Over the weekend, we celebrated the 244th anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. The Fourth of July was on Saturday. In Bayonne, we decided not to have our annual fireworks, due to the Coronavirus. We hope things will be back to normal next year.
On July 2, 1776, the delegates to the Continental Congress voted for a resolution endorsing the independence of thirteen American colonies from Great Britain. For this reason, it seemed that July 2 would go down in history as the date to celebrate American Independence. On July 3, 1776, one of the leading supporters of American independence in Congress, John Adams, wrote to his wife, Abigail, that July 2 “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
After John Adams gave his support to July 2, how did July 4 become the date that Americans celebrate? On July 4, 1776, Congress adopted the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, a document that was intended to give the reasons behind the resolution for independence. Since the Declaration included the date of July 4, 1776 prominently, people began to identify July 4 as the date of American independence. Americans have been celebrating on July 4 ever since 1777.
The Continental Congress believed that an independent America needed its own symbol. Between 1776 and 1782, there were several unsuccessful attempts to choose a national symbol. Benjamin Franklin suggested the rattlesnake and then the turkey. Pennsylvania attorney William Barton suggested the rooster, the dove, or a phoenix in flames. Barton worked with Charles Thomson, who served as Secretary of Congress. Eventually, Barton produced a design of an American bald eagle with its wings displayed. In 1782, Congress asked Thomson to choose a design of our national symbol. Thomson chose a modified version of Barton’s eagle, which became the front image of the Great Seal of the United States. A committee appointed by Congress had suggested using a pyramid as a symbol. For a second national symbol, Thomson chose a pyramid with a watchful eye. This became the image on the backside of the Great Seal of the United States. Both the eagle and pyramid appear on the reverse side of the one-dollar bill.
America’s successful fight for independence continues to inspire people around the world.