The Fourth of July – also known as Independence Day or July 4 – is normally observed with parades, barbeques and fireworks. It is truly cause for celebration as it recognizes the birth of our nation – the United State of America. It was designated a federal holiday by Congress in 1870, and in 1941 the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday for all federal employees.
The tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. When the American Revolution began in 1775 few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain. Those who did were considered radical. Growing hostility against Great Britain changed the sentiments of many colonists who came to favor independence.
On June 2 during a session of the Continental Congress Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence. There was heated debate and Lee’s resolution was postponed. A five-man committee was appointed to draft a formal statement justifying the call for independence.
It was on July 2 that the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution in a near-unanimous vote. On July 4 they formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. John Adams firmly believed that July 2 should be the date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence. He felt so strongly that he turned down invitations to appear at July 4 events in protest.
Prior to the American Revolution colonists held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday. During the summer of 1776 some celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a way of symbolizing the triumph of liberty. Festivities included concerts, parades, bonfires and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied by the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence.
Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day each year after the Revolutionary War. The celebrations provided a platform for emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. The tradition of patriotic celebration intensified after the War of 1812 in which the United State again faced Great Britain.
To this day the Fourth of July focuses on leisure activities and a time for family get-togethers. Television specials entertain us with songs of patriotism, parades and political speeches remind us of the strength of our nation, and fireworks exude the joy of living in the greatest nation on earth.
Despite the issues of the day, we all have to admit that our country, the United States of America, is a great place to live. Let us remember the words of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”