As we enter the
first week of July and get ready for celebrations of the fourth it is
interesting to look back at how we got here.
Now, over 300 years from the events, we think of the 4th of July as an
instant in time when our country was formed.
In fact, like politics today, the fourth of July in 1776 was only one
landmark day in a series of events that played out over the summer months of
1776. John Adams was said to believe
that the country would long remember July 2, 1776 as the important day in
American History when the country was born.
It was, in fact, the day the resolution declaring the independence of
the United States was adopted by the Continental Congress.
Earlier in the
summer, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia had presented Congress with a resolution
proposing that the colonies declare their independence from Great Britain. Lee had evidently been prevailed upon to
present the resolution because representatives to the Congress didn’t like John
Adams who was one of the framers of the resolution. Lee’s resolution, presented on June 7, 1776
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.
That it is
expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign
That a plan of
confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their
consideration and approbation.
resolution, Congress was asked to declare independence, make provision for
treaties with other countries and develop a plan for governance. Five of the thirteen colonies were unwilling
to approve a declaration of independence and the ensuing debate lasted nearly a
month. While the debate went on,
Congress did appoint a committee to prepare a formal declaration of
independence. That committee included
John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman
of Connecticut, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of
Virginia. Thomas Jefferson was selected as the primary author of the
document. The choice of Jefferson may
have reflected his writing skills, but may just as well have been because he
was from the south and not associated with the rebellious northern states.
completed a draft of the Declaration of Independence and presented it to
Congress for review on June 28, 1776.
Debate continued, in part because the Congress wanted any declaration of
independence to be adopted unanimously.
By July 2, the stage was set and agreement had been won; representatives
from 12 colonies voted in favor of Lee’s resolution New York abstained in the vote because they
could not a clear idea of what their state wanted to do. Several days later, New York approved the
resolution to make it unanimous.
celebrate July 2, but you could easily view it, as John Adams did, as the
birthday of a new country. Over the
years our celebrations around this week have become pretty elaborate affairs
but the patriotic celebrations of the fourth began early. It was declared a state holiday in
Massachusetts in 1781 and in 1778 George Washington issued double rations of
rum to his soldiers to mark the event, even as the Revolutionary War was
continuing. The Fourth of July became a Federal Holiday in 1941.
There are lots of
things that occur around the fourth of July that we worry about as a Washington insurance agency. We’ll tell you about
some of them over the next several days!