On July 4th, America celebrates its independence day with picnics, fireworks, the colors of the American flag, and time with friends and family.
But how many know the true meaning, history, and facts behind America’s most important day?
Independence Day, also known as the Fourth of July, is the day that’s long been designated as the birthdate of our great nation, which declared its independence from Great Britain by adopting the Declaration of Independence in early July 1776.
You probably knew about July 4th date’s importance to our countries history.
But you may not have known that the Declaration of Independence wasn’t necessarily signed on July 4. Here are more Declaration of Independence facts you should know.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Independence Day
#1 Independence Day Could Have Been the 2nd of July
It was on the second day of July 1776 when the governing body of the 13 colonies, known as the Continental Congress, voted in favor of declaring themselves independent of British rule.
But it was on July 4, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence was finalized as a written document, and it’s “July 4, 1776” that appears on the document as its official date.
#2 Independence Day Could Have Been August 2
The Declaration of Independence was not actually signed until August 2, 1776.
Oddly enough, even though they all signed the important document, one of those signatures is actually more valuable than the rest.
#3 John Adams Wasn’t Thrilled About July 4th
On July 3, 1776, John Adams, who went on to become our second president, wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, to tell her how excited he was that Congress had voted in favor of independence.
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” he declared.
Adams so firmly believed that July 2 was the correct day on which to celebrate American independence that he refused to appear at July 4th events as a matter of principle.
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#4 About That 1776…
By 1776, America had already been working on declaring our independence for years:
- 1773: the Boston Tea Party took place as a protest against British taxation of colonial tea
- 1774: the First Continental Congress began meeting to discuss what to do about Britain’s imposing unfair laws on the colonies.
1775: the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775, with the battles at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, and would continue until 1783 with America’s victory at Yorktown, New York.
#5 America Didn’t Become Official Until 1789
It wasn’t until five years after our victory over the British in the Revolutionary War that the Articles of Confederation, the first version of what was to become the U.S. Constitution, was ratified by Congress.
Since the Constitution is what actually defined our form of government and set boundaries on what our laws could and couldn’t do, it’s arguable that we weren’t actually “born” as a country until 1789.
#6 What the Declaration of Independence actually says
The Declaration of Independence begins with the preamble:
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
In short, it means, “When a group of people decides to split from a country and become a country in its own right, it’s only fair to explain why.”
The rest of the document does just that, beginning with defining what the basic rights of a people should be and enumerating the ways in which Great Britain had violated those rights. Find out the U.S. state facts that almost everyone gets wrong.
#7 Life, Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of…Property?
Arguably the most famous line in the Declaration of Independence is the second sentence of the preamble, which begins:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
But as originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the pursuit was not of happiness, but of “Property.”
As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin convinced Jefferson to make the change because “property” was too “narrow” a notion.
#8 Speaking Of Jefferson…Was He Really the Author?
Thomas Jefferson is known as the author of the Declaration of Independence.
But while he was the man officially responsible for drafting a formal statement of why the 13 colonies should break from Britain.
The actual document was written by a five-man committee made up of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston.
Jefferson was not recognized as its principal author until the 1790s.
#9 The Declaration of Independence Caused a Riot
When the colonists in New York City found out about the Declaration of Independence from George Washington who read it in front of City Hall on July 9, 1776, a riot broke out.
The rioting was in part a reaction to the fact that British naval ships were occupying the harbor at the time.
During the riot, a statue of King George III was torn down… and melted down to make 42,000 musket balls for the revolutionary army.
#10 Why Do We Celebrate July 4th With Fireworks?
At the first national Independence Day Celebration in Philly in 1777, 13 cannons were fired, one round for each state of the union, bells were rung, and fireworks were set off, according to the Smithsonian.
So America’s 4th of July fireworks celebration grew from there.