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The Birth of American Independence

The Birth of American Independence

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 Thomas Paine’s best selling pamphlet “Common Sense,” published 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 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” On July 4th, the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence that had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.

Early Fourth of July Celebrations

In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists had held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speechmaking. By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III, as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty. Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after its adoption. Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war. George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, 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–Federalists and Democratic-Republicans–that had arisen began holding separate Independence Day celebrations in many large cities.

July 4th Becomes A National Holiday

The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812, in which the United States again faced Great Britain. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday; in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees. Over the years, the political importance of the holiday would decline, but Independence Day remained an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.

Falling in mid-summer, 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. The most common symbol of the holiday is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States.

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Make Your 4th of July Bash Steeped in Tradition

By Barbara Feldman

Last year we were pretty much celebrating the 4th with just our families due to the pandemic being in full swing, but it looks like we can get back on track this year. That is good news!

Until 2020, it seems that Fourth of July parties were getting more elaborate. People from all over the country gathered together to celebrate this patriotic holiday to show how much we value our independence. The funny thing is that no matter how much time passes there are certain traditions that are followed each year for the Fourth of July parties.

From as far back as 1776 the Fourth of July has always been celebrated with groups of people gathering together to celebrate the Independence of our nation. People got together with friends and neighbors as well as loved ones to honor the people who fought in the American Revolution, as well as the fact that our country was free. Today people still gather with friends and neighbors to celebrate the Fourth of July. So to keep this tradition alive all you need to do is make your Fourth of July party a block party.

Fourth of July Fireworks!

While in 1776 they didn’t have the same types of fireworks that we have today, they still managed to shoot things in the air. People would fire guns into the sky or fire cannons into the air to mark our independence. Early on the cannons used to fire thirteen times or they would have a thirteen-gun salute to represent each of the thirteen colonies for the celebration. Today we still have people who fire guns (not a good idea), but we don’t have any who fire cannons, that tradition has been replaced with what we call “fireworks”. Every Fourth of July has to include fireworks! Whether you purchase them for private use or you attend a firework show, they must be included to keep the tradition alive.

Fourth of July food!

People gathered together with their friends and neighbors and had picnics or elaborate dinners, depending on their social standing. This tradition continues to this day with BBQ’s, dinner parties, picnics, etc. While most people tend to go to a park and watch firework shows and BBQ at the park, you can also do this in the comfort of your own home. Even though the tradition has changed with the type of foods that are served it is still the same concept of getting together to eat and rejoice over our nation’s independence.

Fourth of July Decorations!

The first celebration included ships that were decorated in red, white, and blue bunting to honor the American Flag and our Independence. Today the colors red, white and blue are still used to decorate houses and cars on the most patriotic day in our country. One thing that you will find now that you wouldn’t have found then is paper plates, plastic cups, and napkins that are elaborately decorated for the Fourth of July holiday. All of the decorations before were handmade and were used year after year.

Another tradition that we have on the Fourth of July is community celebrations; of course they are a bit more elaborate now than they were in the past, but the concept still remains the same. Today we have parks and community centers that plan a day filled with music, activities and other forms of entertainment for the entire community to enjoy.

Just remember that no matter what type of party you are planning you will most likely already have it filled with Fourth of July traditions.

For additional 4th of July tidbits, check in at This is just one of Barbara’s many entertainment websites.

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