BRIEF HISTORY OF THE 4TH OF JULY
Taxation without representation!" That was the battle cry of the 13 colonies in America that were forced to pay taxes to England's King George III with no representation in Parliament. As dissatisfaction grew, British troops were sent in to quell any signs of rebellion, and repeated attempts by the colonists to resolve the crisis without war proved fruitless.
On June 11, 1776, the colonies' Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia formed a committee with the express purpose of drafting a document that would formally sever their ties with Great Britain. The committee included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. The document was crafted by Jefferson, who was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer. (Nevertheless, a total of 86 changes were made to his draft.) The final version was officially adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4.
The following day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed and, on July 6, The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the extraordinary document. The Declaration of Independence has since become our nation's most cherished symbol of liberty.
On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia's Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks.
Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870, and in 1938 Congress reaffirmed it as a holiday, but with full pay for federal employees. Today, communities across the nation mark this major midsummer holiday with parades, fireworks, picnics and the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" and marches by John Philip Sousa.
FIVE FACTS WORTH NOTING
1. It is America’s biggest non-religious holiday.
2. America celebrates July 4 as Independence Day because it was July 4, 1776 that the members of the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
3. In 1777, Philadelphians remembered the 4th of July by ringing bells, firing guns, lighting candles and setting off firecrackers.
4. When the War of Independence ended in 1783, July 4th became a holiday in some places – Boston being one of them. Speeches, military events, parades and fireworks marked the day.
5. In 1941 Congress declared July 4th a Federal Holiday. Today it is celebrated throughout America in every State.