predecessor John Adams, who was also a member of the committee, had died on July 4, 1826---the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
The 13 colonies that became independent
The thirteen colonies located on the east coast of North America that became independent on July 4, 1776 were: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, South Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, North Carolina and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
US independence was unique because it was based on liberal values
The American Declaration of Independence was a revolutionary moment not just for the US or North America but for the entire mankind for it was for the first time in history that a government drew its legitimacy on the liberal claims of man and not on cultural tenets like language, religion and tradition or on nationalistic urge like blood and soil.
The American independence is celebrated more as an excpetionalism based on creed and principles and not a political break from a coloniser nation.
Facts related to July 4:
- In 1777, on the first anniversary of the independence, the occasion was celebrated by firing 13 gunshots in salute, once in the morning and once in the evening, in Bristol, the Rhode Island.
- Philadelphia, the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, was the first to celebrate the first anniversary in the modern way. Besides an official dinner for the Continental Congress, gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades and fireworks were also observed.
- Besides Jefferson and Adams, another US president James Monroe had also died on July 4 (1831).
- Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the US, was born on July 4 and is the only office-holder to have such a record till date.
- On the second anniversary of the independence on July 4, 1778, George Washington, who would become the first president of the US in 1789, approved a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artilley salute. In Paris, France, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin hosted a dinner for their fellow Americans.
- July 4, 1779, was a Sunday and hence, the holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 15.
- The Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognise July 4 as a day of state celebration in 1781.
- The "Psalm of Joy" music programme of Johan Friedrich Peter held in North Carolina on July 4, 1783, is considered the first recorded celebration of the occasion and it is observed even today.
- The first recorded use of the term "Independence Day" took place in 1791.
- In 1870, the US Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday while in 1938, it was made a paid holiday.
- The American Constitution came into force in 1789 after it was ratified in June 1788.