Earlier this spring, I read the book John Adams by David McCollough, and my family walked the Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts. Taking a dip in the depths of American history is always an amazing experience for me. I adore the United States of America, the tenets upon which it was founded, and I love the people who made it the great nation that it is. Even more, I respect those living who preserve our freedoms, and honor those who are no longer here to receive praise for their sacrifice.
Below is a brief timeline of the Declaration of Independence, the reason America celebrates the Fourth of July.
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 or separate themselves from their ancestral homeland.
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.” Thus began the American Revolution at the battle of Concord.
May 1776 – After nearly a year of trying to settle their differences with England, the colonies, once again, send 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 Nay; 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 ~ Leviticus 25:10. Fourth of July.”
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.
July 4, 1826 – Fifty years to the day of their signing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both former Presidents of the United States, die within hours of each other.