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Every year on July 4 Americans invite friends over, barbecue, and go watch fireworks to celebrate their Independence Day from England. Each July 4 is jam-packed with fireworks, carnivals, fairs, barbecues, concerts, picnics, and baseball games that will keep the whole family entertained. This year, with rough economic times still upon us, we could all use a holiday.
The federal holiday was first established as an unpaid holiday in 1870 by Congress. Later, Congress decided to make it a paid holiday in 1938.
The federal holiday on July 4 was established to celebrate the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. However, history does not concur with popular belief about the day the Declaration was signed.
In 1776 the Continental Congress was already in trouble with England. The American Revolution began April 19, 1775 when a shot was fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. After that George Washington was declared the Commander in Chief of the American forces and the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought. Thomas Paine also wrote his incredibly famous pamphlet “Common Sense” that helped to mobilize the American colonies against England.
John Adams, the representative of the Continental Congress for Massachusetts, had been trying to convince the Congress for some time to get a declaration of independence passed. However, it was not Adams’ proposal but Richard Henry Lee, the representative from Virginia, who delivered a proposal from the Virginian government for the declaration to the Congress. Richard Henry Lee is one of the ancestors of the famous southern General Robert. E. Lee.
A Committee of Five was then formed to create the Declaration that included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and – of course – Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wrote the actual words of the Declaration of Independence which were discussed by the Congress.
Congress voted to separate from England on July 2, 1776, not July 4 as many believe, and debated the wording of the document until July 4. Instead, July 4, 1776 was the day that the Declaration was printed by John Dunlap. Dunlap actually printed twenty-four copies of the Declaration of Independence, one of which was a personal copy for George Washington.
The delegates of Congress did not actually begin to sign the Declaration of Independence until August 2, 1776, a long time after the believed July 4 date. The July 4 date was actually a legend that began early in the nation’s history.
Fifty years after the legendary date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, John Adams – the second president of the United States – and Thomas Jefferson – the third – died within hours of each other. Their deaths added to the romantic legend surrounding the July 4 date. Ultimately the legend makes for a far greater holiday and reason to celebrate.