On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the birth of our great nation with picnics, fireworks, the colors of the American flag, and time with friends and family. Learn the true meaning, history, and facts behind this important day.
10 Things You Should Know About Independence Day
Did you know this interesting 4th of July trivia?
4th of July history is truly fascinating. The story of how the United States of America went from being a group of English colonies to an independent nation is filled with triumph, hardship, perseverance, and freedom. A lot happened when America became its own country, and there are key facts that most Americans know—but there are also facts not many people know. Here’s a rundown of interesting 4th of July trivia you may not have known about, including key facts that inspired the 4th of July ideas and traditions we have today.
It’s our nation’s designated birthday
Independence Day, also known as the Fourth of July, is the day that’s long been designated as the birthdate of our great nation, which declared its independence from Great Britain by adopting the Declaration of Independence in early July 1776. You probably knew about July 4th date’s importance to our countries history. But you may not have known that the Declaration of Independence wasn’t necessarily signed on July 4. Here are more Declaration of Independence facts you should know.
But it could just as easily be celebrated on July 2
It was on the second day of July 1776 that the governing body of the 13 colonies, known as the Continental Congress, voted in favor of declaring themselves independent of British rule. But it was on July 4, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence was finalized as a written document, and it’s “July 4, 1776” that appears on the document as its official date.
And it could just as easily be celebrated on August 2
The Declaration of Independence was not actually signed until August 2, 1776. But asexplains, because the document bears the date of July 4, that’s the date people remembered as little as a year later when the holiday was first celebrated. Oddly enough, even though they all signed the important document, one of those signatures is actually more valuable than the rest.
John Adams wasn’t happy about the choice of dates
On July 3, 1776, John Adams, who went on to become our second president, wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, to tell her how excited he was that Congress had voted in favor of independence. “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” he declared. Adams so firmly believed that July 2 was the correct day on which to celebrate American independence that he refused to appear at July 4th events as a matter of principle.
And about that year, 1776…
By 1776, we’d actually been working on declaring our independence for years:
- 1773: the Boston Tea Party took place as a protest against British taxation of colonial tea
- 1774: the First Continental Congress began meeting to discuss what to do about Britain’s imposing unfair laws on the colonies.
Plus our nation’s constitution wasn’t in place in any form until 1789
It wasn’t until five years after our victory over the British in the Revolutionary War that the Articles of Confederation, the first version of what was to become the U.S. Constitution, was ratified by Congress. Since the Constitution is what actually defined our form of government and set boundaries on what our laws could and couldn’t do, it’s arguable that we weren’t actually “born” as a country until 1789.
What the Declaration of Independence actually says
The Declaration of Independence begins with the preamble, “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” In short, it means, “When a group of people decides to split from a country and become a country in its own right, it’s only fair to explain why.” The rest of the document does just that, beginning with defining what the basic rights of a people should be and enumerating the ways in which Great Britain had violated those rights. Find out the U.S. state facts that almost everyone gets wrong.
About that “pursuit of happiness”…
Arguably the most famous line in the Declaration of Independence is the second sentence of the preamble, which begins, “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, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But as originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the pursuit was not of happiness, but of “Property.” As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin convinced Jefferson to make the change because “property” was too “narrow” a notion.
And about Jefferson being the author…
Thomas Jefferson is known as the author of the Declaration of Independence, but while he was the man officially responsible for drafting a formal statement of why the 13 colonies should break from Britain, the document was written by a five-man committee made up of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. Jefferson was not recognized as its principal author until the 1790s.
It caused a riot at home
When the colonists in New York City found out about the Declaration of Independence from George Washington who read it in front of City Hall on July 9, 1776, a riot broke out, in part as a reaction to the fact that British naval ships were occupying the harbor at the time. During the riot, a statue of King George III was torn down… and melted down to make 42,000 musket balls for the revolutionary army.
Here’s why we set off fireworks
At the first national Independence Day Celebration in Philly in 1777, 13 cannons were fired, one round for each state of the union, bells were rung, and fireworks were set off, according to the Smithsonian, which says the 4th of July fireworks tradition grew from there.