What is America’s real Independence Day?
Was it July 4, 1776 as most Americans believe and were taught?
Did you know that the Declaration of Independence was not actually signed on July 4, 1776?
Did you know that John Adams believed that America’s real Independence Day was July 2, 1776?
On June 7, 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee, found the courage and patriotism to do what no one else would dare do. Lee wrote a resolution calling for a declaration of independence from Great Britain and introduced it before the Second Continental Congress.
Not all of the delegates favored such a resolution so any vote on Lee’s Resolution was delayed until July 1, 1776. During the rest of June, delegates from six colonies; Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, went home to confer with their constituents about how to vote on the issue of independence.
At the same time, a committee of five, consisting of John Adams (Massachusetts), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), Robert R. Livingston (New York) and Roger Sherman (Connecticut) was selected to draft a declaration of independence from Great Britain.
On June 28 1776, Jefferson’s draft was presented to the Continental Congress, but the only action taken was to debate the terms of the declaration.
On July 1, 1776, the Second Continental Congress resumed debate on Lee’s Resolution. Verbally, it seemed that most of the delegates favored Lee’s Resolution, but they delayed the formal vote for another day in order to make sure it was a unanimous vote.
On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted on Lee’s Resolution. Twelve of the 13 colonial delegations voted yes, while New York’s delegation abstained. They were not sure if the people of New York were in favor of declaring independence or not. This was the day that the Congress actually declared their independence from Great Britain.
John Adams believed that July 2, 1776 would be a ‘most memorable epoch in the history of America.’ Some historians still believe that America’s original Independence Day is July 2, 1776, the day of the vote on Lee’s Resolution to declare independence.
However, July 2, 1776 quickly faded into obscurity due to the final formal vote on Lee’s Resolution being delayed for 2 more days. This gave Jefferson time to make some editorial changes to the final draft.
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted on the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. There were enough votes from the delegates to once again declare independence from Great Britain. Even though independence was declared two days earlier, July 4, 1776 is believed to be America’s Independence Day because it was the day of the approval of the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. However, not all of the delegates approved of the Declaration and the document was not signed on July 4, 1776.
On July 9, 1776, the delegates from New York finally gave their approval of the Declaration of Independence. Once the final draft had been approved by all of the delegates to the Second Continental Congress, the document had to be ‘engrossed ‘ – written in a clear hand on a piece of parchment, which took a couple of weeks.
On this day, August 2, 1776, the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence was ready and most of the congressional delegates gathered to sign it. However, five delegates, Eldridge Gerry, Thomas McKean, Lewis Morris, Matthew Thornton and Oliver Wolcott, were not present and signed the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence at a later date. You may not realize that two delegates, John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston never signed the Declaration of Independence.
So when is America’s real Independence Day?
Is it July 2, 1776, when the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence was approved by 12 of the 13 state delegates and independence was declared?
Is it July 4, 1776, when the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was approved by 12 of the 13 state delegates?
Is it July 9, 1776, when the delegates from New York finally agreed to the Declaration of Independence, making it a unanimous vote of the 13 states?
Is it August 2, 1776, when most of the delegates gathered and signed the official engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence?
Independence Day will always be celebrated on July 4, but realize that there are a number of options possible and perhaps America’s Independence needs to be celebrated from July 2 to August 2.
Sources for the above includes: Today, July 2, 1776: America’s Real Independence Day; Delegates Sign Declaration of Independence; 9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence; The Declaration of Independence: Six Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know