While July 4th is synonymous with American independence, one of the United States’ founding fathers felt that July 2nd was a more appropriate date to celebrate the colonies’ declaration of independence from Great Britain.
John Adams, who would serve as the second President of the United States, felt July 2nd was the correct date to celebrate the colonies’ independence and even protested July 4th by refusing invitations to appear at events on that day during his lifetime.
Adams’ contention dates back to June 7, 1776, when Richard Henry Lee, the Virginia delegate of the Continental Congress, first introduced a motion calling for the colonies to declare their independence.
Voting on Lee’s motion was postponed, though a five-man committee consisting of Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman was appointed to draft a statement justifying independence from Great Britain.
Lee’s motion was approved on July 2nd, and Adams even wrote his wife, Abigail, that the day would be celebrated as the anniversary of the colonies’ independence for many years to come. But that was not to be, as American independence is instead celebrated on July 4th, the day when the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence.
A federal holiday since 1941
The Fourth of July has been a federal holiday since 1941. Though that may seem like a long time for the country to wait to celebrate the independence it declared in 1776, the tradition of the Fourth of July, often referred to as Independence Day, dates back to the dawn of the American Revolution and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Since then, July 4th has been recognized as the dawn of American independence, and celebrations that included fireworks and parades can be traced back to the 18th century.
On July 4, 1777, the city of Philadelphia, which would become the first capital of the United States of America, held the first annual commemoration of American independence, and exactly one year later George Washington ordered that all of his soldiers be offered double rations of rum to commemorate the anniversary.
In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday, and the day was actually declared a federal holiday by the U.S. Congress in 1870. However, that declaration did not grant a paid holiday to federal employees. That benefit came in 1941, which is why that year is now recognized as the first year when the Fourth of July officially became a federal holiday.