The Fayette Citizen-Weekend Page

Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Examining the history of the holiday


Today, America is 225 years old. Heck, if you ask me, we don't look a day over 200.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pa., signed the Declaration of Independence, officially declaring a break with England. The Continental Congress was formed two years earlier with delegates from the 13 colonies. There was a growing sense of unease as the colonists were being overtaxed without any form of representation from the English government, led by King George III.

In April 1775, British troops began advancing on Concord, Mass., which was an unofficial beginning to the Revolutionary War. The Continental Congress met a few months later and tried to find ways to work with the British and avoid going to war. Their bids for peace were unsuccessful and the colonists began to increase the fighting.

By June 1776, a committee within the Continental Congress, including members Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, began drafting the Declaration of Independence. Nine of the colonies accepted the declaration, while two colonies, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, voted against it. Delaware and New York abstained. John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, signed the declaration first and allegedly wrote his name large so that King George wouldn't need to use his spectacles to see his name.

Later that week the declaration was read to people in Philadelphia. The crowds cheered at the words and what is now the Liberty Bell rang out. July 4, 1777, the first Independence Day celebrations began and by the 1800s people were having picnics, parades and fireworks to celebrate the forming of this nation.

The Fourth of July celebrates our independence from British rule and honors the heroes who decided to stand up for what they believed in. It is easy to see figures like Jefferson and Franklin as fictional characters, but they were real men who faced a real dilemma and helped forge a strong character for this nation.

We, as a nation, should enjoy our holiday with picnics, parties and fireworks but we should also reflect on the courage of our forefathers.

Back to the Top of the PageBack to the Weekend Home Page