First: Happy Fourth of July, or Independence Day—the national holiday in which we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence which more or less officially created our great country.
While most Americans will be celebrating this historic anniversary by feasting and sharing time with family and friends, Patch also thinks it's important for the patriots, the flag-wavers, and the pyromaniacs out there to expand their knowledge of this American holiday with a few little-known facts.
1. July 4 is not technically our day of independence: On the most semantic level, the original colonies legally broke from England’s rule on July 2, 1776 in a closed session of Congress, according to www.usa.gov.
It took the Second Continental Congress two more days to revise the most famous of American documents; July 4 was the day the Declaration of Independence was given final approval.
2. The first Independence Day was celebrated on July 8, 1776: Although the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776, it was not made public until July 8. According to www.pueblo.gsa.gov, the bells of Philadelphia—the Liberty Bell included—rang to summon citizens to Independence Hall for the very first public reading of the document on July 8.
The Declaration of Independence was read that day by Col. John Nixon, who, less than a year later, would be made a brigadier general of the Continental Army.
3. New York was a bit late: When the Continental Congress declared independence from Britain the official vote was 12 in favor, 0 against. But wait, weren't there 13 colonies?
The answer: The colony of New York abstained from the original vote on July 2. New York did not decide to join until July 19, according to www.usa.gov.
4. Independence was a state thing first: Independence certainly wasn't Congress' idea first. It started out as a state and colony idea.
In fact, the very first Declaration of Independence came on Oct. 4, 1774 (21 months before the Continental Congress declared independence) from the town of Worcester, MA. During the next 21 months a total of 90 state and local declarations of independence would be made. When Virginia declared its independence in May 1776, they sent Rep. Richard Henry Lee to the Continental Congress with specific instructions to put forth a resolution of independence for Congress to vote on, thus allying all the colonies—soon to become states—against the British Empire in the War for Independence.
5. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the Fourth of July: Not only did our second president and third president both die on Independence Day, they both died on the same day: July 4, 1826.
Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, and served as president from 1801 to 1809. Adams, who helped Jefferson draft the Declaration, served from 1797 to 1801, and was subsequently defeated in an attempt at re-election by Jefferson.
Twenty-five years later, both men would die on the same day, Jefferson only a few hours before Adams.
6. The signers of the Declaration of Independence did not sign on July 4, 1776: The idea of the 56 signers being in the same room at the same time on our day of independence is, unfortunately, a myth.
The official signing event took place on Aug. 2, 1776, according to www.usa.gov, when 50 men signed the document. It took several months before all 56 finally signed; the last, Thomas McKean, signed in January 1777, some seven months after the document was approved by Congress.
Even after signing, the names of the signers were withheld from the public for more than six months to protect their identities. The Revolutionary War was still going on, and if the signers were discovered, the treasonable act could have resulted in their deaths.