In the middle of the 1700s, the 13 colonies that made up part of England's empire in the New World were finding it difficult to be ruled by a king 3,000 miles away. They were tired of the taxes imposed upon them without any representation in Parliament. But independence was a gradual process. The colonists could not forget that they were British citizens and that they owed allegiance to King George III.
In 1767, a tea company in India, owned by England, was losing money. To save the company, England levied a tax on tea sold in the colonies in 1773. Partly as a joke, Samuel Adams and other Bostonians dressed up as Indians and dumped a cargo of the India Tea Company Tea into the Massachusetts Bay. King George III did not think it was funny, nor did he lift the tax on tea. In the Boston harbor, British soldiers were jeered and stoned by colonists who thought the soldiers had been sent to watch them. The soldiers fired into the crowd and killed a few citizens. The colonists exaggerated the number killed and called it a massacre. These two events, along with general unrest, united the colonists.
Virginia took the first step toward independence by voting to set up a committee to represent the colonies. The First Continental Congress met in September of 1774. They drew up a list of grievances against the crown which became the first draft of a document that would formally separate the colonies from England. George Washington took command of the Continental Army and began fighting the British in Massachusetts. For the next eight years, colonists fought the Revolutionary War.
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. On July 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Second Continental Congress presented and debated a second draft of the list of grievances, and John Hancock, the president of the Second Continental Congress, was the first to sign. The document, called the Declaration of Independence, was considered treason against the crown and the fifty-six men who signed it were in danger of being executed.
Independence Day is celebrated on July 4th because that is the day when the Continental Congress adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. From July 8, 1776, until the next month, the document was read publicly and people celebrated whenever they heard it. The next year, in Philadelphia, bells rang, ships fired guns, candles and firecrackers were lit. But the War of Independence dragged on until 1783. In that year, Independence Day was made an official holiday. In 1941 Congress declared 4th of July a federal holiday.
John Adams, the first Vice President and Second President of the United States, was one of the members of the Second Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence. In a letter to his wife, he wrote, "I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival ... it ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other ... "
John Adams may have predicted later Independence Day celebrations, or maybe his words started these traditions. Every July 4th, Americans have a holiday from work. Many communities have picnics, lively music, baseball games, children's games and contests. Some cities have parades with people dressed as the original founding fathers who march to music played by the local high school bands. At dusk, people in towns and cities across the nation gather to watch fireworks displays. Wherever Americans are around the globe, they will get together for a traditional 4th of July celebration.
Happy Birthday America!!!
About Yankee Doodle: It is reported that a British army surgeon wrote the tune ridiculing the americans in the early 1750's. Despite the fact that it began as ridicule, the colonials took the song for their own and made it their battle theme. When Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, it is said that while the British played The World Turned Upside Down, the Americans played Yankee Doodle.
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