On the 4th of July Americans will come together to mark Independence Day – the birth of their nation and the biggest holiday across the pond. The day – a federal holiday – marks when the US won independence from the British Empire after the Revolutionary War.
The 4th of July celebration commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. It’s historically important for Americans, but it has also become a huge holiday celebration with parties and events across the country in every state.
The day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues and picnics, family reunions and baseball games. It’s an excuse – or reason – to go all out and celebrate what makes the United States, well, the United States.
What is Independence Day and what’s the story behind it? It’s one of the biggest holidays in the US calendar. The 4th of July marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776. The Thirteen Colonies of America declared themselves states and no longer part of the British Empire. The Revolutionary War continued for a while after though.
The United States of American used to be Thirteen Colonies – a collection of East Coast states, they were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
The colonies were run by the British, who had been on the continent since 1587. At first the relationship between the Brits and the settlers was perfectly amicable, but soon there were complaints about taxes and the British influence. The settlers felt their own sense of pride and nationalism.
In 1765 the settlers asked for ‘no taxation without representation’ which basically means they wanted a voice in Parliament. The British and settlers didn’t exactly settle the issue and the disagreement often erupted into fights such as the Boston Tea Party in 1773, which was a protest against the Tea Act, which gave a British company monopoly over tea sales in the American Thirteen Colonies.
While Independence Day started with an important historical moment – now it’s burgers and party time. Further acts that took away power from states such as Massachusetts, which had been semi-autonomous, caused further friction. When things reached a head a meeting was called by the Continental Congress – the delegates from the Thirteen Colonies. At the second meeting the group decided to declare war against the British – it was 1775.
The Declaration of Independence
It was the next year, still during the American Revolution that the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain rule.
The legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain actually happened on July 2, but the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson at the helm, wasn’t signed then. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it two days later on July 4. It was signed by 56 representatives from the thirteen states – known before as the Thirteen Colonies. The fighting didn’t cease, it carried on until 1783 and the Treaty of Paris. The day the Declaration was signed was seen as the birth of the nation – and Independence Day was born.
Margit Miller / Calvert Beacon