Why we celebrate Independence Day
Last updated 7/2/2020 at 6:38pm
As the 4th of July approaches each year, I like to pause and remember all of the freedoms and blessings we enjoy in this, the greatest country in the world. And none of the freedoms is more important than our freedom to worship God according to our own beliefs.
Let’s take a moment, with the help of History.com to consider how the commemoration of this special day came about.
The 4th of July, also known as Independence Day, was first declared a federal holiday by the U.S. Congress in 1870, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence and, two days later, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
From 1776 to the present day, July 4 has been celebrated as the birthday of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.
History of Independence Day
When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical.
By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in the bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense,” published by Thomas Paine in early 1776.
On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.
Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee – including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York – to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.
On July 4, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place July 2, from then on, the fourth became the day that was celebrated as the birthday of American independence.
Early Fourth of July Celebrations
Immediately after its adoption, festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia held the inaugural commemoration of independence July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war.
Several months before the key American victory at Yorktown, Massachusetts, became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.
After the Revolutionary War, Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allowed the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity.
By the last decade of the 18th century, the two major political parties that had arisen began holding separate Fourth of July celebrations in many large cities.
The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812, in which the United States again faced Great Britain.
Falling in midsummer, the Fourth of July has, since the late 19th century, become a major focus of leisure activities and a common occasion for family get-togethers, often involving fireworks and outdoor barbecues.