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It's Actually The Second

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It was the 2nd...

...bet you didn't know that.


A few other facts to win the bar bet...


1. The Continental Congress didn't decide to declare independence on July 4th...actually that happened two days earlier on July 2nd...a more historically significant date than the 4th.

2. In fact, they were voting on the Lee Resolution, which was presented to the congress on June 7, 1776. In fact, this is important...July 2nd is the key date in which our independence was voted on and the Lee Resolution approved.

3. The American Revolution didn't start then either...that was 15 months earlier in April 1775. In fact, the Continental Army was formalized in June 1775.

4. Many people think Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration. Close...

5. Actually, on June 11th, 1776 the Continental Congress appointed a "Committee of Five" to draft the declaration. Jefferson was lead writer, John Adams and Ben Franklin did the major editing, and Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston lent comments. 

6. They were probably drinking when they were working on the Declaration. For sanitary reasons, drinking water was the domain of only the most destitute. It was common for beer and wine to be incorporated into the daily consumption from the start of the day through the end. In fact, beer was often considered a food and far more sanitary than water. 

7. It wasn't formally delivered to Great Britain then either...that didn't happen until November of 1776.

8. The famous handwritten copy that's on display at the Library of Congress wasn't signed until August 2nd. While most signed that day, it took until 1781 to get everyone's signature...5 years, and 56 signatures. Further, that parchment paper rendering of the Declaration wasn't created until later in July 1776.

So what did happen on Thursday, July 4th 1776?

Not really all that much.


The Continental Congress agreed on the final edits that the "Committee of Five" had been working on the previous few days...pretty much a normal, routine day at the office. The formal vote on the final copy was late morning and was uneventful. The real debates and voting had already taken place 2 days earlier.


However, what happened next is an interesting piece of history.


The afternoon, the "Committee of Five" took the final language to John Dunlap, the official printer to congress. That evening, 200 copies of the Duncan Broadsides (the internet of 1776) were printed with the final language. Most people forgot about it and for the next couple of decades July 4th had no real meaning to the citizens. However, the print date on the Duncan Broadside document was listed as July 4th.


On July 5th, the "Committee of Five" picked up the printed copies, gave one to each member of the Continental Congress and distributed the remainder to the colonies for further printing and distribution. It took weeks before most people were aware a formal independence declaration existed.


The War of Independence didn't formally end on February 27, 1782, when the British parliament finally recognized their loss.


By the 1790's the Declaration had become a political "hot potato". One party admired it, another thought it was "too French". But the 4th of July had no real importance as a date.


By 1817, John Adams was venting that Americans didn't seem too interested in their past. However, this was an agrarian culture with no bathing suits, western frontier, little fun and a heck of a lot of hard work.


By the 1820's, new political parties began to recirculate the Duncan Broadsides, which still had the print date of July 4th. That coupled with extraordinarily coincidental deaths of both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4th, 1826...exactly 50 years later, gave heightened interest to the Declaration and that date started to gain in significance. 


As time went on, celebrations increased on July 4th across the young nation. However, it wasn't until 1870...almost 100 years later...that July 4th was declared a national holiday. 


Soo...if you really want to celebrate our nation's independence accurately...you should add July 2nd and August 2nd to your list!


And of course...do it up right wearing our extraordinarily comfortable clothing!


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  • Jim R on Jan 27, 2022

    Thanks for the history lesson. I know some of these facts, but very few. Happy 4th!