Americans celebrate July 4 as the nation’s birthday or our day of independence from Great Britain, but technically, that’s not correct, but it still was an historic day.
Few claim that June 7, 1776 was the nation’s birthday but it was on this day that 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.
A vote was supposed to be taken on Lee’s Resolution on July 1, 1776, but it was delayed until the following day, July 2, 1776. It was on this day that a vote was taken by the Second Continental Congress on Lee’s Resolution. Twelve of the 13 colonial delegations voted yes, while New York’s delegation abstained. July 2, 1776 was actually the day that independence from Great Britain was declared by the Continental Congress.
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.
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, 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.
There was something else that took place on July 4, 1776 that few are aware of. The Continental Congress also passed a resolution stating:
“Resolved, that Dr. Franklin, Mr. J. Adams and Mr. Jefferson be a committee to prepare a device for a Seal of the United States of America.”
On this day, August 20, 1776, the committee of Franklin, Adams and Jefferson made their proposal to Congress of a Great Seal which contained the motto ‘E. Pluribus Unum.’ Most Americans have heard of or seen the motto on US coins and currency, but I wonder how many know what it means? Basically, E. Pluribus Unum means ‘out of many, one,’ referring to the combination of the 13 colonies into one nation.