Monday, July 04, 2005

A Little History with Your BBQ and Beer


Independence Day, or the Fourth of July is the adoption by the Continental
Congress on July 4, 1776, of the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming
the severance of the allegiance of the American colonies to Great Britain.
It is the greatest secular holiday of the United States, observed in all the
states, territories and dependencies.

Although it is assumed that the Continental Congress unanimously signed
the document on the 4th of July, in fact not all delegates were present and
there were no signers at all. Here is what really happened.

The congressional delegate from Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, introduced
in the Continental Congress, on June 7, 1776, a resolution "that...body
declare the United Colonies free and independent States, absolved from
allegiance to or dependence on the Crown or Parliament of Great
Britain..." On June 10 a committee of five, headed by Thomas Jefferson
(the actual writer), was appointed to prepare a declaration suitable to
the occasion in the event that the Virginia resolution was adopted.
's version was revised by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams
before it went to the Congress where they did some editing of their own.

Congress approved the resolution July 2; the declaration composed by
and amended by his committee was adopted July 4. That evening
John Hancock ordered Philadelphia printer John Dunlap to print 200
broadside copies of the agreed upon Declaration that was signed by him
as President and Charles Thomson as Secretary. These were distributed to
members of the Congress and distributed to the 13 colonies and elsewhere.
The Declaration was read in the yard of the state house July 8. New York
did not even vote on it until July 9. The signing was even more gradual, and it
is somewhat misleading to speak of the "fifty-six original signers of the
Declaration of Independence".

By August 6, most of those whose names are on the document had signed,
but at least six signatures were attached later. One signer, Thomas McKean
did not attach his name until 1781! Some of those who signed were not even
in Congress when the Declaration was adopted, and some who voted for it in
Congress never did get around to signing it. Robert R. Livingston was one of
the committee of five; he helped to frame it; he voted for it; and he never signed

The first anniversary of the declaration was observed only in Philadelphia, Pa.,
by the adjournment of Congress, a ceremonial dinner, bonfires, the ringing of
bells and fireworks. In 1788, after the requisite number of states had adopted
the constitution, Philadelphia celebrated July 4 by elaborate festivities,
including a grand procession.
Boston, Mass., first observed the day in 1783, and thereafter this celebration
replaced that of the Boston Massacre, March 5. The custom spread to other
cities and states, where the day was marked by parades, patriotic oratory,
military displays and fireworks. In present time, games and athletic contests,
picnics, patriotic programs and pageants, and community fireworks of
pyrotechnic expertise are characteristic of the 4th of July.

On a lighter note, I hope everyone has a great day with their friends, family, and
everything in between.


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