July 2, July 4…it’s Still America’s Independence Day
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
We learned it in school: Independence Day is July 4th, celebrating the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.
But there’s an argument the real Independence Day is July 2nd – when that same Continental Congress actually voted on the idea of independence…and then sent a committee of members, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin…to draft the formal document that changed history.
According to the National Constitution Center:
…the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, when it voted to approve a resolution submitted by delegate Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
So how did July 4th get all the credit?
Once the Congress approved the actual Declaration of Independence document on July 4, it ordered that it be sent to a printer named John Dunlap. About 200 copies of the “Dunlap Broadside” version of the document were printed, with John Hancock’s name printed at the bottom. Today, 26 copies remain.
That is why the Declaration has the words, “IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776,” at its top, because that is the day the approved version was signed in Philadelphia.
The Declaration wasn’t read to the public until July 8.
But there’s another wrinkle to the Independence Day story:
The late historian Pauline Maier said in her 1997 book, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, that no member of Congress recalled in early July 1777 that it had been almost a year since they declared their freedom from the British. They finally remembered the event on July 3, 1777, and July 4 became the day that seemed to make sense for celebrating independence.
July 2nd, July 4th…regardless of the exact day when the acts were made official, we should remember and cherish the Revolutionary generation, and the priceless gift they gave us.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote on June 24, 1826, just days before he passed away:
“For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
Image Credit: By KAZ Vorpal (Flickr: Declaration of Independence, with Firearm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons