Independence Day

The American colonies had been at war when the Second Continental Compass was meeting in preparation for a formal declaration of independence. A Committee of Five was formed to draft the formal declaration. Thomas Jefferson was designated as its main author. While he consulted with others on the Committee, Jefferson wrote the Declaration over a period of 17 days from June 11 to June 28, 1776.

The Declaration of Independence was not adopted immediately by the Continental Congress, but they did approve a formal declaration of independence on July 2, 1776.

The concern with the Declaration that Jefferson had drafted was the language in the document King George III for bringing slaves to the colonies. It took two days to reach an agreement that the slave language would be removed. The Declaration of Independence was ratified on July 4, 1776. We now believe that the actual signing of the Declaration did not occur until nearly one month later on August 2, 1776.

The formal separation from England called for a celebration. But what day? John Adams was sure it would be July 2nd, but as we know, that was not the case. Thus July 4th became the day of celebration of America’s independence.

There was precedence for the type of celebration that followed. Prior to the Revolutionary War, colonists celebrated the King’s birthday. Many of these celebrating practices were transferred to Independence Day with two exceptions: a mock funeral for the King and a reading of the Declaration of Independence were added to the celebrations.

It wasn’t until 1870 that July 4 was officially declared a federal holiday, and in 1941 federal employees were given July 4 off with pay. Most employers have adopted a similar practice. July 4 was one of the original four federal holidays along with New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

July 4 has one other distinction. Three Presidents have died on July 4th. Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same day – the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. James Monroe also died on July 4. The only President born on July 4 was Calvin Coolidge.

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“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

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