Independence Day, July 4

We Americans celebrate July 4 as the day we declared Independence.

Why don’t we celebrate the day we achieved independence, i.e. the day we won the Revolutionary War?

Because we consider ourselves independent upon declaring it. That was our “achieving it” in our minds. Just because we had to prove it to the Brits – who failed to recognize it – didn’t really make us less independant.

I see your point, though. I always think it’d be a better thing to celebrate “Constitution Day” since it’s really that that makes our country what it is.

The day we achieved independence is a little difficult to nail down.

Was it the battle of Yorktown on October 16-19, 1781?

Was it the battle of Blue Licks, August 19, 1782?

Was it the siege of Fort Henry, September 11, 1782? Or was it September 13, when the siege essentially ended?

Was it the naval confrontation at Kedges Straits on November 30, 1782?

Was it Commodore John Barry’s fight with the Sybil on March 10, 1783?

Or was it the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783?

There are problems with dating the start of the American Revolution as well. July 4 is a definitive point in time where an uprising turned into an independence movement. Everything else is open to interpretation.

The people who were there at the time celebrated their Independence Day on July 4, and the tradition stuck. Fourth of July fireworks celebrations date back to 1778 – predating both the end of the Revolutionary War and the Constitution.

A good history of the Fourth of July holiday can be found here.

I especially liked this item: In 1778

Things haven’t really changed all that much when it comes to American patriotism.

By the time the military victory and the Constitution came around, the Fourth of July was already firmly established as the American Independence Day holiday.

We’re Americans. In our minds the day we declared independence is the day we achieved independence. We can’t conceive of it any other way.

In somewhat the same vein, Fort Sumter and Pearl Harbor are the symbols of their respective wars rather than the days of victory. Winning was thereafter a foregone conclusion.

I need to mention that I’m not an expert on the Revolutionary war. That’s just a list of pages which asserted the “last battle” of the war occured at such-and-such place and time.

I’m particularly interested in that vague reference to Kedges Straits, a battle and place of which I have never before heard. Maybe this is the place where someone can illuminate us.

Or should it be July 2, the date the decleration was signed?

John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail on July 3 wrote:

Zev Steinhardt

If I recall correctly, July 2 was the date that the vote for independence was taken, and passed. However certain members of the continental congress wanted a few changes to the wording, including the ommission of a paragraph included by Thomas Jefferson condemning slavery. These were made the next day and the Declaration of Independence was actually signed on the 4th.

IIRC, July 2 was the day Lee’s resolution declaring independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. This resolution was the offical instrument making us independent of Britain and just had the text about "That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection " etc. etc. July 4th was the day the Congress adopted the text of the Declaration of Independence, as penned by Thomas Jefferson.