With the refurbishing of a blockbuster 1996 movie, the phrase “Independence Day” may temporarily replace “The 4th” as the descriptive term we use for celebrating separation from Great Britain and the American Revolution.
In the 18th century, the 13 colonies of America were struggling with the governing of Great Britain, they sought complete and total freedom from “The King’s” rule, which had shadowed the colonist on their journey across the ocean.
The earliest recorded battles of the Revolutionary War were in April of 1775, when radical colonist hostilities grew rampant and overflowed into violence against Great Britain. The publication “Common Sense”, a best-seller by Thomas Paine, was published in January of 1776 and fueled the revolutionary fire under most Americans.
Paine repeatedly made two clear and publicly supported points:
Independence from England
To create a democratic republic
Almost 120,000 copies of “Common Sense” were in circulation within 4 months! Paine chose to write in layman’s terms and often quoted the Bible to intensify his message of freedom, the Bible was something most Americans knew extensively. It had the ear of the community and the outcry for independence from King Georges’ taxes and brutality rang loudly in the colonies.
“Common Sense” held the attention of Americans and the desire for separation intensified. As the summer season arrived, Paine increased his attacks; asking the obvious and legitimate questions his readers were already publicly proclaiming:
How much British abuse should America take?
Why does England rule a continent vastly larger than itself?
Why would foreign countries provide support to those loyal to the king?
His attacks on the crown were irrevocable and his cries for a republic drew the ire from some of his countrymen, leaders like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson deemed Paine an extremist. Thomas Paine, albeit a newcomer to America, published “Common Sense” anonymously, most readers accredited John Adams as the author, but he adamantly denied any contribution to the periodical.
TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION
“Taxation without Representation” was the trumpet for the early Americans. Being taxed and not having a voice in the British Parliament had reached its boiling point and as strongly as their resolve was, Great Britain refused to support anything other than virtual representation, which was founded on the conviction that Members of Parliament virtually represented everyone in the British empire, which they considered America to be, thus representation from the colonies was unnecessary.
As tolerance reached its end, the colony leaders united and asked Thomas Jefferson to draft the immortal document proclaiming separation from England. The Declaration of Independence is the most honored writing created on American soil, with the United States Constitution arguably a close second.
The Continental Congress met on July 2nd, 1776 and voted in favor of independence. John Adams penned a letter to his wife Abigail; “July 2 will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival and that the celebration should include pomp and parade… games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
On July 4th, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence and recognized that date as the day of celebration. Adams sternly stood by July 2nd as the official date and held personal celebrations annually on the 2nd and refused to participate in any activities held on the 4th.
The War of 1812, which pitted the United States against Great Britain once more, rejuvenated the celebratory Americans and in 1870 the United States Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. But it wasn’t until 1941 that provisions were made to expand it into a paid holiday for all federal employees.
As time passed, the political influence of the holiday waned, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 reignited the patriotic passion nationally. Today, Independence Day is celebrated with BBQ’s, family outings, vacations, fireworks, parades and a fervor much like it was in the 1800’s.