Thursday, July 03, 2008


July 4th, 1776 is not the United States' real Independence Day. That would be September 3, 1783 when King George, defeated in The American Revolution, renounced all claims to the new country. The Declaration of Independence is really a "letter" to King George stating why America should be free from England, and it was dated July 4, 1776.

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Barbara said...

Can you shed some light on when and how we assumed July 4th to be Independence Day? I can't imagine there were fireworks every year while the war for independence continued.

Pauline said...

Barbara - I had to go back to the books for a mimi-history lesson. Here's what I learned:

The approved Declaration of Independence was actually signed by John Hancock and Charles Thompson (secretary of Congress) on July 2, 1776. Two days later a reworded document was accepted by the Second Continental Congress, so the date on the heading was changed to July 4th. Even then, the document was not signed by all the delegates.

The Philadelphia Evening Post published the Declaration's full text in its July 6 newspaper, and it was publicly read from the State House in Philadelphia on July 8. Later that day, it was read in Easton, PA, Trenton, NJ, and to the local militias, to provide them with inspiration in their fight against the British. The shouting and firing of muskets that followed these first public readings were America's first celebrations of independence.

The following year, no member of Congress thought about commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence until July 3, one day too late, so the first organized, elaborate celebration of independence occurred the following day: July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia. Apparently there was a parade and cannons were fired.

The Declaration of Independence we know was originally called The Declaration of Rights and Grievances and had been sent to King George in September 1774 in response to the Coercive Acts established by the English Parliament. As answer, in April 1775 the British sent troops to subdue the protesting colonists.

The Second Continental Congress met a month later to decide whether the colonies should declare their full independence. The rewording of the Declaration was formally ACCEPTED by the 2nd Congress on July 4, 1776 and was formally SIGNED by the rest of the congressional delegates on August 2.

The Treaty of Paris in 1783 ended the war. Britain gave the colonies all the land east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes except for Florida which went to Spain (and was sold by Spain to the United States in 1819).

There is an excellent history of the Declaration here: I read the Declaration in its entirety. The first paragraph alone, if invoked, provides enough grounds to impeach our current ruler.

Barbara said...

Pauline -- I really learned a lot from this. This is the practical history they never bother to teach you in school! Happy 4th and thanks for the lesson.

Thomas J. Lucente Jr. said...


I have to disagree with your conclusion. Your research is accurate, but you labor under the wrong assumption that the king was sovereign over the American people and that only his decision could have freed the American people.

However, the Founders correctly believed that all humans have the right to self-government and therefore the people had the right to declare themselves independent. They stated it succinctly in the Declaration of Independence (beyond the title): “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”

That is pretty clear language from the states that they were independent from that point on.

There are two other dates besides 4 July 1776 that I think you can make a good argument for as the actual independence date.

First, 2 July 1776 for the reasons you expressed in your reply to Barbara. In fact, John Adams thought that would be the date that would be recognized because that is when the Congress adopted the resolution of independence. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, Adams wrote: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”

The second and probably stronger argument could be made for 4 March 1789 when the current U.S. Constitution went into effect because that is the date the new government was formed.


Pauline said...


Thanks for your thoughts. Would the states have still been free had the British won the war?