Independence Day, also known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the USA that celebrates the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
On this date, the Continental Congress declared the thirteen American colonies were a new nation called the United States of America.
This meant the colonies were no longer part of the British Empire.
When is Independence Day?
July 4 or as they say, the 4th of July.
What is Independence Day?
Independence Day celebrates America’s independence from the British Empire.
In 1775, the 13 colonies that made up America declared a war of independence against Britain.
The British had inhabited America since 1587 and exploited their resources such as tobacco and tea.
Tensions began to rise between the British and Americans as the British Government pushed for their own financial gain and continued to exploit American goods through taxation.
Founding Father and head of the Sons of Liberty organisation, Samuel Adams, and his men boarded three ships in Boston harbour and threw 342 chests of tea overboard.
Violent acts often arose from the tension, most memorably an incident that became known as The Boston Tea Party in 1773.
People living in New England began battling the British for their independence in 1775.
Before European settlers arrived, Native Americans lived in the country and each tribe had its own nation and government.
On July 2, 1776, the Congress secretly voted for independence from Great Britain.
A couple of days later, the final wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved, and the document was then published.
Delegates began to sign the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.
The Second President of the United States, John Adams, wrote a letter to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776 with a description of how the day would be celebrated.
This included “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States.
The term “Independence Day” was not used until 1791.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who both signed of the Declaration of Independence and were both presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826.
This was exactly 50 years after the declaration was adopted.
The United States of American used to be Thirteen Colonies – a collection of East Coast states, they were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
The colonies were run by the British, who had been on the continent since 1587. At first the relationship between the Brits and the settlers was perfectly amicable, but soon their were complaints about taxes and the British influence. The settlers felt their own sense of pride and nationalism.
In 1765 the settlers asked for ‘no taxation without representation’ which basically means they wanted a voice in Parliament. The British and settlers didn’t exactly settle the issue and the disagreement often erupted into fights such as the Boston Tea Party in 1773, which was a protest against the Tea Act, which gave a British company monopoly over tea sales in the American Thirteen Colonies.
Further acts that took away power from states such as Massachusetts, which had been semi-autonomous, caused further friction.
When things reached a head a meeting was called by the Continental Congress – the delegates from the Thirteen Colonies. At the second meeting the group decided to declare war against the British – it was 1775.
The Declaration of Independence
It was the next year, still during the American Revolution that the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain rule.
The legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain actually happened on July 2, but the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson at the helm, wasn’t signed then.
Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it two days later on July 4. It was signed by 56 representatives from the thirteen states – known before as the Thirteen Colonies.
The fighting didn’t cease, it carried on until 1783 and the Treaty of Paris.
The day the Declaration was signed was seen as the birth of the nation – and Independence Day was born.
How is it celebrated?
It’s probably easier to ask how it isn’t celebrated! Fireworks, picnics, feasts, baseball, family gatherings, parties…the list goes on.
Rhode Island saluted with 13 gunshots on July 4, 1777 on the first anniversary – the area has held the longest running Independence Day celebration in the United States.
George Washington in 1778 – then a general in the revolutionary army – gave his troops a double ration of rum to mark the occassion.
While you’d think the first song to mark the day may have been Star Spangled Banner it wasn’t. Psalm of Joy by Johann Friedrich Peter from Salem, North Carolina seems to be the first song attached to the celebrations.
How do Americans celebrate Independence Day?
Fourth of July celebrations have taken various forms across the centuries.
In Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1777 there was a salute with 13 shotguns in the morning and evening of July 4.
And in 1778, then general of the revolutionary army, George Washington, doubled his troops rum ration for the festivities.
Nowadays, fireworks are one of the most common ways to celebrate Independence Day.
Displays are held in every major city and the White House also puts on its own show on the South Lawn.
Generally, Fourth of July is a time to spend with family and friends, eating BBQs, watching firework displays and parades while surrounded by a large quantity of red, white and blue, stars and stripes themed paraphernalia.
Why is Independence Day celebrated on the Fourth of July?
Celebrations take place on the fourth of July every year because it was on that date, in 1776, that Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence.
Beforehand, a motion for independence was put forward by Richard Henry Lee and was voted upon on July 1 1776, when 12 of the 13 colonies voted in favour.
The official Declaration of Independence was then drafted by future president Thomas Jefferson.
Although it was adopted by congress on July 4 (hence the day of celebration), the bill was not actually signed until nearly a month later on August 2.
The New York colonies had to agree to the motion, which they did on July 9. It then took a further two weeks to get the bill written up on parchment in a readable fashion.
How does Government mark it?
It was made an unpaid national holiday in 1870 for federal workers, and then in 1938 it became a paid holiday across the States.
A salute from one gun in each state called the “salute of the union” is fired at noon by military bases.
What songs are linked with it?
The national anthem The Star-Spangled Banner, God Bless America, America the Beautiful, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, This Land Is Your Land, Stars and Stripes Forever, and regionally, Yankee Doodle in northeastern states and Dixie in southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.