Happy Independence Day!

Today, on the Fourth of July, I'd like us all to join in a celebration of the separation of the Thirteeen Colonies from Great Britain which occurred on July 2, 1776.

Yes, that's right. The colonies that would later go on to form the United States first became legally independent on July 2, not July 4. That is why John Adams wrote to his wife to say:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Nobody actually celebrates the day the colonies became independent though. Instead, they celebrate the day the Declaration of Independence was "signed," July 4. I put the word signed in parenthesis because while the document says July 4 on it, historians can't agree whether or not it was actually signed on that day. But we sure can celebrate on it!

Just not on July 2, the day the country actually became independent. Because screw days when things that matter actually happened.

Oh well. Fireworks!

2 comments

  1. FWIW, the Rhode Island colony, founded by religious dissenters from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared independence from England on May 4th, 1776, two months before the rest of the colonies got around to it. Typical of its independent streak, RI didn't ratify the American Constitution for more than 14 years, was the last of the colonies to do so, by the thinnest of margins and under great pressure from the others. Everybody remembers the Boston Tea Party of Dec 16, 1773, but Rhode Islanders burned the British revenue cutter, HMS Gaspee, on June 10, 1772, as the first notable act of colonial uprising against the economic constraints being imposed.
    My point? Historical recognition is what makes a good story, not necessarily what actually happened.

  2. Thanks for the comment Gary. I'm not sure I had ever heard of the HMS Gaspee being burned. You're definitely right about what makes for a good story determining what gets recognized in (at least popular) history - regardless of whether or not the story is true.

    I have to wonder if there's any part of history the average person has a relatively accuate depiction of that they weren't alive for. I suspect not.

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