Happy Independence day aka July 4th. If you are from the United States you know its celebration with Barbecues, Parties and fireworks. But do you know the real reason we celebrate? Lets dive into the history of this day.
July 4th became a federal holiday in 1941 however celebrations go back into the 18th Century after the American Revolution was won. Independence day specifically celebrates the day that the delegates from the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, which was a document drafted by Thomas Jefferson to signify that the colonies were no longer under British rule.
Going slightly further back, to April of 1775, the Revolutionary War began. The Revolutionary war was a war of battles of the 13 colonies fighting the Great Britain military in order to gain control and not be ruled by King George III. Tension had been growing between the colonist and the British military for over a decade after the French and Indian War, otherwise known as the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). The Seven years war was so costly that the colonist were being taxed so much to pay for it as the British created the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Act in 1767 and the Tea Act of 1773. The colonist protested the acts and told the British there was a lack of represisentatives wishing Parliament.
In 1770, British soldiers open fired on a group of colonist, killing five, would forever be known as the Boston Massacre. Three years later, in December 1773, when a group of Bostonians dressed as Native Americans, they boarded the British ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Harbor, during the Boston Tea Party. The British responded with the Coercive acts to try to gain back authority over Massachusetts.
George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams. Patrick Henry and John Jay met in Philadelphia in September 1774 to voice their Grievances against King George III. This first meeting denounced the taxation acts and refused to help the British army without the Colonies permission. They created a declaration demanding the rights for every citizens to have a life, liberty, property, assembly and trial by jury. This group became known as the Continental Congress and planned to meet again in May of 1775 to consider further action but the war had already begun by then.
April 18th, 1775, Paul Revere sounded the alarm for the colonial militia to mobilize as the British army marched from Boston to Concord, Massachusetts to seize the armory. The morning of April 19th, the two troops clashed, beginning the war with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
A second Continental Congress met, including the members of the first but now Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson joined in. Together they vetoed a continental army led by George Washington as the Commander in Chief. The first big battle kid by Washington was the Battle of Bunker Hill when the Continental Army was trying to hold the British forces, led by Major General William Howe, in Boston. The winter made it tough for the colonials giving the British the victory.
In Fort Ticonderoga, New York. the Colonials had success capturing the Fort, which turned the tides in the colonies favor. By June 1776, majority of the colonist were in agreement tp get independence from the British Rule. On July 2nd, 1776 the continental congress agreed to meet two days later where Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and two others created the Declaration of Independence which was signed on July 4th, 1776 by the congress that very day. Later that month the British sent a large fleet to New York in order to crush the colonialist. The following month, Major General Howe forced the colonialist to retreat to from New York City, pushing them back across the Delaware River. Washington fought back using a surprise attack on Trenton, then on Christmas they won back Princeton.
The war continues on with various battles until 1783 when the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, a formal end to the American Revolution.
Now celebrations actually begun pre war as a way to doc King George III by holding fake funerals during the summer months. By 1777, Philedlphia held its first annual festivities including bonfires, concerts, parades and firing of canons in a 13 gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies.
By the 19th century, July 4th consited of games, fireworks, family gathers and more.
There is much more to to the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution as the only ones who gained citizenship were white men, despite African Americans joining as they were promised freedom for their loyalty. Their freedom wasn’t gained until 1865. You can read more about that in my Juneteenth post.
So critical question: Are you going to celebrate? and How?