In April 1775, skirmishes over taxation and British military presence escalated to armed conflict between British soldiers and American colonists. By the following summer, the colonist rebels were waging a full-scale war for their independence.
The divergence between American colonists and British soldiers intensified in the summer of 1776. With no reprieve from the King’s tenet in sight, the Continental Congress formed a committee tasked with drafting a formal statement of the colonies’ intent to choose their own government.
The resulting declaration, penned in large part by Thomas Jefferson, outlined the rights of the American people, “among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” On July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress formally adopted the resolution and America declared its independence from Great Britain.
Celebrating our Freedom
A public reading of the Declaration of Independence was held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square on July 8, 1776. The city bells rang following the reading and long into the night as an initial celebration of what has since become our nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty.
The first official Independence Day festivities were held in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777. After a 13-gun salute to honor each of the 13 colonies, the military band performed, bells were rung, and 13 fireworks rockets were set off in the town square. On that same night in Boston, the Sons of Liberty also set off fireworks in celebration.
Independence Day festivities eventually spread to towns big and small celebrated with processions, picnics, contests, games, military displays and fireworks. Fourth of July observations across the nation became even more common at the end of the War of 1812 with Great Britain.
A Modern Independence Day
Since 1776, the Fourth of July has been celebrated as the birth of American independence. In 1870, the U.S. Congress established the Fourth of July as one of the first four federal holidays, along with New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Today, Americans across the nation commemorate our country’s 247 years of independence with fireworks displays, parades and picnics in our communities.
While the midsummer holiday is known as a time for celebratory gatherings, the forethought of our founding fathers and the sacrifices of military service members across the centuries is not lost on us as Americans. Without their dedication, our country would not be what it is today.
USBA is a not-for-profit Association that provides group life insurance, health insurance supplements, and other products and services to military personnel, Federal employees, National Guard and Reserve members, Veterans and their families.