I’ve been celebrating the 4th of July forever. Going to the lake and lighting off some fireworks was always a fun time growing up, and still is today. I’d like to talk about some of the basic history of the 4th of July.
The 4th of July is obviously our Independence Day. Independence of course from Great Britain, duh, but what happened on July 4th that made it a federal holiday. The answer has some interesting history. The declaration of independence, written (mostly by Thomas Jefferson) in 1776. On July 2nd 1776, the continental congress actually voted in favor of independence from Great Britain. Prominent figures from that time actually cited July 2nd as our day of independence.
John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest. Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826–the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
He (John Adams) once wrote his wife, “July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”
The continental Congress formally adopted the declaration of independence on July 4th, 1776.
Early celebrations were actually similar to how we do things today, with concerts, bonfires, artillery fire and PUBLIC READINGS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. George Washington even gave double rations of rum to the soldiers on July 4th on 2 separate occasions (1778 and 1781).
Congress didn’t make July 4th a national holiday until 1870. It was made a federal paid holiday for government employees in 1941.