Fourth of July Essay

Fourth of July

In the United States, Fourth of July or Independence Day is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the final draft of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress, on 4th July 1776 meeting in Philadelphia, declaring independence from Kingdom of Great Britain. Though July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, United States got independence officially only after the War of independence on September 3, 1783, when British king George III and US leaders signed the Treaty of Paris.

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         The Declaration of Independence was an act which declared that the 13 colonies were independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Declaration, written chiefly by Thomas Jefferson, explained the justification for breaking away and was an expansion of the Lee Resolution (passed by Congress on July 2nd), which first proclaimed independence. An engrossed copy of the declaration was signed by most of the delegates on August 2nd and is now displayed in the National Achieves in Washington, D.C. The Declaration is considered to be the founding document of the United States of America.

Background: During the last half of the 18th century the thirteen Colonies rebelled against the British Empire and entered into the American Revolutionary War, also know as the America war of Independence between 1775 and 1783. France played a key role in aiding the new nation Americans with money and munitions, organizing a coalition against Britain.  France sent an army and a fleet that palyed a decisive role at the battle that effectively ended the war at Yorktown. The revolution included a series of broad intellectual and social shifts that occurred in the early American society, such as the new republican ideals that took hold in the American population. The American shift to republicanism, as well as the gradually expanding democracy caused an upheaval of the traditional social hierarchy and created the ethic that formed the core of American political values.

              Great Britain possessed a vast holding on North America by 1763, in addition to the 13 colonies, 16 smaller colonies were ruled directly by royal governors.  During these periods there had been growing unrest in the colonies surrounding the taxes that colonies were required to pay to England. The British government sought to tax its American possession primarily to help pay for its defense of N. America from the French in the Seven Years War. The problem of many American colonies was not that taxes were high but that they were not consulted abut the new taxes, as they had no representation in parliament: Taxation without Representation. Instead of negotiating, King George sent extra troops to the colonies to help control any rebellion that might be arising. Britain regulated the economies of the colonies through the Navigation acts according to the doctrines of mercantilism, which said that anything that benefited the Empire was good policy. On March 5th 1779 five colonists were killed in Boston Massacre after the tension rose too high. The same day parliamnet repleaded the Stamp Act and the Declaratory Act was wnacted.In June 1772, in  Gaspée Affair , a British warship that was vigourously enforcing unpopular trade regulations was burned by American patriots. In late 1772 Samuel Adams set about creating anew Committees of Correspondence that would link together patriots in all 13 colonies and eventually provide the framework for a rebel government.In early 1773, the largest colony Virginia, set up its Committee of Correspondence including Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Relations between Britian and  its American colonies became increasingly strained, the Americans set up a shadow government in each colony with Continental Congress and Committee of Correspondence linking theses shadow governments.

Fighting begins at Lexington: On April 19th 1775 when British sent a regiment  to consficate arms and arrest revolutionaries in  Concord set out the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It was the first fighting of American Revolutionary War and immediately the news aroused the13 colonies to call out their militaries and send troops te besiege Boston. As soon as the fighting broke out in April the shadow goverments took control of each colony and outsted all the royal officials. Battle of Bunker Hill followed on June 17 , 1775 and by late spring 1776 with George Washington as commander , the Americans forced the British to evacuate Boston.The patriots were in control everywhere in the 13 colonies and were ready to declare independence.Sentiment for outright independence grew rapidly in British actions, the options were clarified by Thomas Paine’s pamplet Common Sense, relesaed in January 1776. Paine wrote it with editorial feedback from Benjamin Rush, who came up with the title.The document denounced British rule and through its immense popularity contributed to formenting American revolution leading to its independence. The major events can be summarised as follows:

1774: The 13 colonies send delegates to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to form the First Continental Congress.  While unrest was brewing, the colonies were far from ready to declare war.

April 1775:  King George’s troops advance on Concord, Massachusetts, prompting Paul Revere’s midnight ride that sounded the alarm “The British are coming, the British are coming.” The subsequent battle of Concord, famous for being the “shot heard round the world,” marked the unofficial beginning of the American Revolution.

May 1776:  After nearly a year of trying to work out their differences with England, the colonies again sent delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

June 1776: Admitting that their efforts were hopeless, a committee was formed to compose the formal Declaration of Independence, headed by Thomas Jefferson, the committee also included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman.

June 28, 1776: Jefferson presents the first draft of the declaration to congress.

July 4, 1776: After various changes to Jefferson’s original draft, a vote was taken late in the afternoon of July 4th. Of the 13 colonies, 9 voted in favor of the Declaration; 2, Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted No; Delaware was undecided and New York abstained. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence. It is said that he signed his name “with a great flourish” so “King George can read that without spectacles!”

July 6, 1776:  The Pennsylvania Evening Post is the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence.

July 8, 1776: The first public reading of the declaration takes place in Philadelphia’s Independence Square. The bell in Independence Hall, then known as the “Province Bell” would later be renamed the “Liberty Bell” after its inscription – “Proclaim Liberty throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.”

August 1776:  The task begun on July 4, the signing of the Declaration of Independence was not actually completed until August. Nonetheless, the 4th of July has been accepted as the official anniversary of United States independence from Britain.

July 4, 1777: The first Independence Day celebration takes place. It’s interesting to speculate what those first 4th festivities were like. By the early 1800s the traditions of parades, picnics, and fireworks were firmly established as part of American Independence Day culture.

References:

1.      Cheri Sicard,  The History of Independence Day

2.      Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, and Richard A. Ryerson, eds. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO 2006) 5 vol

3.      Greene, Jack P. and J. R. Pole, eds. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (1994), 845pp; revised edition (2004) titled A Companion to the American Revolution

4.     James R. Heintze An extensive history of Independence Day  , The National Archives, Washington, D.C.,  2000

5.       James V. Marshall The United States Manual of Biography and History, Published by James B. Smith ; Co., in Philadelphia in the year 1856.

6.      Jensen, Merrill. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution 1763-1776. (2004)

7.      http://www.ushistory.org

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