resolution for independence
While Independence Day is celebrated on July 4th each year, with all the festivities, days off, barbecues, and fireworks, our nation…formally known as the thirteen colonies, actually obtained legal separation from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain’s rule. Called the Lee Resolution, it was also known as “The Resolution for Independence” and was the formal assertion passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 2nd. The Lee Resolution resolved that the Thirteen Colonies, at the time referred to as the United Colonies, were “free and independent states” and were now separate from the British Empire. The resolution created what became the United States of America.
After passing the vote for independence, Congress could turn its attention to the Declaration of Independence, which would be the official statement explaining this decision. The Declaration of Independence had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. While Jefferson collaborated extensively with the other four members of the Committee of Five, i,t was largely his writing and his wording that made up the Declaration of Independence. It was composed in isolation over 17 days between June 11, 1776, and June 28, 1776. Jefferson was renting the second floor of a three-story private home at 700 Market Street in Philadelphia at the time. The house, within walking distance of Independence Hall, is now known as the Declaration House.
Of course, as with any document brought before Congress, they debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, and for reasons unknown, removed wording in which Jefferson had vigorously denounced King George III for importing the slave trade. They finally approved the document two days later on July 4th. John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3rd, stating, “The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. 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.”
Of course, as we all know, Adams’s prediction was off by two days. Nevertheless, his idea that a day should be celebrated forever, did become a tradition, not on July 2nd, but rather on July 4th, because of the Declaration of Independence. That was because of the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress. In addition, historians have disputed whether members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed it on that day. Many historians believe that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4th as many have believed. Nevertheless, they have been unable to prove their theory or to change the date on which we celebrate our independence.
One thing that I find very interesting is the fact that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who were the only two signatories of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as presidents of the United States, both died on the same day…July 4, 1826, and within five hours of each other. They were also the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries. It was also the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. James Monroe, while not a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, but who was another Founding Father who was elected president, also died on July 4, 1831, making him the third President who died on the anniversary of independence. There was one president who was born on Independence Day…Calvin Coolidge, who was born on July 4, 1872.