American’s have celebrated the Fourth of July since 1777 (a year after America declared it’s independence from King George and Britain), even though the War of Independence started two years prior and lasted until 1783. All historical records show that the first Fourth of July celebrated across the colonies took place on… The Fourth of July. Mostly in lieu of fireworks, 13 gun salutes were performed across the now former colonies. In Philadelphia (Which would take over as the nation’s capital in 1780 up until 1800), for example, and however, their celebration was not too much different from what people do today. In addition to the 13 gun salute (one gun for each colony), they had speeches, parades, music, and fireworks. The issue with all of these celebrations was that they, like people today, were celebrating on the wrong day.
As stated above, the American Revolutionary War started in 1775; despite that fact, everyone points to 1776 as the year of American Independence. And they’re right! Yes, the Revolutionary War started in 1775 but for America to declare it’s independence it needed to do so legally. That’s why people celebrate on July 4th, as it’s widely believed to be the date that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. The problem is that the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence on July SECOND. That vote was actually proposed in June of that year by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, someone who definitely doesn’t get enough credit for his role in creating ‘Murica. After voting for the resolution, the next step was that Declaration of Independence. Yes, as it was Congress, it took a couple days of debating and it was approved two days later, on July Fourth, but it was essentially created on July 2nd: the same date that Congress voted for America’s independence. So, the Founding Fathers themselves figured that July Second would end up being the date that people would go fight off mosquitoes and the awkwardness of sitting on the ground in the dark next to complete strangers to see ten minutes of fireworks. Founding Father John Adams actually wrote about the date of future celebrations to his wife, saying:
The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Wow. Those Founding Fathers were amazing. He completely nailed what [Fourth] of July celebrations would end up being. That’s spooky! So, I bet you’re saying that July 4th makes sense because that’s the date that the Declaration of Independence was actually approved and that’s typically when bills/laws go into effect, not when they’re proposed. And, you’re half right. Yes, bills/laws/lunch orders in Congress don’t obviously start when they’re proposed, just ask the GOP about Healthcare right now. However, while it was approved on the fourth, there has been a lot of debate as to when it was actually signed, despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin “Hundred Dollar Bill” Franklin and even John Adams claimed to have signed it on July Fourth. However, most historians now believe that it was actually signed a month later, in August. On August Second to be exact.
So, while it doesn’t really matter what day it is (as long as it is celebrated), it’s interesting to know that we could’ve ended up with a paid day off (since 1938 anyway) of work that is full of BBQ, family and fireworks either on July Second or even August Second!