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Archive for July 2nd, 2009

John Adams, a prominent Massachusetts lawyer, liked to mince words.  A seasoned orator often accused of being overly enamored with the sound of his own voice, Adams didn’t address a lot of topics that weren’t worth talking about for a long time.  Ok…actually he did.  In later years, his penchant for pontification (coupled with his Santa-Claus-like figure) earned him the nickname “His Rotundity”.

But when speaking of Independence Day in a letter to wife Abigail, he kept it pretty simple.  He wrote:  “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.“

Now it may come as a surprise to some that Adams wasn’t writing about July 4th. Yeah, it’s the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. But for the members of the Second Continental Congress, “Independence Day” didn’t occur then.

It actually started almost a month before (on June 7, 1776), when Richard Henry Lee, another lawyer (from Virginia), proposed what became known as The Lee Resolution.  It called for a formal severing of ties with the British Crown and declared the Colonies independent.  But before actually committing the Resolution to a vote, some time was taken for the Congressional delegates to consolidate their support and gain the necessary votes for passage.  Furthermore, five delegates were formed into a committee to draft an official declaration of independence.

A final draft copy was presented to the Congress on the 28th of June, and debate and counting votes began in earnest on July 1st.

And on July 2, 1776, a breaththrough was achieved when South Carolina’s delegates changed their position and voted for independence.  In addition, Delaware’s deadlock was broken, and John Dickinson and Robert Morris abstained in Pennsylvania’s delegation.  The final vote showed a unanimous vote among the 13 Colonies…sort of.  Only 12 voted as the delegates from New York (in the heart of Tory country) hadn’t yet received authority from their constituents to vote on independence (they got it the following week).

Ties with Great Britain and the King had officially been ended, and this event, on the 2nd, was what put Adams’ pen to paper.

So why do we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July?  Well, after the vote on the 2nd, Congress had to approve the language of what was to become one of America’s two most famous documents…the Declarlation of Independence.  That approval came on the 4th and it’s when printing and distribution of the document commenced.

Recommended Reading: 1776

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