Why we celebrate America’s independence on July 4 INSTEAD of July 2, August 2 or September 3
Why July 4?
Independence Day celebrates the *adoption* of the Declaration of Independence — not its signing.
During the summer of 1776. the Second Continental Congress was busy at work:
- voted for independence on July 2
- adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4
- signed the document on August 2
July 2, 1776
- The Second Continental Congress (delegates from the 13 colonies) met in Philadelphia and voted to approve the resolution for independence on July 2, 1776, declaring freedom from Great Britain. John Hancock later signed first.
- Fun Fact: John Adams made it clear he thought July 2 should be the celebratory day, writing in a July 3, 1776 letter that it will become “the most memorable” day in America’s history.
August 2, 1776
- The Declaration (dated July 4) did not became official until it was signed by most of the the Second Continental Congress on August 2, 1776.
- Why It Matters: In addition to proclaiming that “all men are created equal” endowed with rights including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” the Declaration allowed the 13 colonies to secure assistance from France in the Revolutionary War.
September 3, 1783
- Although 4th of July festivities are recorded dating back to 1777, and other nations acknowledged America’s independence, Great Britain did not officially recognize our independence until a September 3, 1783 treaty.
- Big Picture: Even after the Declaration of Independence was signed, colonists continued to fight for 7+ years for Great Britain to acknowledge their autonomy.
DID YOU KNOW? Although July 4th has long been one of America’s most-celebrated secular holidays, it’s only been a federal holiday for 150 years. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill into law establishing the first federal holidays – including New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Christmas Day – on June 28, 1870.
by Jenna Lee,